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.

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