Injustice 2, the sequel to 2013’s Injustice: Gods Among Us by developer NetherRealm Studios (Mortal Kombat), is due out on May 16 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The fighting game builds on the first entry’s story of a universe in which Superman goes crazy and decides that the only way to ensure peace is to conquer the world and terrify humanity into getting along.
Gods Among Us picks up five years into Batman’s resistance campaign, and DC released a series of prequel comics filling in the previous events, starting with the event that eventually sends the Big Blue Boy Scout trading in his Eagle rank for the more terrifying title of High Councilor. It all begins when the Joker decides he’s tired of tormenting Batman and heads to Metropolis.
There, he murders Jimmy Olsen, kidnaps Lois Lane, and attaches a detonator to her heart. Then, he exposes Superman to a combination of his own laughing gas and Scarecrow’s fear toxin, which tricks the hero into thinking he’s fighting Doomsday, the monster who “killed” him back in the ’90s. In fact, he’s fighting Lois, and both she and the pair’s unborn child die. The detonator, tied to Lois’ heartbeat, sets off a massive nuclear bomb that destroys Metropolis, and that’s about it for the Last Son of Krypton. He goes all “opening scene of The Terminator” on Joker (see above), and things just escalate from there.
The game covers this in its opening cinematic, but a lot happens in the five years between that and the start of the story — and most of it was crazy. Here are 15 of the most insane moments from the Injustice comics.
15. Superman sends all of the Teen Titans to the Phantom Zone
Kal-El’s rise to dictator of the one world government can only progress if he takes care of any conscience-bearing superpowered people who might oppose him. And he goes up against one of them almost immediately after he kills The Joker. In the Injustice: Year Three Annual story “Fall of the Titans,” Superboy, who is a genetic hybrid of Superman and Lex Luthor, immediately stands up to his “father’s” rash actions. That’s partly because he’s a good guy and partly because he’d just seen his fellow Teen Titans, Beast Boy and Kid Flash, die in the destruction of Metropolis and wanted all the killing to stop. It does not go well.
The two are pretty evenly matched in a straight fight, but Superboy loses right away because he doesn’t have the battle-swaying power of straight-up crazy on his side. And it turns out that even their familial connection isn’t enough to convince the Man of Steel not to murder his “son.” Superman punches the kid so hard that he shatters his sternum and sends one of this ribs into his heart.
The other Titans present — Red Robin, Starfire, and Wonder Girl — ask Superman for help saving their friend, but he says that the only way he can survive is if he traps him in the prison dimension the Phantom Zone, where “He will become a psychic phantom and his fate will not be tied to his physical form.” And what’s more, he says he’ll only do that if the rest of the team goes with him so that they will stay out of his way. He promises he’ll let them all out once he’s done taking over the world and all, but since he never really finished that plan, we assume that they’re still in there.
The remaining Titan, Cyborg, isn’t around for this, and he ends up joining Superman’s cause. And in the game, he says the rest of his team died in the destruction of Metropolis, which suggests that Supes never told him about that bit where he zapped them all into a weird, parallel dimension reserved for criminals.
14. Aquaman releases the Kraken…
One of the first acts of Superman’s regime is that he demands an end to all hostilities worldwide, and that includes Atlantean king Aquaman’s merciless attack on a fleet of Japanese whaling boats. Wonder Woman shows up and tells Aquaman what’s going on, and he takes it about as well as you’d expect … by which we mean that he starts bellowing about the sovereignty of his ocean kingdom and interference from the land-dwellers.
This leads to a massive battle between the Atlanteans and the entire Justice League, during which a huge tidal wave appears. And that’s bad enough until its source appears: a kraken that Aquaman summoned from the deep to provide backup.
The mythical sea beast makes short work of the League, but then their leader shows up. And one of the recurring themes in the Injustice books is that if something is happening and Superman is on his way there, he’s about to kill someone. The big guy flies right through one of the kraken’s tentacles to show Aquaman that he is not messing around, and they immediately have a measured and reasonable debate during which they come to understand and respect each other’s differing points of view.
We’re just kidding — this is Injustice, so Aquaman hears Superman’s threats and immediately sends legions of giant crab monsters to attack every major coastal city on the planet. And then things get serious.
13. …so Superman and his crew relocate Atlantis
Despite Batman’s valid advice that the crazed Kryptonian will not respond well to Aquaman’s escalation, the King of Atlantis refuses to call his armies back until he gets a promise that the regime will leave him and his people alone.
Because he’s the kind of guy who will stab his “son” in the heart with chunks of the kid’s own skeleton, Superman refuses to meet Aquaman’s terms. Instead, he, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Shazam fly down to Atlantis, rip it up from the bottom of the ocean, and drop it in the middle of the Sahara Desert. And if your city is used to having water and cold around it at all times, that’s just about the worst thing that can happen to it.
