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May 22, 2017

RE: Injustice 2

So I want to do a quick post on Injustice 2 and/or early impressions bit, but there’s something that I need to ask before I get started.  Comic book fans or otherwise, help me out here.  I have a question.

Does DC just plain hate Superman right now?  Does everyone?

I can’t help but ask, because it largely comes from a biased place.  I like Superman.  I can’t say I’m in deep with comic books, but I’ve certainly gotten my feet wet with the DC Animated Universe (dat Justice League Unlimited theme).  And because of it -- along with the character at a glance -- I like Superman more than Batman.  Always have, always will.  I wish that we lived in a universe where both heroes could share the spotlight by virtue of top-notch movies shaping the public consciousness, but I’m at peace with Batman being the more popular of the two right now.

…Is what I would like to say, but these days it feels like the balance is skewed WAY too far.  And it’s not just going “Batman’s cool, Superman’s lame, deal with it”; it seems like the media’s going well out of its way to paint Superman as a failure, a monster, a disaster in the making, or just an all-around terrible person.  Well, maybe not everyone in the media -- I’d imagine the recent Rebirth reboot has tried to repair everyone’s image in the comic canon -- but I remember how Injustice 1 pushed the angle of Superman being a bad guy (AKA something that’s never been done before…except when it's been done before).

To that game’s credit, Superman wasn’t the only one that went bad -- and on top of that, it was an alternate universe where the genuine article and the other mainline heroes still fought for truth, justice, and the American way.  On the other hand, what does it say when Superman is the one who snaps hard when something bad happens to Lois, to the point where he’s willing to outright murder his comrades for insubordination?  That implies that there’s only a fine line between the Big Blue Boy Scout and a so-called “Justice Lord”.  I would have thought -- or at least hoped -- that the wall was a little higher and thicker than that, but I guess not.

I haven’t cracked the seal on Injustice 2’s story mode yet, but from what I can gather, it looks like the game is hell-bent on pushing Superman as some sort of threat that has to be contained -- possibly more than Brainiac or Darkseid, who I’d assume are planet-ending catastrophes on two legs.    What worries me more is the fact that Batman’s getting a hell of a push; there’s a little comic that comes with physical copies of the game that details Supergirl’s origin story, but also features some art of the DC heroes.  Batman is the very first one to pop up, decked out in full costume and ready to roll.  Superman is in a prison uniform and handcuffed.

I mean…I don’t want to just sit here and blame Zack Snyder, but it’s hard not to.  So I’m just going to go ahead and blame Zack Snyder.  And pals.  I feel like we should be taking David S. Goyer to task more often than we usually do, but whatever.


Superhero movies have eclipsed superhero comics in terms of widespread popularity, impact, and of course profits.  I have my doubts that people are lining up to see what that Rebirth entails, but everybody will rush out to the theaters to see what the DC Extended Universe is all about.  Spoilers: they’ll immediately regret it.  Despite efforts (citation needed) to bring Superman into a modern age with myriad complexities, 2013’s Man of Steel came off as a movie that absolutely hated Superman -- a film dead-set on sabotaging his name and image for an entire generation. 

Cold, distant, morose; indecisive, needy, delusional; condescending, selfish, and overall kind of an idiot; those are just a few words I could use to describe Snyder and crew’s Superman.  And that was just in Man of SteelBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice somehow managed to make things even worse, for Supes as well as every recognizable character involved.  They doubled down on all of the negative traits without showing anything positive; sure, things are shot and plotted in such a way to show that Superman will always do the right thing, but the execution makes him look like someone you wouldn’t even trust to grab a can of root beer from the fridge.

And then (spoilers) he gets killed off so that Batman can be positioned as the leader and founder of the Justice League.  You know, Batman, that ever-so-lovable bastion of idealism, good graces, and sanity.  Meanwhile, Superman is positioned as someone who -- once his resurrection takes root -- will almost inevitably come back as a villain that has to be stopped.  Because he was evil all along or some shit.

Side note: I want the Wonder Woman movie to be good, but -- even if Snyder and crew aren’t involved -- I have zero faith in its quality right now.  As long as WB is involved and pushing the DCEU to compete with the MCU, it’s “guilty until proven innocent” for me.  Given that we’re 0 for 2, can you blame me?

