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.
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.
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.
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.