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.

Justice #4

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.


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.


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.

Justice #3

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.


Brainiac compliments Aquaman as a remarkable being. He tells his captive that humanity yearns to be part of something and that he is bringing it the very thing it’s always wanted. He says,  “Mother Nature played a dirty trick on humanity when she gave it desires for things beyond this world’s ability to satisfy. I mean to change this. And you … are an important part of my plan.”

Martian Manhunter searches the sea for Aquaman, finding the same black dome that Aquaman found before. When he enters, he discovers an empty city. As he starts to explore, he is attacked mentally. He sees the city on fire — he knows this is a trap and tells himself that he is in a city under the ocean. Gorilla Grod tells him, “I know what happened on Mars”. Martian Manhunter cries out, “…WATER…!” as he sees his people burn around him. Through the fire Manhunter “sees” the Legion of Doom, but Grod tells him, “I’m stronger than you. … You’ll never be seen again.”

In some war-torn country, Toyman gives a young boy a prosthetic arm. Priscilla Rich arrives at a hotel hosting the Wonder Women Conference with a pair of leashed cheetahs. In her hotel room, she sacrifices one of her pets “so that the Cheetah can be reborn”. Later, Cheetah advances on a room full of women who are listening to Diana talk.

Meanwhile, the Justice League members watch the news as it covers the actions of their seemingly reformed villains.

In Arkham, Joker tries to get Riddler to give him a clue as to what’s going on, but Nigma refuses. Lex Luthor appears in Riddler’s cell, berating him for almost giving it away to Batman. He’s come to take Riddler away for the “announcement”, and Joker screams, “You can’t do this to me!”

On the JLA satellite, Red Tornado discovers that Manhunter is also missing. He then notices unusual activity in the sea around the tip of South America: the sea life have converged, pinpointing Aquaman’s location. It’s then that Red Tornado pulls his own head off his body, telling someone who arrived moments before that “Someone’s controlling my motor functions! … Why won’t you help me?!”

Grod then transmits to the Legion of Doom members, “The satellite no longer holds any secrets,” and proceeds to reveal the secret identities of the Justice League. Lex Luthor then broadcasts to the world:

I think it’s time we made a statement about the many ways we’re trying to make life better for the common man.


This was an amazing next chapter with some truly spooky moments. I like that the cover reflects events in the book but differently. Given the build-up thus far, I didn’t expect the villains to “win” so decisively as they have (at least with three of our heroes — and the most powerful one — so far), symbolically shown by their raised arms in the background.

The creepiness of the issue is just intense! There’s the vicious attack on J’onn by a seemingly enhanced Grod. And that panel showing the the terror on Aquaman’s face as Brainiac says calmly, “You have no idea who it is who just killed you,” was the most chilling in the issue. Red Tornado’s bizarre self-mutilation as he implores whoever is there for help. And finally, the League’s secrets are revealed! There really are some great moments in this issue.

However, I did not care for the way the story was broken up. First, it makes for a choppy synopsis, which is why I chose to describe the scenes stitched together instead of a page by page breakdown. Second, to organize a story like this can be to increase the tension, but I found it mostly irritating and not really building the tension, at least not in a progressive way. Perhaps I’m just too impatient for the plot to move forward. Maybe this is why my memory of the series is tainted: the issues came out every two months and by the third issue (4 months) the mystery was still building?

At this point I’m very curious why they need Aquaman, plus, who was in the satellite with Red Tornado? The implication is that it was a member of the Justice League. Given that the villains are perhaps under some sort of control — illustrated by the glowing spots in their eyes over these three issues — maybe one of the heroes is as well (it’s a theory…)?

Little things I enjoyed:

  1. The exploration of Manhunter’s powers: “Martians … are not defined in physical geometry like the people of Earth. Mass and form are not concrete realities…. We don’t read minds. We share in other beings’ thoughts.”
  2. The single page showing Grod monitoring hero and villain alike. The final inset panel transitioning us to the following page was wonderfully done.
  3. The other single page showing the heroes in their civilian garb watching the news broadcasts discussing the change in their villains. The irritated skepticism on Ollie’s (Green Arrow) face is priceless!
  4. The city under the black dome that J’onn discovers has weather! Nice touch.
  5. The menace on Joker’s face after Luthor and Riddler leave.
  6. The fact that, despite the peril he’s in, Aquaman is able to direct the sea life to point the League in his direction. That’s bad ass!
  7. Finally, I love the image of the the large, bright, askew Justice League satellite over the Earth and, later, the small, silhouetted version after Red Tornado is attacked. I think those are wonderful artistic bookends in the issue.

Private Files

This issue features Martian Manhunter and Gorilla Grod, naturally. Batman first compares J’onn to himself and Superman (an amalgam of detective and superhuman) — I wonder if the character’s creators thought of that early on? Later in the entry, Batman comments about how fire is too common an occurrence for it to be a real reason for J’onn’s “hypersensitivity” to it, but his supposition doesn’t make sense to me: “Perhaps this is because his mass changes depending on the form he adopts”. I guess you can make some sort of connection between the variable nature of a Martian’s biology and the flickering nature of fire? But that’s a bit too poetic for Batman, I would think. If you have any theories, please let me know.

