[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers, dare I say, lots of spoilers!]
Writer: Tom Taylor
Art: Bruno Redondo
Colors: Rex Lokus
Letters: Wes Abbott
There’s a freedom that comes with working in a universe that is not the main DC Universe continuity. That freedom is not necessarily the freedom to kill and destroy, but rather the freedom to allow characters to grow. For many years at DC Comics, the classic Earth-Two where the original Golden Age versions of the company’s characters lived, was such a place. Crisis on Infinite Earths ended all that. While the Justice Society of America was kept around on the new combined, main Earth, it didn’t allow for older, more mature versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Injustice 2, while not showing these characters in their senior years, certainly takes the opportunity to mature Batman and delve deeper into his character as a more complete adult that has found love and friendship and is able to look back on his friendship with Superman without blinders. It would be easy to dismiss this issue as, “nothing happened” because there are no fights or plot, but this issue completely about character is one of the strongest issues I’ve ever read. More comics need to be like this. Less combat, more character.
Eight years ago, Bruce Wayne survived an assassins bullet. Deadshot pulled the trigger and Catwoman (Selina Kyle) went after him. It was all before Lois was murdered and Superman went on his bender that precipitated the events of Injustice: Gods Among Us. Superman came immediately to his side and took Bruce, Selina and Alfred to the Kent’s farm for recuperation.
In the present, Bruce is alerted by Brother Eye that someone is trying to reach Superman in his cell. Turns out it’s Martha Kent, with no ill intentions. She gets by Batman with some genius fast talk. Pa Kent takes Batman for a drink! Well, Bruce, rather. And that’s when it hits home for Bruce…how did he fail Clark as a friend when Lois was murdered. I don’t have any idea what the video game is like, but the raw emotion between these two long time friends is inspiring, thought provoking and sobering. It’s the epitome of complex characterization. It goes well beyond a fight. It gives purpose to their actions and there’s nary a scene in this issue which doesn’t address the characters involved in such a meaningful way.
The character work in this issue is nearly unparalleled. It’s also very subtle at times. It’s cleverly revealed through speech and mundane action as opposed to over the top extravagances. Bruce and Selina, while not married, are clearly in a positive and healthy relationship. In the present she can see through his self-made distractions, and in the past they are clearly in love. It is natural and endearing.
Bruce learns a lot about himself from Pa Kent and sometimes alarmingly so! Jonathan reveals to the Dark Knight that Alfred asked for the Kent’s to look after him in issue #36. The back story makes this scene make sense, as Jonathan correctly identifies Alfred as a surrogate father to Bruce. Jonathan’s cleverness at breaking through Clark’s talk about Batman and accurately identifying him as Bruce Wayne, is wonderfully insightful as to how parents are able to dissect what their children say. And the revelation about Lana Lang’s night time visit’s to teenage Clark’s room is hilarious and real. Parents so often know more than they are willing to say at times. And, it humanizes Clark in a way that makes sense, especially in terms of the atrocities he’s committed in this universe. It reminds the reader, just as Pa Kent does when he breaks down Batman for not being their for his son upon Lois’s death, that Clark, despite being genetically alien is truly human emotionally and culturally. If only Brian Michael Bendis understood this over in Action Comics. Lois and Clark ARE normal. Completely human and normal, and that’s what makes them sing as a couple and is the entry point to understanding Superman as a character. Superman: The Movie made this point obvious forty years ago and it is just as prescient now as it was then in understanding the character.
As Bruce realizes his failure in being there for Clark, it is almost worthy of tear shedding. Batman doesn’t cry, but here he understands that he never told Clark his feelings for him and the loss of Lois. Their interactions, though efficient in dialogue, speaks volumes about Batman’s character. He finally seems to understand the friendship that Clark felt all along, even if he himself was always too wrapped up in justice and his own sense of morality.
All in all, the issue is complex with many different aspects of character which combine to present real people and how they would act/react in the real world given the super-circumstances in which they have been placed.
It must also be stated, that Bruno Redondo and Rex Lokus conveyed all the emotion and subtlety of the script expertly in their visual depiction. There is not a single aspect of this issue that is not brilliant.
The only negative is that more comics aren’t like this. More character, more character, more character!
I’m too verbose to be speechless (see above), but this issue is a triumph of character work. I don’t play video games and I have no idea what this game is like, but I wish this comic would continue under this creative team. Would the main DCU Batman be allowed to grow and emote this much. It doesn’t matter if you’ve read any issue of this series or none, if you have a basic understanding of Superman and Batman you will enjoy it. Everyone should buy this comic! Can I give this a 6 out of 5?