12. The regime builds a secret super prison at the bottom of the ocean
Superman’s justification for killing Joker — other than that part where the villain had just murdered 11 million people and tricked the hero into killing his own family — is that just locking him up had never stopped him before. He was always breaking out and poisoning and shooting more people, and then someone would just have to catch him again.
We can agree with that on some level, but the refusal to take a life is often the only difference between heroes and villains (unless you’re a film version of Batman; then, you can kill anyone you want.) Somehow, even in his craziness, Superman decides that he can’t just kill everyone in Arkham Asylum and call it a job well done. But he does decide that the institution’s failed, repeated attempts to rehabilitate its inmates should stop, so he and the Justice League break in and liquidate the whole place. They move everyone (and their later prisoners) to The Trench, a deep underwater facility, for permanent storage out of the world’s way. And they stay there until Plastic Man breaks in to free his criminal son and ends up destroying the whole place in a surprisingly zany adventure in Injustice: Year Four Annual.
11. Damian Wayne accidentally kills Dick Grayson
The rivalry between Batman’s two sons comes into sharp focus as they find themselves on opposite sides of Injustice‘s conflict. Damian Wayne, who was fighting crime as Robin, takes Superman’s side, because the idea of finally getting incredibly tough on crime appeals to his training under his mother, the League of Assassins’ Talia al Ghul.
Dick Grayson had moved on to become Nightwing, but he never forgot the lessons he learned when he was running across rooftops with an R on his chest, and he’s definitely in favor of not heat-visioning villains until they are just so much billowing ash.
During the Justice League’s attack on Arkham, the two get into an argument about exactly how much Damian should beat up the Riddler, and out of frustration, Robin throws one of his kali sticks at his predecessor. Nightwing doesn’t see it in time; the stick hits him in the head, and then he stumbles and falls over. His neck comes on a piece of debris and snaps, killing him instantly.
Injustice had already killed off several major characters, but this was the most surprising death yet. It drives Batman and his only biological son further apart and strengthens their dedications to their respective causes. Eventually, Damian takes on Grayson’s title. He’s the Nightwing in the game, and if you didn’t read the comics (and are therefore unaware that that’s Damian Wayne and not Dick Grayson), most of his dialogue and conversations with Batman in there are super confusing.
10. Darkseid attacks Earth, and Superman kills everyone
It’s really important to have all of the relevant information before you make any important decisions, but cosmic villain and ruler of Apokolips, Darkseid, apparently never heard that lesson. That’s probably why when he hears that Superman has called for an end to all conflict, he takes it to mean that the Man of Steel has left Earth completely vulnerable to attack. He sends his son Kalibak and a huge army to take over the planet, and as mistakes go, this is a pretty big one.
Kalibak arrives and immediately picks a fight with Superman, which doesn’t end well once he realized that the Kryptonian has gone crazy instead of soft. Despite Kalibak’s alleged godhood, the former hero has no trouble defeating him, and he ultimately punches his head so hard that it pops like a grape.
Meanwhile, Earth’s actual heroes are fighting a losing battle against the full might of Apokolips’ armies, but with the general now brain juice in a crater, Superman is free to turn his furious attention to the soldiers, and he incinerates the entire invading force in a matter of seconds. The planet applauds him as a savior, strengthening his resolve to cure the world through force. Batman and his compatriots, meanwhile, just look on in stunned silence as the greatest superhero that Earth had ever seen adds a massive swath to this already unbearable kill count.
9. Superman reveals Batman’s secret identity — on Twitter
As if all that open conflict and mass murder weren’t enough, tensions between Superman and Batman’s groups ramp up when the Justice League discovers that the Caped Crusader has had shapeshifting Martian Manhunter posing as Hawkgirl to spy on them.
The fledgeling dictator realizes that Batman will always keep them on the defensive because he always finds ways to control the situation. So Superman decides to take that away from him by revealing his secret identity on a worldwide broadcast from the Watchtower, the Justice League’s orbital headquarters. But Batman is such a control freak that he’s even planned for this, and with the press of a button, he shuts down the Watchtower’s entire power grid.
The League is ready to give up, but Damian Wayne points out that they’re trying way too hard; all they have to do is put four words on the internet. So they set up a Twitter-style social media account for Superman, and his first post is, “Batman is Bruce Wayne.” Needless to say, it goes viral.
We like that Injustice acknowledges that in this connected world of ours, you don’t have to pull dramatic stunts like appearing on every TV and digital billboard in the world to make planet-changing announcements. And it’s pretty hilarious that the most powerful beings on Earth forgot that the internet existed.
8. Injustice’s superpills have sinister applications
Injustice‘s little green pills made of Kryptonian nanotechnology and scientific know-how are the plot device that lets Green Arrow go head-to-head with Wonder Woman and not just immediately get pasted. All they say in the game is that Superman “gives them to his followers,” and we take that to mean his less-than-super cohorts like Damian. But in the comics, another group gets in on the superpills, and the implications are terrifying.
