Game Corner [Crossover Crisis]: Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360)


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ll be taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Wednesday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Released: 16 April 2013
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Also Available For: Arcade, Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One and Xbox Series One X/S (Backwards Compatible), Wii U

The Background:
When it was first released, Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) was a phenomenal success for Midway because of its focus on gore and violence, and it offered some real competition for Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991) in arcades and on home consoles. For a time, the series seemed unstoppable during the 2D era of gaming but struggled to find a footing in the emerging 3D fighter arena and Mortal Kombat seemed to be in jeopardy after Midway went bankrupt in 2010. The main reason for this was the poor reception of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008), the first collaboration between Midway’s Mortal Kombat and the DC Comics characters owned by Warner Bros. Interactive, which was hampered by age-related restrictions.

Mortal Kombat‘s 3D struggles culminated in a disastrous crossover with DC Comics.

Luckily, Warner Bros. Interactive stepped in and the team, now rebranded to NetherRealm Studios, immediately set about getting their violent franchise back on track; Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios, 2011) was subsequently very well-received for its “back to basics” approach and, bolstered by the reboot’s success and eager to take advantage of the vast library of characters of their parent company, NetherRealm Studios sought to expand upon the game’s mechanics with a new, all-DC brawler. Although the game wasn’t as bloody and violent as its sister series, Injustice: Gods Among Us was a massive critical and commercial success that was followed up by not only a bunch of additional fighters and skins added as downloadable content (DLC) but also a sequel in 2017 and a critically-acclaimed comic book series.

The Plot:
In an alternate reality, Clark Kent/Superman has become a tyrant and established a new world order after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane before destroying Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. In an effort to stop him, Bruce Wayne/Batman summons counterparts of the Justice League’s members from another universe to join his insurgency and end the totalitarian regime that threatens to subjugate the entire world.

Gameplay:
Just like Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a 2.5D fighting game; however, this time you’re able to select one of twenty-four characters from the DC Universe and battle it out in the game’s single-player story mode, one-on-one against another player or computer-controlled opponent (both on- and offline), tackle numerous arcade-style ladders, or take on character-specific missions in Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) training scenarios. Just as you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat videogame, Injustice’s fights take place in a best-of-three format (although there are no longer announcements or screen text between each round) and against a time limit, though you can alter these settings (and many others, such as the game’s difficulty) to your heart’s desire in the game’s options to suit your playstyle.

Attack with strikes, grapples, and combos to pummel a number of DC’s most recognisable characters.

If you’ve played the Mortal Kombat reboot then you’ll be immediately familiar with this game’s fighting mechanics and controls, although there are subtle differences: X, Y, and A are assigned to light, medium, and heavy strikes, for example, and may be either punches, kicks, or weapon-based melee attacks depending on which character you’re playing as. You can still grapple and throw your opponent with the Left Bumper (or X and Y and a directional input), dash towards or away from the opponent with a double tap of the directional pad (D-Pad), but now you must hold back on the D-Pad while standing or crouching to block, which can make blocking a bit trickier as sometimes you’ll simply walk or dash backwards when trying to block. If your opponent is crouch-blocking, you can land an attack by pressing towards and A for an Overhead Attack, and string together light, medium, and heavy attacks with directional inputs and your various special moves to pull off quick and easy combos. As is the standard for NetherRealm Studios’ releases these days, you can practise the game’s controls and mechanics as often as you like and take part in a very user-friendly tutorial to learn the basics of the game’s simple, but increasingly complex, fighting mechanics. You can also view your character’s moves, combos, special attacks, and “Character Power” from the pause menu at any time, allowing you to also see a range of information (such as where and how to pull of certain moves, the damage they inflict, and frame data).

Utilise Character Powers and the always-annoying Clash Breakers to whittle down your foe.

Each character has a range of special attacks that are unique to them; these mostly consist of certain projectiles or grapples and strikes but can also include various buffs for your character or to slow down your opponent. Each character also has a specific Character Power that is performed by pressing B; this sees Batman summon and attack with a swarm of bats, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow fire different trick arrows at his opponent, Doctor Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn gain various random buffs, and allows characters like Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Rachel Roth/Raven to switch between different fighting styles and thus access different special attacks. While some Character Powers have a cool-down period, others don’t, but they can also be detrimental to you; for example, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke can briefly give his shots perfect aim but, once the Character Power is expended, he’ll miss every shot until it refills. Another new addition to the game is the annoying “Wager” system; when the Super Meter is filled up by two bars, you can press towards and RT when blocking an attack to play a quick mini game where you and your opponent select how much of your Super Meter to gamble. If you win, you’ll regain some health; if you lose, the opponent regains health; and if you tie then you both lose. Personally, if find these “Clash Breakers” even more annoying than the usual “Breakers” seen in the modern Mortal Kombat games as I never win them and they generally just unnecessarily prolong a fight (and, even worse, there’s no option to turn them off).

Different characters attack and interact in different ways according to their strengths.

In a bridge between the differing character movesets of Mortal Kombat and the “Variation” mechanic seen in Mortal Kombat X (NetherRealm Studios, 2013), Injustice features a limited “Class” system whereby characters are split into two camps: Gadget- or Power-class characters. Gadget characters are generally smaller, faster, and rely on various tricks and weapons in fights while Power-class characters are typically bigger, often slower, and rely more on brute strength. One of the main ways you’ll notice the difference between playing as, say, Barry Allen/The Flash and Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy is that they interact with the game’s fighting stages in different ways. As in Mortal Kombat X, you can press the Right Bumper when indicated to use (or attack your opponent with) various environmental hazards, such as firing missiles at them or knocking them into the background. But, whereas Superman will wrench a car out of the air and slam it on his opponent, someone like Dick Grayson/Nightwing will rig the same car to explode or somersault off the environment to get behind their foe rather than try to crush them with a wall.

In addition to powerful Super moves, you can bash your foe into new areas using stage transitions.

As you might naturally expect, there are no Fatalities or gruesome finishing moves in Injustice (not even “Heroic Brutalities”). However, when your Super Meter is full, you can still press LT and RT together to pull off a devastating Super Move; while you won’t see bones breaking and organs shattering like in Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray Moves, it’s still pretty fun to see Hal Jordan/Green Lantern transport his opponent to Oa to pummel them with his constructs, Ares shower his foe with arrows and stamp on them while grown to gigantic proportions, Arthur Curry/Aquaman force his enemy into the jaws of a ferocious shark, and Bane demolish his opposition with a series of throws and grapples, culminating in his iconic backbreaker. Another way the game separates itself from Mortal Kombat is stage transitions; when near the far edge of certain stages, you can hold back and A to wallop your opponent through the wall or off into the background where they’ll be smashed up, down, or across to an entirely new area of the stage which often allows more stage interactions and new stage transitions available for your use.

The story involves multiverse shenanigans against corrupted heroes and features some QTEs.

You might wonder exactly how someone like Louise Lincoln/Killer Frost can survive being blasting through the brick walls of Wayne Manor or go toe-to-toe with the likes of Doomsday but the game’s entertaining story mode explains that, on this alternative world, the tyrant-like Superman has developed special pills that bestow superhuman strength and dexterity to his generals. As is also the standard in NetherRealm’s titles, the story mode is broken down into twelve character-specific chapters, which is again a great way to experience a wide variety of the game’s roster (though Batman does feature as a playable character in two chapters, which seems a bit lazy). You can replay any chapter and fight you’ve cleared at any time, which is great, and skip through the cutscenes after they’ve loaded a bit, and the story mode isn’t all constant fighting either as you’re asked to pull off a handful of quick-time events (QTEs) at various points, such as blasting cars with Superman’s heat vision. The story is a fairly standard multiverse tale of the main canon heroes fighting against their corrupted or misled counterparts but it’s pretty fun and easy to blast through in no time at all.

Fight to earn XP and level-up, unlock additional perks and modes, and take on a series of challenges.

Every time you win a fight, you’ll earn experience points (XP) that will eventually level-up your character profile. This, and performing a certain number of specific attacks, playing through the story mode, and tackling the game’s other modes and mechanics, unlocks icons and backgrounds for your profile card as well as additional skins in certain circumstances. You’ll also be awarded “Armour Keys” and “Access Cards” to spend in the “Archives”, which allows you to unlock concept art, music, more skins, and certain boosts that will increase how much XP you earn, to name just one example. Like in Mortal Kombat, you can also take on ten opponents in arcade ladders in the “Battle” mode; these range from the basic tournament-style ladder to specific challenges against heroes, villains, or battling while poisoned, injured, or with certain buffs (such as a constantly full Super Meter or health falling from the sky). We’d see a similar system be incorporated into the “Towers” modes in later Mortal Kombat games and similar scenarios exist here, such as a survival mode, battling two opponents, or being forced to fight against the computer set to the hardest difficulty.

