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Comic Review – Injustice 2 Annual #2

Injustice 2 Annual #2 Cover

Normally I try and review the first issues of new series or the starts of runs by new creative teams on long-running series. This is for the good and simple reason that, typically, that’s when people need a critic’s advice.

I’m making an exception this week for Injustice 2 Annual #2 for two reasons. The first is that the core of this book is an incredibly good Superman/Batman team-up story that stands on its own. The second is that this is said to be the final comic set in the world of Injustice and I felt the need to talk a bit about this little comic that could.

A quick bit of background for those who aren’t video game fans. Injustice was a fighting game utilizing various DC Comics characters, created by the same team responsible for Mortal Kombat. The series was set in a timeline divergent from the core DC Comics reality, where The Joker put his belief that “one bad day” could push anyone over the edge to the test on Superman. The end result was a dead Lois Lane, a Metropolis burned in nuclear fire and a Joker who laughed his last laugh as Superman punched through his chest. The action of the game opens five years later as the Batman of this world, one of the last free heroes left, summons the Justice League of another reality to help him retake his Earth from the army Superman formed to force peace upon the world.

Nobody expected much of the Injustice comic that was created as a link to the games. There’s a long history of terrible superhero video games and equally terrible tie-in comics. I myself ignored the title until an associate, who knew of my love of Green Arrow, said I had to check out Issue #5 of the digital edition. It was there that I read a silly little story that involved Green Arrow hunting down Harley Quinn and I instantly fell in love.

Injustice Green Arrow and Harley Quinn

It is worth mentioning that Injustice: Gods Among Us first came out at the height of The New 52 revamp, when DC Comics was busily trying to remake Harley Quinn into their version of Deadpool and Green Arrow into their version of Tony Stark. The book’s presentation of the classic Harley Quinn and Oliver Queen attracted many fans who were turned off by DC’s latest reboot and it is hard to say how much seeing the classic versions of the characters at a time when they were sorely missed may have boosted the titles’ sales in addition to its clever writing, which was both touching and hilarious in equal measure.

Writer Tom Taylor spun a five year saga plausibly detailing how a grief-stricken Superman might slowly transform himself into a tyrant in a bid to stop anyone from suffering as he had. He also explored many questions the video game didn’t cover, such as why Earth’s magicians or The Green Lanterns didn’t step in to try and stop Superman before he went over the edge. (The short answer is that they did and things did not end well for anyone.) Yet in the middle of all this, Taylor wrote flashback stories that showed a great understanding of Superman’s character and many critics called Taylor’s “For The Man Who Lost Everything” the best Superman story of the past decade.

Injustice Superman Helps A Kid Fix His Bike

The story of Injustice 2 Annual #2 is a similarly retro story, showing Superman and Batman in happier times. After Bruce Wayne is nearly assassinated on behalf of a nationalist Intergang cell unhappy with Wayne’s sponsorship of a refugee assistance program, Clark offers his teammate a place to rest and recover while he and the rest of Bruce’s friends and family hunt down those responsible. It’s not much of a plot, but it does afford Taylor the chance to tell the sort of story he excels at, playing off of the reader’s expectations as he uses his knowledge of these beloved characters to bounce themselves off of one another in unexpected ways.

To say more than that would spoil the game, so I’ll simply say that Bruno Redondo, Rex Lokus and Wed Abbott – Taylor’s artistic partners for the better portion of the runs of both Injustice comics – do a fantastic job on this issue, making it a worthy capstone for the series to date. If you want a good, old-fashioned World’s Finest team-up with solid writing and artwork, give this book a try. Then go back and see what you’ve been missing with the earlier Injustice comics. Even if you don’t care much for video games, they are well worth your time as one of the most interesting and well-developed Elseworlds in comics’ history.

9/10

Injustice 2 Annual #2 releases on November 21, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

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Comic Review – Uncanny X-Men #1

Uncanny X-Men #1 Cover

X-Men comics are a daunting thing to comic book newcomers. The franchise has one of the most extensive mythologies in history. There have been as many as a dozen X-Men books being published at any one time every month. And there are literally hundreds of characters, heroes and villains, making up the continuing saga of people born with genetic mutations, who use their powers to protect a world that hates and fears them.

Where do you start in all of that? It’s a fair question and everyone has their own opinions on the subject. The obvious answer is “at the beginning” but the classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby X-Men is a totally different beast than what came after Chris Claremont and John Byrne revived the series in the 1970s. And even their stories are totally different than the more recent Morrison/Quietly or Whedon/Cassady runs often held up as the “Best X-Men Ever!

(You just read that in the Comic Book Guy’s voice, didn’t you?)

Unfortunately, for all that Uncanny X-Men #1 does right in trying to present a good-old-fashioned X-Men story, it also falls into the same traps that have plagued the series for most of the last two decades. If you are a newcomer and don’t already know who all of the characters are, you’ll quickly become lost trying to keep track of all the players. If you’re already an X-Fan and –do- know who all the characters are, much of what you see in this issue will be old hat.

Case In Point: The credits page for this issue explains the basic idea of the X-Men and how there is one team of superheroes led by Jean Grey and a school for young mutants run by Kitty Pryde. There is a roster of character names and pictures, but this won’t help much as there are characters in the story not listed on the roster. Indeed, the very first page of the main story introduces Jamie Madrox (aka Multiple Man) and shows multiple copies of him running around trying to avert some disaster. The fact that Madrox has had access to a time machine since the Multiple Men mini-series last year is not explained.

Herein lies the biggest problem with Uncanny X-Men #1 – it assumes too much of the reader and doesn’t allow for the possibility of a newcomer seeking entry into its world. This is something of a problem for a #1 issue!

Ignoring that, there’s way too much going on in this issue, with three separate plot-lines and 20 characters. And that’s just in the main part of the book! There’s also three back-up stories, which eventually meet and turn into a large single story. All of these stories are full of action, but there’s little chance to get to know any of the characters as being more than powers and a codename. Heck, some of the characters don’t even get that much and spend the story standing in the background!

Established X-Fans will fare slightly better, but may not find anything new here. The ideas of a vaccine to cure mutation and an anti-Mutant Senator turning the populace against mutants have been done before in the comics and the movies. Heck, even the characters themselves seem to be snarking on how “been there, done that” the story of this issue is.

Uncanny X-Men #1 - Speech

The artwork is competently executed throughout. Unfortunately, like the stories, there’s little that is truly fantastic that stands out or grabs the eye. The one exception to this is the Jean Grey story written by Kelly Thompson and drawn by Ibraim Roberson. Brief though it is, Thompson manages to convey everything you need to know about who Jean is as a person in one monologue and Roberson draws the most gorgeous Jean Grey I’ve ever seen, while fitting an amazing amount of detail into every panel without losing any sense of clarity.

Uncanny X-Men #1 Jean Grey

In the end, X-Men fans will find Uncanny X-Men #1 to be more of what they like. Newcomers looking for an entry point into the world of Marvel’s Mutants would do better to check out X-Men: Red, which I think may well be the most friendly X-Men comic in years, as well as one of the best. And bonus – the first TP just came out last month.

6/10

Uncanny X-Men #1 releases on November 14, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.