DC Comics Justice a Photojournal of Superheroic Conflict
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
· Jim Krueger|Dough Braithwaite
· Alex Ross
Book Review: Justice
by R.J. Carter
Published: June 28, 2012
Remember the old Saturday mornings when you watched the Super Friends battle the Legion of Doom? The cadre of heroes got expanded beyond the Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin, and Aquaman core team to include guest appearances by The Flash, The Atom, Hawkman, Green Lantern and others, while the villains actually started to draw from the DC Universe villains as opposed to the "mad scientist of the week" we were used to seeing. And sure, the battles were still public service platitudes or silly thematic crimes. But did you ever wonder what it would be like to have those two competing casts come together in a serious all-out fight for the fate of the world?
Jim Krueger, Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross made this a reality (okay, they make it a realistic story) with Justice, and now the multi-part series has been released in trade paperback with an appealing design and beautiful cover artwork (as should be expected by now of Ross).
Justice is at once old school storytelling and a modern, mature treatment, turning the paradigm on its ear when the world sees the super criminals do what the Justice League has never done: make the world a better place to live! Captain Cold brings icebergs to the African deserts. Others are delivering medical cures to make the lame to leap, the blind to see. And all the while, the Justice League is nowhere to be found. That is, of course, because they've all been under attack, individually, in a coordinated tactical move that nearly destroys them all.
Naturally, there's an underlying motive to the superficial humanitarianism, and even most of the villains are unaware of the far-reaching consequences of their actions. Only Lex Luthor knows what's really going on, and he believes he can manipulate the events toward his own means, to catapult humanity into a race of self-sufficient humans having no need for superpowered saviors.
Krueger's story has more layers than a DreamWorks ogre and more twists than a Chubby Checker marathon. Every chapter has new revelations, new insurmountable threats, as the stakes get raised ever higher until, finally, the actual objective of the villainous plot is revealed -- and by then, it's too late for the Earth.
Of course the story has some flaws. Any plot involving as many characters as this is bound to have some, as we try to get each hero and each villain a little bit of stage time of their own. Why Zatanna decides to wear a white cape in some panels and the traditional top hat in others can be attributed to magical wardrobe changes. But what sticks out to me the most is the mistreatment of Elongated Man -- not just in his characterizations, but in his demonstration of powers. Elongated Man is given a whole page in which to confront Plastic Man -- during a world-shattering crisis, no less -- to complain about why he's here when his powers are redundant. Ironically, the zany Plastic Man is the one who makes sense here, as he tells EM he should complain to Captain Marvel that he's "too much like Superman," evoking the memory of real world lawsuits of decades ago over the characters, but also speaking common sense. This issue is even more confused when the creators show Elongated Man taking on the form of a rubber ball and bouncing down a hallway, never minding the fact that despite his stretching and malleability, Elongated Man's powers do not give him the same latitude as do Plastic Man's; he can't take on those shapes, he can only "elongate" (hence the name).
That bit aside, though, Justice provides compelling reading, making even some of the lesser heroes interesting, and some of the weaker villains into contenders. Ross's hyperrealist painting over Braithwaite's pencils make this something that's just this side of a photojournal of a conflict in another universe, and I recommend it highly to everyone.