Graphics and Sound:
Like its violent sister-series, Injustice looks fantastic; there’s almost no difference between the high-quality story mode cutscenes and the in-fight graphics (which, again, makes it all the more frustrating that NetherRealm Studios insist on having character’s endings represented by partially-animated artwork and voiceovers), though it has to be said that the graphics are much more palatable when in a violent fight. I say this purely because I am not a big fan of some of Injustice’s character designs: The Flash looks a bit too “busy”, for example, and Batman’s suit (and cowl, especially) look really janky to me, though I love the representation of Green Lantern and Thaal Sinestro.

In addition to various intros, outros, and Wager dialogue, characters also take on battle damage.

Each character gets a nice little fitting intro and outro for each fight and, between rounds, will perform and quip a variety of taunts to the opponent. In a nice little touch, different character skins get different intros and outros; when playing as the evil Superman, for example, he enters and exits the fight differently to his more heroic counterpart. When playing as different skins, like John Stewart or Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman, you’ll also be treated to slightly different dialogue and animations, which is a much-appreciated touch on the developer’s part. Although there aren’t any character-specific interactions in the intros, there are during the Wager cutscenes and, even better, both characters and the arenas will accrue battle damage as the fight progresses! This means that you’ll not only see Selina Kyle/Catwoman’s cat suit rip and her skin be blemished by bruises and blood but arenas will degenerate or change around you the more damage you dish out, which can also allow different intractable options to become available to you.

Stages include a range of recognisable DC locations and take damage as you fight.

Speaking of the stages, Injustice really goes above and beyond to make the best use of the DC license; while it’s a little disappointing to see Arkham Asylum and Wayne Manor feature twice in the game, they are made distinctive by having Joker-ised and night-time variants, respectively (and also being clearly modelled after, and featuring cameos by, the Batman: Arkham (Rocksteady Studios/Various, 2009 to 2015) videogames and villains). Additionally, the use of stage transitions really helps to add a whole new dimension to combat, with some stages featuring more than others (or even none at all), to help ensure that every fight can be a little different. Stages also feature a bevy of other little cameos and DC references, such as the Fortress of Solitude being clearly modelled after Superman (Donner, 1978) while also featuring a portal to the Phantom Zone and a cameo from Starro the Conqueror. Similarly, J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter floats in the background of the Watchtower space station, Floyd Lawton/Deadshot is just hanging out at Stryker’s prison, and Amazons are preparing a boat to launch on Themyscira. Every single stage has a number of intractable elements and changes as you fight, cause damage, or smash foes around, with Gotham City being my favourite as you can battle on the roof with the Bat-Signal and then down to the grimy streets below and then blast your foe back up to the roof using a nearby truck!

Enemies and Bosses:
Injustice helpfully separates its character-selection screen into heroes (on the left) and villains (on the right) but, despite their different alignments (and that their loyalties change due to the multiverse shenanigans of the story), every single one of them will be an enemy of yours at some point as you play through the story, Battles, S.T.A.R. Labs missions, and on- or offline. Consequently, it’s worth keeping track of which character suits your playstyle as some have easier combos and special moves to pull off compared to others, or more useful Super Moves and Character Powers.

Play as, and against, the game’s characters to learn their strengths, weaknesses, and skills.

Additionally, the Class system should also be factored in; Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and Solomon Gundy may be powerful and capable of gaining armour to tank through attacks but they’re also a lot slower on their feet and with their jumps. Superman and Shiera Hall/Hawkgirl are much faster Power-class characters but can also have their own drawbacks at times depending on your playstyle (Superman’s Character Power, for example, simply powers up his attacks rather than being a more offensive move like, say, Areas being able to conjure massive magical weapons). Personally, I tend to lean more towards Gadget-based characters, like Nightwing (who can switch between using quick batons or a longer bo staff to attack) or Green Arrow (whose arrows and bow allow for both ranged attacks and blindingly fast melee attacks).

Take on the corrupted Superman and banish him to the Phantom Zone for his crimes!

Unlike Mortal Kombat, Injustice doesn’t really feature any secret or hidden fights or unplayable sub-bosses or boss characters; the story mode and basic arcade ladder culminates in a battle against the corrupted Superman that is a far fairer and more competitive fight compared to the finales of NetherRealm’s recent Mortal Kombat games. While Superman is definitely a bit more of an aggressive foe, even on the game’s easiest difficulty, he doesn’t gain inexplicable armour, can be stunned, and doesn’t deal ungodly amounts of damage or spam his attacks like a cheap bitch. Additionally, he doesn’t transform into some monstrous final form and, instead, the final battle is a far better use of the skills you’ve built up through regular gameplay rather than forcing you to resort to cheap tactics and tricks.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Because it lacks a “Test Your Luck” mode and “Kombat Kodes” for multiplayer fights, there aren’t really any in-game power-ups available to you outside of the various status effects seen in the Battle mode. As before, though, some characters can gain in-game buffs with their special attacks and Character Powers: Lex Luthor, for example, can erect a shield, Doomsday can cover himself in impenetrable armour for a brief period, and Solomon Grundy slows time down and drains his opponent’s health with his swamp gas. However, you’ll earn yourself additional XP if you mix up your fighting style and take advantage of stage interactions and transitions, which will allow you to unlock further customisation options for your profile card, and you can also earn additional skins and rewards by playing and linking up to the mobile version of the game.

Additional Features:
There are fifty Achievements up for grabs in Injustice, with three of which being directly tied to the story mode (50- and 100% completion and succeeding at all of the QTE mini games). Others are tied to the game’s online modes, levelling-up to specific levels, customising your profile card, and finishing Classic Battle with one (and every) character. There are also some character-specific Achievements on offer, including performing every character’s Super Move or a ten-hit combat and winning a fight using only arrows as Green Arrow, or landing at least twelve shots without missing as Deathstroke. Batman is the only character to have two specific Achievements tied to him, though, as you’ll get some G for winning a match using all of his special moves and his Super Moves and for defeating every villain as him.

Injustice included some surprising DLC fighters; even Scorpion showed up!

Another standard of NetherRealm Studios is their addition of further skins and characters through DLC; you can get skins to play as John Stewart, Cyborg Superman, and the Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) Batman, among others, and they’re all easily applicable when selecting a character (no need for extraneous “Gear” here). While the game’s DLC characters have no additional Achievements tied to them, Injustice included some fun and interesting extra fighters; Lobo, General Dru-Zod (who also sports his Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013) look as a skin), Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Zatanna Zatara, and the Martian Manhunter were all great choices to add to the roster and it was nice to see NetherRealm Studios exercise a little restraint and not overload the DLC with additional Batman characters. By far the most exciting DLC fighter was the inclusion of Scorpion, who sports a Jim Lee redesign and began a trend of DC and Mortal Kombat characters appearing in each other’s games.

Take your fight online or complete a series of increasingly tricky S.T.AR. Labs challenges.

When you’ve had enough of the story mode and regular battle options, you can take the fight online in a series of matches; here; you can participate in ranked and unranked fights and “King of the Hill” tournaments where you watch other players fight until it’s your turn and bet on who’s going to win. The S.T.A.R. Labs missions will also keep us offline, solo players occupied for some time; these are expanded upon when you download the DLC fighters, which is much appreciated and, similar to Mortal Kombat’s “Challenge Tower” mode, basically serve as extended tutorials for each of the game’s characters. You’ll take on ten character-specific missions, with each one getting a little bit of text and maybe a picture to set the context of the mission, and these range from performing certain combos or attacks, winning fights, or completing tricky challenges (such as guiding Catwoman’s cat through laser trip wires, avoiding damage or debris, or racing against Superman).

The Summary:
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a far better marriage of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics than Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and a fantastic expansion of the gameplay mechanics and features NetherRealm Studios revitalised their violent fighting game series with in Mortal Kombat (2009). While Injustice is obviously not as gory or violent as its sister-series, that doesn’t make it any less fun and it’s still a very brutal fighter; the Super Moves, especially, and certain character’s outros (such as the Joker’s) are definitely in the Mortal Kombat mould. With gorgeous in-game graphics, a fantastic amount of variety thanks to all of the character’s different special attacks and gameplay mechanics and the stage transitions, and a simple to learn, easy to master fighting system, Injustice is an extremely enjoyable game for anyone who’s a fan of either franchise or fighting games in general. The story is a breeze to get through (thought it is essentially every basic multiverse story ever told in comics) and nicely varied with some QTE sequences; the S.T.A.R. Labs missions and different arcade ladders are much more enjoyable and challenging than in its sister-series and there are plenty of character options, variety, and unlockables to keep you busy. Best of all, the game isn’t bogged down by endless grinding to unlock Gear, skins, or other perks and is a much more user-friendly and accessible fighting game, and overall experience, than its sequel.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Were you a fan of Injustice: Gods Among Us? What did you think to it as a blend of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics? What were your thoughts on the game’s story and its depiction of a parallel world terrorised by a corrupted Superman? Which of the game’s fighters was your favourite and why? Did you buy the base game and all the DLC packs separately or did you pick up the Ultimate Edition when it released later? What did you think to the additional DLC characters and skins? Were there any characters or features missing from the game for you? Which DC Comics videogame, movie, comic, or other piece of media is your favourite? Are you a fan of multiverse stories and crossovers? Whatever you think about Injustice, leave a comment down below and be sure to check back in next Wednesday for more Crossover Crisis content!

