Injustice: Gods Among Us Explained – The Video Game That Redefined the DC Universe

There are many different versions of the DC Universe, but few have made as big an impact on the pop culture scene as Injustice: Gods Among Us. The original 2013 video game has spawned an empire unto itself, with a sequel, mobile games and stacks upon stacks of companion comics.The Injustice franchise is poised to grow even bigger in 2021 thanks to the news of an Injustice animated movie. If you need help making sense of this twisted superhero universe and why Superman is suddenly the bad guy, we’ve got the full breakdown. Here are the topics we cover in this piece:

  • What Is Injustice?
  • The Secret Weapon of the Injustice Universe
  • The Plot of the Injustice Games
  • How the Injustice Comics Fit In
  • Injustice’s DC Influence
  • The Injustice Animated Movie

The Twisted History of DC’s Injustice Universe

What Is Injustice?

The 2013 video game Injustice: Gods Among Us introduces a new branch of the DC multiverse. This world once resembled the traditional DCU we know and love, but fate takes a very dark turn on the day Superman is tricked into murdering his wife Lois and their unborn child. That tragedy pushes the Man of Steel over the edge. His obsession with ridding the world of evil leads him to become a despot. Only this world’s Batman and his underground Insurgency still oppose Superman’s One Earth Regime. And once it becomes clear no power on Earth can overthrow a tyrannical Superman, Batman turns to the Justice League of another Earth for aid.

That’s the premise fueling the original game, but the Injustice saga has only grown larger over the years. The plot continues in 2017’s Injustice 2, while DC’s Injustice comics flesh out this universe and the events leading up to both games. And now Injustice is even making the jump to film, with Warner Bros. confirming an animated Injustice movie.

Once it becomes clear no power on Earth can overthrow a tyrannical Superman, Batman turns to the Justice League of another Earth for aid.


The Secret Weapon of the Injustice Universe

Injustice and its sequel are both fighting games developed by NetherRealm Studios, the same team responsible for recent Mortal Kombat titles, and they follow the MK playbook in terms of gameplay and presentation. That raises an interesting question – how do you create a one-on-one combat game where powerful heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman are on equal footing with ordinary humans like Batman and Harley Quinn?

The answer comes in the form of a pill. In this world, both Superman and Batman’s factions make use of a nanotech pill derived from Kryptonian DNA. The pill temporarily bestows incredible strength, allowing an otherwise ordinary person to trade blows with Superman and keep pace with the Flash. One Injustice comic even shows an empowered Alfred Pennyworth beating up Superman. Unfortunately, when Superman has a literal army of super-strong stormtroopers, that means the deck is even more stacked against Team Batman.

In the Injustice games, that pill is basically a convenient MacGuffin designed to justify the various character face-offs. But the pill is integral to the plot of the Injustice comics, as it becomes a linchpin of Batman’s early resistance plans.

The Plot of the Injustice Games

The first Injustice game takes place five years after the original tragedy that sent Superman down his dark path. Over the course of the game, players learn Superman’s downfall was Joker’s doing. The Clown Prince of Crime creates a complex illusion that tricks Superman into murdering a pregnant Lois Lane and setting off a nuclear weapon that destroys Metropolis. A grief-stricken Superman retaliates by doing what Batman never could and killing Joker. While few blame Superman for losing his cool, this act of murder starts a chain reaction of events that culminates with Superman becoming a global dictator. In his quest to stomp out evil by any means necessary, Superman becomes the greatest threat to world peace.

Injustice is not unlike Marvel’s Civil War in that the world’s heroes are divided down the middle over a terrible tragedy. Some, like Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Shazam, lend their support to Superman’s cause. Even villains like Black Adam and Sinestro align with Superman, showing a newfound respect for his zero tolerance approach toward crime. Others, like Black Canary, Batwoman and even Harley Quinn side with Batman. In this world, Lex Luthor is Superman’s close friend rather than bitter enemy, but Lex ultimately reveals himself to be a mole working with Batman. Other heroes are torn between conflicting loyalties, including both Flash and Shazam.

The first game revolves around Batman’s desperate, last-ditch plan to topple the Regime by recruiting the Justice League of another universe. That plan is further complicated when Joker is accidentally brought into the Injustice universe alongside these heroes. Needless to say, Superman is less than thrilled to see the man who ruined his life gallivanting around Gotham City again.The tragedy that destroyed the Justice League.

The tragedy that destroyed the Justice League.

Ultimately, these new recruits prove to be just the added muscle Batman needs to finally defeat and overthrow Superman. The game ends with the regular Justice League (and Joker) returning to their world and Superman being imprisoned inside a cell bathed in power-dampening red solar radiation.