Superman realizes that even with all of his powers, he can’t be everywhere at once, so he starts building a private army of helmeted goons to be his boots on the ground and generally intimidate and beat the citizenry into line. And they’re the intended recipients of Lex Luther’s wonder drug.
If this doesn’t immediately freak you out, it should: Superman, long the champion of truth and justice, has rebranded himself as Star Wars‘ Emperor Palpatine, complete with Stormtroopers. And if you haven’t read the books and those soldiers seem familiar, that’s because they inspired the look for the soldiers in the Knightmare sequence of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
7. Superman breaks Batman’s back, Alfred responds accordingly
It’s gotta be hard for Batman; between movie and comic incarnations, the guy’s suffered serious back trauma no fewer than three times. This includes the famous moment in the comic book event “Knightfall” in 1993; his first, doomed confrontation with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises in 2012; and, yes, in the Injustice comics.
Batman manages to get ahold of a sample of Lex Luthor’s power pills and aims to synthesize the formula so that he and his followers can stand up to Superman. While he’s working on analyzing the drug, Superman shows up to warn him to stop. And by warn him to stop, we mean that they punch for a bit before the Man of Steel cracks the Caped Crusader over his knee like an especially moody stick.
But the scene isn’t a total downer, as Batman reveals that he wasn’t trying to fight Superman at all; he was just keeping him busy while his computer could finish its work and transmit the formula to his people so that the brutal fighting game could happen. Alfred shows up to collect his employer and take him to safety, and then, just as Superman notices that the sample pill on the Batcomputer’s analyzer is gone, the butler straight-up knocks the crap out of the Last Son of Krypton.
Alfred breaks Superman’s nose with a headbutt and then kicks him so hard that his shoe explodes. The pills are that strong. This is one of our favorite moments in comics history: the normally gentlemanly butler beating the hell out of the most powerful guy on Earth to demonstrate how disappointed in him he is.
6. The Green Lantern Corps attacks Earth
You know you’ve made a mess of things when the Guardians of Oa call in the entire Green Lantern Corps to tell you to slow things down a bit. The intergalactic police force contains thousands of members, each of whom carries a will-fueled Power Ring that can create anything they can imagine. They’re kind of serious.
The first wave of Lanterns don’t realize how bad things have gotten, however, until they arrive on Earth, and Superman almost immediately takes most of them out with a huge laser blast from the Watchtower. The remainder fall back and regroup, later returning with the balance of their force. This includes Mogo, the biggest Green Lantern ever, which is literally a planet that can shoot lasers. Mogo is like the Death Star with a conscience.
Despite their numbers, a few surprising developments (more on those later) give Superman the advantage, and he gets so mad and powerful that he just shoves Mogo into the sun. He files this under “protecting Earth” because the thing you have to know about Superman in these books is that he often confuses people who are trying to stop him from doing things like murdering the entire Green Lantern Corps with those who mean harm to his home. And he has to justify his atrocities somehow or else he’ll realize he’s the villain of this piece. But your kingdom stands on brittle glass, Injustice Superman.
5. Trigon and Mr. Mxyzptlk have a magical throwdown
The third year of Superman’s campaign to punch all violence and conflict to death takes a turn for the weird when the DC universe’s magic users get involved.
Batman’s resistance movement knows that Superman has some powerful, mystical allies, so the Dark Knight gets his own to counteract them. Freelance sorcerer John Constantine kidnaps half-demon Raven to take her off the board. Meanwhile, all-powerful spirit of vengeance The Spectre allies himself with the Man of Steel for unknown reasons, killing both Deadman and the Phantom Stranger.
After Raven’s father, the demon Trigon, discovers the whereabouts of his daughter, “the Spectre” reveals that he is actually the mischievous imp Mr. Mxyzptlk in disguise, and he’s been looking out for Superman because he’s claimed the unassailable right to torment the Kryptonian. And because this is the Injustice series, that means that despite his previously playful nature, he’s not above wholesale murder to make his point.
The ensuing, epic battle threatens to drag both camps to hell, but a last-minute maneuver by Doctor Fate and Shazam banish the combatants to “the void,” which is apparently as close to dead as supermagical beings can get.
4. The President kidnaps the Kents
We already know that Batman has contingencies in place in case Superman or any other member of the Justice League goes rogue because he’s a crazy control freak. But Injustice shows that the U.S. government has a few schemes of its own.
The President and his advisors know that they lack the ability and (Bat-)resources to attack the Man of Steel directly. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have other ways to put pressure on him. And that means going through the people he cares about the most.
One of Superman’s first acts — before he starts toppling foreign governments — is to announce his secret identity as Clark Kent to the world. He does this to demonstrate his dedication and trust in the world, but it provides new opportunities for those trying to stop him before he can do anything too crazy. Like, say, all of this other nonsense we’ve been talking about.
