Written by TOM TAYLOR / Art by MIKE S. MILLER / Colors by DAVID LOPEZ & SANTI CASAS OF IKARI STUDIO / Letters by WES ABBOTT / Published by DC COMICS
Until relatively recently, there was a truism regarding adaptations that proved equally accurate whether applied to comic books based on video games or video games based on comic books – they always stink. Given that, nobody expected the tie-in comic for the Injustice: Gods Among Us fighting game to be worth much. Indeed, the first few issues made several prominent critics’ WORST BOOK EVER lists due to the story starting off with the conceit that Superman could be tricked into killing Lois Lane, thus starting a chain reaction that ended with the destruction of Metropolis and the death of The Joker at Superman’s hands.
Despite this outlandish beginning, writer Tom Taylor rose to the occasion and brought amazing depths to what otherwise might have been yet another dull Elseworlds story where Superman and Batman become enemies. Taylor primarily did this in two ways. First, Taylor showed that Superman’s fall into fascism was not a sudden thing but a gradual process born of a series of steps down the slippery slope of good intentions. Next, Taylor took advantage of the weekly digital release format of Injustice to tell smaller stories that focused on the ordinary people and their reactions to the changes wrought by the World’s Finest Heroes. Taylor also took care to make the story more than just another Superman vs. Batman fight by focusing individual issues on other characters like Green Arrow and Harley Quinn.
Taylor continues to defy convention, even in this series finale where Batman and Superman finally do face one another in battle. In a nod to The Dark Knight Returns, Batman hangs a lampshade on the conflict by noting that it would be far easier for him to put on an armored suit and throw Kryptonite at Superman than to do what he plans to do. But Batman does not take the easy way out in the fight that follows. Thankfully, neither does Taylor who turns this epic battle into one of wills rather than fisticuffs.
In this respect, Taylor may have written the most realistic Batman vs. Superman fight in comics’ history. We get a sense in this issue that it is Batman who is the most reluctant to fight, ready to sacrifice his own life rather than taking one himself. He remains unwilling to compromise his principles, even in this face of his own death at Superman’s hand. Yet, Batman will find aid in the eleventh hour from his most likely ally and least likely source of salvation.
Artist Mike S. Miller delivers another strong performance. Miller’s figures are larger than life, looking powerful even at rest. Even unmasked and prone, his Batman looks capable of springing into action in a second and his Superman is frightening in his unrestrained fury. The artwork does falter somewhat in the final pages, where Miller’s lines become muddied as he tries to depict multiple characters in the middle and far ranges. Miller is a great artist when it comes to drawing close-ups and splash-pages but not so grand when it comes to depicting fine detail at a distance.
Injustice: Gods Among Us #36 proves a fitting conclusion to a surprising series, despite leaving readers with many unanswered questions. Thankfully, answers may be forthcoming when Injustice returns in January 2014. Maybe then we shall learn how Black Canary will choose to strike back at Superman in the wake of Green Arrow’s death and how Catwoman eventually comes to ally herself with Superman’s regime? Until then, those who have come to enjoy Tom Taylor’s skillful writing can look forward to his upcoming run on Earth 2 following James Robinson’s departure as well as Taylor’s all-ages series The Deep.