Writers: Jim Krueger, Alex Ross
Artists: Doug Braithwaite, Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics
Visually, Alex Ross is just amazing, isn’t he? There are many great artistic talents in comics, but Alex Ross stands alone in what he does. I guess James Jean is the closest I can think of. I just don’t know many other artists who put you into the emotional mindset of the characters like Alex. Superman’s furrowed brow that shows both his worry and his resolve. The Joker’s devilish glee portraying his wicked nature as well as a part of him that just wants to entertain. I really think I could read a story of a DC character doing laundry if it looked this good.
You can also always tell from an Alex Ross story that he’s a real fanboy. Every character is the ultimate, most powerful version of them. The best versions of every character appear, even if that means multiple versions (see both the green alien Brainiac as well as the metallic Brainiac head). It’s definitely a summertime cotton candy action movie on display, fast and furious. Not a heck of a lot of depth, but that’s not what is to be expected here.
I think that one of the only detractions I would give Justice is that the pacing feels just a bit off for a twelve issue miniseries. It will sound strange, but it seems simultaneously too fast and too slow. There’s just SO much going on in every page that it feels rushed, not allowing for at least a tiny bit of character exploration, but at the same time the action that is going on at times seems a bit slow. How long into the issue did it take before Martian Manhunter finally worked with Lex and Grodd instead of contemplating or describing it? How many times did Arthur yell out asking where his boy was? Nitpicks I know, but something I noticed.
Overall, I really enjoyed Justice. This is the scale that the Justice League SHOULD be on a consistent basis. Let the individual character titles have the slow character issues. JLA is THE action title (well….you know…other than that OTHER Action title). I REALLY loved the glimpse of the Legion at the end, but it only whets my appetite for an Alex Ross Legion story. We must see it, and soon. This is the Legion that is making a resurgence in current DC continuity, so the timing would be perfect. Four bullets all the way, and I’m sure that once I read it again all together, the pacing and other issues will take care of themselves.
Chris Murman: (Entire Series: )
“The people in the most danger are those closest to me. Imagine living with that every day.” With those words, Superman opens the final chapter of the latest Alex Ross anthology. It also closes this series well because it sums up the reason we’ve been on this journey for the past two years. When it was all said and done, I could have cared less that Alex Ross did the artwork on this book. Well…almost.
Looking back on the completed journey, this was a grand, epic tale fitting of the Justice League. You can see every step this creative team took along the way to provide texture and added layers to this complex story. The themes alone could give this maxi-series the legs to make it to the hallowed pantheon of DC greats.
This was a series meant for deluxe hardcover.
A few thoughts about this chapter, each deal with how diverse and rich the DCU has the possibility of being:
- I loved the scene with Aquaman versus Black Manta, dealing with the villain enslaving his own race.
- Same goes for the sacrifice Wonder Woman made. She cared nothing about her own life for the good of others, only to be made whole in the end.
- I loved the Lantern corps coming together in the end. You know Ross wanted them there just so he could paint Salak, Tomar Re and the rest.
- The pure rage on Brainiac’s face when he’d been caught was priceless.
- So was the love on the face of Diana’s mother as she held her lifeless daughter.
- Then we had the comedy aspect of this book. Joker popping out dressed as Dracula could have ended so many ways, but sinking his fake teeth into Crane’s neck topped them all.
The double splashes in this issue made the final chapter feel right. Much like Millar’s and Hitch’s Ultimates, there has always been a sense of the stage growing larger for this team. Am I building up this book a bit much? That remains to be seen. The sales numbers have certainly been more than adequate to rank this series among the best in a while. I have a sneaking suspicion the forthcoming trade and hardcover numbers will lift it even higher.
So what makes a story become a classic? Ah, opinions. I know the old joke: we all have one, and they all stink. For this writer’s money, however, there is an undeniable charge to be had by just combing through these issues. There are tons of little gems in the story I can’t wait to go back through. When the Riddler was hijacking Batman’s files early on in the series, could we have guessed the stakes would have been anted this high?
