Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Review: Justice (DC Comics)

This is the first of what we hope will be many reviews here at the DoM. There probably won't be one particular medium or genre that we focus on. Music, movies, books, graphic novels, whatever. If we have something to say about it, we'll review it. And leading things off is Justice, the recent limited series from DC. I believe I summed it up to Hooper simply as "Justice is a hoot."

The Legion of Doom is going to save the world. That’s the basic set-up behind DC’s Justice, a 12-issue series from writer Jim Krueger and artists Alex Ross and Doug Braithwaite.

Though it's been out in hardcover for a while, I still don't want to give too much away. Here's the basic story...Lex Luthor, Captain Cold, and the rest of the Legion of Doom are all having the same nightmare: The world is going to end, and when it does, the Justice League is powerless to stop it. Night after night, Armageddon comes in their dreams, and night after night Superman, Wonder Woman, and the rest fail to prevent it. So the Legion decides they’re going to have to be the ones who rescue humanity from the coming apocalypse. But since the JLA obviously won't trust that they have honorable intentions, they're going to have to incapacitate the League first.

There’s a little more to it than that, of course. The robotic villain Brainiac has a separate agenda that comes to light as the story progresses. Still, it’s a good set-up, and Krueger and Co. build the tension well through the first four issues. One standout sequence sees Superman going up against the combined might of Bizarro, Solomon Grundy, Metallo, and the Parasite. Things really start to hit the fan in issue 5, as we build to one heck of a showdown between the Justice League and their foes, with the JLA wearing beautiful Ross-designed suits of armor to withstand the combined might of their foes.

The JLA line-up is essentially that of the Satellite Era from the Silver Age of comics, when the team had their orbiting headquarters high above Earth. What has become the classic seven-member line-up (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter) is there, as well as several reserve members. The only notable exception I noticed from that old line-up was Firestorm. I’m wondering if Krueger and Ross have something against the character, or if they simply couldn’t find a spot for him in the story. It’s a shame, because he’s always been one of my favorite DC heroes. But maybe it’s just as well, because at times the sheer number of characters in the story is almost overwhelming. Just for kicks, here are the line-ups. With all these characters to juggle, I suppose I can’t begrudge the lack of one.

Justice League of America:
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
Martian Manhunter
Phantom Stranger
Green Arrow
Black Canary
Elongated Man
Red Tornado

JLA reserve members: Plastic Man, Captain Marvel

Also appearing are the Doom Patrol, Doc Magnus and the Metal Men, the Teen Titans and some other secondary heroes.

Legion of Doom:

Lex Luthor
Poison Ivy
Black Manta
Solomon Grundy
Black Adam
Captain Cold
Gorilla Grodd

The Joker also appears, though not as a member of the LoD. He’s a wild card in their plans, which is befitting.

Even with so many characters running around, the characterization is strong and their voices ring true. Still, I wish Batman wasn’t so infallible. Thankfully though, he’s not written as the smartest man in the world, as recent writers have made him out to be. Everyone gets some nice character moments, with Green Lantern’s journey before he rejoins the heroes being a standout in my opinion. And Aquaman, so maligned and mocked by today’s pop culture, really gets to be something of a badass. His son has been taken by Brainiac as part of his plot, and come hell or high water (no pun intended) he’s going to get him back.

The series is set just outside current DC continuity, with appearances by some characters who are either currently deceased (Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash), or currently appear in some other incarnation (the Teen Titans, Supergirl, etc.) While it features more Silver Age-inspired characters, it looks to be set in the present day, with a throwaway reference to the internet being the only real hint.

The art is a two-man job. Breakdowns were done by Braithwaite, with Ross painting over his pencils. It’s the first time Ross has done this on a long-form project, and it looks quite good. It’s not seamless, but it certainly gets the job done. The afore-mentioned armors are gorgeous, and while they’re certainly a bit of an indulgence, they do serve the story.

Justice probably isn’t going to be held in as high regard as Kingdom Come, Ross’ last high-profile project for DC. And it doesn’t need to be, because its aspirations aren’t as high as that story. Kingdom Come had an epic feel to it, whereas Justice is simply good old-fashioned superhero action. And sometimes, that’s all you need.

If you enjoy Justice, Buck also recommends:
Kingdom Come
Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters
Astro City Vol. 1: Life in the Big City
Superman: Up, Up, and Away
All-Star Superman Vol. 1

~ Buck

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