Back Issues [JLA Day]: The Brave and the Bold #28


To celebrate the release of Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017), DC Comics named November 18 “Justice League Day”. Sadly, this clashes with another pop culture holiday but, setting aside all the drama surrounding that movie, this still provides a perfect excuse to dedication some time to talking about DC’s premier superhero team, which set the standard for super teams in comics by bringing together DC’s most powerful heroes.


Story Title: Starro the Conqueror!
Published: 29 December 1959 (cover-dated March 1960)
Writer: Gardner Fox
Artist: Mike Sekowsky

The Background:
In All Star Comics (1940/1941), brought together eight superheroes from a number of different publishers for the first time as the Justice Society of America (JSA). This not only heralded the birth of the first ever superhero team in comics but also allowed readers to see their favourite characters interacting all for the same price as reading any one comic. The JSA’s roster expanded and changed over the years but the team underwent their most significant change when, in the late 1950s, then-editor Julius Schwartz asked writer Gardner Fox to reintroduce and rebrand the team as the Justice League of America (JLA) to capitalise on the popularity of the American Football League and Major League Baseball’s National League.

Taking over from the JSA, the JLA became one of the most versatile and powerful super teams.

Though the team debuted in The Brave and the Bold #28, a title famous for featuring team-ups between various fictional and superheroic characters, the team’s actual origin wasn’t revealed until the ninth issue of their self-titled series, which became one of DC Comic’s best-selling titles. As with the JSA and other super teams, the JLA’s roster has changed over the years and many splinter groups and spin-offs have been introduced but perhaps there is no more iconic line-up than the JLA’s original roster that was comprised of DC’s heavy-hitters: Clark Kent/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Barry Allan/The Flash, and J’onn J’onzz (referred to here as “John Jones”)/Martian Manhunter.

The Review:
“Starro the Conqueror!” begins with the odd choice to not detail the first time these superheroes joined forces and, instead, starts off with the seven heroes already having agreed to come together in times of crisis (they each have a signalling device to summon the others). I kind of like this on the one hand as it suggests that DC’s top superheroes already set aside their differences for the greater good without any real fuss and it helps speed things up but, on the other hand, it feels a bit out of place to not detail the first meeting of these heroes. Anyway, the first member of the team to become aware of an impending threat is Aquaman who, thanks to information provided to him by a puffer fish, is learns of the arrival of the gigantic extraterrestrial starfish known as Starro.

Aquaman’s summons is answered by some of DC’s greatest superheroes.

This monstrous being has travelled across the depths of space to Earth with one goal in mind: conquest. To that end, Starro…somehow…transforms three of Earth’s starfish into replicas of itself and spreads them across the world to begin its mad scheme. Aquaman’s summons are immediately picked up and answered by Wonder Woman (who is in the middle of an awkward conversation with her beau, Steve Trevor, regarding marriage), Green Lantern (who, as Hal Jordan, was in the middle of a test flight), the Flash (who quickly disperses of a potentially life-threatening tornado), and the Martian Manhunter (who was simply about to start his vacation…). Each of these introductory panels immediately gives the reader and idea of what each character is capable of: Aquaman can breath underwater and talk to fish, Wonder Woman has an invisible jet, Green Lantern’s ring allows him to perform virtually any task, the Flash is super fast, and the Martian Manhunter can shape-shift. Aquaman’s signal also reaches Superman and Batman but the two are unable to respond right away since Superman is busy taking care of a potentially dangerous meteor shower and Batman is in the middle of stopping a crime spree. You might think that Superman would have spotted Starro’s arrival from space but he was dealing with a great deal of meteors (it’s also entirely possible that Starro caused the meteor shower specifically to distract Superman) and I guess it’s in character for Batman to prioritise Gotham City’s safety over a JLA summons (though a JLA-level peril is surely more threatening for Gotham than a crime spree…)

Green Lantern is able to defeat the Starro duplicate with relative ease.

Regardless, the five heroes meet at the “modernistically outfitted cavern” that serves as the JLA’s headquarters. Having been informed of Starro’s threat and where it intends to strike, the Flash, as the JLA’s chairman, orders the team to split up and it is at this point that the story diverges from the team-based format and instead switches to cover each individual mission. The first sees Green Lantern battling one of Starro’s deputies in the skies above Rocky Mountain National Park; Hal arrives in time to see the gigantic creature but is too late to stop it from attacking a passing air force jet-bomber and relieving it of its payload: nothing less than an atom bomb! Green Lantern is able to save the aircraft when it goes into a deadly freefall but is unable to keep the Starro duplicate from detonating the atom bomb! Thankfully, Hal’s energy shield protects him from the blast and he watches in horror as the creature absorbs the energy released from the bomb. Hal pursues and is nearly blasted from the sky by a scorching beam fired from the creature’s tentacle. However, Green Lantern is easily able to avoid the creature’s thrashing limbs and attacks and reduce it down to a regular starfish by scoring a direct hit on its massive eye.

Starro’s duplicate falls before the might of Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter.

Next, the story switches to “Science City” where Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter (why Diana has to team up with another hero is beyond me…) find another of Starro’s deputies abducting the “Hall of Science”, where the greatest scientific minds of the United States are gathered. The creature intends to bring the scientists into the upper atmosphere so it can absorb their brainpower and knowledge; Wonder Woman attempts to use her magical lasso to prise the creature’s tentacles from the building but ends up being yanked off of her invisible jet and onto the Hall of Science thanks to the giant starfish’s incredible strength. Meanwhile, J’onn uses his super-breath to bombard the creature with fragments of the meteors Superman is destroying and uses the same technique to cause a torrential rainfall when flames from the building threaten his life. Starro’s deputy then attempts to destroy them both by firing bolts of nuclear energy their way but Wonder Woman is, of course, able to deflect them with her magical bracelets and J’onn shields himself using the building’s conveniently lead-lined roof. Diana then whips her lasso around her jet and uses the momentum to forcibly drag the building out of the sky. The effort of battling both heroes at once soon takes its toll on the creature, which plummets from the sky and begins to revert back into a regular starfish.

The Flash makes short work of the final Starro duplicate.

When then join the Flash as he confronts another of Starro’s deputies at Happy Harbour; this part of the story is easily the worst simply because it introduces one of the most annoying and aggravating characters ever conceived: the JLA’s “mascot”, Snapper Carr. Snapper is a hip, super cool teenager with the annoying habit of constantly snapping his fingers all the God-damn time who is shocking to find his family, and the entire town, enthralled by Starro’s trance. For whatever reason (possibly due to being high, judging by the way he speaks!), Snapper is immune to Starro’s influence so he needs to be saved from certain death by the Flash. Despite Starro’s best efforts to vaporise the Scarlet Speedster, the Flash (literally) runs rings around the creature and ultimately defeats it when it tries to hide in the sea. In the process, the townsfolk are freed from their trance and Snapper’s family are able to tell Flash where they were ordered by the creature to head to: Turkey Hollow.

The JLA defeat Starro with ridiculous ease and make Snapper an honorary member!

The final part of the story sees the team reunite to take on the real Starro at Turkey Hollow; despite the defeat of its deputies, Starro remains confident since it was still able to absorb the power of that atomic bomb, the knowledge of Earth’s scientists, and…whatever it is the townsfolk of Happy Harbour contributed to its mind (local Earth knowledge, I guess?) Starro plans to use all that it has learned to force humanity into destroying the world with nuclear weapons and then use the influx of nuclear energy would then allow it to conquer other worlds across the universe. When the JLA arrive, Starro immediately puts its abilities to good use by reading Hal’s mind and turning itself yellow to render itself immune to his power ring but the Flash notices that Starro’s awesome energy ray has absolutely no effect on Snapper (who he, of course, brought along for the ride!) Flash orders Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter to distract Starro while Hal uses his power ring as a spectroscope to discover that Snapper is covered in lime from when he was mowing the lawn earlier. Apparently, lime is deadly to starfish so Hal dumps a whole bunch of it onto Starro to weaken it. Martian Manhunter then uses his super-breath to blow a load of calcium oxide (which is, apparently, also lime) onto the creature and thus imprison it within an unbreakable shell of lime. With Starro’s threat ended, Superman and Batman return just in time to see the Flash making Snapper an honorary member of the JLA and…boy, do they look thrilled to be there!

The Summary:
I don’t mind telling you that I am a bit disappointed by “Starro the Conqueror!”; the story started pretty strong but fell off a cliff pretty quickly at the end, becoming little more than a science class rather than a big old fight between Earth’s greatest heroes and an alien menace. I suppose it speaks to the intelligence of the JLA (specifically Barry) to come up with a way to outwit, rather than outfight, the creature and the sudden introduction of lime as the might Starro’s one weakness is arguably no less lame than fire being J’onn’s weakness and yellow being Hal’s and there is a lot of action prior to the finale but still…the entire point of the comic is to see these heroes joining forces and we don’t really get that.

