Justice #8

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.


Batman discusses with Superman how their secrets have been compromised and how “they want us to be afraid”. Superman flies off into space to obtain some solitude so he can think, and he sees Brainiac’s formerly cloaked floating cities and returns to his friends.

Flash arrives in Africa to apprehend Captain Cold, and after a brief confrontation, Flash takes the villain to Superman’s fortress where Batman interrogates Cold. Meanwhile, the other assembled Justice League members discuss the worms that Brainiac was mass producing and had previously infested both Superman and Batman with. Elongated Man wonders why he wasn’t attacked. Batman then briefs them on what Cold told him: that villains all had a same recurring nightmare about nuclear armageddon and how the heroes failed to save anyone. The mind-controlling worms also made possible the healing miracles that were reported throughout the world. It’s then that Aquaman arrives and demands to know why everyone is hiding at the Fortress.

A slightly disguised Joker ascends into one of Brainiac’s cities, while other villains arrive with an unconscious Supergirl, Batgirl, and Commissioner Gordon.

Within Green Lantern’s power ring, Hal is living in various memories, the dreams of his past, when the Phantom Stranger arrives, bringing Hal’s power battery. He recharges as he proclaims his oath.

At the Fortress, Captain Marvel tries to comfort Wonder Woman, who reveals that because of the centaur’s blood Cheetah infected her with, she is returning to the clay she was made from — she’s dying and doesn’t have much time left. Elongated Man confronts Plastic Man, telling him he shouldn’t be part of the Justice League and that they only need him.

Mera arrives and tells Aquaman that Garth kidnapped their son. Green Lantern appears, and later he uses his power ring to rid Batman of the worms inside him. Aquaman proclaims that because of what Brainiac did to him and others that he is going to kill him. Red Tornado informs Superman that the villains have taken “everyone we care for”, and we see the Teen Titans, Supergirl, Batgirl, and the Marvels under Brainiac’s sway.

Superman says “we begin to prepare for the fight to come. A fight for our lives … and theirs”. Elasti-Girl wonders if by stopping the villains that they will have doomed the planet as a spacecraft comes toward Earth.


Hail hail, the gang’s all here! Finally, the full might of the Justice League is assembled and preparing to strike back, even though their friends, partners, and probably even a good portion of the citizenry will be against them.

I had assumed when it’s revealed that Captain Cold is also infected with the worms, along with a previous conversation between Gorilla Grodd and Brainiac, that the nightmare the villains experienced was a ploy by Brainiac, so what is that ship at the end of the issue? Or is that a ploy on Ross’ part (via Elasti-Girl’s dialog) to keep us guessing, even though he’s played his hand about this plot point? Or is that part true and the revelation will be that they were trying to save humanity in their own twisted way?

There is another odd moment in this issue in Elongated Man’s (to me) uncharacteristic hostility toward Plastic Man. Perhaps Ralph is an unwitting mole? He did insist that he hadn’t been attacked, but then, that would make Plastic Man have some sort of importance to the plot that is still to be revealed two-thirds of the way through…? There’s too many new elements being introduced at this point that detract from the cohesiveness of the narrative.

There were some cool moments in the issue:

  • In the first scene, Batman tells Superman, “When you [tell everyone about his ability to see through walls], you take the power out of the shadows. You steal away a criminal’s safety in the dark. You make them afraid. And people say I’m the smart one.” Hah! That’s a great observation about Superman, giving him an edge that’s not apparent with his “boy scout” image. However, I would have put the emphasis on “them” in that sentence, not “afraid”: You make them afraid.
  • Batman threatens to remove Captain Cold’s fingers, and later, Superman’s observation that it wasn’t a bluff because Batman was still wearing Wonder Woman’s lasso, forcing him to speak the truth. That scene would have played better if Cold knew that detail, however.
  • I love the righteous anger from Aquaman. A piece of his brain was removed and the assaulted monarch he is, he wants retribution. Later, knowing that his child has been taken, he claims his sovereign right to kill the offender.
  • I loved the scene between Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman. I don’t care if it’s the wisdom of Solomon or just that Billy is a caring person, his consoling of Diana and her admission of her forthcoming demise was touching and poignant.
  • Finally, I liked seeing Ross’ Robin at the end.

Private Files

I found Batman’s observation that Barry is the “kind of man I would have hoped to become” had his parents not been murdered interesting. I assume he means the stalwart, trustworthy, and able person that Barry is, as opposed to what he follows that statement with: that Barry is a forensic specialist (or, as I prefer to think of Barry, a “police scientist”).

