I wouldn’t have expected to be so enthralled by the plot of a DC comics fighting game by the Mortal Kombat devs, but here we are.
I played Injustice: Gods Among Us when it was free on PSN and found myself pleasantly surprised by the story. Ever since reading Kingdom Come and watching the Justice League cartoon, I’ve thought about the argument that killing the Joker (or some other villain) is the right thing to do. That sticking villains in revolving door prisons/asylums knowing full well they’ll escape to kill again is not only stupid, but villainous behaviour on its own.
Superhero logic isn’t that simple, however. For all the heroes that have no-kill policies, there’s always a storyline where they break that rule and end up going to the dark side. Infamous is the perfect example. Superman kills the Joker and goes on to police the world with an iron (or steel, in this case) fist. He doesn’t just call it quits after one kill–he keeps killing. Any heroes who don’t fall in line get put down too.
Superman is a more interesting character when he’s the bad guy. There, I said it. He exists as little more than a symbol at the best of times, but the struggle of human against god is, to me, more interesting than god against god (Superman vs. other superpowered beings). I always found myself rooting for Lex Luthor. Lex is the underdog. Same goes for Batman whenever he inevitably has to duke it out with his justice bro. Amanda Waller, too. Normal humans who have to be infinitely inventive and crafty to be able to beat or otherwise manipulate Superman.
Plus, Superman is scary. At the end of the first trade of Superman: Earth One there’s this article written by “Clark Kent” interviewing Superman. It makes Supes out to be a down-to-earth guy, someone you can grab a beer with, which is the classic Superman we all know and love–except that this “interview” was (fictionally speaking) written by Superman. Propaganda for the masses. “Trust me, a fellow human, when I tell you that this immortal alien god is a-ok.”
With all that said, I found myself choosing Superman’s side at the end of Injustice 2.
Injustice: Gods Among Us was, as I said above, a fun romp through the DC universe. You’re given a good variety of characters to play, and the fights that sprout up between every cutscene don’t seem as out-of-place as they usually are in fighting games (probably because comic characters are always sluggin’ each other anyway). Injustice 2, which goes the more traditional route of giving both factions a bigger baddie to face, forcing them to join forces, nevertheless carries a storyline just as fun (and comic booky as hell) as Injustice 1. Characters who joined Superman in the first game are either seeking redemption or struggling to free him throughout the sequel. Villains aren’t always villains–Harley Quinn being a good example. (There was a great breakdown on Extra Credits about Harley’s depiction in Injustice 2, which I’d recommend checking out.) And heroes are definitely not always heroes–as is the case of Wonder Woman, if not Superman himself.
The writers clearly had fun, and it resulted in a fun game that wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting without the story mode. Sure, the art is great and the animation is incredible (especially the faces), but to be honest, my girlfriend and I just button-mashed our way through the battles while arguing about which hero to select whenever we were given the option. We were there for the story, full stop.
Which brings me to why I chose Superman over Batman in the waning minutes of the sequel.
It’s because Superman is more interesting as a villain. And I wanted to see how villainous he could get.
Turns out, pretty damn villainous. This is why you leave the Joker alone. He may be a homicidal psycho, but he’s probably not going to enslave the human race.