Grod’s entry is mostly a summation of the history of the character. The last paragraph, however, struck me: “His hunger for power is a reminder that crime is not merely the result of social inequalities”. It comes across as oddly political, both for Batman and for the author. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

Justice #2

By Alex Ross, Doug Braithwaite, Jim Krueger, & Klein. Cover by Ross.


Justice was a 12-issue limited (or maxi) series released in 2005-2007 (published bi-monthly). 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 Riddler has hacked into the Batcave computer via the Wayne Industries mainframe, and Batman arrives to retrieve the disk copy Riddler made of the information, which includes the Justice League satellite schematics and the Leaguers’ identities. As he chases Riddler, Batman tells Red Tornado that he will assist in looking for the missing Aquaman once he has the disk.

Elsewhere, Dr. Crane (aka Scarecrow) is curing patients with debilitating illnesses, allowing people “who were told they would never walk again” to “have left their beds and wheelchairs”, and he has done so anonymously.

Batman nearly captures Riddler at a nightclub, but the villain gets away and leaves the detective a clue: a preserved eyeball and ear inside a nesting doll.

Flash comes across the result of Captain Cold’s ice mountain, which has since melted and created an oasis. A witness tells Flash that there were others who helped, one of whom was Poison Ivy, who is elsewhere growing a fruit-bearing plant to help feed the local population. After she has done this, she mentions the “arrival of the Fall,” as tears stream down her face.

Batman traces Riddler to Gotham Cemetery and confronts and captures him there, but not before Riddler nearly straggles himself. He then declares, “What’s … wrong with me?” Riddler is taken to Arkham Asylum, where the Joker demands to be a part of the villains’ plan.

Aquaman awakens to find himself strapped down and unable to break free. It’s then that Brainiac tells him, “I need to understand you, and know you.” Brainiac holds up a bone saw, saying, “…I’m just trying to get inside your head.”


The cover is striking. First, you have the white background — a color that is not normally associated with Batman, who is the central figure. Second, there are the countenances of the Justice League, with their heads turned down, perhaps in judgement? Guilt? Martian Manhunter, however, is looking straight at us, though with shaded eyes (given that he appears to be the focus in the next issue, is this Ross’s sly way of indicating that?). What are they hiding? This idea of concealment is accentuated by Riddler’s cloak and the light emanating from within it — it’s a lovely dichotomy: light is usually associated with truth, but he conceals it under a darkness, smiling as he looks upwards — usually a sign of hopefulness — in direct opposition to the Justice Leaguers. Just lovely work.

Speaking of Riddler, I love Ross’s version of him with that long, black overcoat and a green light shining from within it — he is the living embodiment of the riddle he leaves for Batman in the nesting doll! Plus, he now has a “light-based hologram generator” (the source of the light under his coat I suppose) that spewed out question marks with enough candle power to blind Batman in order to escape. Speaking of riddles, much of the issue has Batman pondering what Riddler is telling him, as well as what we “hear” Riddler saying to others. I shall have to remember to look back at this issue as this overall mystery unfolds to see how the enigmatic clues tie into it.

Then there’s the capture scene with Riddler straggling himself. He seems to be under some sort of influence — does this mean the other villains are as well? Cold and Ivy made the oasis, and Crane cured people, yet Brainiac is going to cut open Aquaman’s head to get at his brain (and why? Something to do with Arthur’s telepathy?)? (By the way, this is slyly foreshadowed just two panels before the final page with a chimpanzee’s[?] head on a tray in the background with the top part of its skull having been cut off and showing the brain.) I continue to love the slow build of the mystery and seeing the villains (for the most part) acting out of turn.

Finally, the tears. We see Poison Ivy crying, presumably about the forthcoming end of the world, but the Legion of Doom is trying to save the world — does she not believe their plan will work? Or is it because she knows that no matter what they do, even if successful in preventing the world’s destruction, people will suffer and die…? It potentially raises Ivy to a new level, at least in terms of empathy for other people. Also, in the previous issue we see Superman crying in the vision the villains keep having. Is this to be a recurring motif?

Private Files

This issue features Riddler and Brainiac (of course Bruce wouldn’t have a file on himself…). I love the revelation (at least it was to me) that Riddler’s compulsion  is possibly driven by his father’s demand that he speak the truth regardless of consequence. I think that elevates the character to something more than just a themed rogue for Batman.

Also regarding Ross’s designs, showing Brainiac with those electrodes or nodes or whatever as being embedded in his skin is brilliant. It accentuates the alien quality of the character compared to his Silver Age appearance. The whole mad scientist visual is a bit new and forced to fit the plot, if I’m being honest. And I’m not sure why Bruce (Ross) wants to have Brainiac embody artificial envy, greed, and hatred, as if the artificiality is somehow worse or more than “natural” envy, greed, and hatred?

I forgot to mention that the trade paperback collection I have are missing these Private Files, which is too bad because if you only have the collection, you are missing out on the pencil sketches of these characters by Ross. It makes me want to see Ross do a black and white series with just his pencil work, it’s that good.