NetherRealm and WB’s Injustice is a franchise that should not work.
It’s set in a universe where Superman has become a tyrant after accidentally killing a pregnant Lois Lane, and whose turn to villainy has caused a massive shockwave across the DC universe. Across both games and the comics born from them, we watch as various beloved heroes and villains punch each other and die. In an age where superheroes fighting each other and dying feels rote, Injustice has kept its premise fresh largely thanks to two factors: a clear and deep affection for the characters, no matter their importance to the plot, and Tom Taylor, who penned the initial phase of comics tied to the first game—and all the comics for Injustice 2.
It’s a formula that returns again for the new weekly digital series, Injustice: Year Zero (DC). Set a year before the inciting incident of the original game, the book’s first issue sees the Justice League holding a celebration at the Watchtower for the Justice Society Of America. His current runs on Suicide Squad and DCeased have shown Taylor’s best talent lies in just letting his characters talk to each other, and Year Zero cements his character work. When Wildcat casually baits Batman into a sparring match, Flash and Jay Garrick watch the spar like eager children, complete with popcorn. It’s a delightful sequence bolstered by Rogê Antônio’s art, freezing time right on the moment Wildcat backhands Batman so the speedsters can get their snacks before time resumes. Similarly, Cian Tormey turns in good work when taking over art for the third issue, most notably during a flashback featuring Hawkman and Hawkgirl as archaeologists during WWII and a funny sequence featuring Joker and two henchmen.
The Justice Society are slowly but surely becoming a media fixture thanks in part to appearances on Legends Of Tomorrow and Stargirl on The CW. Year Zero has yet to fully give much texture to the team here, but Taylor’s affection for them is still evident. Whether it’s Batman narrating about the JSA’s importance or showing members of both teams who share the same mantle interact, Taylor brings the same amount of empathy to the world of Injustice (however heavy-handed it is) that he did for X-Men Red.
DC sensibly released the first three issues of the book on the same day, as issues two and three set up the central conflict. The amulet the Hawks found during the 1940s can control minds, making it all the more desirable for Joker. There’s no doubt that this is the appetizer for what the clown does to Superman in the first Injustice, and also a good enough excuse to indulge in the franchise’s love of murdering several beloved characters. Either way, it’s sure to be a fun, chaotic time with Taylor at helm yet again for one of DC’s most pleasant surprises.