BOOK REVIEW: Injustice: Gods Among Us by Tom Taylor

Injustice: Gods Among Us #1Injustice: Gods Among Us #1 by Tom Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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If you’re among those who were distraught over Superman’s uncharacteristic behavior at the climax of the Man of Steel movie, this graphic novel isn’t for you. However, the author and illustrator do know how to build tension and keep it rolling. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they achieve this via a mountain of corpses. If you’re good with that, you’ll likely enjoy this work. If not, you may find it a tad dark and / or gratuitous in its violence.

With the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice filming for a summer of 2016 release date, many are wondering how a Batman versus Superman battle might occur (and how the Caped Crusader could credibly avoid being smashed to pulp 30 seconds into the movie.) This comic offers one possible approach—though it’s exceedingly unlikely to be the tack portrayed in the movie. (This book is ancillary to a video game, and wouldn’t necessarily be seen as core canon of the Justice League.)

This book consists of six parts. In part I, the Joker outwits Superman, tricking him into an act that is so horrendous that it will shake the Man of Steel’s core values. In part II, Superman takes a proactive stance against global conflict. In part III, the U.S. government supports a covert action designed to give them leverage against Superman, and to dissuade him from enforcing his previously announced ceasefire. Aquaman and his nautical army oppose Superman in the fourth part because the former is displeased with a dictator setting rules in the maritime domain—even if it is a largely benevolent dictator. In the penultimate part, Batman and Nightwing resist Superman’s attempt to clear out Arkham Asylum and to put the lunatics somewhere where they can’t keep breaking out and causing trouble (as the Joker caused for Superman.) In the final part Batman is exposed to a life-altering event (as Superman had been at the book’s beginning), but the bulk of this section is just picking teams for the epic game of superhero dodgeball that is presumably to unfold in later volumes.

What worked? The setup in which the Joker bests Superman is well-played. The Joker’s willingness to die for the ultimate prank, his perfect psychopathy, and his love of sowing the seeds of chaos make him the perfect man for the job. Harley Quinn gets a few laughs in this otherwise morose book. There’s a lot to think about in terms of the morality of a benevolent dictator. If a god-like creature, i.e. Superman, were to exist on Earth, what should he/she/it take on and what should he leave alone? That’s a question that’s at the core of this book. As in many good storylines, there’s a blurring of the lines between good and evil, a blurring which is essential to have a Batman versus Superman battle make sense.

What doesn’t work? We come into the middle of the Joker’s plot and are supposed to accept that he and Harley Quinn could pull off the phenomenally complex plan in a manner in which it seems easy. It involves hijacking a nuclear sub, successfully taking control of and reprogramming a nuclear weapon, and not only giving Superman a hallucination but controlling the nature of the hallucination. For these events to play out, the Joker needs more than his usual complete lack of moral compass; he needs access to far greater intellectual ability than he usually has to display. And that’s not the only point at which events seem a little too easy. (However, yes, I do realize we are talking about a world in which there are people who can fly under their own locomotion and make complex constructs out of thin air. I didn’t say it was a deal breaker. I’m just saying there were some opportunities for tension missed.)

There is also a death that should have a profound impact on Batman, but which he seems to shrug off pretty well after a couple of hours of bereavement—and possibly some behind-the-scenes Catwoman nookie. I assume the effects of said death will play out in later volumes, but it seemed gratuitous given its lack of effect within the volume. Unlike the death that fundamentally alters Superman’s course, Batman seems to remain unchanged. I’m presuming that the death wasn’t just to create an excuse to bring Selina Kyle (Catwoman) into the storyline, and addition of mixed outcomes. Kyle’s left-of-Marx preachiness will grate on the nerves of politically conservative readers. (Not that it should, regardless of one’s views, one should be able to accept that realistic character development will include individuals with extreme views—just as one sees such individuals in real life… or on Facebook. I’m just saying that, sadly, in our world people don’t want to hear opposing views unless they are being lampooned, and so some will stay away just to avoid hearing characters spouting views contrary to their own. I don’t know how we got there, but…)

I enjoyed this comic overall. Like most entries in its genre, it’s a quick read, and it’s better written than most.

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TODAY’S RANT: Toy Movies

Uggh!

Uggh!

I’m troubled by the devolution of movie source material. As soon as there were movies, there was a desire to convert books into films. This worked great. While it wasn’t always easy to convey the depth of a 600 page novel in a 100 page screenplay, this gave even the least of us the ability to raise ourselves up to the status of pretentious douche-bag with the mantra –say it with me: “The book is always better than the movie.”

Running low on literary fodder, movie-makers decided to shift to making movies from comic books. This worked even better. You could convey the complexity of a comic in a movie, and you had an existing visual media for continuity. The major challenge was finding actresses with huge boobs who could deliver a spinning back-kick (enter Scarlet Johansson), and figuring out what to do about the crotch bulges (or lack thereof) of male superheroes in Spandex.

Pushing the limits, directors turned to video-games. This gave us such hits as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Doom.  Okay, a video game may give us a nice action-packed romp of mayhem and carnage– albeit with dialogue like, “Suck on this!” (accompanying a grenade toss.) One can watch such a movie on basic cable on a Sunday afternoon while eating an entire pizza and still leave all of one’s mental faculties for contemplating such deep questions as whether this is the low point of one’s existence.

Movies based on toys and board games are the low point of Hollywood’s existence. I thought they had learned their lesson from the movie version of Clue in the 80’s, but apparently not. 

To show that I am nothing if not flexible, I will say that I’m willing to change my view if any of the studios are willing to develop  my ideas such as:

Lincoln Logs: Zombie Slayer: A rogue ex-cop, Lincoln Logs, takes a break from drinking himself to death after his family is Zombified to lure zombies into poorly constructed cabins, toppling the cabins, he crushes the Zombies to undeath. Tagline: “Eat Log, Bitches.”

Chutes and Ladders: Into Darkness: Two naughty children find out what happens when one chutes right off the board — an express ride to hell, that’s what. In order to get out they have to learn to count to 100, but the devil is teaching them to count: 1, 7, brick, egg, 14, 6, toad, biscuit… They must warm Satan’s heart, and then develop the upper-body strength to climb a ladder out of hell.  Tagline: “Numbers are Hard, Hell is Hotter.”

Lego Box: The Musical: A plucky red-headed stepchild is devastated when his siblings get all the Lego bricks, but he only gets the plastic tub they came in. However, through hard work and dedication, he becomes the lead percussionist for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, leaving his horrid family behind. Working Tagline: “Eat Box, Bitches.”