Justice #4

By Alex Ross, Doug Braithwaite, Jim Krueger, & Klein. Cover by Ross.

Overview

Justice was a 12-issue limited (or maxi) series (published bi-monthly) released in 2005-2007. It was conceived by Ross to be a “Superhuman war. The superhuman war.” Because I haven’t read this since it was first published, I wanted to reexamine this series. To read previous posts, click the link.

Synopsis

Lex Luthor addresses the world, declaring that he and his compatriots are now doing what the so-called superheroes refuse to do: helping. About the Justice League, Luthor says,

They’re monsters, really, to have allowed things to go on as they have. Someone has to change the way this world works. That’s what we’re about to do. That’s what we are inviting you to be a part of.

As he does this, members of the Justice League are attacked in their secret identities:

  • Bizarro flies off with Clark Kent, and he is later joined later by Solomon Grundy, Parasite, and Metallo as they pummel Superman, who calls for someone, anyone to help him.
  • Sinestro distracts Hal Jordan as a Boom Tube sucks the hero away.
  • Scarecrow causes Dinah Lance to hallucinate being covered in bugs, while Clayface assails Oliver Queen in bed.
  • Cheetah savagely assaults Wonder Woman.
  • Toyman uses museum relics to ambush Carter and Shiera Hall.
  • A sniper (Giganta) nearly kills Ray Palmer.
  • Barry Allen receives Superman’s distress signal and races off to help, only to discover he is outracing himself and unable to stop because of the drug Captain Cold slipped in his soup.

Reaction

First, the cover: we see Luthor and Brainiac framing Bizarro and Superman. It evokes the old Luthor/Brainiac team and highlights the connection between Luthor’s creation (Bizarro) and Superman’s past (Brainiac and Kandor). I certainly hope this was intentional.

Seeing our heroes attacked as shown with the constant droning from Lex Luthor is really effective. It shows that when properly prepared with the right intel, these villains could easily gain the upper hand.

Superman being taken first is also a good tactic, but I will admit, seeing him shown as basically helpless seemed a bit out of character, though still affective. After all, he’s softened up by Bizarro’s and Solomon Grundy’s assault, then depowered by Parasite, and then Metallo comes in for the kill — I guess at that point it makes sense to see Superman, with tears falling down his face, crying out for help. It’s just so weird to see Superman so vulnerable.

Green Lantern being tossed out into a black void by a boom tube was the least interesting attack because it’s not clear if Sinestro caused the boom tube or this was just a means to show that Darkseid is somehow involved in this plot (but given the subterfuge, it seems unlikely?). Likewise, Cheetah fighting Wonder Woman is no more interesting than any other time it’s happened. Also, seeing Diana want to call the Justice League just after the fight starts seems so out of character for her as well.

The others, however, are attacked in safe spaces, which is more horrific. This is epitomized by the scene with Dinah and Ollie, with the latter in bed, presumably naked (you know Ollie sleeps in the nude!), thinking he’s about to get lucky, but it’s Clayface going to smother him. It gives me the heebie-jeebies. Plus, now I’m very interested to see how (or if?) Ross and company put the genie of the revealed secret identities back into the bottle.

It was interesting to see different villains take on the heroes. For example, Toyman with the Hawks and the Batman villains with Dinah and Ollie. Speaking of, no Batman in this issue. Was his identity not revealed in the satellite breach? Or is that encounter shown in a future issue?

I will admit, I either didn’t know or missed some details until I read another synopsis of this issue, namely, that it was Giganta who shoots Ray Palmer (nothing about her indicates to me that she’s Giganta) and that Captain Cold spiked Barry’s soup, but at least the latter was telegraphed upon a reread. Regardless, I continue to be impressed with the building tension as this series progresses. Why did I remember this not being that good?

Private Files

We get not two but four files this issue on Bizarro, Solomon Grundy, Metallo, and Parasite. Interesting that it’s the villains who attack Superman, but they are the ones we see the most in the issue.

For Bizarro, I like how Bruce mentions the creature as being a result of “early cloning technology” given how long cloning has been around as a concept in comic books. It gives this world a history that’s not too steeped (although, how long ago did Bruce write that entry?), which I like. Also, I like the pointed comment aimed at Luthor at having created the “engine of destruction he always thought Superman was”.

It’s curious to see the Batman express something near to fear in regards to Solomon Grundy. He mentions that his father was wrong when he told Bruce there was no such thing as a bogeyman because Grundy is that. Plus, Grundy is a zombie and be around after Bruce dies, giving this character a weight I hadn’t considered before. He also mentions Grundy’s strength as a rival for Superman’s. I knew Grundy was strong, but Kryptonian level?

Metallo’s entry is really just an origin synopsis, with no real commentary, which is a shame. I’m enjoying these glimpses into Bruce’s mind as he opines about these people.

