By Alex Ross, Doug Braithwaite, Jim Krueger, & Todd Klein. Cover by Ross.
Justice was a 12-issue limited (or maxi) series (published bi-monthly) whose first issue was released with an October 2005 cover date (published on August 3). It was conceived by Ross to be a “Superhuman war. The superhuman war.” After having completed my look at the 52 weekly series, Justice was the first series I thought of to do in a similar fashion, partly because it was only 12 issues and that I have not read this since it was first published. I recall being a bit frustrated with the series, perhaps because, besides the beautiful art, the package as a whole doesn’t hold up, but I don’t recall specifically why. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll discover a new appreciation for the series. Please join me, won’t you?
For more information about the series, there are two archived interviews with Alex Ross about the conception of the series, his viewpoints about the characters, and the process of making these issues. You can find them here (as long as the Wayback Machine maintains them anyway):
Metropolis is attacked, and Superman does his best to save Lois and others, but he quickly discovers the destruction is engulfing everything. He calls the Justice League, and they tell him similar things are happening all over the world. Eventually, Earth explodes, with a grieving Superman flying out into space. This, it turns out, is just a shared dream that the world’s supervillains are experiencing, repeatedly.
In Atlantis, Aquaman receives a message from some sharks that he intends to investigate. Elsewhere, in an Arabian desert, Captain Cold arrives and creates a mountain of ice. He tells his companion, “Tell everyone. … show them what I did here. … Maybe now I’ll be able to get a decent night’s sleep.” Back in the ocean, Aquaman is attacked by Black Manta who seems able to control the ocean’s creatures. Aquaman is soon rendered unconscious and delivered to the Legion of Doom’s headquarters where Lex Luthor tells Black Manta, “You’re the first to arrive.”
Justice came out after the treasury specials Alex Ross and Paul Dini did in 1998-2003, with JLA: Liberty and Justice being the final one. I was excited to read this series, it being the first of a “regular” (bi-monthly) comic book that Ross worked on that featured the “classic” (i.e., late Silver Age or Super Friends) versions of the JLA and their villainous counterparts. I’d say this first issue started out very strong, especially with the harrowing world destruction scene, though the constant “voiceover” by Lex Luthor got to be a bit much. However, it does provide the beginning of an explanation as to why he and his cohorts are (or will be) doing what they are and it’s to save the world when the superheroes cannot! Whether this turns out to be true remains to be seen. I don’t know, because I don’t recall any of the details about this series (it was 17 years ago!).
I particularly enjoyed the four pages between Aquaman and Mera. I would read a series based on this interpretation of the characters. Plus, I love the lighting provided by the pink jellyfish. Aquaman mounts a giant sea horse, letting us know that we are squarely in the Super Friends mode of the JLA, which I’m ok with.
I found the two-page scene with Captain Cold confusing at first — why does he make that mountain of ice? What does it have to do with what he tells his passenger?
“I want you to tell your people that we’ve had enough, okay? We don’t want to save the world if that only means keeping it the way it was.”
But it does set up an intriguing conflict: if the villains are trying to save the world, at least as they see it, what will the superheroes do?
It was disheartening to see Aquaman go down so quickly (he doesn’t come across as a very intelligent fighter, more reactionary) — it kind of reinforces the criticism that Aquaman is the lame superhero who talks to fish. But they do need to get the plot moving.
The “reveal” of Lex Luthor on the last page is not surprising if you read the narrative boxes throughout the issue, but at least it’s at a page turn in the issue unlike in the collected edition, thus spoiling the reveal.
Having read this issue for the first time in 17 years, I have to say I really liked it. It’s a good setup with some great art. Braithwaite’s layouts are varied and I like the backgrounds and details thrown in. Ross’s figures, inking, and coloring are great too.
The issue ends with some notes on various characters from Bruce Wayne’s private Batcomputer files and a character spotlight by Ross. This issue it’s a file each on Aquaman, Black Manta, and Lex Luthor, with the latter two are black and white pencil sketches that show us different aspects of each. It’s funny, it’s almost like Ross and company want to do a Legion of Doom centric comic book. I wonder how this will play out throughout the series.