“What if, this time, rebuilding really means moving forward, beyond what was before? Perhaps there exists a possible benefit when hardship is also accepted as part of human life.” Bruce Wayne’s words, and this series as a whole, resonate in a way few can touch.
In closing, let me share with you about my long box at home. With a brand new wife living under my roof, the space for my comics to be put into storage has dwindled down considerably. The good part is I have become very selective about which comics I keep and which I sell back for trade at my LCS. I can say unequivocally, without a doubt, this series will be in my collection for a long time.
Justice reads like a reversal of all the mishandling that has occurred to DC’s many iconic figures. It’s drawn and written with reverence to “the world’s greatest super-heroes.”
I’ve complained that Superman has been navel-gazing far too often, and in the past he’s been portrayed as practically impotent. The Superman in Justice tears through the Toy Man’s robots while expressing the attributes of heroism in his narration: “Being bulletproof means nothing. There’s no such thing as bulletproof. Anything that bounces off me hits someone else. Could hit someone.”
Batman has been portrayed for the past ten years as a paranoid psychotic whose brooding cynicism is like a bottomless pit. He also has lacked a single well thought out plan. Woe times for a master strategist. In Justice, Batman doesn’t have colleagues. He has friends. He has a plan to save the world, and he’ll do whatever it takes. He also comprehends the consequences of actions. He gains depth and understands that he fights crime so others may live, not out of vengeance: “What if we really have changed this time? What if this time, rebuilding really means moving forward beyond what was before?”
Aquaman has been bearded, amputated and replaced. All for naught. Braithwaite and Ross reverse his greatest defeat--which occurred pre-Crisis and perhaps set down the pattern for his downfall as a character. In Justice, Aquaman succeeds. He out muscles and out thinks his opponent. His status as king isn’t a cue for pomposity. It’s a trait for wisdom, wisdom that can fathom the depths Black Manta has descended.
Numerous writers and hacks have attempted to find something to do with Wonder Woman, but in Justice she needs no new spin. Wonder Woman is simply the champion of the gods, but she fights to protect the innocent from harm rather than to appease a pantheon. Her deeds on behalf of humankind inadvertently honor the gods, and she will battle to her last breath. In Justice Ross, Krueger and Braithwaite take away every vestige of her recognizable aspects, yet the reader has no doubt who this character is. She is Diana. She is Wonder Woman.
Zatanna has been turned into a mind-wiping misfit. In Justice, Zatanna risks her life for the sake of humanity. The powerful sorceress almost seems like a plot device meant only to handle large armies and transport, but this is Krueger and Ross’ sleight of hand. Her simple acts endanger her life and bring the League closer to its victory. Her fate connects with Superman’s opening narration, and the reader sees her duality. She is at once one of the most powerful beings on the planet, yet still she is mortal.
I loathe Hal Jordan, yet if Ross and Krueger wrote this character, I suspect I would cheer for him as much as I did in Justice. This arrogant, stuck up egotist through his trials learns humility in Justice, and it’s his call for help that ensures the League’s victory against the Legion of Doom.
Even the co-stars earn moments of special treatment, considered characterization and the denial of the sometimes-monstrous events that have altered them. Batgirl in full costume walks. Supergirl looks human. Her powers are what you expect, and she doesn’t wallow in self-consumption. She concentrates on the problem and solves it. The Red Tornado reaffirms his humanity.
Echoes of continuity can be found in these pages, but Krueger, Ross and Braithwaite do not force it down the reader’s throat. It’s built on characterization, not exposition. It’s called into play because of the pragmatic needs of the story. Here be mind-wiping. No. Big. Deal. Green Arrow and Hawkman as philosophical opposites used to fight something fierce in the League, yet both may not witness the phoenix’s rebirth. The Flash’s concern for Diana to a Justice League of America reader calls back to Diana consistently teasing the Flash, and the Flash’s feelings of embarrassment when facing the Amazon princess. The surprising cameo by another group of heroes is absolutely fitting.
