Warner Bros. has acquired US developer Snowblind Studios, strengthening the money-making entertainment arm of the US media giant.
It's hard to imagine just what it is exactly that comics have to do in order to become culturally esteemed. Despite a Pulitzer Prize for Art Spiegleman's Maus, the story of his father's survival of Auschwitz that brims with tears and sad importance; despite the consistently back-breaking and astonishing prose of Alan Moore's twenty years of output From Hell to Watchmen; despite the tender, broken honesty of Steven Seagal's wrestle with Superman in It's a Bird, or the sub cultural incisiveness of our own Kieron Gillen's Phonogram (we have to be nice about that one else, if the opening chapters are anything to go by, he'd rape us with magic) they're still ranked lower than blue cheese on the leaderboard of humanity's creative output. Being several places higher than videogames probably isn't much comfort.
But then, in Justice League Heroes, a comic book made videogame, as you flick a buckling dumper truck onto your upturned palm and launch it into the facial circuitry of a rebellious robot lunging not three metres away without even laddering your lycra, you have to ask: who gives a flying hulk. It's quickly clear that superhero comics, fired in the crucible of boyhood dreams of catching speeding bullets, fearlessly fighting crime, panning X-ray vision across crowds of girls and enjoying super human strength and simpering fans can still etch excitement across the highest of brow. Indeed, it's this visceral joy that Justice League Heroes so successfully marries with the similarly basic but instinctive gameplay of the arcade hack and slasher.
Developer Snowblind Studios became famous for Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and it's this experience creating mostly mindless-but-enjoyable hack and slash dungeon crawlers that underpins this game. The mash-up works fantastically; the superhero repapering lending the formula a freshness and urgency missing from its cloak and dagger dressed orc cousins. The Justice League, for the uninitiated, is DC's superhero supergroup (made up of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and The Flash). Formed in the 1960s but recently made popular through Cartoon Network's reimagining, this game shares the same scriptwriter, Dwayne McDuffle, as the animated series, and the look of Superman and Batrman et al has been retained even if the voice actors have been changed.
Later this year we'll see the release of Justice League Heroes for Xbox, PS2 and PSP - and, Eidos has just revealed, for Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance.
Warner Bros and Eidos have done a deal to bring Justice League Heroes to Europe on PS2, Xbox and PSP this autumn.