Review by: Mark Palm
I was once an avid reader of comic books. As their prices rose I discovered that the cost of a few comics could get a good used paperback. Since I was in puberty and wanted more, ah, sophisticated reading it was goodbye to Tigra and her blue bikini and hello to Henry Miller and Anis Nin. Ah, Literature.
I have kept my hand in comics since then, reading the occasional comic and several graphic novels. Now the world of comics has undergone some immense changes since I was a reader, and I think it should be briefly touched upon. The main difference is that where once characters usually had only one comic that was published in serial form, popular characters now have many limited runs and graphic novels that feature them. Instead of a straight soap-opera style story line characters are now used by varied creative teams, and used the way that traditional story-tellers used heroes and folk characters like Coyote, or Hercules. If you go to a comic shop you can easily find stories featuring Spider Man in the 1960s, the modern day, or 2099, Peter Parker is in his teens and his twenties, or he is Caucasian or bi-racial.
This comic, Injustice, is the first part of a longer story yet to be told. Basically the Joker, having tired of being thwarted by Batman comes to Metropolis to bring Superman down to his level. Since Superman is far more powerful than Batman this idea seems insane. But crazy is the Joker's specialty and if Superman has one weakness beside Kryptonite it's the space between his ears. The Joker’s plan succeeds. Without too many spoilers he crushes Superman's world, breaks his heart, and kills most of the citizens of Metropolis. Exit the Joker via Superman's fist.
Then the Man of Steel announces to the UN that humans cannot manage themselves any longer, and that he and his friends will enforce a world-wide cease-fire. Needless to say this divides the world of heroes and some join with Superman, and some oppose him. Also we see peripherally that most of the governments don't care for it either. The writer's sympathies clearly lie with Batman, Superman's main antagonist. In one jarring scene Superman and Wonder Woman put down an Australian demonstration by breaking the back of their local superhero. Ouch.
Now this story is meant to be epic, with a moral and ethical dilemma. Its point can be summed up by a quote from Batman: The Dark Night: "You either die a hero, or live long enough to become a villain." I am not sure where this story is going yet but from Batman's brooding monologue we are led to believe that Superman is one his way to being Mussolini in tights.
The story and the art are both solid if unspectacular. The visuals are good, but they look like a good comic, and lack that cinematic scope that the best comic artists use in such stories. The biggest problem that I had was that the story's width exceeded the writer's grasp. Having such two-dimensional and rather silly characters like Shazam and Hawk Girl in the middle of a gritty story seemed jarring. Batman mopes around, the Flash is frozen by inaction (ironic right?), and most of the rest of the heroes seem to be costume dressing. The best-rounded and even somehow touching character was Harley Quinn, the Joker's gun moll extraordinaire, who steals every scene she is in.
The basic plot seems rather derivative of a similar story used by Marvel not long after 9/11, where the government decided to enlist heroes to work for them. Of course this split their world down the middle, causing a huge rift. Now comparing one work against another is not always fair for a reviewer but his time the plot reveals one of the fundamentally minor but inescapable flaws of the DC universe: in placing their stories in Metropolis and Gotham City, in Central City and Smallville they lose a certain link with the external world which provides a kind of psychic connection that helps ground such fantastic material. In a Marvel story when a villain trashes a NYC or LA landmark it can't help but supply a natural fission that is lacking in a fictional setting. I can't get worked up over The Daily Planet or Wayne towers. Still, the thought of Batman using his brain to put Superman's brawn in its place will probably make me come back for a bit more.