Justice is a testament to an American mythology that was created in the comic books. These are the immaculate heroes with which my generation is intimately familiar. So are Jim Krueger, Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross. I’m ready for my Absolute edition now.
A few months ago, I reviewed Justice #10 (which I also gave four bullets—as I would this series as a whole), and I wrote the following:
. . . there are some action scenes that are difficult to follow. This problem primarily occurs in fight scenes in which the perspective varies wildly from one panel to the next.That criticism has not changed with this most recent (and final) issue in the series. The action scenes continue to be difficult to follow with no transitions (either visually or verbally) between panels that depict action—such as on page 21 where we get three scenes broken down into seven panels. The first scene (four panels) shows several heroes rescuing children from “Poison Ivy’s city” (it’s one of seven that Luthor and Brainiac constructed for indigent humans).
The result of this wildly changing perspective is to either diminish or eliminate any sense of continuity from one panel to the next—a problem that is compounded by the use of disjointed dialogue.
Of course, it could be argued that the resulting “chaos” of shifting perspectives and disjointed dialogue simply helps to create the verisimilitude of a chaotic conflict between super powered beings who are slugging it out at near-lightning speed—and I accept that argument to some extent. Still, it gets frustrating to not be able to understand exactly what happened in a scene—especially after studying the panels for a while.
Primarily, those first four panels show Supergirl, Plastic Man, and the Marvel family rescuing the children from somewhere very high (I’m not sure where, but Plastic Man turns into a giant slide on which the children descend . . . before he turns into a bridge on which several heroes walk . . . before he turns into a hot air balloon on which several people ride . . . while being carried by the Marvel family—yeah, it doesn’t make much sense when you look at the panels either).
That first scene ends with Mary Marvel (in the third panel) saying to Captain Marvel, “That’s the last of the children. Have they stopped Brainiac?”
In the fourth panel, Captain Marvel answers, “I don’t know.”
Shift to panel #5 and the second scene on the page . . . of the Martian Manhunter, Lex Luthor, and Gorilla Grodd under water as the Martian is about to grab them—while a narrative caption from Batman tells us, “Of course Luthor’s suit would be able to repair its teleporting capabilities.”
Shift to the third scene and the final two panels . . . Green Lantern Hal Jordan in the stratosphere where his Power Ring says, “Ring’s charge is on reserve. Must recharge to insure survival of Green Lantern of Sector 2814.”
In response, Hal Jordan says, “No. Continue.” We then turn the page to an entirely different scene . . . of Luthor confronting Brainiac.
These erratic shifts (especially on the same page) is not the way to handle transitions between scenes, and these types of mechanical problems continues to grate on me when I read scripts written by Jim Krueger (I’m assuming Alex Ross’s role in the “writing” was in the plotting rather than the actual scripting of the text).
Still, despite Krueger’s continued problems in crafting his scripts, this conflict between the Legion of Doom and the Super Friends is wrapped up effectively, and the series as a whole has been very entertaining. My displeasure with some of Krueger’s technical errors as a writer is more than countered by the look of the painted illustrations by Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross—as well as by the obvious respect that all three creators have for the characters and the source material (e.g. the 1970s era Justice League of America comics and the animated Super Friends TV show).
We even got a couple of winks to the Hanna-Barbera show in the dialog—as when The Joker told The Scarecrow that they are “Super Friends” just as he incapacitated him, and when Plastic Man contorted himself into a new shape after he landed with his group in a field of wheat and shouted, “Form of a giant lawnmower!”
All that was missing was one final wink on the last page as Bruce Wayne narrates the conclusion while we watch Superman change into Clark Kent on the roof of the Daily Planet Building. As Clark opens the door to enter the building and return to work, Bruce’s last sentence is, “I see it in the lives of my friends.”
Shouldn’t he have said “super friends”?
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