(DC Comics – Digital Firsts, 2013)
Review by Cory Thrall
WRITTEN BY: Tom Taylor
ARTWORK BY: Tom Derenick
COLOR ARTWORK: Andrew Elder
LETTERING: Wes Abbott
The idea of comic books based on video games has always held a slight interest for me, much like the novels. The only comics I’ve actually collected that are based on games were the Mass Effect and Dragon Age titles (yes, I’m a huge BioWare dork), and while some of the series for those universes have been great, a few have fallen short of my expectations. Comics along the lines of “Injustice: Gods Among Us”, such as the series released as a lead up to the game “Batman: Arkham City”, are in a world all their own, however. These are basically comic book advertisements to get readers pumped for the games, at the core. That said, they put great effort and work into these – they are stories that really do work as a form of ‘prequel’ for the eventual game and, while the work isn’t perfect, they can be great reads. Or at least a fun look at a different universe, outside of any continuity and fully within the world the game inhabits.
DC has another one, this time an obvious lead up to the video game “Injustice: Gods Among Us”, a ‘fighting game’ created by makers of games in the ‘Mortal Kombat’ franchise. I am not really a fan of these games, but I’ve had my eye on this one for a pretty simple reason – DC characters battling fellow heroes and villains. To me, that’s a sell right there. Back to the comic. What DC has given us with the ‘Digital First’ issues of this title, with the most recent being #13, is as finely crafted a story as most I’ve read of late. Reading like an ‘Elseworlds’ story, this version of DC is very different and actually very dark. It has been a consistently great series, releasing for .99 cents every Tuesday, and this newest issue is probably the best of the bunch. Of course, the game comes out this Tuesday, so it helps that this series has reached the point it has in all areas – characterization, the main plot set into motion, sides beginning to form. I think it works a lot better than the “Arkham City” series did, and the artwork has been of a higher quality, as well.
Leading up to this newest chapter, crazy things have gone down, to say the least. A majorly horrific event happens to Superman and Lois (you’re just going to have to read it, it’s really effective and plays out very well), almost instantly sending Supes down a violent and angry path. When another great tragedy befalls him and mankind, he begins to lose his mind more and more, killing villains and asserting his force where ever he sees fit, how he sees fit. Eventually, he announces to the Earth that he will no longer tolerate and is ‘banning’ any acts of violence, especially war or fighting of any kind between countries and nations of the world. In a furious flash of action, all wars are ended with superpowers, and governments put on check. It quickly becomes a world that is basically ruled by Superman, and the allies from the Justice League that are still with him. Batman has been cut from the group for questioning and plotting against Superman. And, at Superman’s side we find Wonder Woman, giving this tale an almost “Superman: Red Son” storyline (you can even get “Red Son” themed character skins for the game). Together, the rest of the JL continue their hold over the planet, becoming increasingly active and violent has things progress, eventually enough so that it angers Aquaman. Arthur brings his forces upon the land, warning Supes and his team that if they are seeking to rule the land they need to figure in the fact that the oceans reach far and wide. As a show of power, Aquaman orders his varied troops and creatures onto land in spots throughout the globe, and he eventually enters into a large battle with some (and eventually all) of the remaining League.
Throughout the thirteen chapters, we have seen Green Arrow, Harley Quinn, and a few other characters (GA and Harley get their own chapter, actually), which hints at the massive number of characters that will be available in the coming video game. With Batman and the JL, it all really feels like a separate world than the DCU, and I refer mostly to the overall tone of this. It is dark, serious, dramatic, and feels larger than life, as it should. Each part of the story has unfolded in a quick manner, but the overall storytelling doesn’t feel rushed or like you’re missing anything. They change artists and the like in some chapters, but the look and quality of work has the same unified feeling the writing does.
Okay. In this #13, we have what is pretty much a solo Flash story, a character we haven’t seen all that much so far. The idea for this chapter is brilliant – the most thoughtful member of the JL, out on his own in the middle of nowhere. Through his thoughts we’re told that the stretch of road he stands on in Australia is over a thousand miles long – the Nullarbor – which is perfect since he wants to run hard, avoiding any thoughts of what is happening around the Earth. Approaching the ’90 Mile Straight’, the world’s longest and straightest stretch of road, he takes off. We go to a flashback of earlier in Australia, where Flash and the rest of Superman’s League were attempting to quell a protest. When a tossed together and slightly super-powered man steps out from the crowd, demanding the JL leave his country. As he rises and fires upon Supes and Wonder Woman, they take him down hard – too hard, actually. Flash thinks of how in that moment he could have saved the man countless times, and the guilt hits him like a truck to the chest.
A bit later, the newly in-link Batman talks straight to Flash, telling him he needs to head to a Genetic Testing Lab in Canberra. He arrives, and is greeted by a doctor expecting him. She was told that Flash wanted to see more about their project – Mitchell Davies, a ‘kid’ who wanted so to be a superhero so much that he put himself up to their genetic meddling. The doctor speaks more about this man, who they call ‘Galaxor’, and shows Flash to his room. Upon learning that this was the boy they had basically crushed back at the protest, it sets Flash on a journey full of questions and regrets over what they’ve been doing as a team, and the level on intensity it has risen to so fast. The ending is a very sadly touching end, and one that is very true to such a caring and thoughtful man such as the Flash.
This chapter really struck me, and I was very surprised by the way it rolled out. It is such a perfect example of major character developments within a comic, and it’s only a single chapter. Sure, these will eventually be collected in print form like “Arkham City”, but read it’s really a treat to read this in such a fashion. It is a damn well told chapter, with the artwork to back up such an emotional tale. This series has been a highlight of my week each Tuesday and the idea actually worked. I am now much more excited about the release of the game, and how the story continues within it. Keep in mind, this is from a guy who was sold almost instantly on the idea of this game, and now have the Collector’s Edition pre-ordered. So to say I am more excited, to me, is saying a good deal. Especially with what this series is, at it’s base. It may be a marketing deal, but it’s also a really great comic.
Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter: @FeralFang27