As for Captain Cold, Batman observes two things: 1) Snart’s wants are petty, meaning that he just wants money and not power (isn’t that kind of refreshing though?) and 2) “it is surprising to think how many of the … criminals [the Justice League encounters] seem to be created as a result of accidents”. It’s times like these that I want the world’s smartest man to take his musings to the next — meta — level. That could be an interesting story: Batman vs comic book storytelling. Or did we already get some of that on the Morrison run?

New Teen Titans v1 #38

Direct Download (48:58)

On this 233rd episode of the podcast, I talk about one of my very favorite comic books of all time: New Teen Titans v1 #38 by George Pérez, Marv Wolfman, Romeo Tanghal, Adrienne Roy, Ben Oda, and Len Wein.

Fantastic Comic Fan podcast, episode 28


Thanks for listening!

Justice #7

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.


The Martian Manhunter and Zatanna find Aquaman, and Zatanna asks, “What have they done to his brain?”

Brainiac has Grodd signal their agents, and the close associates or family of the Justice League are kidnapped.

Wonder Woman and Batman travel to the Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, awaiting the Man of Steel to arrive.

Hawkman and Hawkgirl destroy Toyman’s Brainiac-building factory, and Hawkman finds a clue.

Superman and Captain Marvel rescue Flash from his superspeed induced suicide.

Hal Jordan decides that living in a simulacrum of his life is the wrong choice and orders his ring to return his physical form to space so he can die there, but the ring’s programming refuses the request, telling Hal, “.. you will now live forever, alone”.

Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman arrive at the Rock of Eternity, looking for Billy, but find Black Adam instead.

Members of the Justice League and other superheroes gather at Superman’s Fortress and he let’s them in so that they can plan.

Martian Manhunter and Zatanna take Aquaman to Professor Niles Caulder to see what he can do, and he places Aquaman in a tank to heal. He tells them that Aquaman “is a man of untapped potential”.

Aqualad kidnaps Mera and Aquaman’s son and takes him to Black Manta, who says, “I can’t tell you how happy this is going to make Brainiac”.


This being the seventh issue, it makes sense that the heroes, who have been at a distinct disadvantage for more than half the story, are now starting to rally. But Brainiac’s plan is just getting started as well. What did he not get from Aquaman that he thinks he’ll get from the hero’s son? How will he use Lois Lane, Dick Grayson, and the rest against the heroes? Plot-wise, the series is finally starting to get interesting and move forward.

However, I wish at this point we knew more about the black sphere cities, or are they just another bottled city plot. Brainiac does seem to be in charge of the villains now, more so than Luthor. To that point, Brainiac responds to Luthor about his failure to kill the Leaguers with, “Still, if you want something done right…” and Grodd looks over at Luthor, seeing how he’ll respond but also judging him. The coalition is unraveling more and more.

I loved the monologue Flash was having as Superman and Captain Marvel worked out how to stop Barry’s run, which included this: “Iris. I wish I could just stop and sit with her.” Though, I don’t understand how Barry didn’t break his neck or anything else as he skipped over the ocean like a stone before Superman caught him.

We get a scene with Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman in the Rock of Eternity where Freddy says, “…magic words shouldn’t really work, should they? Makes you wonder about the power of any word. Or any speaker.” Given the prominence of that on the page, I wonder if this will come into play later. Or is it commenting on Luthor’s speech in an earlier issue?

Finally, given what Black Manta did to Mera and Aquaman’s son in another continuity, seeing Manta holding the baby certainly was a little chilling.

Private Files

Both files on Hawkman and Toyman are little more than Who’s Who entries, but they both touch on the nature of crime. In Hawkman’s entry, Batman comments on why Katar does what he does because he knew of a crimeless world once and wanted to stop crime on Earth. Toyman does what he does because he was a victim of a crime and, as Batman says, “Crime twists the entire world” — where one man fights against it, another embraces it. I don’t know if Ross intended these entries to be somewhat mirror images of each other, but, either way, the dichotomy works.

Justice #6

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.


Captain Marvel, despite his worry that he might be killing Superman, throws the Man of Steel into the sun, and wishes him good luck.

Ray Palmer tells his wife, Jean, that he may be the last Justice League member who is alive. After Jean leaves, the nurse attacks Ray, but he uses his size changing ability to escape and then attack the nurse, who is actually Giganta, by diving into her eye. This causes Giganta to fall out of the hospital room and land on Jean’s car.