Aquaman is unfairly side-lined and does nothing except alert the JLA to Starro’s presence.

You might be wondering where the hell Aquaman was during this story; despite appearing to be a pivotal member of the team in the early panels, Arthur is little more than an early warning system to alert the team to Starro’s threat. Hell, when Barry is divvying out the JLA’s individual missions, Aquaman doesn’t even get to fight one of the creatures as he’s sent back to the ocean to watch out for any more of the duplicates and, when he does return to the story for the finale, he does absolutely nothing. It’s pretty sad considering the JLA were light on power with Superman out of the equation and when you consider that Arthur might have actually been really useful at Happy Harbour so could have easily teamed up with the Flash for that mission…but then we might never have gotten Snapper-fuckin’-Carr now, would we!?

Hal and J’onn are severely underutilised, with their powers reduced to the bare minimum.

Honestly, Snapper could have been dropped entirely from the story; he’s only there so the teenager readers can act like they’re fighting alongside their favourite heroes, after all, and it’s legitimately sad that he’s more important to the story than Aquaman! Seriously, drop Snapper, have Aquaman and the Flash go to Happy Harbour, and have Arthur get covered in lime while battling the creature in the water and reveal the key to Starro’s defeat. Seems like a pretty simple solution to me. Similarly, it’s pretty disappointing that Superman and Batman don’t play any part in the story at all. I can understand why as Superman’s power alone would probably be able to end Starro’s threat but it’s a bit of a let down that they don’t even join the team for the big climactic battle. Instead, we’re left with the likes of the Martian Manhunter, who is probably just as powerful as Superman if not more so and yet is reduced to simply puffing away with his super-breath. Similarly, Hal’s potential and power is also significantly reduced; his ring allows him to do virtually anything but, in the end, all he really uses it for is to fly about, rescue a falling plane, and zap at Starro with energy blasts.

Starro seems like a threatening villain but end sup being a massive disappointment.

Still, at least Wonder Woman gets a lot to do; she basically does all the work in her team-up with J’onn which, again, makes me question why she has to have a partner and no one else does. The implication may be that it’s because she’s a woman but she’s easily the most dependable and capable superheroine I’ve seen all year; she doesn’t even get bound or anything, which is refreshing. The Flash also gets far more chances to show off his abilities and competence; beyond his super speed allowing him to easily best one of Starro’s duplicates, Barry is portrayed as a decisive team leader and his intelligence is what ultimately wins the day over brute strength. Overall, Starro is just another in a long line of potentially dangerous foes that really don’t amount to a whole hell of a lot. It openly admits that its plot to conquer Earth is the first time it’s ever tried anything like that, exposing its naivety and inexperience in world conquest and battle. Its scheme seems pretty good to start with as it creates duplicates of itself and absorbs power and knowledge but it fails to really do anything with this beyond making itself yellow; it could have spewed flames at J’onn, bound Wonder Woman’s wrists, subjected Aquaman to intense heat, or slowed the Flash down with quicksand but it never does any of that. For all the power and knowledge it has, Starro ends up just being a giant alien punching bag that, arguably, the Flash alone could have defeated and, because of that, it’s simply a piss-poor excuse to see all these heroes band together and even then they spend the majority of the story working separately!

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the JLA’s debut appearance? Were you happy to see five out of the seven joining forces for the first time or would you have liked to see all seven of them getting in on the action? What did you think of Starro as the principal villain and the introduction of Snapper Carr? Which era or incarnation of the JLA is your favourite and what are some of your favourite JLA stories? Who would you like to see in the JLA some day? How are you celebrating Justice League Day this year? Whatever your thoughts on the JLA, feel free to leave a comment below.

Talking Movies [Brightest Day]: Green Lantern: Extended Cut


In 2014, the 2nd of February was dubbed “Green Lantern Day” because, by the American calendar, the date read as “2814”, the sector of space assigned to Earth in DC Comics. While the significance of this date has passed as the years have changed, it seems like a great excuse to celebrate DC Comics’ green-garbed intergalactic police corps but, sadly, the date clashes with another important anniversary so, this year, I’m switching it to today, the 2nd of August, instead since this would have been 2/8/14 back then as well.


Talking Movies

Released: 14 October 2011
Originally Released: 17 June 2011
Director: Martin Campbell
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget: $200 million
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, and Clancy Brown

The Plot:
When test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is bequeathed a powerful ring that can make his thoughts reality, he becomes a member of the Green Lantern Corps, a vast organisation of intergalactic lawmen. However, Hal’s will is tested when Parallax (Brown), a malevolent entity and the embodiment of fear, is awakened and threatens the safety of not just Earth but the entire universe!

The Background:
The Green Lantern character first appeared in All-American Publications’ (a precursor of DC Comics) All-American Comics #16 in July 1940. Then, the pseudonym was the alter-ego of Alan Scott but, in 1959, DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz enlisted writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane to reinvent the character as Hal Jordan and, in the process, create countless other Green Lanterns in the establishment of an intergalactic police force. Production of a live-action adaptation of the character can be traced back to 1997 and, at one point, Jack Black was set to start in what sounds like would have been an absolutely dreadful action/comedy take on the character.

Green Lantern hasn’t had the best history when it comes to live-action adaptations…

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) impressing at the box office with its first phase of movies, Warner Bros. made significant strides towards a Green Lantern film with a script heavily influenced by the seminal “Secret Origin” (Johns, et al, 2008) story arc, and director Martin Campbell and star Ryan Reynolds locked in to bring to life the daunting, effects-heavy superhero sci-fi. Unfortunately, Green Lantern proved to be a critical and commercial failure; the movie made just under $220 million at the box office and reviews were scathing, scuppering Warner’s hopes for a sequel and delaying the start of their own cinematic universe. As much as I am a fan of Reynolds, I can’t say that I was too impressed with how much he has bad-mouthed this film (which really isn’t as bad as people think) in the years since its release, especially after he was well into honouring the legacy and influence of the role during production.

The Review:
When we’re first introduced to Hal in the modern day, he’s a far cry from the straight-laced, serious space cop of the comic books; perhaps thanks to having Reynolds in the role, Hal is a womanising, snarky, and arrogant test pilot who drives a muscle car, frequently shows up late to work, and generally shirks responsibility at every opportunity. The only time he takes any situation serious is when he’s sat in a cockpit, where he’s all business and undeniably the best test pilot on the Ferris payroll but his attitude leaves a lot to be desired. It’s interesting that the filmmakers chose to make these changes and portray Hal as a far more immature and flawed character; it works for his overall story arc as he has to grow into his role as a superhero and learn the usual, cliché lessons about responsibility and duty and gives Hal a snarky edge that makes for the film’s more comedic moments but it’s difficult to believe that this version of Hall will ever grow into the Corps’ most revered soldier.

Hal’s cavalier attitude makes him a great test pilot but causes friction with those around him.

Hal’s attitude stems, largely, from the trauma of experiencing the death of his father, Martin (Jon Tenney), who died during a test flight right before Hal’s eyes when Hal was just a kid. Having witnessed the most distressing and harrowing event possible, Hal has grown up entirely fearless; he never worries about his safety, takes unnecessary risks, doesn’t let anything or anyone get to him, and doesn’t believe in a no-win situation. This, naturally, doesn’t sit well with his friends, family, co-workers, or superiors, who all believe that Hal has a death wish and is being unreasonably irresponsible with his life. Despite this, he has a close relationship with his nephew, Jason (Dylan James), and there are clearly unresolved issues between him and childhood friend, co-pilot, and boss Carol Ferris (Lively).

Carol believes in and is attracted to Hal but cannot sanction his lackadaisical attitude.

Hal believes that Carol has lost her way somewhat since she has, largely, traded the cockpit for a desk, though Carol asserts that she’s simply grown up and accepted her responsibilities. She cares for Hal and is clearly still attracted to him but despairs of his lackadaisical and cavalier attitude; she just wants him to grow up a bit and to be responsible for once in his life rather than coasting along on his admittedly impressive abilities. In a refreshing change of pace, she immediately sees through his rudimentary disguise as Green Lantern (even comment on the ridiculousness of such an ineffective mask) and accepts and supports his newfound superhero life. Indeed, she urges him that the power and responsibility of the ring isn’t something that he can just walk away from and encourages him to actually try and live up to his potential for a change. Far more than just an achingly gorgeous face, Carol actually helps Hal out when Parallax comes to Earth and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, making her more than a match for his trademark snark.

Hal is subjected to harsh training and criticism from the likes of Sinestro.

