‘Injustice Year Two’ delivers more death and destruction for DC’s heroes

(CBR) In 2013, the digital-first “Injustice: Gods Amongst Us” was a surprise critical and commercial success for DC Comics, so the announcement that the best-selling prequel to the hit video game would continue in 2014 with “Injustice Year Two” came as little surprise. Nor was it a surprise that the death and destruction delivered by Tom Taylor in the first comic book series will continue in the second.

Of course, though the series’ overall formula remains the same, there are some changes coming in the new year. Taylor told CBR News, for example, that as in the game, Hal Jordan is no longer a Green Lantern, and the comic will feature the fan favorite character’s fall from grace, which is reminiscent of Superman’s trajectory in Year One.

And much like the death of Nightwing divided the now broken Batman from members of his family, the ultimate fate of Green Arrow at Superman’s hand in Year One will resonate loudly with those closest to him as Year Two begins.

“Injustice Year Two” also greatly expands the series’ mythos, both emotionally and geographically, as Black Canary and Harley Quinn find themselves playing major roles in Year Two, along with Sinestro and the Guardians of the Universe. The writer also discussed the superheroics of Alfred Pennyworth and why the death of characters like Dick Grayson and Oliver Queen are painful to both himself and readers, but are also highly plausible events necessary to drive the story’s narrative forward.

CBR News: At the end of “Injustice: Gods Amongst Us,” many of the world’s greatest heroes are battered, bruised or even worse, both physically and emotionally. Does that death and destruction continue in “Injustice Year Two”?

Tom Taylor: One of the major things that happened at the end of Year One was the death of Green Arrow at Superman’s hands. That was huge for a lot of people, and we’re spinning right out of that storyline. Black Canary’s reaction to Ollie’s death is obviously front and center. She’s not going to take that lying down; she is going to be coming for the Man of Steel. Also at the end of Year One, Batman is essentially broken by Superman, so the death of Green Arrow and Batman being broken divides the heroes even further.

What’s also interesting is that we have Hal Jordan, who is one of Green Arrow’s best friends, and we’ve got Black Canary, who is the love of his life, and they are on opposing sides. We’re certainly going to be starting with that. With Year Two, much like we had Superman’s fall in Year One, we’re very much going to be concentrating on Hal Jordan.
Anyone who has played the game knows that Hal’s not really a Green Lantern by the time the game rolls around. We’re going to explore his fall, we’re going to see Sinestro show up and we’re going to see the Guardians of the Universe, too. Year Two is where “Injustice” stops being about Earth and just goes all over the universe. Giant, blue-headed beings are turning their very stern gazes towards Earth, and they don’t like what they’re seeing.
We’ve talked about your love of Superman before, so writing his fall was obviously an intriguing exercise for you. What is your attachment to Hal Jordan as you prepare to tell his fall from grace?
Hal is actually the first character I ever wrote in the DCU. I wrote a two-parter called “The Brainiac/Sinestro Corps War” for “DC Universe Online Legends,” where the Green Lanterns all show up and contain it instead of basically watching them all die. The art was by Bruno Redondo, who is now doing the art on a lot of the “Injustice” issues.
I’ve always loved Hal. I love most of the DC characters — there are not many that I haven’t been reading for years and years and years — but we deliberately left Hal off the table in Year One because I felt his story was too big to tell on top of Superman’s. It’s great that we got Year Two, because I now get to write it.
Honestly, I love all of the Green Lanterns. I love Guy Gardner. I love Kyle Rayner and John Stewart and Kilowog and all of these guys. Hopefully, we take the Green Lantern Corps mythos to some places where it’s never really gone before. There is some pretty big revelations coming for the Guardians, and hopefully, people won’t see them coming. Sinestro is on Superman’s side, and Hal is going to be, as well. For me, that’s been very interesting, to try and figure that one out. That’s been an interesting journey.
Unlike Superman, who I find difficult to read as a fallen hero, Hal Jordan’s descent seems more natural. Is there inherent darkness in Hal?
I think Hal is like Superman. We tried to make Superman’s fall as organic as possible. In his mind, Superman still feels like he is doing the right thing. He still feels that what he is doing is for the greater good. For Hal, he’s a bit of a straight edge. I look back at stories like “The Brave and the Bold” with Green Arrow, and he was always the straight-edge guy. Yes, he also had this playboy thing happening, which we hit on in the opening pages actually, [Laughs], and a fear of commitment, but he’s a very honest character. To push Hal, you have to push his belief. You need to rock his world, and that’s what we do. Not so much the way we did with Superman, with horrible things happening to him all the time, but more rocking his belief in the world and what he thinks.