Given the choice between waiting the seven hours it will take the ring to run out of power and spending eternity inside the ring as electronic impulses, Hal commands his ring to take him inside.

The Martian Manhunter leads Hawkman and Hawkgirl to Toyman’s factory, and then he departs for Superman’s Fortress.

Luthor and Brainiac discuss Captain Marvel’s interference and the next stage of their plan. The world’s media continue to highlight the good the super-villains have brought to the world and how the Justice League have seemingly abandoned them.

Superman bursts out of the sun and he and Captain Marvel head back toward Earth.

Wonder Woman arrives at the batcave, discovering that Poison Ivy is there. Diana fends off Ivy’s attack and frees Batman.

The Hawks enter Toyman’s warehouse, discovering it’s also a factory producing Brainiac doubles.

Superman and Captain Marvel approach the Justice League satellite, which then explodes, leaving Marvel to wonder about Red Tornado.

Batman electrocutes Wonder Woman, but she wraps her lasso around him, causing him to stop as Diana falls to the floor. He then punches  Poison Ivy. Gorilla Grodd, through a mind-controlled Alfred, threatens to kill him, saying, “You have no idea what’s coming”.

John Stewart arrives at Ferris Aircraft, looking for Hal Jordan. Thomas Kalmaku points to the sky, and John is not amused. Inside the power ring, Hal tries to get the ring to create autonomous, human simulacra, but it doesn’t understand. Hal wonders how long it will be “before I let space take me”.

Dr. Magnus examines Red Tornado’s body, the damage to which Magnus has determined was self-inflicted. Magnus is able to repair Tornado enough that he can speak. The android tells them that, because of the fish, he found Aquaman in Argentina.

The Flash continues his race around the world, repeating to himself that he cannot stop.


While I like the cover image of the Atom punching what I thought was Poison Ivy’s eye (which is not what happens in the issue, of course), the reflection of Ivy in the eye confused me. I don’t understand what Ross was trying to accomplish with this image, other than it looks kind of cool.

I liked the scenes with Captain Marvel and Superman. Marvel can “talk” to Superman in space because of magic, and we get that two-page splash of Superman flying out of the sun, presumably cured of the infestation. Later, as the League satellite explodes, there’s a panel of Superman’s face that, to me, expresses Superman’s growing despair. He’s been attacked by people who knows his secret, he’s nearly killed and mind-controlled, and he sees the League’s “home” destroyed. If anything, Ross should have played up this aspect more. In trying to get across the plot, he’s ignoring or glossing over the emotional toll this should be having on the characters.

Or perhaps Ross wanted to focus on that despair just a bit through Hal because this is the most we’ve really experienced with Green Lantern in this series so far, which makes me wonder why Ross wanted to sideline Hal this much. Is it, as Hal himself said, because he is unto a god and Ross wanted to avoid any deus ex machina?

There a few interesting details revealed in this issue. When Luthor and Brainiac discuss adjusting their plan, Grodd asks if he should “send the dream to Black Adam?”. So, just like that, the dream sequence we saw in issue one is simply a ruse, not motivated out of desperation. Bummer. Second, during that same discussion, Brainiac tells Luthor that if any superhero remains after their plan, “they will come with me and my people”. I thought he was referring to the supposed scores of people who are willingly asking to live in those black spheres, but perhaps it was a reference to the Brainiac androids that Toyman is building? Finally, despite that the final page showing the Flash running around the world still was not a good ending to the issue, seeing him so disheveled was effective. His face looks like an old man’s and his costume is baggy around his body, making it look like his constant movement is eating him alive.

Private Files

In the entry for the Atom, Batman calls Palmer a genius, but questions his motivation for fighting crime because it was out of love for his wife. As Batman decrees, “We cannot have relationships.” Then, perhaps ironically considering he is discussing a man whose power is shrinking, he brings up a larger, philosophical issue about the nature of crime. He calls it a “choice, a matter of will”. And then he goes one step further into judgement: “Modern sociology is the crime of suggesting that it is not”.  I wonder how much of this is Alex Ross’s interpretation of the character or his own outlook?

As far as the villain entry, I relearned (because I had forgotten the fact when I first read this issue nearly 20 years ago) that Giganta was evolved from an ape using Gorilla City technology. Batman wonders why she and the Atom never crossed path because of their thematic size-changing abilities.

Justice #5

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.

Private Files

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.