However, while Hal describes himself as a “screw up” and even his friend, Thomas Kalmaku (Taika Waititi) believes him to be an asshole, he doesn’t hesitate to pull Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) from his crashed spacecraft, does everything he can to keep him alive, and is genuinely distraught when Abin dies in his arms (he even takes the time to bury Abin’s body after he dies). Confused and overwhelmed at the alien and the strange ring now in his possession, Hal is equally blown away when the ring transports him to Oa and garbs him in the uniform of the Green Lantern Corps; however, Hal adjusts to these alien sights and concepts with an awe-struck bewilderment and struggles to come to grips with his ring’s capabilities and the focusing of his willpower. On Oa, Hal is greeted by Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush), who introduces him to the planet and briefs him on the basics of the Green Lantern Corps. Hal’s training is very much a crash course and, honestly, should have taken up a greater deal of the film’s focus and screen time as Hal is put through a tough and uncompromising boot camp at the hands of Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan). Almost immediately, before Hal even has a chance to master the basics of ring-slinging, Thaal Sinestro (Strong) interrupts to put Hal through his paces; a being of immense pride and a much-respected member of the Corps, Sinestro was Abin’s friend and former protégé and regards Hal as a disappointment to his mentor’s legacy. Sinestro’s opinion is only fuelled by the fact that Hal is (somehow…) the first ever human being to become a Green Lantern but, truthfully, his focus and mentality comes more from his overwhelming militant mindset. Sinestro believes, to his very core, in the power and authority of the Guardians and the Corps and devotes himself entirely to their cause, rallying his fellow Green Lanterns in a unified, if futile, effort to oppose Parallax and maintain the sanctity of their intergalactic police force.

Hector, already a troubled scientist, is driven to maniacal insanity by Parallax’s influence.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Hal also faces significant threats at home in the form of his childhood friend Doctor Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard); sadly, Hector isn’t that threatening or impressive as a villain and is more like a quirky, disassociated, unhinged child in a man’s body. Hector resents Hal’s cocky attitude, rugged good looks, and relationship with Carol, harbours unrequited feelings of his own for Carol, and is constantly trying to please his father, Robert (Tim Robbins), a United States senator who Hector feels is constantly disappointed and embarrassed by him. Hector believes his genius and ability are finally being acknowledged when he is hand-picked by Doctor Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett) to perform the autopsy on Abin’s body and is enraged when he finds out that his father arranged it; having been possessed by exposure to Parallax’s yellow fear energy, Hammond slowly develops mental abilities and degenerates into a hideous, hunchback like creature, his inner bitterness and ugliness reflected in his warped and transformed exterior. However, given the larger threat of Parallax and the fact that we briefly see how big and limitless the universe is, Hector isn’t much of a threat and is easily bested by Hal with the simplest of deceptions.

Rather than a giant space bug, Parallax is a massive, fear-inducing cloud.

Not that Parallax himself fairs much better; rather than the giant, intergalactic space bug and the embodiment of fear, Parallax is, instead, a fallen Guardian as the filmmakers merged elements of Parallax and the dark Guardian Krona (which, to be fair, I feel does work in the context of the film and simplifies the story somewhat). Sadly, because the Guardians look so damn goofy, Parallax doesn’t look all that intimidating and just appears to be a big, angry-looking, cartoony head and that’s when we can actually see him since, for the most part, he takes the form of an ethereal, destructive cloud and, if there’s anything experience has told us, it’s that clouds are never scary or intimidating.

The Nitty-Gritty:
The extended version of the film only adds about ten minutes to the film’s run time but the majority of this is used to further develop Hal’s childhood and his relationship with his friends and family. Indeed, the extended version includes an entirely new opening sequence that shows more of Hal, Carol, and Hector’s childhood and the bond between Hal and his father, and his nephew. It’s not much extra footage but it does help to flesh Hal’s character out a little bit more and to build up an understanding of why he is the way he is.

Green Lantern‘s abundance of CGI makes the film resemble a cartoon more often than not.

Of course, one of the major problems with Green Lantern is the quality of the special effects; given the concept is quite unique and necessitates a great deal of work to render not just the Green Lantern’s constructs but also the various worlds and aliens that make up the Green Lantern Corps, and the universe, a great deal of special effects are necessary for a film such as this. Unfortunately, many of the film’s CGI just doesn’t work and is flawed; Parallax and the Guardians, especially, look pretty terrible, to say nothing of Kilowog, Tomar-Re, and, yes, the Green Lantern suits themselves. Personally, I think the idea to render them full in CGI was a really good idea (…on paper) given their otherworldly make up and the fact that they’re generated from the ring and the problem isn’t so much that the suits don’t look good (though they, like a lot of the CGI, do appear disturbingly cartoony) it’s that Hal’s mask looks so damn goofy.

It’s a shame the film didn’t employ a greater use of practical and traditional special effects.

This is a shame because Green Lantern does a pretty decent job at adapting the concept and bringing to life such an abstract and near-limitless superhero. As I mentioned, the idea of the suit works really well and Oa, especially, looks pretty good; however, while I like that it’s teeming with life and various alien races, it’s very…busy and kind of looks like a mess of conflicting colours and dodgy CGI. Such shots are contrasted by how good the film’s more practical effects are; the scene where Hal and Carol out-pace automated aircraft is an exhilarating sequence and the make-up effects used to bring Sinestro and Abin Sur to life are top-notch (hell, even Hector looks suitably horrific when he mutates into little more than a hunchbacked man-monster). It’s almost as if the filmmakers should have veered more towards practical effects, maybe even employing the use of traditional puppets and animatronics for the Guardians and Kilowog, and use the CGI sparingly rather than rendering 90% of the film in a mess of computer effects.

Hal eventually comes to accept the responsibility of the ring and grows into his heroic role.

A central theme of the film is Hal’s inability to live up to the expectations placed upon him and to accept responsibility. On Earth, this makes him a highly skilled but unreliable test pilot; when on Oa, it leads to him walking away from the Green Lantern Corps after what feels like maybe an hour, tops, of training. He takes Sinestro’s criticisms regarding him (and the human race) to heart and uses his condemnation as the perfect excuse to reject the destiny placed upon him by Abin Sur; however, for some reason, he is allowed to retain possession of the ring and, reluctantly, becomes a superhero back on Earth. This is directly paralleled with Hector’s own arc as he struggles to live up to his father’s expectations and gives in to the hate, fear, and power of Parallax’s influence; fuelled by his negative emotions, he forces Hal into acting with the ring’s power and, thus, into a heroic role that he, eventually, willingly assumes in order to defend the Earth from Parallax.

Despite Hal’s victory, Sinestro switches to the yellow ring for an unresolved cliffhanger.

Parallax, while an unimposing and disappointing villain compared to both his comic book counterpart and other villains of superhero films, is certainly built up to be an intimidating threat. His ability to induce fear and then suck the life out of his victims is certainly unique and his power only grows as he absorbs the lifeforce of others. While the Green Lanterns are notoriously supposed to be entirely without fear, it’s clear that the Guardians fear Parallax’s power; indeed, they are reluctant to send their corps against Parallax out of fear for their lives and they only divulge Parallax’s true origins to Sinestro after he pleads with them for the knowledge to oppose his power. While Sinestro comes to believe that the only way to defeat Parallax is with fear itself (forging a yellow ring in the process), he eventually saves Hal after his battle and defeat of the creature in the finale and, despite having witnessed that the green light of willpower is powerful enough to overcome even the embodiment of fear, decides to switch to a yellow power ring in, perhaps, one of the most tantalising mid-credits scenes in all of cinema.

The Summary:
Green Lantern is a perfectly fine and action-packed science-fiction spectacle; it’s full of humour and big special effects and has a really strong cast, with Mark Strong, especially, standing out as a perfect choice for Hal’s mentor and rival, Sinestro. I think the main problem with Green Lantern, though, is that it isn’t really sure what it wants to be; it’s not a sci-fi epic as a disappointing amount of the film is set on Earth, and the time spent on Earth is nowhere near as interesting as the potential of space and the Green Lantern Corps. When I saw Green Lantern, it was a month or so after seeing Thor (Branagh, 2011), a film that did a much better job of balancing its cosmic, otherworldly elements in a grounded and relatable way and I think that’s the problem with Green Lantern: it’s too confused about its disparate elements and I can’t help but feel a more elaborate approach in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014) and Serenity (Whedon, 2005) would be a far more fitting direction if we ever see the Green Lantern Corps in live-action again. Personally, though, it’s not as bad as people make it out to be and there’s plenty here that’s worth keeping around (Mark Strong, for one) and it really wouldn’t have taken much to fold this film into the existing DC Extended Universe at one point but, ultimately, it’s just a shame that we never got a sequel to improve upon the film’s high (and low) points and that the film failed to properly live up to the potential of the concept.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to Green Lantern? Were you a fan of the movie when it first released or did you warm to it over time? What did you think to Reynolds in the title role and who would you prefer to see take up the mantle at some point? Were you a fan of the film’s overuse of CGI? What did you think to the animated suit and depiction of Parallax? Would you have liked to see where a sequel would have taken the story or do you think a full reboot is the way to go? Which Green Lantern character, villain, or story is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating this pseudo-Green Lantern day today? Whatever you think about Green Lantern, and the Green Lantern comics books, feel free to leave a comment below.

