Justice #2

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

Overview

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.

Synopsis

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.”

Reaction

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.

Justice #1

Hero Cover

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

Villain Cover (not in my collection)

Overview

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):

Synopsis

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.”

Reaction

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.

52! Week Fifty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Brabo, Baron, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Homecoming”

Week 51, Day 1

Animal Man arrives on Earth and reunites with his wife and kids.

Week 51, Day 2

People gather at Superboy’s memorial to commemorate his sacrifice a year earlier. Diana Prince, Bruce Wayne, and Clark Kent are in attendance, as well as a number of superheroes.

Week 51, Day 3

On Rann, Adam Strange’s sight has returned. Some Green Lanterns question him about what he saw and what happened to the Emerald Eye of Ekron. But Adam leaves to be reunited with his family and the Green Lanterns go off to deal with the fire creatures plaguing Ranagar.

Week 51, Day 4

Lobo returns to the Thrice-Perfected One to offer it the Emerald Eye as requested. Lobo asks the Fish God to release him from his pacifist vows and why it wanted the Eye. The Fish God tells him that the Eye “is the only weapon in the universe which can kill me”. Lobo says, “Ya don’t say…” and the Eye fires on the Fish God.

Week 51, Day 6

The Bakers are having a get-together with friends when aliens arrive at the front door, yelling, “Bounty for Lady Styx! Die! Die! Die!” Starfire arrives, blasting them. She offers Ellen Buddy’s jacket and then collapses.

Week 51, Day 7

Skeets arrives at T. O. Morrow’s Rocky Mountain complex wanting the map that Red Tornado created when he saw “the garden”. Rip Hunter thanks Morrow for luring Skeets there. Skeets explains that he isn’t “Skeets”, but a transformed Mr. Mind who is “so hungry [he] could eat a universe!”

Rip commands Booster to grab what’s left of Skeets while he grabs Red Tornado’s head, and they leave in the time sphere, going “Back to where it all started”.

Thoughts

The ticker on the cover returns and breaks the fourth wall by declaring “51 issues down and one more to go”. Was that really necessary? Also, I love how the gears “falling” out of Red Tornado’s head represent different Earths — it’s a good visual and great coloring.

I like how Buddy is literally glowing with sun energy when he appears in front of Ellen, but is there radiation to be concerned about? It’s certainly a reason to not see them embrace, and I find that curious. Is this supposed to represent the distance still present in their relationship? Buddy seems uncharacteristically confident in this scene, and I wonder if that continues elsewhere.

The DC Database website points out that the Superboy memorial occurs before the one-year mark (as shown in issue 1). Considering that World War III just occurred, and I’m sure many more people were killed or affected in some way, this memorial doesn’t seem like it would be as important as shown? I know it’s a device to circle us back to the beginning and to establish the return of the Trinity, but it lessons the authenticity of the universe we’ve seen thus far. Another thing that doesn’t quite work for me is the scene between Ravager and Kid Devil. I know it’s to provide some explanation as to why those characters had been in the Teen Titans during the year, but it just seemed shoe-horned in. However, this scene reminded me that I need to seek out the issues in which Donna Troy has taken on the Wonder Woman mantle. Also, we are explicitly told why Tim Drake’s Robin costume is now red and black: he looks up at Superboy’s statue and says, “They were his colors”. I really like that tribute and had forgotten it for the last 15 years!

I know this is just a timing thing, but having just finished the Gerads/Shaner/King Strange Adventures series and seeing the reunion of Adam with Alanna and Aleea in this issue is … bittersweet?

So what does Lobo do with the Emerald Eye of Ekron after this series?

Finally, I had forgotten that we got the Mr. Mind reveal in this issue, so this surprised me. And boy were they channeling the ending of Back to the Future with this cliffhanger, huh? I’m really looking forward to the conclusion of this story and the revelations within!

The Origin of the Justice League of America

By Waid, Reis, Albert, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Reis/Albert do a great job of making the Appellaxians look menacing (but Superman’s legs look a little wonky in panel 3). I always liked the idea that it was a honor for a hero to be invited to join the League, but the ones who aren’t invited have to be a little upset by not getting an invitation, right? And what is the criteria for being offered membership? Has the League in the comic books ever done a Justice League Unlimited-type approach where every hero is a member and are called on when those powers or skills are required for a mission? That could make for an interesting set of stories over time….

Episode 200! Justice League of America vs Amazing Spider-Man

Direct Download (1:19:12)

It’s episode 200!!! To celebrate this monumental moment, I present to you, my dear listeners, two titanic team-ups (of sorts) in the grandest superhero tradition! It’s JLA vs JLA and the Spider vs the Burglar! It’s Justice League of America #200 vs Amazing Spider-Man #200! It’s two for the price of … 200? Whatever, I’m a podcaster, not a mathematician. Enjoy!

Other issue #200 comic books mentioned:

  • World’s Finest Comics
  • Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes
  • The Superman Family
  • The Brave and the Bold
  • Daredevil
  • Green Lantern
  • Wonder Woman
  • Hellblazer

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, or visit longboxreview.com.

Thanks for listening!

RandoMonday: Justice League of America #11

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Justice League of America (2006) #11 by Brad Meltzer, Gene Ha, Rob Leigh, Art Lyon, Adam Schlagman, and Eddie Berganza, with cover by Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald

This has always been one of my favorite issues of the Brad Meltzer written JLA. I first read this in the trade collection, and in large part because of this issue and that I loved the relaunch of this title so much, I went and bought all of the single issues. This is a gripping done-in-one story focusing on Red Arrow and Vixen. A building has collapsed and they are both trapped inside. A lot of the story is Roy Harper assessing the situation and convincing Vixen to use her powers to get them free. Vixen, unfortunately, comes across as the damsel in distress and is a disservice to the character, but it does also show that heroes sometimes have feet of clay. I just think they could have easily reversed the roles, especially because of Red Arrow’s past and his anxiety over orphaning his daughter, and the story would have been just as strong, though the ending would need to be tweaked.

Ha’s and Lyon’s art really worked well to convey the claustrophobic nature of the story. There’s a reference to smoke where they are trapped and the grainy way the colors are shown really accentuates that aspect. The pacing of this story is top notch. The first page is mostly black panels with jagged borders and dialog boxes with gray text to give us what happened before page one. As each panel progresses, we see more and more of Red Arrow on the right as they situation is revealed to us, and when you turn the page, there’s a two-page spread reveal. The next few pages build the tension as Red Arrow attempts to locate how close Vixen is to himself. Then there’s another reveal demonstrating just how bad things are for the characters.

The rest of the issue is mostly discovery: that Vixen’s powers have changed and is why she can’t call upon a burrowing animal to help them escape, and, in another full-page reveal, that they are trapped upside down in the rubble. The following page is again mostly black panels with text, but the dialog boxes start off upside down and turn as you read each panel, simulating the movement of the characters in total darkness. Of course, they finally escape, and the issue ends with them ascending in the water as the panels fade to black again, just as they issue started. The dialog of the people who spot them ends with, “Sure that’s them?” “Definitely them.” “The ones who saved us.” I like it when the heroic efforts of our costumed heroes are appreciated.

Finally, there’s a few Titans references Red Arrow throws out, further endearing me to this story, such as when Dick trained him to breath and focus in a crisis situation, just as Batman had trained Dick, and Red Arrow compares the trembling in Vixen’s voice to Gar (Changeling) when he lost Terra. I love when writers/artists throw in continuity stuff, thus building a larger narrative. It’s called the DCU for a reason! :)