Injustice: Gods Among Us has always been The Little Comic Series That Could. Nobody expected much of it, the conventional wisdom being that comic books tying into video-game adaptations of comic books are barely readable at the best of times. To the astonishment of everyone, however, Injustice quickly became DC Comics’ highest-selling Digital First series and a critically-acclaimed New York Times Best Seller!
There is still debate as to just how Injustice accomplished this. About the only thing the pundits agree upon is that the popularity of the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us was not a factor.
Some credited the fact that the series was based on the classic DC Comics Universe and featured versions of popular characters that were no longer en vogue or in-continuity at a time when many readers were rebelling against the changes wrought by The New 52. Indeed, my own introduction to the series came after reports of the now legendary “Harley Quinn vs. Green Arrow” fight in Injustice: Year One #5. There is some truth (to say nothing of irony) that readers turned to a series based around the idea of a tyrannical Superman for a taste of something familiar.
Personally, I think the reason for the series’ popularity is far simpler than that. Regardless of what reality it is set in, this has always been a well-scripted, well-drawn book that was just quirky enough to attract attention while still being as comfortable as an old pair of sneakers. Even when it was breaking your heart or cracking your funny bone.
This Year Five annual continues in the same vein as earlier issues, but at this point the vein is almost tapped dry. The biggest problem that Injustice Year Five had was that it had run out of room to maneuver. Part of the fun of the earlier years was the sense of surprise. There was no telling what avenues might be explored and what parts of the DC Comics Universe might be brought into play. Those opportunities lessened as the series approached its canonical end, with a desperate Batman turning to the Justice League of another universe for help in fighting the tyrant Superman, and the book suffered for it.
That ultimately is the only weakness of this issue – the complete lack of urgency in the stories. Previous annuals answered important questions regarding the world of Injustice, such as “Where were the Teen Titans in all of this?” and “How did John Constantine get involved in the fight against Superman?” This issue seems to be more concerned with tying up loose ends than telling new stories or developing new insights into the characters involved.
Do not misunderstand me. The three stories in this comic are well-written and well-presented. Brian Buccellato does a fantastic job writing all the various characters and bringing their respective voices out. Unfortunately, that does little to change the fact that the opening Harley Quinn story – The Clan – seems like filler at best and a blatant in-comic advertisement for the Injustice: Ground Zero mini-series at worst. It’s a sweet story, detailing how Harley took over a gang of reformed Joker henchman inspired by her example of do-gooding, but there’s nothing here we aren’t already seeing in Ground Zero.
The quality of the writing also does not negate the middle chapter – Ares – seeming like it exists only to explain away a plot-hole regarding how Ares came to work for The Regime after being imprisoned on an alien world during Year Four. There’s little other reason for the story, apart from providing us with the issue’s best action sequence as Wonder Woman fights Ares.
The final chapter – Reconstruction – is the strongest, based around Black Lightning seeking redemption by working with The Atom to purge the radiation from the ruins of Metropolis. Good as it is to see what happened to Jefferson Pierce and where Ray Palmer has been in all of this, the story is still largely lifeless and does little to explore why these two heroes chose to work for The Regime.
While I may question the necessity of the stories in this volume, I have no harsh words for the art team. Mike S. Miller, Xermanico and Marco Santucci deliver the same quality work we saw in previous issues, as do colorists J. Nanjan and Rex Lokus. The book’s few action sequences are well blocked and every page is eye-catching and visually interesting.
Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Five Annual #1 brings to mind a quote often attributed to Abraham Lincoln – “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” This comic is enjoyable for what it is and fans of Injustice will find this a fitting capstone for the series. Still, it’s a shame that the finale couldn’t be quite as revolutionary as what came before.