10 FTW: Super-Suits

10FTW

With over eighty years of continuous publication behind him, it’s no surprise that, over the many years and through numerous alternate realities and reality-shattering Crises, Superman has gone through more than a few wardrobe changes. Initially debuting in what amounted to a traditional strongman costume, Superman soon adopted the iconic “S” shield to uphold his values of “truth, justice, and the American way” but has, over time, mixed up his colour scheme about as often as he’s developed strange new powers. Today, I’m going to go through ten of my favourite looks for Superman; a lot of these featured solely in out-of-continuity tales or were worn by Supermen from parallel Earths but some were, however briefly, an actual part of Superman’s canon.

10 The Black Recovery Suit

Superman’s black suit first appeared right at the conclusion of the “Reign of the Superman” (Jurgens, et al, 1993) storyline, the conclusion to the infamous “Death of Superman” (ibid, 1992 to 1993) storyline. After the Man of Steel was beaten to death by Doomsday, his body was placed into a Kryptonian regeneration chamber, which restored his cells to life and, when he emerged, he was forced to wear this suit while his powers recovered. Honestly, this was just an excuse to get Superman’s mullet on the list but I also dig the simplicity of this suit (and I always love a black variant); it’s just plain black with a silver symbol. It also lacks a cape, giving Superman a far more streamlined and serious look that, considering all of Superman’s replacements bore dramatically different suits of their own, cast more doubt on the identity of this new Superman. The suit made a brief return in Countdown to Final Crisis (Dini, et al, 2007 to 2008), when it was worn by Superman-Prime, and was donned by the pre-Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) when he showed up (rocking a beard!) to replace the crappy New 52-Superman (whose suit will, spoilers, not be making this list), and was also set to appear in Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017) before Warner Bros. re-edited the film.

SuperSuitsSpeedingBullets
9 Speeding Bullets

Bit of a cheat here as this suit was worn a violent and brutal version of Kal-El who was raised by Thomas and Martha Kent and, thus, is actually a composite of Superman and Batman who leans far more into Batman’s characterisation than Superman’s. Still, this is a great combination of the Bat- and Super-Suits, featuring a cowl that covers Kal’s entire head and a amalgamated version of both character’s iconic emblems. If you’re a bit annoyed by me basically using a Batman suit on a Superman list, there was a more traditional Super-Suit featured in this story right at the end, when Kal is convinced to turn away from the darkness and be a symbol of hope. But, as this is a dreadful looking costume that looks way too much like the awful Injustice suit (NetherRealm Studios, 2013; 2017).

SuperSuitsLantern
8 Lantern Superman

Let’s face it: any time Superman gets a power ring, we are treated to an awesome variation of his suit. Whether it’s in an alternate reality where Superman operates as Green Lantern (and sports a lovely white cape and an amalgamated “G”/Green Lantern symbol), or the original, super-powerful, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1985 to 1986) Superman, Kal-L being reanimated as a zombified Black Lantern in Blackest Night (Johns, et al, 2009 to 2010), or Superman-Prime joining the Sinestro Corps, there’s something about mixing Superman’s suit with the Lantern’s attire that always results in gold. Superman’s also been decked out as a dazzling beacon of triumph as a White Lantern and we’ve even seen a glimpse of what his suit could look like spewing blood from his mouth during Supergirl’s brief stint as a Red Lantern. Hands down, my favourite is the Black Lantern Superman though; there’s just something about a zombified Superman in a black suit with a tattered cape that is really striking to me, like all of his values and morals have been cast aside in favour of ripping hearts from chests.

SuperSuitsOverRed
7 Overman / Red Son

I’m lumping these two together as I honestly cannot pick between the two; both suits were worn by alternative versions of Superman who were raised and indoctrinated with anti-American principles, making for a complete reversal of Superman’s traditionally patriotic views. Overman, a Nazi version of Superman, appeared during the God-awful Final Crisis (Morrison, et al, 2008 to 2009) event, while the communist version most famously appeared in Superman: Red Son (Millar, et al, 2003). Both wear a fascist symbol in place of the traditional “S” and favoured big buckles on their belts and a darker, subdued colour scheme, with Overman’s costume fittingly being reminiscent of the Schutzstaffel  uniform.

6 The Dark Side

Continuing the theme of alternative versions of Superman raised by tyrannical dictators, Superman: The Dark Side (Moore, et al, 1998) presented a version of Superman raised by Darkseid to be a ruthless soldier in the New Gods’ war against the peaceful New Genesis. Once again sporting a corrupted version of the “S” symbol (which was almost exactly the same as the Schutzstaffel symbol, something that, ironically, even Overman was missing…), Dark Side’s Superman had a haircut you could set your watch to, and a fittingly grim and stoic personality that was more akin to Darkseid’s actual son, Orion. He was also decked out in sweet jet-black armour forged from the fire pits of Apokolips, carried a sword and had no compunction about slaughtering his enemies without mercy in the name of his dark overlord.

SuperSuitsPrime
5 Superman Prime (DC One Million)

The Superman Prime (not to be confused with his genocidal counterpart of the same name) that appears in DC One Million (Morrison, et al, 1998) has lived for so long thanks to his Kryptonian physiology that he’s seen all his friends and family die. Despondent, he left Earth in the care of his heir, travelled the universe for a few centauries, and eventually went into self-imposed exile in the centre of the sun. Unlike the previous Super-Suits, this Superman is a glowing, golden beacon of hope and serenity; his powers amplified to almost God-like levels, this Superman is decked out entirely in gold to match his new divine stature.

4 Brutaal (Earth-2)

This version of Superman is a Bizarro-like clone engineered by Darkseid to mirror his Earth-2 counterpart, Val-Zod (another contender for this list) in very way…except for being absolutely ruthless and lacking in mercy. Very much like by his Dark Side incarnation, Brutaal stands out by wearing a suit that closely resembles versions of the Eradicator or Cyborg-Superman, favouring a largely black-and-red colour scheme (that just works for alternative, evil takes on Superman) and some wicked chains to hold his cape in place.

3 Electric Superman

Probably the most controversial choice for this list, in the late-nineties, DC Comics apparently decided that Superman needed a complete shake-up (despite the fact that he’d already returned from the dead!) and had him transform into a purely energy-based lifeform. He could now travel at the speed of light, emit energy blasts, and become incorporeal but also (for some inexplicable reason) would become completely human when he transformed back into Clark Kent! As if this wasn’t mental enough, he was then split into two beings, a red variant and a blue one, each with different personalities! None of this changes the fact, though, that the suit he wore during this time was awesome! Lacking a cape and featuring a streamlined design comprised of blue (…or red) and white and a new, more radical logo. Honestly, I feel like the suit’s design and Superman’s new powers were pretty great…just maybe not suitable for Superman. This suit actually cropped up again in the early-2000s when it was worn by Strange Visitor (Sharon Vance) but I would love to see it recycled for the likes of the Eradicator, who’s always been more energy-based in his powers anyway.

2 Rebirth / Man of Steel

After subjecting us to a God-awful characterisation of Superman throughout the five years or so of the “New 52” reboot, DC Comics finally saw sense and killed off that jerk and ditched his dreadful quasi-armoured costume in favour of not only the definitive version of Superman (pre-Flashpoint, of course) but also a far more traditional version of the Super-Suit. This suit, largely reminiscent of the equally-fantastic costume worn by Henry Cavill in the DC Extended Universe movies (Various, 2013 to present) took all the dramatic changes made by the New 52 suit and merged them with Superman’s more traditional styling. This meant that Kal again ditched the red trunks and yellow belt but also dropped the overly busy and unnecessarily detailed nature of the New 52 suit. Eventually, the trunks and the red boots would make a return but, either way, for a modern take on the classic Super-Suit, they don’t get much better than this.

1 Kingdom Come

For me, the definitive alternative version of the Super-Suit is the one designed by Alex Ross in the gorgeous and seminal Kingdom Come (Waid, et al, 1996). Taking place on Earth-22, where Superman has largely separated himself from humanity, which has begun to favour more aggressive superheroes, this Superman sports not only a streak of white hair but also a sleek, traditional Super-Suit with one noticeable different: a diagonal line against a black background in place of the traditional red-and-yellow “S” shield. It’s a small change but one that speaks volumes of this Superman’s current mindset; he’s lost faith in humanity and is in mourning. This costume has endured over the years, inspiring numerous revisions of Superman’s costume (generally whenever depicting an elderly or despondent version of Kal) but, most notably, the Earth-22 Superman later paid a visit to the mainstream DC universe to team with the Justice Society, Superman adopted a very similar version of this shield after the “Our Worlds at War” (Loeb, et al, 2001) storyline, and even prominently featured in the Crisis on Infinite Earths (Various, 2019 to 2020) crossover event that saw Brandon Routh reprise his role from Superman Returns (Singer, 2006) wearing an incredibly faithful rendition of this iconic outfit for his portrayal of a similarly-beleaguered version of Superman.

