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.
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?