Writers: Alex Ross, Jim Krueger
Artists: Dougie Braithwaite, Alex Ross
Batman acting like a hero instead of a sphincter?
Batman behaving as if he were "The World's Greatest Detective?"
Batman being civil to his Justice League team-mates?
Batman inspiring rather than terrifying young Gothamites?
Batman drawn more realistic than ever before?
In this issue of Justice Krueger and Ross resuscitate the fun threat of the Riddler and pit him against the Batman. You know. Countless others have tried to find a purpose for the Riddler, and they just haven't been able to do it. They've found interesting new uses for the character. That's him conjuring up a demon inhabiting Gotham. That's him involved with a jazz legend. That's him--um--yeah, that's him. Kind of. Sort of.
The best incarnation of the Riddler can of course be found away from comic books. Voiced by John Glover who portrays Lionel Luthor, Lex's father, on Smallville, the animated Riddler of the Bruce Timm series updated the character without losing his essence. Ross' and Krueger's Riddler derives a lot of his resonance from the Timm Riddler, and indeed, you often hear John Glover speaking while reading the Riddler's dialogue.
Krueger and Ross add some details that fit like a glove to the original character's enigmatic story. Some may balk at these revisions, but they offer a smart contrast, identified in the narration, to the history of Batman and aren't really too far off the question mark.
Batman's voice in Justice shifts smoothly from Conroy to Keaton, and cosmos, the writing of the character just chimes off the pages in the way crystal sings from a moistened finger rolled around the edge of a glass.
Batman anticipates his foe's capabilities immediately and takes down two of his thugs. This Batman isn't shy about using whatever's at his disposal to eliminate crime. Sometimes you get the impression that the Batman writers believe that the Batmobile is merely a conveyance or a convenience. In Justice the Batmobile hasn't been this cool since the Tim Burton movies.
Batman plausibly loses round one to the Riddler. He doesn't do something stupid to let him get away. He doesn't forget about his utility belt. He doesn't forget that he's the supreme martial artist on the planet. He's simply surprised by a new device that's suitable to the Riddler's personality. In round two, Batman has already adapted.
The second issue of Justice reads a like a self-contained Batman story, but it's a chapter in a mini-series, and Ross and Krueger do check in on the other Leaguers. These bits do not feel extraneous but they do not impose themselves on the main story in the chapter. Krueger and Ross deal with the League in such a way to simply show them as part of Batman's life. If more writers did this, I'd have less about which to carp.
Doug Braithwaite has the unenviable task of providing pencils and layouts that will be swallowed by the eddy of Alex Ross' masterful painting ability, but in this issue there are some scenes that bear Braithwaite's stamp. Batman's trek of the Riddler through a Gotham nightspot features numerous "extras" punkified under the lens of Bat-Culture, and it's here you can see Braithwaite's modern sensibilities shining beneath the surface of Ross' paints.
This second chapter of Justice may be even better than the first, and that's saying a helluva lot. It relates a single Batman story while deepening and providing clues to the ongoing mystery of why the Legion of Doom are committing acts of kindness all across the world.
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