[Spoilers for Injustice Gods Among Us: Year Five chapter #23.]
It's almost time for the grand finale of Injustice Gods Among Us: Year Five, but this time, readers already know how the story ends.
Based on the Injustice Gods Among Us video game, the comic book started its story five years before the beginning of the game's story.
As such, this volume of the comic — the Year Five installment — is quickly winding toward the story's end.
In the Injustice universe, the Joker drives Superman to a fatal extreme by killing Lois Lane-Kent and the couple's unborn child — an event that happened five years before the start of the game. Since it launched in 2013, the comic has been exploring the five-year gap between the Joker event and the start of the game, where Superman rules the Earth with an iron fist.
In this week's Chapter #23 of the Injustice: Year Five comic book (which has a 40-chapter run), Superman basically ordered the murder of Alfred Pennyworth — something that's sure to further incense an already ticked off Batman. What comes next? Newsarama talked to Injustice: Year Five writer Brian Buccellato to find out.
Newsarama: Brian, this week's chapter had quite a surprise in it. Is this a game-changer? Batman was questioning whether he was taking the right approach. I assume he'll be pretty ticked off when he learns that Alfred has been killed?
Brian Buccellato: Oh yeah, he'll be very unhappy. Alfred is his family. So he's going to be pissed.
Nrama: What's been interesting about this whole story is that we know where the story is going, because of the video game. But you're surprising us with the road there. You're getting close now, right? Do you have to make sure you hit all the story beats over the next few months?
Buccellato: Yeah, I think Year Five has been a lot of that. It was always my intention to focus on the villains in Year Five. But even beyond that, there were certain things that had to be set up so they match with the game. So there was a little bit of tidying up and getting things where they need to be — all obviously through creative means; not just checking things off, but finding interesting ways to take the characters from where they are in the comic book and get them where they need to be in the video game. So there was some of that.
We've been planning this year for awhile, so I have it all mapped out. I know where it goes. I know how we get there. So right now, we're just past the midpoint of that. It's definitely — you know, the train is marching toward the station, but we're not there yet.
Nrama: We know where Superman's head eventually gets. It seems like he's pretty much already there, isn't he? Or is he close to being there?
Buccellato: I think in the case of Superman, I think he's one of the characters at this point who's just about there. This year, he's done some really terrible things. Year Three and Year Four, I felt like, were way more transitional years for him. But by Year Five, he's Emperor Superman now, and he murdered 200 people. He's got no qualms about killing if it means creating this weird utopian concept in his head and imposing his will on Planet Earth.
So I think in the case of Superman, he's pretty much there already.
Nrama: Do you feel like the other half of this year's story, as we head toward the finale, does the pacing get quicker as it ramps up?
Buccellato: It does, but one of my goals for this whole year was to explore different characters and give them a little bit of a moment in the sun so we can see how the Injustice universe affects them. There's been a storyline involving Hawkman and Hawkgirl. We've seen Harley, how she's dealing with things. We see a little bit of Shazam's naiveté in that little storyline with Harley.
Down the road, we're going to have a Flash storyline. So we'll get to see how it affects him.
For me, it's really just been about getting all these different people, these different characters — because we have a whole universe of characters, and we could literally write this forever, because there are so many to see this story through their eyes.
But for me, it was picking characters that I find interesting and seeing how the world affects them, and ramping up for that finale.
So obviously, we're getting close. I think I have another 10 chapters or so.
Nrama: It's got to be fun for you to play in this universe for awhile. You've always had an end in sight — a predetermined end — but still, you've been able to explore how it's affecting a lot of different characters in the DCU.
Buccellato: Yeah. For me, it's an amazing opportunity to write pretty much whoever I want to write in the universe. I mean, obviously I can't write Green Arrow because he's gone. But there are plenty of other characters that deserve attention.
I mean, you know my love of Flash and my history writing Flash with Francis [Manapul] , so I was able to bring the Rogues this year and just explore. I mean, I could have written chapter after chapter about the Rogues. But I'm just happy I was able to spend some time on them, and I have a Flash issue coming up.
But I feel really fortunate to have been part of it.
Nrama: Why Victor Zsasz as the one to kill Alfred?
Buccellato: In Page one of this chapter, Superman basically sent him to do his bidding. It's a calculated choice by Superman, because Victor Zsasz is a homicidal maniac, and just sending Zsasz to the Batcave to get information from Alfred, he knows how it's going to end. He knows Alfred's not going to give it up.
It's a way of putting a hit on somebody without doing it.
So in some ways it's Clark justifying it to himself. It's pretty twisted, but to me, it seemed like a natural fit.
And Zsasz isn't some giant behemoth who's going to come squash Alfred. He's formidable, obviously, but Alfred's got some skills. So I thought it would be a pretty good battle.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the grand finale? I mean, we know what happens, right?
Buccellato: Yeah, we know what happens. We know the heroes are pulled into the Injustice universe. How we get there, the last six chapters will explore. And I'm hoping to be able to actually check in with those characters and see what they're lives are like. They get pulled into the game, and they're a big part of the game, but we haven't had any exposure to them, because our entire five-year run has been about the Injustice universe. So it may be really cool to focus on them for a minute, and see Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman in a time where they're not, you know, trying to knock each other's heads off.