By Alex Ross, Doug Braithwaite, Jim Krueger, & Klein. Cover by Ross.
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.
Iris West calls Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, because she’s concerned about Barry. Ralph tells her that he’s called some other heroes for help and that
Something is really wrong with this picture. The world’s worst super-villains are acting like the world’s greatest heroes … and the Justice League is nowhere to be found.
In the ocean, Martian Manhunter realizes he’s free of the mental fire inflicted on him by Gorilla Grodd. He flies away, unaware that Flash is running below him.
Luthor visits Brainiac, who reveals that he knows Lex is plotting against him. Regardless, Brainiac shows Luthor that he has the “cities” — marble-sized, black spheres.
In Metropolis, Metallo tells Superman good-bye, about to deliver a killing blow, but then a golden streak incapacitates the assembled villains. It’s Captain Marvel, who tells Superman that he got his signal and that everything is going to be okay. He leaves with Superman before Bizarro can engage them. Luthor arrives and saves both Parasite and Metallo.
Jean Loring sits beside Ray Palmer, who lies unconscious in a hospital bed. She tells him that despite her not wanting him to be the Atom anymore, he can be if that’s the only way she can have him back.
Cheetah and Wonder Woman continue their fight, with Cheetah telling Diana that she’s been infected with centaur’s poison: “Do you sense uncreation already?” However, Wonder Woman is able to turn the tide of the fight and Cheetah retreats.
Dinah sees Oliver being assaulted by Clayface and shrieks at the villain, allowing Oliver to use a lamp to shock Clayface. Both Scarecrow and Clayface run off.
The first people Martian Manhunter is able to telepathically contact is Hawkman and Hawkgirl. He tells them it was all the super-villains attacking the League.
Green Lantern asks his ring where he is, but it cannot determine his location. However, it does know that Sinestro used a boom tube to transport him across the universe, which prompts Hal to ask, “How much longer before your charge runs out and I die?”
Superman directs Captain Marvel to take him to Batman. Batman is not happy that Superman has brought Marvel, and Marvel turns into Billy Batson to make Batman feel more comfortable. Superman asks what’s going on before punching Batman unconscious. He tells Billy that Batman was about to kill him with kryptonite and that he could see microscopic mechanical worms in Batman’s brain, controlling him. To his horror, Superman sees the worms in himself.
On the batcomputer screen, Luthor is telling the world that the villains are offering cities for those “who feel they have a right to a better life”. Luthor then tosses the black spheres into the ocean and they rise again, hundreds of times larger than before.
Alfred threatens to kill Billy with a batarang, but Billy frees himself and Superman hits Alfred with a coffee cup to the head. Billy returns to being Captain Marvel, and Superman tells him that in order to rid himself of the worms that Marvel is going to have to throw him into the sun.
While the first third of the series had the heroes on the ropes, this issue starts to turn the tide. Most of the Justice Leaguers have thwarted their assailants — Lex will be surprised when he learns that the Leaguers aren’t, after all, either dead or incapacitated, as he told Brainiac. Speaking of Brainiac, I like his cold, calculating characterization seen in previous issues continue in that he bluntly tells Luthor he knows the human is plotting against him.
In the aforementioned scene, Brainiac holds the six small spheres that Luthor later throws into the ocean. So what was the one Aquaman and Martian Manhunter found, a prototype? Are there seven cities? If so, that’s a nice bit of symmetry given the core seven Justice Leaguers.
However, in this issue, we start to see some other folks within that sphere, including my favorite stretchster, Elongated Man. He’s only on one page, but you get a good sense of who he is and the relationship between him and his wife — I love it! Given that Justice followed Identity Crisis, it was nice to see Jean Loring before she went crazy in the latter series. And then there’s the welcome presence of Captain Marvel, especially when he’s chastised by Batman for calling down his magic lightning in the batcave (where’s the wisdom of Solomon there?). I can’t help thinking that with Marvel on the team, with Superman, they could make quick work of the villains, so what interferes with that?
