We all have our "ins," in our lives, and Injustice 2 might just be mine, for the wider world of DC Comics. I thought I knew a fair bit about the brand's band of superheroes and their respective nemeses, but as it transpires, from playing through the story mode of NetherRealm's new fighter, nope. I was barely scratching the surface.
My "in" for grunge was a mate's older sister's CDs and a five-pack of TDK 90s. For clubbing, a tight crew of Thursday-nighters who'd take turns to drive, but always make time for burgers on the way back. I never appreciated the work of Margaret Atwood, my wife's favorite author, until the Hulu television adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale (fuck me, is that ever bleak Sunday night viewing). And for everything DC beyond the obvious—Bats, Supes, Wonder Woman, some of those Arkham reprobates—it's Injustice 2.
And that is great. I am having a ball, a rollicking ol' time. Right now, I'm not quite at the end of the game's story—shit's getting pretty desperate, and there've been casualties (sorry, spoiler, but you knew there would be, right?), so I think I'm pretty near it. My delay in getting to the end credits has been less down to losing rounds, although I've done that enough times, and more to do with pausing to look up who all of these wild characters are. Broadening my cultural horizons with bloody knuckles, what a time.
Superman being a dick, Supergirl taking names, the one with the pointy ears, the one with the whip that isn't Wonder Woman, the one with the whip that is, Aquaman—these people, these aliens, I know all about. Or, rather, most that I need to know. I get what they do, how they work; I've seen the films and read some of the comics. I've also got a bunch of DC Lego Dimensions mini-figures, so even if I didn't know much about him before he showed up in brick form, I'm now acquainted with Green Arrow.
But, what the hell, is this, guy doing, with his fucking head on fire? And who is his pal, who looks like a beefed-up version of The Tick (remember The Tick?), with arm accessories straight out of Baraka's Slice 'n' Dice Discount Superstore? Here's me, pausing, heading to Wikipedia, reading, clicking through to something else, and again, and again, and oh wait, I've a game on the go. (The screen of which has now gone to sleep, and the controller's turned itself off.)
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Firestorm and Blue Beetle, huh? If you'd have shown me these guys in a DC Comics line-up prior to playing Injustice 2, alongside (IDK, let's say) Scarecrow, Flash and Green Lantern, and lied to me, "Hey, two of these guys are totally made up," it's these two that I'd have pointed to. Because: no idea. Before now: nothing at all, absolute zero precedence.
Turns out Blue Beetle debuted in 2006, and has been in a few TV shows, albeit not one of "his own" yet; and Firestorm's almost an old-timer, kicking around since 1978, in one form or another, and has also featured on a bunch of shows I've never seen. Course, they both have stack loads of comic appearances to their names, too.
Here I am, playing, and learning—and with superhero fiction such a staple of modern entertainment, it's good to get deeper into its (to me, at least) weirder corners, via the accessible "in" of an easy-to-pick-up fighting game.
Injustice 2 is super silly, throwing what feels like way too many characters together in a story where massive stakes are rather tempered by the breathlessness of the constant beat-downs. Silly, but super-fun silly, easily super-fun enough to see through to its inevitable Uh Oh Superman Really Is A Dick ending. (Look, you're just going to have to accept that, in this particular plane of DC's multifaceted universe, he is a colossal tool.) And as I see it out, I laugh through the ludicrousness, while always lapping up the new knowledge.
There's a talking gorilla, in magical armor, hahaha. Except, also, he's a badass, and also a bad ass. (And he's been a part of DC since 1959? And I'm only just hearing about him? That's kinda cool.) Who is a Black Adam when he's at home, let alone a Black Canary? Is a question I could have asked a week or so ago—but no more, because I know more. (And Black Canary is great to play as, by the way, one of my standout controllable characters of the story mode so far, alongside Catwoman and Blue Beetle.)
The Knightmare dungeoneer on steroids, with an aversion to walking anywhere and a taste for gold? Doctor Fate? You're shitting me. His name is Doctor Fate. Good one. And this ugly mother cutting about through magical portals with a magnificent flying cat for company? A flying cat that vomits on his enemies? Atrocitus, obviously. Man, some of these names, some of these names. He's got a big red ring, too. Means business. Love it. And look, I'm laughing with this stuff here, categorically not at it. It's a fascinating history lesson for me, told partly through URLs, but mostly through uppercuts.
Injustice 2 is the crash course through DC's past and present that I never knew I wanted, that I didn't need but am enjoying thoroughly, and never would have been exposed to if not for video games. Which is brilliant, isn't it? The question's rhetorical, obviously—it is, and I am totally "in." And now, if you don't mind, I've got to pop some skyscrapers back where they belong. Damn you, Braaaainiaaaac!