SuperSuitsAlter

Which Super-Suit is your favourite? Did it make the list or was there one I missed? What do you look for in a Super-Suit? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts on what makes the quintessential Super-Suit.

Back Issues: Whatever Happened to Kyle Rayner!?

BackIssues

Ah, the nineties! What a time to be alive for comic book fans! We saw Clark Kent/Superman die and be replaced by four imposters before returning…with a mullet! We saw Bruce Wayne/Batman get his back broken and be replaced with a Frank Castle/Punisher-like nutjob. We saw Arthur Curry/Aquaman get his hand bitten off by piranhas and replaced…with a harpoon! And we saw Hal Jordan, the premier Green Lantern, go mental, kill a bunch of his fellows, and take on an antagonistic role as Parallax. Yet, the legacy of Green Lantern lived on in a new, young, sexy replacement who was to take the title in a bold new direction; a character who, though he exists today, is a shadow of his former self, prompting me to ask…

GreenLanternLogo

DC Comics like to paint Hal Jordan as the greatest Green Lantern that ever lived; literally almost every time the character appears, text boxes, character dialogue, or story events are geared towards this agenda. This was especially obvious in 1992 when, after being replaced buy Guy Gardner, Jordan decided that he had had enough of bitching, moaning, and moping about and forced Guy to relinquish the Green Lantern power ring and reclaim his mantle.

Hal, the Green Lantern golden boy, was devastated by Coast City’s destruction.

This was sold to us as a miraculous return; characters, including Guy’s Justice League teammates, openly gushed at Hal reclaiming the mantle and trashed Guy; I mean, sure, Guy was no saint and was a massive pain in the ass, but for everyone to talk so much shit about him was jarring. Things went from bad to worse, however, when Mongul and Hank Henshaw/Cyborg-Superman obliterated Hal’s home town, Coast City, during the ‘Reign of the Supermen’ arc that saw Superman return to life. Hal, unable to cope with the loss of his friends and family, tried to recreate the city and was admonished by the Guardians of the Universe. Incensed at what he saw was a betrayal after years of loyal service, ‘Emerald Twilight’ saw Hal fly to Oa, relieving multiple Green Lanterns of their rings, killed Kilowog and Thaal Sinestro (later revealed to be an illusion), and absorbed the entire power of the Central Power Battery. This immediately depowered every Green Lantern in the universe (it is implied that the majority of them died, though this was also later retconned) and transformed Hal into Parallax.

Kyle was severely tested at the start of his career.

While Parallax went out into the cosmos to acquire yet more power and would eventually attempt to rewrite all of time itself in Zero Hour: Crisis in Time (Jurgens, et al, 1994), the last remaining Guardian, Ganthet, travelled to Earth and, seemingly at random, presented the last power ring to the first person he saw: Kyle Rayner. Kyle, a young freelance artist, was initially characterised as being cocky and irresponsible; a rookie who received no training or instruction, he struggled to get to grips with his newfound power and responsibility. Attacked by enemies of Jordan’s who mistook him for the former Green Lantern, Kyle endured a trial by fire made all the more testing when Clifford Zmeck/Major Force infamously killed his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, and stuffed her into a refrigerator! For a long time, this was a constant source of guilt and angst for Kyle; it seemed that he would openly mention it to anybody at the drop of a hat, even amidst battling Parallax, saving the universe, and joining perhaps the strongest incarnation of the Justice League ever. In time, though, Kyle was able to master his emotions and his power; unlike other Green Lanterns, Kyle’s ring did not carry a weakness to yellow (later revealed to be because the weakness was a result of Parallax being imprisoned within the Central Power Battery), did not need to be recharged, and could only be used by him, which effectively made him the most powerful Green Lantern ever seen at that point.

Despite making a name for himself, Kyle was constantly overshadowed by Hal.

As part of the Justice League, Kyle struck up friendships with Wally West/The Flash and Connor Hawke/Green Arrow, just as Jordan had been friends with Barry Allen and Oliver Queen in the past, and voted to keep BruceWayne/Batman (one of his strongest supporters) in the Justice League following the ‘Tower of Babel’ storyline in 2000. As his career progressed entered into a romantic relationship with Alan Scott’s daughter, Jade, and evolved into a leader when he fought off the Circle of Fire. After Parallax sacrificed himself to reignite the Sun in the ‘Final Night’ storyline, Kyle received a massive power boost and was rechristened Ion. Wielding God-like powers, he eventually restored Oa, the Central Power Battery, the Guardians of the Universe, and the Green Lantern Corps in order to relieve himself of the burden of his newfound powers. Restored to a regular Green Lantern, but still unrestricted by the yellow impurity or the need to recharge, went from being the last of the Green Lanterns, and a God, to be one of many Green Lanterns. His status was further damaged when writer Geoff Johns took over the Green Lantern title and orchestrated Hal Jordan’s return in the ‘Rebirth’ storyline; Jordan, who had since become the Spectre, was absolved of all his previous crimes by the revelation that Parallax is actually a parasitic fear entity that latched onto his soul and drove him to evil. Thanks to the efforts of Kyle, Guy (who also had his recent years of messy writing undone), and John Stewart, Jordan returned to life as a Green Lantern once more and promptly took over the Green Lantern title.

Kyle has assumed a number of different forms and identities over the years.

Despite transforming back into Ion during Infinite Crisis (Johns, et al, 2006) following Jade’s death, Kyle was possessed by Parallax during the ‘Sinestro Corps War’ storyline and continued to operate as just one of four (five, if you count Alan Scott) Earth-based Green Lanterns, even after being promoted to ‘Honour Guard’ status. He even found his very existence branded as an anomaly during ‘Countdown’ and ‘Countdown to Final Crisis’ and spent most of 2007 bouncing around the Multiverse with little rhyme or reason. He found himself on the frontlines during Blackest Night (ibid, 2010), which saw Jade restored to life, and sacrificed himself to destroy a bunch of Black Lanterns. He, too, was restored to life and, during War of the Green Lanterns (ibid, 2011) assumed the role of a Blue Lantern after Parallax infected the Green Lantern rings. Unfortunately for him, Blue Lanterns are pretty useless; they only real do anything when Green Lanterns are around, making him the weakest of the rag-tag group (obviously led by Jordan) that stood against the renegade Guardian, Krona. As much as I hate to praise it, The New 52 actually returned some semblance of importance to Kyle; while Sinestro and Jordan dominated the main Green Lantern titles like it was the late-eighties, Kyle was the focus of the New Guardians title. When power rings from all the different corps are drawn to him, Kyle goes on a universe-spanning pilgrimage to master the entire emotional spectrum and once again reaches the levels of God-hood he enjoyed as Ion by becoming a White Lantern. Oddly, The New 52 also put Kyle in a romantic relationship with Jordan’s long-term love interest, the Star Sapphire Carol Ferris, which only further bogged his character down with unnecessary ties to Jordan’s legacy. It wasn’t to last, though, it soon became apparent that the powers of the White Lantern were too much for any one person to wield and, as of Rebirth, Kyle has returned to being a lowly Green Lantern.

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What the hell is this nonsense!?

It gets worse for Kyle outside of the comics; although his name and profession were used, he looked exactly like Hal Jordan when he appeared in Superman: The Animated Series, and even had Hal’s origin! With John Stewart acting as Green Lantern in Justice League, Kyle was relegated to brief cameos and bit-parts in Justice League: Unlimited. While Stewart is generally included as an alternative costume for Hal in various DC videogames, this luxury is rarely afforded to Kyle; he appears as a skin in Justice League Heroes (Snowblind Studios/Warner Bros. Games, 2006) and is featured in DC Universe Online (Daybreak Game Company/WB Games, 2011) and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (Traveller’s Tales, 2014) but barely gets a mention in the Injustice (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2013; 2017) videogames due to being unceremoniously killed off in the prequel/tie-in comic books. I remember, many moons ago, reading an article in Wizard around the same time that the ‘Emerald Twilight’ storyline happened; whomever was being interviewed at DC said something along the lines of “DC reserve the right to not give their characters happy endings” and basically said “Hal is evil; Kyle is Green Lantern – deal with it!” as I mentioned, DC was all about major character changes in the nineties; Wally West had become the Flash following Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1985), Dick Grayson became Nightwing in the ‘Judas Contract’ storyline, and Tim Drake succeeded him as Robin, in addition to the aforementioned Connor Hawke and even Roy Harper progressing to Arsenal.

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A generation of heroes doomed to obscurity and irrelevance.

