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.

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