Then you get to Injustice 2, which at a glance is trying hard to push the aesthetic of the DCEU.  I’m assuming that it’s not as dire as the two Snyder films, which is a luxury afforded by Injustice 1 -- AKA a game that was surprisingly enjoyable story-wise.  But it makes me tug at my collar, knowing that the first thing you see when you boot up the game is Batman marching up the steps to his supercomputer so that he can monitor the multiverse and presumably play guardian to existence itself.  On top of that, there are about eight different Batman characters in the roster, with more to come via Red Hood (at a bare minimum).  Hell, even the DC logo upon boot-up temporarily transforms into Batman’s cowl.


Cripes.  And to reiterate, I liked Injustice 1.  I liked the gameplay as a whole and the story as a whole (even if it superficially went down the dark and gritty route).  But my least favorite part of that story was when the plot completely dragged to a halt so that Batman could go through his rogues gallery/family issues with Catwoman and Robin (well, one of the Robins) and whatever.  Now my concern is that my least favorite part of this story is going to be the Bat-Family derailing things when it’s supposed to be a gathering of the DC canon’s greatest -- and I’m pretty sure that that goes beyond the Batman universe.

Given that they included Blue Beetle and Doctor Fate, I’d think that DC -- comics, movies, whatever -- and NetherRealm alike understand that the universe doesn’t revolve around Batman.  It shouldn’t.

And that’s part of the reason why the notion of “oh, Superman is evil” or “Superman has lost his way” or “Superman is so incredibly flawed” makes my blood want to burn right through my skin.  You want to show other aspects to Superman, and make him more than just a flawless, instant problem-solver?  Fine.  Do that.  I welcome it; it’s been done before, and to great effect.  But do that in the context of Superman being Superman.  Moreover, make it the Superman that the public consciousness knows by default: a symbol of goodness, valor, and kindness.  Don’t break him and then act like he was always broken to begin with.

I have faith that NetherRealm knew what they were doing with Injustice 2 (which is more than I can say about future prospects for the DCEU, but let’s set that aside for now).  I don’t think it’ll be as bad as I’m making it sound.  Do I wish they took a different approach than painting Superman as a bad person?  Yes, because they’re overdoing it; pre-fight dialogue makes it sound like everyone has grievances with the Man of Steel, and are painting him as someone worse than an escaped serial killer.  That ain’t Falco Superman.

But you know what?  The saving grace is the same thing that makes me inherently like Injustice 2 more than any other NetherRealm game to date: it has characters I actually care about.  Like this one:

I’m so glad that Supergirl is in this game.  So glad.  She’s a fun character to play as; she’s got some good animations (her victory pose is perfect); she doesn’t have a terrible-looking face.  But her mere presence is a hard counter to the grimness of the aesthetic, the Superman hate, and the pressure exerted by the DCEU.  If Superman turns out to be a caped criminal once again, then it’s compensated for by having Supergirl be the noble, cheerful, and hope-inspiring Kryptonian in his stead.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though.  The Supergirl TV show is whooping the Snyder movies’ asses with a diamond-studded paddle, and for a fraction of the cost.

It just goes to show you how crucial it is to have good characters.  Sure, Mortal Kombat X is a solid fighting game, and the best entry to date in that franchise (not accounting for the changes in MKXL, of course).  But the only two characters I had a genuine interest in were Jax and Raiden, and even the latter was a stretch.  Here?  I have Supergirl to lead the way to plenty of hard-fought battles, with a smile on her face as she takes to the skies.  And if I don’t use her, I can still bank on Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, Swamp Thing, and more.  Different characters with different stories, but different aesthetics and impacts all the same.  I value that.

Even if Superman has lost his way, the fact that Supergirl hasn’t makes me optimistic.  And to that end, I’m eager to see what else Injustice 2 has to offer.

Speaking of which…wasn’t this supposed to be a post on that game instead of a protracted rant on my pet peeves with modern cinema and the portrayal of 80-year-old  drawings of a man in underpants?



I’M OUT!  I’M OUTTIE 5000!

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