The government hires mercenaries and the supervillain Mirror Master to raid the Kent farm in Kansas and kidnap Superman’s Earth parents to force him to get back in line. And to make sure they remain both safe and under control, Mirror Master stashes them in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, which form a reflective surface covering over 4,000 square miles. the Justice League track the killer down and steal his belt, which lets Superman go in and rescue the Kents. Meanwhile, Batman goes and warns the President that his plan has only solidified the rogue hero’s resolve and power base. Bruce Wayne knows better than anyone that you just shouldn’t mess with someone’s parents.
3. Superman burns a protest group alive
It isn’t just superheroes threatening order under Superman’s dictatorship; before he made all public gatherings illegal, protests sprung up across the world against his decision to rule through force and fear. And the organizations only got more private after the crackdown, but one in particular picked the wrong mascot.
The so-called Joker Underground is a group of would-be do-gooders who keep the Clown’s image alive as a symbol of their opposition to Superman. And even if we ignore the part where their namesake is responsible for the deaths of millions of people, including the Man of Tomorrow’s wife and unborn child, that still seems a little tacky. But they mean well, at least, and their bad judgment doesn’t justify what ends up happening to them.
Superman finds out where the group is meeting, and he goes to break them up himself. The protesters, who aren’t all that depressed that the big guy has arrived in person, start chanting Joker’s name in defiance. But the former hero isn’t having that at all, and out comes the heat vision; he incinerates the entire gathering and the warehouse they were meeting in, killing over 200 people in the process.
2. Victor Zsasz kills Alfred
We’re generally fans of the Wayne family’s intrepid butler, Alfred, and we were so happy when he hit Superman in the face all those times. But Injustice is cruel, and it takes more than it gives.
Near the end of the books, Superman gets so desperate to find Batman and crush his resistance group that he makes increasingly questionable deals with increasingly disturbing people. Eventually, he lets serial killer Victor Zsasz out of prison to track the Caped Crusader down. And Zsasz isn’t the most murderous person in the DC universe, but he is surely one of the craziest; he carves a tally mark on his body every time he shanks someone, and that’s definitely not the person you want doing your delicate detective work.
Zsasz breaks into the Batcave, but obviously, Batman isn’t there. Alfred is, however, and he chooses possible death over giving up his master’s location. And he doesn’t have the superpills to help him out this time, so the villain gains the advantage and slashes him across the stomach, killing him.
Even more so than that time that he incinerated all those people, this moment represents Superman’s point of no return. It’s one thing to put down a minor resistance that he could justify as posing a threat to the peace he’s fighting for, but the Kryptonian had known Alfred for decades, and everyone loves the guy.
The butler does not go unavenged, as Damian gains access to Zsasz’s cell after the Justice League recaptures him and murders him right back. But that’s small consolation considering that Damian is a huge a-hole in these books, and this was literally the least he could do.
1. Superman and Hal Jordan join the Sinestro Corps
In the game, the Injustice universe’s Hal Jordan is already going around calling himself the Yellow Lantern thanks to his alignment with Sinestro and trading in his green power ring for a yellow one, but for a time in the books, Superman also joined up and became a yellow-clad villain himself. It happens during the aforementioned battle with the Green Lantern Corps, during which Black Canary gets up close and shoots Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. It was a plan just bold enough to work, except that we already knew that we had a bunch of comics left in this series, so some surprising development was bound to happen.
As Superman lays dying, a yellow Power Ring appears courtesy of Sinestro himself, who had also just handed one out to Hal Jordan after the Guardians stripped him of his green one for allying with the regime and generally being a massive dick. Sinestro was throwing yellow rings around like candy at a parade, it seems. The cosmic bling flies onto the Kryptonian’s finger, and he uses it to create forceps to remove the bullet. And then he murders Black Canary with his eyes, blasting out her stomach with his heat vision.
In her dying moments, Canary gloats that she’s wearing contact lenses that just recorded and transmitted her murder to the world, so everyone knows what he did. But this plan backfires because the Sinestro Corps’ rings run on fear, and billions of people watching worldwide can generate a ton of it. Superman uses the massive power boost to defeat and imprison the rest of the Green Lanterns.
Superman’s alliance with Sinestro runs throughout the rest of the comics, even though that guy’s name, demon-red face, and twirl-ready mustache make him one of the most obviously evil characters ever created. But he eventually gives up the Power Ring as a show of faith to his supporters. Honestly, it was a no-loss gesture for him, since the guy has abilities enough to kill everyone without it. And if we’ve learned one thing about Injustice from all of this, it’s that he’s not at all shy about using them.
What do you think was the most shocking development from the Injustice comics? Will anyone make it through Injustice 2 alive? Sound off in the comments.