Through a combination of Batman’s tenacity and magics even John Constantine was reluctant to call upon, the tyrant Superman has been brought down. Trapped in a magical sleep that not even The Spectre can cut through, Superman does what he always did.
He dreams of a better way.
He dreams of a better world.
He dreams of the world that should have been.
A world where he didn’t kill the woman he loved and their unborn child.
A world where all the friends he lost or drove away still look to him in inspiration, rather than fear.
A world where Batman killed The Joker and sacrificed his own ideals to save the lives of millions and the virtue of his best friend.
A world where Lois Lane gave birth to a perfectly healthy, super girl.
A world full of first steps, first words and first flights.
A world where the man who had everything and lost it all, again has all that he ever could have wished for: A better world. A happy ending. An illusion of the worst kind. And deep down he knows it. But he does not want to leave it.
With his final issue of Injustice, writer Tom Taylor shows just why this series was such a success. When this book first came out, not many critics gave it any attention. Video game tie-in books usually scrape the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality and the expectations were low for a book based on a reality created by the people who brought you Mortal Kombat.
The expectations were particularly dire among long-time DC Comics fans. Ignoring the loud and vocal contingent of Superman fans who claim that any story that begins with Superman killing someone is a non-starter, there were many who dismissed the world of Injustice as being redundant. There are already a lot of alternate reality stories based around The Joker’s death or Superman’s corruption bringing about the end of Life As We Know It. What could Injustice hope to say or do that hadn’t already been said or done by Kingdom Come or the Justice Lords episodes of the Justice League animated series?
Plenty, it turns out.
There’s an old saying that life is about the journey rather than the destination and Taylor proved that during his tenure on Injustice. We already knew how the story would end – how it must end – due to the plot of the Injustice game. But that still left five years to fill in and Taylor told some truly amazing stories. He expanded upon what few details the game revealed and answered a number of questions – both obvious and obscure – that were suggested by this new reality. For instance, we knew that Green Arrow was the first hero to die fighting the tyrant Superman, but we didn’t know how or why. Or Black Canary’s response to Superman’s murdering the man she loved. Or how the various cosmic powers of the DC Universe reacted to Superman becoming ruler of the Earth in all but name.
This attention to detail is a hallmark of Taylor’s writing. As is his ability to balance comedy and tragedy, knowing just the right time to bring out Harley Quinn to say something funny before the action gets too dour. But more than anything else, what Taylor brought to this series was a clear and obvious love for these characters and a knowledge of everything they should be.
There is an idealism to Taylor’s writing. A clear and abiding belief that as bad as things are, we can make them better. That we, as people, can be better than we are. This is why the stand-out characters of this series have all been idealists at their core. True, their ideals may conflict, but they are all deep believers in the idea that they can make things better. Whether it is Green Arrow’s liberal activism, Harley Quinn’s romantic optimism, or even John Constantine’s belief in standing up against the bullies of the universe – all of Taylor’s point-of-view characters have some kind of idealism driving their actions.
With this last issue, we see Taylor’s love for the DC Universe and his idealism brought center stage for one final bow. It is an idealism that many readers feel has been absent from modern comics in general, and many of the books that DC Comics publishes as part of their New 52 universe in specific. This issue – and the series as a whole – have been a love letter to the sense of hope and wonder and joy that exemplifies everything superhero comic books should be.
Taylor’s script is brought to life wonderfully by Bruno Redondo, Juan Albarran, Xermanico, Rex Locus and Wes Abbott. There are a number of nice touches in the artwork – subtle things that add to the presentation. For instance, the finishes of the artwork become distinct at certain key points, mirroring how the dream’s hold on Superman is weakening and becoming less real as a result. There’s also a number of just plain fun images, such as Krypto being a part of Clark and Lois’ home-life, with Superman throwing baseballs into the stratosphere for his dog to catch.
If you haven’t given Injustice a chance before now, you have been missing out on one of the best books of the last five years and should take steps to correct your mistakes immediately. And if you’re looking for another good comic to read, check out Tom Taylor’s independent series The Deep – Volume 1 & Volume 2. It’s a kid friendly but not at all childish comic about a family of underwater explorers and Taylor is currently developing it into an animated series. It, as well as the whole of Injustice, are highly recommended.