I found Bruce’s comment about Parasite interesting: “… as long as Parasite lives, Superman is a threat to the world”. What an interesting way to state the danger inherit in Parasite, but that could apply to most of Superman’s enemies as well.

The Legion Project 39: The One That Got Away

Direct Download (1:57:22)

“A special flashback issue to Colossal Boy’s origin, the Science Police Academy, and Gigi’s musing over ‘the one that got away’.”

Timestamps:
(00:45) Preamble, plus quick thoughts on the upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes animated movie and the New Golden Age one-shot
(20:49) Legion of Super-Heroes #39 synopsis, general thoughts, and background information
(55:09) Cover and main discussion
(1:40:16) Letter column reactions, the ads, feedback, and Contest Winner Announcement!
(1:54:13) Wrap up and outro

Please leave comments below, send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com or peter@thedailyrios.com, or chat with us @longboxreview (Twitter, Mastodon, and Hive) or @peterjrios (Twitter).

Thanks for listening!

The Legion Project is a joint podcast production with Peter from The Daily Rios podcast (where you can also listen and subscribe to The Legion Project), where we discuss, issue by issue, the 1984 Legion of Super-Heroes (volume 3) series affectionately known as the “Baxter run”.

The Legion Project forum: https://justanotherfanboy.freeforums.net/board/19/legion-project

Intro theme: “Lost City” by RhoMusic

Justice #3

By Alex Ross, Doug Braithwaite, Jim Krueger, & Klein. Cover by Ross.

Overview

Justice was a 12-issue limited (or maxi) series (published bi-monthly) released in 2005-2007. It was conceived by Ross to be a “Superhuman war. The superhuman war.” Because I haven’t read this since it was first published, I wanted to reexamine this series. To read previous posts, click the link.

Synopsis

Brainiac compliments Aquaman as a remarkable being. He tells his captive that humanity yearns to be part of something and that he is bringing it the very thing it’s always wanted. He says,  “Mother Nature played a dirty trick on humanity when she gave it desires for things beyond this world’s ability to satisfy. I mean to change this. And you … are an important part of my plan.”

Martian Manhunter searches the sea for Aquaman, finding the same black dome that Aquaman found before. When he enters, he discovers an empty city. As he starts to explore, he is attacked mentally. He sees the city on fire — he knows this is a trap and tells himself that he is in a city under the ocean. Gorilla Grod tells him, “I know what happened on Mars”. Martian Manhunter cries out, “…WATER…!” as he sees his people burn around him. Through the fire Manhunter “sees” the Legion of Doom, but Grod tells him, “I’m stronger than you. … You’ll never be seen again.”

In some war-torn country, Toyman gives a young boy a prosthetic arm. Priscilla Rich arrives at a hotel hosting the Wonder Women Conference with a pair of leashed cheetahs. In her hotel room, she sacrifices one of her pets “so that the Cheetah can be reborn”. Later, Cheetah advances on a room full of women who are listening to Diana talk.

Meanwhile, the Justice League members watch the news as it covers the actions of their seemingly reformed villains.

In Arkham, Joker tries to get Riddler to give him a clue as to what’s going on, but Nigma refuses. Lex Luthor appears in Riddler’s cell, berating him for almost giving it away to Batman. He’s come to take Riddler away for the “announcement”, and Joker screams, “You can’t do this to me!”

On the JLA satellite, Red Tornado discovers that Manhunter is also missing. He then notices unusual activity in the sea around the tip of South America: the sea life have converged, pinpointing Aquaman’s location. It’s then that Red Tornado pulls his own head off his body, telling someone who arrived moments before that “Someone’s controlling my motor functions! … Why won’t you help me?!”

Grod then transmits to the Legion of Doom members, “The satellite no longer holds any secrets,” and proceeds to reveal the secret identities of the Justice League. Lex Luthor then broadcasts to the world:

I think it’s time we made a statement about the many ways we’re trying to make life better for the common man.

Reaction

This was an amazing next chapter with some truly spooky moments. I like that the cover reflects events in the book but differently. Given the build-up thus far, I didn’t expect the villains to “win” so decisively as they have (at least with three of our heroes — and the most powerful one — so far), symbolically shown by their raised arms in the background.

The creepiness of the issue is just intense! There’s the vicious attack on J’onn by a seemingly enhanced Grod. And that panel showing the the terror on Aquaman’s face as Brainiac says calmly, “You have no idea who it is who just killed you,” was the most chilling in the issue. Red Tornado’s bizarre self-mutilation as he implores whoever is there for help. And finally, the League’s secrets are revealed! There really are some great moments in this issue.