2017’s Injustice 2 picks up five years after the events of the first game, in a time where Batman and his allies are attempting to rebuild the world. They face a new threat from Gorilla Grodd’s supervillain alliance, The Society, only to learn Grodd is an agent of Brainiac. Brainiac hijacks Batman’s new surveillance satellite Brother Eye and begins shrinking and bottling Earth’s cities for his collection. Batman has no choice but to join forces with his former Regime enemies (including Superman himself) to stop this existential threat to humanity.

The sequel also heavily focuses on new characters like Supergirl (who in this universe recently arrived on Earth and was mentored by Black Adam), Blue Beetle and Doctor Fate. The climax sees a united Batman and Superman defeat Brainiac, but both New Metropolis and Coast City are destroyed when Superman attempts to restore them to full size. The game ends with the player making a choice. Siding with Superman and the Regime results in Brainiac being killed and Superman returning to his throne. Siding with Batman and the Insurgency (presumably the canonical ending) leads to Brainiac’s life being spared and a de-powered Superman being banished into the Phantom Zone.

How the Injustice Comics Fit In

While the main Injustice storyline is chronicled in the two games, DC Comics has greatly fleshed out this alternate universe via a series of prequel books. The original Injustice comic is split into five volumes, each of which chronicles one year of time leading up to the events of the original game. Injustice: Year One shows Joker’s plot against Superman in greater depth and then explores the origins of Superman and Batman’s warring factions of heroes. Later volumes tend to focus on the role various DC power players like the Green Lantern Corps, the Greek gods and the supernatural community play in Superman’s rise to power.

The Injustice comics have earned plenty of critical acclaim on their own, in large part due to their more character-based approach and their emphasis on fleshing out the many heroes involved in this conflict. Harley Quinn’s gradual redemption is a major focal point, as is Black Canary’s role as a figurehead in the Insurgency. The comics greatly expand upon the motivations of characters like Flash and Green Lantern, and even reveal what tragic event led to Damian Wayne choosing Superman’s side and rejecting his father.

DC has followed up the original five-part Injustice comic with several more series. Injustice: Ground Zero is a retelling of the original game’s plot, but specifically from Harley Quinn’s point of view. Injustice 2 bridges the five-year gap between the two games, both fleshing out the back-story of characters like Supergirl and Blue Beetle and introducing new villains like Ra’s al Ghul. Injustice: Year Zero is set before the infamous Joker killing and sheds light on the Justice Society of this universe.

There’s even a crossover comic called Injustice vs. Masters of the Universe. Interestingly, this Superman vs. He-Man tale is presented as a sequel to Injustice 2, one that follows the “bad” ending where Superman reclaims his throne.

Most of these Injustice comics are written by either Tom Taylor or Brian Buccellato. Taylor also penned DCeased, a series which can be viewed as a spiritual companion to Injustice. While set in a completely different DC Universe ravaged by a zombie plague, DCeased is a celebration of Superman’s innate goodness, a clear counterpoint to Injustice’s depiction of a flawed and broken Man of Steel.

Injustice’s DC Influence

While Injustice is only just now being adapted as an animated film, the franchise has had a clear influence on the larger DC library in recent years. Injustice is the most high-profile example of a story featuring a morally corrupt version of Superman, a plot point that’s become increasingly popular. Injustice seems to have directly influenced Zack Snyder’s version of Superman in the DCEU, with the Snyder Cut of Justice League implying Superman is driven to evil after the death of Lois Lane. Check out the video below for more on how the Snyder Cut draws from the Injustice games:The Injustice universe is also notable for its visual take on DC’s heroes, with many trading in the traditional spandex for heavily armored, militaristic looks. There are traces of Injustice’s visual style in other DC games and live-action adaptations. Even in the Supergirl TV series, which features a much more traditional and morally upright version of Superman, the Man of Steel’s costume has elements of the Injustice version, such as the lack of red trunks and the way the cape connects to the S emblem.

The Injustice Animated Movie

Injustice fans can expect the franchise to make the jump to animation for its next offshoot. DC and Warner Bros. quietly confirmed an Injustice animated movie in May 2021, revealing the Blu-ray release of Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two will include a teaser trailer for an Injustice movie. Nothing else is known about the project at this point, and it remains to be seen if the movie is an adaptation of the original game or a spinoff like the comic books.

Given the steady popularity of the franchise, it seems only a matter of time before Warner Bros. Interactive announces a third Injustice game. Traditionally, the publisher and developer NetherRealm have tended to alternate between new Injustice and Mortal Kombat games, releasing one game every two years. But whether because of pandemic-related delays, the launch of new consoles or other factors, Injustice 3 still hasn’t been announced as of 2021.

When Injustice 3 does finally arrive, we’d expect it to build on the fallout of Injustice 2’s “good” ending, as Team Batman tries to rebuild the world all over again following Brainiac’s attack and a new threat emerges. (Of course, it’s entirely possible the sequel will follow the other ending instead, again focusing on Superman as a world-dominating tyrant.)

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