If nothing else, it could be the villains themselves. Cheetah is too intent on killing Wonder Woman. Scarecrow and Clayface are chased off too easily. Brainiac and Luthor are trying to one-up the other. And that look that Bizarro gave Luthor after he told the group, but looking directly at the creature, “You don’t deserve to live.” — at first I thought it was anger coming from Bizarro, but looking at it again in two different panels, it seems to be the look of a child who has disappointed his father, again. Will that ultimately turn Bizarro against Luthor?
What was not disappointing were some of the smaller scenes. For example, when Dinah realizes why Ollie had the earplugs in and says, “The wig …? And you thought …? That’s why you …?” In fact, this is a scene that pays off from last issue, because when Ollie thought “Dinah” wanted to cosplay, he reached for something on his nightstand and I could not tell what they were (some odd prophylactic?). There were a couple scenes in the batcave: 1) After Batman chastises Billy for shazaming the lightning in a cave, Billy tells him it’s magic lightning, and Batman, somewhat uncharacteristically sarcastic responds, “Oh, magic lightning. That makes it okay, then.” 2) Batman then turns his ire on Superman: “How could do this, Superman? You brought a child into the cave.” Superman, taking on the persona of Alfred, cheekily tells the dark knight detective, “Should I tell Robin?” :D
Also great was the splash page of Captain Marvel arriving to save Superman. Then there’s a two-page spread of the batcave, showing a 1989 Batman film look to the batmobile and batboat. Plus, the “original” bat-man costume worn by Thomas Wayne (as seen in Detective Comics #235) is shown prominently in the foreground — I love artistic touches like that. Finally, Ross gives us another two-page spread in this issue of Superman clocking Batman — you can even see spittle and blood!
The issue ends with a great line: Superman tells Marvel, “You going to have to throw me into the sun.” I can’t wait to see how this plays out.
Superman’s entry is odd for a couple reasons. Batman’s observation that Kal-El’s adoption is perhaps what “formed his primary sense of hope” despite what he lost as the last son of Krypton. Yet, the picture Ross chose to represent Superman is one of almost menace — immense power, certainly. He also points out the duality of his friend. When referring to how bullets bounce off of Superman, his response is “Not like us. Not like the people of Earth,” accentuating the alieness. Later he writes, “While his physiology makes him an alien, he is a human, almost frustratingly so.” What about Superman’s humanity frustrates Batman? I’d love for this to be explored more.
The entry for Cheetah is less interesting to me for her character than it is about Batman’s observation about himself in it. “It is a curse to be raised among the wealthy,” he writes.
When I consider who I might have been, who I might have become if things had been different, I am almost grateful for this life I live. Not for what happened to make me what I am, but for what I may have been saved from.
Ignoring the “curse” of being wealthy comment, the idea that Bruce Wayne would have been someone completely different if not for the murder of his parents has been explored elsewhere to varying degrees (most recently, in my reading, in the wonderful “Archive of Worlds” story starting in Batman/Superman vol 2 #16).
I really like the bit of humor that comes out in these private files, because for Wonder Woman, Batman notes that sometimes Diana tries to hide her identity as Diana Prince, “if such a thing were possible”. I think that many Wonder Woman fans, after the New 52 title by Cliff Chiang and Brian Azzarello, would also agree with this comment: “It is a mistake many make to categorize her as a warrior.” This next comment seems to me to be more of Alex Ross’ (or perhaps Jim Krueger’s?) point of view: “it is easy to see why popular speculation would see her as a possible mate for Superman.” But then, illogically, Batman says that she knows “too well the role we have chosen,” and “that we cannot risk loved ones,” yet, there’s Steve Trevor in her life …?
In Poison Ivy’s entry, Batman is most blunt: “Pamela Isley is insane.” He also notes that because “she commands and is capable of manipulating the very life form necessary for every creature on Earth to breathe,” it makes her one of the most dangerous villains. This is an aspect I don’t think has been explored? Finally, the black and white pencil sketch Ross did of Ivy is perhaps even more beautiful than the color portraits of Superman and Wonder Woman.