Kyle was supposed to be the next in line of these young new legacy heroes; his costume was bold and striking, a far cry from the regimental style favoured by most Green Lanterns, and his constructs were often infused with manga and anime imagery. As a young, untested hero, Kyle made reading Green Lantern was perfect for newcomers at the time who got to learn about the Green Lantern mythos through fresh eyes. However, once DC’s editors and writing staff switched hands and decided that they wanted to bring back Silver Age characters like Barry Allen and Wally West, the writing was on the wall for characters like Kyle. Once the sole Green Lantern and the figurehead for the Corps, Kyle was relegated to being just another face in a sea of green once Hal came back; even his costume and haircut changed and became far less interesting.

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You’ll always be my Green Lantern, Kyle!

For my money, DC massively dropped the ball by not keeping Kyle bonded with Ion and carrying that codename; at least then Kyle would have been set apart from Hal Jordan and the other Green Lanterns. In these modern times, where we have a Corps for every colour of the emotional spectrum, there really is no excuse for Kyle, Hal, Guy, John, and newcomers like Simon Baz to all be Green Lanterns. I would have kept Kyle as the White Lantern, Guy as a Red Lantern, and John as an Indigo Lantern if only to mix things up and keep everyone different and relevant. Instead, with Hal still at the forefront of the Green Lantern titles and constantly being branded by DC writers, editors, and characters as the greatest Green Lantern of all time, there doesn’t seem to be any room for Kyle these days. Once upon a time, DC vowed that characters like Kyle and Wally were the new standard but, now, they’re pale imitations living in the shadow of the apparently far superior Silver Age counterparts and that’s just sad for people like me, who grew up in the nineties reading about Kyle’s adventures and growing attached to his character, rather than that of Hal Jordan.

Game Corner: Injustice 2: Legendary Edition (Xbox One)

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Injustice2Logo

Given that Warner Brothers bought Midway back when they were forced to shut up shop, it should have been seen as inevitable that a videogame would be made that mashed together characters from the Mortal Kombat series with those of the DC Universe. Of course, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008) was quite the barebones, lacklustre effort compared to the spiritual successor, Injustice: Gods Among Us (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2013).

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Brainiac is coming to collect the Earth!

Injustice was generally applauded not only for its graphics, gameplay, and competitive fighting mechanics but also its story mode; NetherRealm Studios have seemingly perfected the art of infusing their fighters with an in-depth and genuinely captivating single play story and Injustice 2 (ibid, 2017; 2018) continues this trend. After the Justice League travel to a parallel world to help end the reign of a dictator-like Superman and his regime of similarly-evil former heroes, the Injustice-world faces a new threat in the form of Brainiac. Though Batman attempts to rally a new generation of heroes against Brainiac, they have no choice but to free Superman from his red sun prison cell in order to combat the threat and enter into an uneasy alliance.

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A good roster, bogged down with one-too-many Batman characters.

A fighting game is only as good as its roster; like Injustice, Injustice 2 has an unhealthy obsession with Batman characters – Batman, the Joker, Robin, Poison Ivy, Red Hood, Scarecrow, Bane, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot bloat out the roster. While it is a little disappointing that this appears to have caused other, unique characters such as Booster Gold or Doctor Sivana miss the cut, Injustice 2 does bring some welcome new faces to the game; Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Atrocitus, Gorilla Grodd, and Doctor Fate are just some of the new heroes and villains available to play as. The Legendary Edition also includes some fantastic downloadable characters, such as Hellboy, Black Manta, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

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Every character has a unique play style.

Every character boasts their own unique combos, special moves, and super moves and plays a little differently; Darkseid, for example, is slow and methodical, Supergirl is a much faster character, while characters like Green Arrow and Batman rely more on their gadgets and skills to succeed. Successfully pulling off combos, counters, and landing attacks allows players to build up their super meter and power up their special moves or execute a world-ending super move. Each character starts with three loadout slots, which can be increased to five, that allow you to gear up Aquaman, for example, to have one loadout the favours attack, one that favours health, one that favours special moves, and so on, depending on the gear you apply. You can also apply this gear to AI Loadouts and have them fight for you, which is kind of weird and I’m not sure why you would want to do that rather than play the game yourself but it is useful for the game’s Endless and Survival modes.

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Injustice 2‘s stage selection levels much to be desired.

While Injustice 2 has a decent roster, it doesn’t have much in the way of stages; there are only twelve stages to pick from and they’re not really that dynamic or interesting. You can still send characters flying to other parts of the stage, which is fun, but it seems there’s a lot less opportunities to do this than in Injustice. There are also some fun stage interactions to be had, like smashing Swamp Thing over the head with a crocodile in Slaughter Swamp, but, again, it seemed that there were more and better stage interactions in Injustice.

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Customise each fighter with the Gear System.

The primary selling point of Injustice 2 is the Gear System; winning matches not only earns experience points for each character and the player’s profile but also awards numerous gear. Players can then apply this gear to each character to boost their attributes, gain performance buffs (such as greater attack strength against Metahumans), alter the character’s costumes, and even unlock different special moves. Winning matches also earns the player coins and crystals, which can used to buy Mother Boxes and unlock more gear, transform or combine gear to make it stronger, or unlock Premier Skins for certain characters.

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Premier Skins are available…at a price.

Premier Skins allow you to play as new characters; Cheetah, for example, has a Premier Skin that turns her into Vixen and Raiden’s Premier Skin is Black Lighting. This is great, as it effectively adds even more characters to the game’s roster; the only downside is that, to purchase Premier Skins, you need Source Crystals, which are few and far between. You’re therefore forced to grind over and over, levelling up your profile and characters, to earn a pittance of Source Crystals or spend real money. This latter appears to be what NetherRealm Studios want you to do as it is extremely difficult to earn enough Source Crystals as the Premier Skins carry a hefty price tag, and only the best Mother Boxes and rewards can be earned through spending real money, it seems, making the in-game currency all but worthless. Unlocking gear and applying it to characters is fun but, let’s be honest, you won’t be applying all of your gear to every character as some characters are better than others and some or just dead weight. The biggest downside to the Gear System is that, unlike in Injustice, it is the gear that determines what your character will look like; therefore, you can’t just select Green Lantern and choose to play as Yellow lantern, you have to unlock the correct gear and colour palette (which also require Source Crystals), which is quite disappointing and annoying.

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The clash mechanic as as annoying as ever.

In terms of gameplay, Injustice 2 is very similar to its predecessor with a noticeable increase in AI competency; I played the entire game on Very Easy and, on more than one occasion, noticed that the AI doesn’t take any shit. If you spam moves or favour a certain tactic, the AI calls you out on it and gives you a competitive match more often than not. The story mode is fun to play through but a breeze; I finished it in within two casual days of gameplay and only went back to it to finish off the branching paths. The clash mechanic returns from Injustice and it’s just as annoying as ever; as you take damage, you can spend your super meter initiating a clash and pressing a button in a rock/paper/scissors type of mini game, which will either deal additional damage or restore your health. It seems that the AI always busts out a clash at the worst or most annoying opportunities and it’s easily to most frustrating part of the game.

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Take on the entire Multiverse…once you’re levelled up enough…

Similar to Mortal Kombat X (ibid, 2015), Injustice 2 utilises an ever-changing Multiverse mode that allows players to fight a number of opponents and obtain better rewards. These change hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly and often carry certain themes that will be familiar to DC Comics fans; you can also use the Battle Simulator to play traditional tournament modes or battle endless opponents. One thing I will praise about Injustice 2 is that every battle is different; I don’t think I ever fought the same version of a character twice as it seems every match sees random gear and colour schemes applied to the opponent. You can also join a Guild and take part in Guild Multiverses and challenges to unlock even more Mother Boxes and rewards; these are far more challenging than the regular Multiverse modes and, similarly, the best Multiverse rewards are only available when you’ve levelled a character up to level twenty or thirty, meaning that you’re going to have to play again and again and grind over and over to reap the benefits.

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Unlocking stuff is time-consuming and random.

Honestly, maybe I’m a bit jaded, but I don’t find myself particularly enthusiastic about stepping up to this challenge; Injustice 2 features a wealth of Achievements, many you can sweep through regular gameplay, but the more specific ones (such as maxing every character’s level out) just seem like too much of a chore. I really don’t like that I have earned so many in-game coins and yet I cannot use them to purchase Premier Skins or extra colour palettes; I don’t really want to spend my actual money buying them, was disappointed to see that they weren’t already unlocked in the Legendary Edition, and am not sure I can be bothered to grind over and over to unlock them.

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Want the best stuff? You better have deep pockets!

In the end, Injustice 2 is good; it’s fun to play, the story mode is decent, and the graphics are very impressive but there’s not too much calling me back to it. I played Injustice pretty much to death working my way through the challenge mode but you have to put some serious effort in to challenge the best Multiverses and the motivation is severely lacking this time around just because the best gear and rewards are either really rare or too expensive. Maybe, next time around, NetherRealm Studios should limit the in-game currency to two forms (one to buy stuff, one to upgrade stuff) and move away from forcing players into spending their real-world money on additional extras, especially if they’re going to bring out a Legendary Edition after the initial versions.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better