I opened my inbox at 6:30 this morning to find my invitation to the Injustice 2 closed beta. In the intervening fifteen hours since, a solid twelve of those were spent with the game, and were it not for the throbbing callus beginning to form on my thumb as a result, I’d still be playing right now instead of writing about it. The first entry in the series was a truly superlative addition to the fighting game genre, building off of and improving upon the mechanics of Netherrealm’s’ other franchise, Mortal Kombat, and applying such to the most fitting intellectual property imaginable. After all, what kid didn’t smash together action figures of Batman and Superman like a little Zack Snyder? With Gods Among Us, Netherrealm made doing so once more fashionable and fun, adding also a story mode which put to shame or puerile playtime plots. The combination of all these factors resulted in Injustice becoming my most played multiplayer game for years after it dropped, often having friends over for marathon sessions of versus mode.
Needless to say, I’d been anticipating the sequel since before its announcement, but with the reveal of the gear system my excitement only grew exponentially. As a philosopher, my writing often tends to focus on the narrative elements of comic books and video games, but I was first drawn to criticism not because of my passion for story, but rather my strong aesthetic sensibilities, particularly the visual arts – including fashion (fun fact I just found out right now – “fashionista” is the term for males as well). I’ve often perused sites like Project: Rooftop and DeviantArt just to see the costume concepts the comics fan community had conceived of. Before that, I’d subscribed to both City of Heroes and Champions Online primarily for their robust character creators, spending a majority of my time with those games in the creation screen.
The sartorial arts, like all artistic media, communicates meaning through a language all of its own. I’m often asked why I always wear my signature cowboy hat whenever I go out. My answer is that – at least here in downtown Hub City, New Jersey – this particular style of headwear serves to separate me from the surrounding society in an immediately obvious manner, same as a Sikh Turban, Jewish Yarmulke, bishop’s mitre, or a king’s crown. Since their inception in the Golden Age, superheroes have taken this thinking to its logical conclusion, dressing in uniforms unique each individually, emblazoned with the logo of their own personal brand, and outfitted with accoutrements which serve to signify their powers and purpose. As such, Superman wears a cape and trunks that hearken back to the circus strongmen of his Vaudeville-era origins, paired with a form-fitting unitard befitting the then futuristic Flash Gordon. Another Flash, Barry Allen, wears winged boots and a winged cowl in connection with the similarly fast footed Greek god Hermes. The similarly hermetic Shazam, like the Flash, likewise adopted the lightning bolt as his symbol, signifying the shamanistic power of his magic word. The examples are endless.
Injustice 2 invites players to participate in this process of continuing to define and redefine these iconic heroes through the garb they don and the colors they clothe themselves in. Dressing up these virtual dolls proves every bit as engaging as the frenetic fights themselves, particular because it is through such that the players become co-creators on these characters’ latest adventure, their part in the collaboration not unlike role of penciller or colorist to Netherrealm’s writer. My current Superman is clad in a regal gold armor that speaks more to his status as the Last Son of Krypton’s noble House of El than and the Midwestern farmboy who fights for the American Way, as per the Springsteen-esq Man of Steel from Morrison’s Action Comics run. As soon as I get back from the bars tonight – and assuming my thumb is up to it by then – I’ll be right back into the fray, fighting to find just the right shader to signify this particular Superman’s somewhat darker side. In real life, I’m a white hat – quite literally, as you’ll note from my profile picture – but given Injustice’s storyline, a bit of black seems appropriate. I’ve played for half a day straight and only found one shader so far, but given that the means of accessorizing these action figures is playing more rounds of Injustice, the search itself is a sheer joy. This beta is an utter elation – I could hardly imagine how much fun the full game will be come May, nor can I contain my excitement!