Saturday, October 8, 2016

REVIEW: INJUSTICE GODS AMONG US YEAR TWO VOLUME 1

 A new regime takes over...


INTRODUCTION 
INJUSTICE GODS AMONG US YEAR ONE brought forward two of the most compelling volumes of comics I've ever had the pleasure of reading. VOLUME 1 opened with a series of shocking events which would prove to be the catalyst for a DC universe in which things go horribly wrong. Stricken by grief, guilt, and a desire to never let history repeat itself, Superman was slowly pushed over the edge. He murdered the Joker and banded his fellow Justice League members together on a path that there is no turning back from. Heroes who once served diligently to protect the freedom and safety of all now worked to overthrow governments they deemed unjust and replaced them with ... well ... themselves. These once mighty protectors now head down the road of transforming into the world's almighty dictators. It was an absolute treat to see how some of the heroes actually think this shift is a good idea while others are hesitant about it all. Then there's Batman who saw these events unfolding before they came to full fruition and he pulled together a team of his own. In essence, it was Batman vs. Superman done right and once I got past a couple of the duller issues from VOLUME 1, I was treated to a wild emotional roller coaster where the once familiar DC Universe begins to tear itself apart. YEAR ONE ended with a bang so I was very excited to finally jump into YEAR TWO and see what the first half of that had to offer.

HOW I RATED IT 
5/5 Picking up right where YEAR ONE left off, INJUSTICE GODS AMONG US YEAR TWO VOLUME 1 delivers another set of five issues which continue to shape this alternate DC Universe into what players saw when they entered into the video-game which this series is a companion to.

CHARACTERS
The Green Arrow, among other DC staples like Martian Manhunter are dead and the first issue of this volume begins with Oliver's funeral. Members of Team Batman are horrified that Superman could really kill one of their own, but this fear has only strengthened their resolve, especially since they now possess Superman's enhancing pills. One of the things that I liked most about this volume was that it actually doesn't really focus on the Superman vs. Batman struggle all that much. After his crippling encounter with Superman, Batman has been whisked away by Zatana and Doctor Fate to a mystical realm in which Superman cannot find him. This doesn't mean Superman's given up on his old friend though. He immediately sends an army of his enhanced soldiers into Gotham who waste no time in brutally assuming control over the city. This makes for an interesting setup where smaller characters like Jim Gordon, Detective Montoya, Harvey, Oracle, Black Canary, and Huntress come together to form a small resistance with the recently unemployed GCPD.

Where the majority of the cast falls though is actually on the side of the Lantern Corps. Much of the story revolves around Hal, John, and Guy as they all deal with Superman's actions in a different way. Lots of other lanterns take on smaller roles in the plot including the little blue men who appear to watch over the entire universe. Ultimately the Green Lanterns decide that they are not in favor of Superman's regime and decide to take action against him. This leaves things open for Sinestro to establish himself as an ally to Superman's cause and it was a great deal of fun to see how his relationship with Superman and company evolves. Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner are two other big standouts as each have drastically different attitudes towards what's going on at earth. I enjoyed seeing Hal advocate for Superman's cause and even though I didn't agree with him, I did like seeing how he stood firm in his beliefs even when the rest of the Lanterns were against him.

WORLD/SETTING 
The world of Injustice gets a lot bigger in this volume. The involvement of the Lanterns opens up the conflict to the greater cosmos which provides a truly epic scale to the narrative being told. It was great to see shots set in faraway places like the Lantern homeworld and Dr. Fate's Tower. There are also plenty of scenes up on the watchtower and down in the dingy streets of Gotham. While I took no issue with the number of different places that YEAR ONE took readers, I also felt like I got a lot more variety this time around. There are so many moving pieces spread across such a wide breadth of the DC world that the stakes just felt that much higher this time around. I loved seeing how Superman's rise to tyranny created issues for people beyond Earth making the conflict interplanetary rather than international. The time spent in Oa, the lantern home world, was particularly interesting for me since I know very little about the lanterns other than the fact that each color represents a different emotion, some good, some evil. Since most of my exposure to them was in the astoundingly dull GREEN LANTERN film, it was refreshing to see the Lanterns represented in a far more exciting context.

At the end of YEAR ONE, Superman unveiled his new army of super soldiers. Now we get to see them in action as they execute a sort of martial law over Gotham. Being a huge Batman fan, I've seen Gotham in all sorts of peril at the hands of one insane super villain or another, but seeing it under military rule - that's something that felt entirely new. Seeing the chaos that stems from absolute order was a real treat and I loved that the stage is set for the conflict to heat up in future volumes.


PLOT/TONE 
This volume is possibly the most intense so far. Superman must face the truth that even he is no match against the entire Green Lantern Corps. This fact coupled with the impending threat of Earth being invaded by his former allies brings Superman to the conclusion that he must ally with the Sinestro Corps. Seeing this leap in logic was really interesting for me since I found it quite weird that the video-game showed Superman with both Hal Jordan and Sinestro on his team. The interactions between these three characters were absolute gold. The best part is that it actually made sense as to why Sinestro would take an interest in joining Superman, why Superman might eventually come to trust Sinestro (to an extent), and why Hal would continue to see things Superman's way. This slow shift in principles for all three men was fascinating and it challenged my understanding of who each of them are. It's fantastic that among all the action, there's still a deeply personal touch that this narrative manages to work in.

In much the same way as YEAR ONE saw the relationship between Batman and Superman disintegrate, this second year seems to be centered around the world of the Lanterns being turned upside down. A whole new rush of brother vs. brother tension culminates into one of the most insane clashes the series has seen so far. It will be very interesting to see where things go from here as there is no turning back from some of the decisions that have been made by these characters.

ARTWORK 
One of the things that makes this series so great is it's stunning visuals. The art style seems to have changed slightly for YEAR TWO, but the good news is that it's every bit as detailed as before, if not a little more intricate. Every strand of hair, every gesture, and every backdrop seems to be rendered with a loving hand which really helps sell both the emotional and physical turmoil that the story tries to portray. There really isn't much more to say other than that I couldn't have asked for better artwork to accompany this epic story. If I had to choose one little thing to nitpick, it's that some of the covers are a little misleading. There's one in particular which features the Birds of Prey doing battle with Superman's soldiers in the streets of Gotham. Not only does the issue this cover is attached to not have anything to do with such a battle, but nowhere in the entire volume does such a scene unfold. It's a small thing, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be a little bothered by it.

CONCLUSION 
If you enjoyed INJUSTICE GODS AMONG US YEAR ONE, then this volume ought to be at the top of your reading list. The second year of INJUSTICE raises the stakes, delivers on top-notch action, pulls at the hearts of DC fans, and brings this version of the universe that much closer to the way players saw this world when they began the game's campaign mode. The best thing about this series for me continues to be the fact that the story is agnostic of all other DC publications. The world is self-contained and since it's a prequel to the game it's associated with, you don't even have to be a gamer in order to enjoy it. If you're looking for a great series that you don't have to be a hard core comic fan to really get into, then this is definitely the series for you.

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