However, I did not care for the way the story was broken up. First, it makes for a choppy synopsis, which is why I chose to describe the scenes stitched together instead of a page by page breakdown. Second, to organize a story like this can be to increase the tension, but I found it mostly irritating and not really building the tension, at least not in a progressive way. Perhaps I’m just too impatient for the plot to move forward. Maybe this is why my memory of the series is tainted: the issues came out every two months and by the third issue (4 months) the mystery was still building?

At this point I’m very curious why they need Aquaman, plus, who was in the satellite with Red Tornado? The implication is that it was a member of the Justice League. Given that the villains are perhaps under some sort of control — illustrated by the glowing spots in their eyes over these three issues — maybe one of the heroes is as well (it’s a theory…)?

Little things I enjoyed:

  1. The exploration of Manhunter’s powers: “Martians … are not defined in physical geometry like the people of Earth. Mass and form are not concrete realities…. We don’t read minds. We share in other beings’ thoughts.”
  2. The single page showing Grod monitoring hero and villain alike. The final inset panel transitioning us to the following page was wonderfully done.
  3. The other single page showing the heroes in their civilian garb watching the news broadcasts discussing the change in their villains. The irritated skepticism on Ollie’s (Green Arrow) face is priceless!
  4. The city under the black dome that J’onn discovers has weather! Nice touch.
  5. The menace on Joker’s face after Luthor and Riddler leave.
  6. The fact that, despite the peril he’s in, Aquaman is able to direct the sea life to point the League in his direction. That’s bad ass!
  7. Finally, I love the image of the the large, bright, askew Justice League satellite over the Earth and, later, the small, silhouetted version after Red Tornado is attacked. I think those are wonderful artistic bookends in the issue.

Private Files

This issue features Martian Manhunter and Gorilla Grod, naturally. Batman first compares J’onn to himself and Superman (an amalgam of detective and superhuman) — I wonder if the character’s creators thought of that early on? Later in the entry, Batman comments about how fire is too common an occurrence for it to be a real reason for J’onn’s “hypersensitivity” to it, but his supposition doesn’t make sense to me: “Perhaps this is because his mass changes depending on the form he adopts”. I guess you can make some sort of connection between the variable nature of a Martian’s biology and the flickering nature of fire? But that’s a bit too poetic for Batman, I would think. If you have any theories, please let me know.

Grod’s entry is mostly a summation of the history of the character. The last paragraph, however, struck me: “His hunger for power is a reminder that crime is not merely the result of social inequalities”. It comes across as oddly political, both for Batman and for the author. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

Christmas Gab Bag 2022

Direct Download (2:00:52)

Happy holidays! After an unexpected year off (curse you 2021!), George from Meanwhile at the Podcast returns for our annual Christmas gab bag discussion. This year we discuss the following Christmas related comic books:

  • Super-Sized Alf Holiday Special (1990, Marvel Comics)
  • DC Special Series #21, “Super-Star Holiday Special” (1979, DC Comics)
  • Hot Wheels #6 (1971, DC Comics)
  • Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special #1 (2011, DC Comics)
  • Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol Holiday Special (2002, Airwave Comics)
  • Batman: Noël (2011, DC Comics)

Listen to previous Christmas Gab Bag episodes: https://longboxreview.com/tag/gab-bag/.

Listen to George’s solo gab bag episode: https://meanwhileatthepodcast.libsyn.com/139-christmas-gab-bag-2021.

Please subscribe to Meanwhile at the Podcast and interact with George, Rodney, Kristin, or Rich through the following:

Feedback!

Thanks for listening!

Message Recall

I had one of those experiences years ago where someone direct messaged me asking about coming onto the podcast. This is someone whose work I had been following and enjoyed, but I was extremely surprised that they had reached out (and no, I’m not going to reveal who). My show was (is?) not well-known, let alone for the specific content this person was producing at that time.

So, I had to think about it for a while. I hadn’t done many interviews with people whom I have not already met or known, but after some thought, I decided to throw caution to the wind and take a chance! I responded with, “Sure! I assume you want to talk about the new —?” While I waited for the person’s reply, I started doing my homework: detailing who this person was, what they had been working on, and coming up with questions.

A day or two passed, but no response. I began to wonder: was the request a mistake? After all, there are other podcasts with “Longbox” in their title (let alone “Review”). Maybe this person meant to message that other podcast, or, just as likely, someone in their social media list who was before or after my name and they messaged the wrong person. Given that I never heard back, I assume the latter. I can only imagine that after I messaged them back, they thought, “Oh, shit! I contacted the wrong guy/show! What do I do?! If I say, ‘Sorry, I meant to send this to —‘, I’ll look like an asshole. I know, I’ll just pretend I hadn’t sent the message…”.

I don’t blame them for not responding. Who hasn’t accidentally sent a message you immediately wish you could recall and hoping the recipient hadn’t seen it? Still, it would have been interesting and probably a lot of fun had they responded and we did the interview (after all, more coverage is always a good thing). Oh well, maybe one day….