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Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us #1

01/31/2013 :: Posted at 09:24 PM by Mick-Lucifer
A Critical Look at Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 - Full Print Edition.

When you consider the instant success Injustice: Gods Among Us has had through digital-first release [full story], you have to think this is a comic already fulfilling its primary objective(s).

Print copies of #1 (released January 30) contain the first three chapters of the digital counterpart. Mortal Kombat Online is reviewing based on both, but if you asked for preference, the paper copy takes it. The printed page -- which is cut roughly in half for digital release -- is not only more forgiving to the empty space of panels and the quality of linework, but also the overall pacing of the read.

The natural format of a modern comic lends itself to page-to-page scene breaks, but it could be speculated writer Tom Taylor is more aware of his obligations to digital chapters than is normal. Important story beats segment well, but this doesn't entirely playout in the artwork, which feels hyper-extended in the digital version.

Jheremy Raapack in particular seems much more at home in a traditional 7x11 comic page, with layouts a little less obviously accounting for a page split. When Mike S. Miller and Axel Gimenez take over, the equator becomes more obvious. These panels feel better filled in digital chunks, but compound the unexpected interruption of mid-story style changes. There's a lot to like about Raapack's stylized chunkiness; Miller is crisp and clean.

External forces weighing on the series make it an unusual comic to review, but also speaks to the varied audiences it will inevitably reach. If you aren't looking for the metatext, you won't be too distracted. There are a lot of ways to enjoy this comic, and if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, plenty of people already are! This is the tie-in's tie-in -- perfect for introducing an interested new audience to the DC superhero medium.

Five years before the New Regime -- Lois Lane is pregnant.
Ever the career woman, Lane refuses to give up her responsibilities as a hard-hitting journalist. This fact plays perfectly into the hands of The Joker and Harley Quinn -- visitors to Metropolis for unknown nefarious reasons.

When Star Labs lose the kryptonite they've been experimenting on, it's already too late for Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen - shot dead by the clown prince of crime. When a smiling Scarecrow joins the list of victims, the threat becomes increasingly apparent to the horrified heroes.

An all points bulletin for the missing Lois Lane sets the Justice League into action, but when Superman reaches Joker's operating room of terror first, he is confronted by Doomsday! As he attacks the monster who once nearly killed him, the fates of his wife and unborn child are already sealed. When the battle is done, Superman will pay dearly for flying right into Joker's trap.

By paying homage to the dictatorship of the game, page one sets the scene for an inevitable grim turn. More might've been made of the New Regime character shift in the issue itself, but the context is certainly there. If there was any doubt about things going horribly wrong, the immediately following wedded bliss of Superman and Lois Lane sounds a foreboding alarm that plays throughout.

Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 is a comic that gets right to ticking off the boxes of its plot, almost clumsily so. The iconic status of the DC characters gives these new versions the benefit of assumptions, but it might have been nice to get more context for each tick. Characters certainly play into expected roles, but their actions lack the depth of reason or causality that more memorable stories possess. Alone, the work runs the risk of feeling shallow and incomplete.

Seasoned readers might find familiar cliches frustrating, but the straight forward simplicity is a soft entry point for new readers who are probably a big part of the target audience. Much has been made about the revolution of fighting game storytelling Injustice will bring, but this feels very much in the milieu of what gamers are used to.

The issue is punctuated with a twist ending, which much of the second and third chapters revolve around. The ending itself is well earned and grants the necessary mythology for a world ruled by dicator superheroes, but telegraphing the finish goes beyond grim twist, to frustrating delay. More cobra clutch than gut punch.

Now that we have trailers dedicated to the Death of Metropolis -- the edge is certainly taken off. The event itself is very much Emerald Twilight meets Kingdom Come, hopefully with some referencial awareness [in future episodes].

Scenes dedicated to talking around the conclusion feel like wasted pages, which might have been better used earlier, to fill-in the world and provide more gravitas to each contributing sequence. That lack of weight makes it feel more like an intellectual explanation than emotional shock. Poor ol' Jimmy Olsen kicks the bucket without so much as a second thought! Lois Lane gets time, but questionable depth.

It's important to remember that this is a series with many issues to go. With five years to play in, and perhaps greater context to the events of the first issue, we'll be keen to see where things go. There's a lot of room to move in following issues and even a few questions already begging answers. Solicitations suggest we'll be staying with the five years leading to the New Regime, but Joker's motivation for going to Metropolis in the first place is a plot point we'll be keeping an eye on.

The complexity of influences imposed on this first issue belies the relative simplicity of its content.

Timing is probably crucial to the success of this comic, which fills in the backstory of a game we won't see until April. Though set five years before the events of the game, you've got to think details as crucial as those depicted are going to be repeated in the game itself. In this sense, Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 is as much promotional teaser as it is a "new reader friendly" story. In this sense, it has already succeeded.

Flash, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern are deserving of mention, joining Batman (and Superman) to comprise a Justice League of five. An interesting choice, to say the least. We know all the heroes and villains [actually] featured are playable inclusions. Looks like Scarecrow might be outta luck, though.

Don't forget to read the free Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 preview! You can now find the full issue at all good comic stores! If you'd rather go digital, pick up the first three chapters for 99c each via; DC Entertainment, Comixology or Amazon Kindle Store! Preview & discuss solicitations for issues #2, #3 and #4 on Mortal Kombat Online!.

    
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