In Year One, you killed off Green Arrow and Nightwing. This isn’t the DCU-proper, but these are still characters that have a long history in comics and are beloved by thousands of readers. Does whom you choose to kill — with or without Superman — weigh heavy on you?
It does, because as a writer, I get into the head of every single character I write. I really want the motivations to ring true. When a character dies, it’s very heavy, because I’m usually in their head when it happens. I’m also in the head of whoever is doing the deed. I want the motivations to ring true. Superman lashed out at Green Arrow at the end of Year One, but I wanted it to make sense. The accident that happened with his dad, Green Arrow’s final moments and with Nightwing, it was really important, because I wanted to show how fragile they are.
A lot of people were very angry at the way that Nightwing went out. Essentially, he was knocked unconscious and fell and broke his neck. But people forget that they’re human. They’re flying alongside these gods, and they forget that many of these guys are just humans. Sure, Dick is a great acrobat, but he’s vulnerable. He gets knocked unconscious and dies. It’s totally possible.
When you are choosing which characters die, often it’s about changing the dynamic. By taking Nightwing out of the mix and putting Damian over to Superman’s side, we were breaking up the Batman family in a very interesting way. It destroyed Alfred. It destroyed Batman, and all of the joy left their house. It’s very interesting when you take these characters out and have the dynamics shift.
If you read the first one, you know the Green Arrow and Harley Quinn team-up. Where does she go now? Green Arrow was the last person that was really talking to her and looking after her. You have Harley and you have Black Canary, and both of them have had their partner killed at the hands of Superman. Do they get drawn to each other? We’ll find out. [Laughs]
I can say that Black Canary does join up with someone that we haven’t seen yet in “Injustice” Universe. There are actually quite a few characters that haven’t been seen yet that show up in the first issue of “Injustice Year Two.”
For my money, Alfred was the breakout star of Year One, thanks to one super-sized sequence of events. How much fun was writing Alfred, fueled by a super pill, laying the smackdown on Superman?
It had to be Alfred. I thought of it quite early, and I just thought it was hilarious. What I didn’t think of until later was the headbutt. He was always going to beat him up, but the headbutt was the crowning glory. [Laughs] As soon as I thought of it, I giggled to myself. I knew other people would, too, when they read it.
In “Injustice Year Two,” does super-powered Alfred continue to play a role?
You will see him, but I can’t say how major his role will be. I will say that Year Two starts with Batman still broken. I don’t want to spoil too much beyond there.
This is a much bigger story, but we will be concentrating on individual characters like we did in Year One. What everybody seemed to love about the first one was all of that death and destruction and horribleness happening to characters. That will still happen, don’t worry.
You’ve also talked about shifting, in some cases drastically, some long-held family dynamics. And by family, I use that term loosely. I play a lot fantasy hockey — do you enjoy the fantasy team-building in “Injustice,” and messing with the chessboard?
It’s really interesting to move a few pieces around, or take a few pieces away and see who gravitates to each other. These things happen very naturally. If you know the characters well, and I think I do know the characters well, you can see in advance where the pieces will fall.
We start “Injustice Year Two” with Commissioner Gordon. With Batman out of the picture and Superman coming to Gotham, where does he turn? To me, it was obvious where he turned, but you’ll find out in #1.
By writing DCU superheroes in “Earth Two” and “Injustice Year Two,” you’re not getting much of a chance to tell stories with these characters in their iconic form. In fact, you’ve been writing downright nasty versions of Superman in both, and again, he’s one of your all-time favorites. Are you itching to write these characters in their iconic form on Earth in the New 52?
I hope so. At this point and time, I just want them to say, “Tom, we want you to write a one-shot where Superman and Batman go on a picnic.” [Laughs] They just pack sandwiches and talk about their hopes and dreams under a tree with the sun shining down.
“Injustice Year Two” #1, written by Tom Taylor and featuring art by Bruno Redondo, hits stores on January 15.