Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 1 – 2 Tom Holland

Imagine you’re an ordinary person in the DC Universe. Your world is a scary place, buffeted by bizarre forces you barely comprehend and constantly threatened by extraterrestrial megalomaniacs. The only thing that stops your emotional landscape from becoming a whirlpool of existential terror is the knowledge that you’re ultimately being protected by the moral paragons over at the Justice League. Sure, Superman sometimes goes a bit evil but that’s probably just Kryptonite poisoning, and if things get really bad maybe the Sandman can organise a massive sleepover to bend reality back into the right shape. There’s a MLK saying Superman scribe Elliot S. Maggin seemed very fond of, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”, which applies particularly well to the DCU.

Anyone who believes that in the world of Injustice: Gods Among Us is headed for a breakdown. This prequel comic to some fighting game I’ve never played applies Murphy’s Law to the Justice League in the most heartbreaking way possible, by showing how Superman becomes determined to enforce world peace after the Joker tricks him into killing his wife and their unborn child, and the dire lengths Batman goes to to oppose his reign. It’s brutal stuff.

Yet somehow the well-written characterisation makes it feel that this dark scenario is possible for these classic characters. I feel that too many modern Superman adaptions darken the character to make him more appealing to the audiences who loved The Dark Knight trilogy, and by that I’m referring to the more recent Zack Snyder films. Going dark misses the point of Superman. While his stories aren’t necessarily childish, they do generally have an optimistic view on humanity. And they’re silly, especially Jimmy Olsen’s bizarre transformations and anything involving bizarro, and that’s really an essential part of what makes Superman fun. Tom Holland understands this, and instead of writing his heartbroken Superman as a Frank Milleresque angstlord, his Superman takes his simplistic and intuitive approach to morality in a horrifically different, tyrannical direction. It’s a believable evolution from his classic persona.

Batman is the same as he ever was. Really, someone as grim as him hardly needs any adaption to the new status quo. Although his butler Alfred really steps up to the plate in this book, beating up evil Superman thanks to the strength he got from a reverse-engineered Kryptonian medical technology. But we didn’t know that at the time, so it was awesome.

You can tell by the way I’m raving on about these books that they had a profound effect on me. Maybe they’ll do something similar to you.

Kiss Me Satan: New Orleans is a Werewolf Town – Victor Gischler and Joan Ferreya

23086

So this one’s about a demon attempting redemption by acting as heaven’s dogsbody, in one of those eschatological conflicts where predictably enough, each side is as bad as the other. He makes it to New Orleans, where he has to defend a trio of witches from the werewolf mafia. Didn’t work for me.

Flash: Rogues Revolution, Gorilla Warfare and Reverse – Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

171376211767195219150438

I read more of Francis Manapul’s and Brian Buccellato’s Flash run, and it’s still very good. If I read anymore I might become a Flash fan. While I appreciate The Spirit-style titles, they do make the layout a bit confusing at times.

Hawkeye: Little Hits and L. A. Woman – Matt Fraction

1727780017899544

Hawkeye is some Robin Hood wannabe dude who hangs out with The Avengers. In his private life, it turns out that he owns an apartment complex which he’s constantly defending against a tracksuit-clad sunglass-wearing gang of middle-aged men. They say bro a lot.

I enjoyed it. I’d enjoy it more if I’d managed to catch the first one in the series, but maybe that’s what I deserve for sourcing my comics exclusively from public libraries.

Smaller-scale conflicts work great for a fairly un-superhero like Hawkeye. I’m thinking that if the MCU want to make another film on the cheap, they ought to consider adapting this storyline to film.

Shada – Gareth Roberts

Based on a Douglas Adams script that never made it to air, Gareth Robert’s novel sees the Doctor and Romana reunite with a retired timelord posing as a professor at an Oxbridge university.¬† The professor inadvertently lends an ancient Gallifreyan tome to a student looking for something to impress his intimidating love interest, and it finds itself in the hands of the tacky time-travelling villain Shada.

The weird thing about this book was that the narration often felt at odds with the dialogue. Roberts was adapting Adam’s screenplay, but his description of events often guessed at the character’s motivations and their emotional reactions. Honestly it felt a bit disjointed at times.

Shada isn’t the best Doctor Who novel I’ve read, but if nothing like this existed I’d always be wondering what the lost Adams was all about, so it’s worth reading on that level.

The Fifth Beatle: Brian Epstein – Vivek J. Tiwary

images

I dunno about this one. The true story is interesting but I had doubts about the script. It turns out that Brian Epstein was a gay man who was conflicted about his sexuality, which was especially tough for him given how homosexuality was basically illegal in sixties Britain. The backword said the author wants to develop this into a screenplay, and I think movie version of this book would be worthwhile with some more revision.

Always Coming Home – Ursula K. le Guin

There’s a Borges story about a cabal of wise men who write an encyclopedia about a fictional world that somehow consumes the real one. Ursula K. le Guin attempts something similar in Always Coming Home.

Her book is a collection of writings, including novel extracts, folktales and glossaries, about a Californian community called The Valley waiting in the far future. Neither a dystopia or utopia, more an alternatopia where every social attitude and custom is different from our contemporary mores, yet somehow everything manages to even out in moral terms. Their idea of wealth is to share, they have no gods but a complicated spirituality, and although their Earth is depleted of the resources they’d need to develop industrial technology they can always consult an interstellar AI that seemed to have descended from our internet.

Guin’s technique of describing another world through fictional secondary sources recall Defontenay’s lost classic Star, which did the same thing back in the nineteenth century. With this sort of speculative fiction, the main community often ends up working like a protagonist, a really big character made up of normal¬† people who undergoes character development as their culture changes in response to major events. According to me, this technique is what makes ambitious fictional histories like Last and First Men, The Shape of Things to Come and a lot of Tolkein’s stuff engaging to readers. In contrast, Le Guin’s book focuses more on the average person, and that in conjunction with the few changes that occur in the Valley, means that the whole thing didn’t really appeal to me.

Still, the pictures are very nice, and if there’s one thing I say on an infrequent basis, it’s that speculative fiction needs more illustrations. If you’re a massive fan of Earthsea and love the worldbuilding that went into that series, go pick this one up.