Comic book historian Michael Uslan had this to say about super-heroes: “The ancient gods of Greece and Rome and Egypt still exist, only today they wear spandex and capes.” I believe in the theory that comic books are essentially a modern-day mythology. If you really think about it, the two are not that far apart. They are gods among men, watching us from above from their satellite headquarters 13,000 miles from above the Earth in geo-synchronous orbit not unlike the Greek gods of Mount Olympus. And if we are to subscribe to this analogy, then Justice is the comic-book version of Homer’s Iliad.
Justice is a twelve-issue epic mini-series written by Jim Krueger, with art by Alex Ross and Doug Braithwhite, whose previous collaboration has produced Earth-X (which was basically Marvel’s answer to DC’s Kingdom Come, thus proving that awesomeness begets awesomeness. It does not take place in the mainstream continuity of DC Comics, but rather works as a stand-alone story that fits right in our collective consciousness of what the DC Universe is all about. Whether you read every comic book you can set your eyes on while you’re at the local comic book shop, or if you watched every episode of Super-Friends when you were a kid, then Justice is for you. In fact, it’s every bit as epic as Crisis on Infinite Earths or Challenge of the Super-Friends ever was, if not even more so.
Although the members of Justice League and the Legion of Doom take starring roles in this story, there are even guest appearances by the Teen Titans, the Metal Men, the Doom Patrol, the Green Lantern Corps, and even the Legion of Super-Heroes. Essentially, it’s starring everybody, guest-starring everybody else, and with special guest appearances by whoever else I may have forgotten to mention.
The heroes are portrayed in their classical and garments, more akin towards their traditional Pre-Crisis incarnations. It offers the story a refreshing sense of childhood nostalgia, while the artwork still maintains a modicum of realism. The unique facial features and expressions allow the characters to come alive. Not only was “Justice” serving up to the mythology of the characters, but it was adding something completely new and forever memorable to it.
The story is sandwiched between two sides of a heated debate between the heroes and the villains. They serve to illustrate what motivates the characters, and they set the stage for the story. The villains’ perspective is shown in the prologue by Lex Luthor, while the world is seemingly coming to an end. He accuses the Justice League of stunting the growth of humanity, of being exalted as gods among men, of only maintaining the status quo instead of making a real difference.
I’m devastated as I think to myself that maybe, just maybe, that diseased maniac could be right. It’s an uncomfortable plausibility that ingeniously gives my heroes a challenge that actually affects me as a reader. Luthor’s argument has made me question my faith in my heroes. Now it’s up to the heroes to restore that faith.
The Legion of Doom share vivid dreams of Earth’s destruction, which the Justice League seems powerless to stop. The prophetic dream of Armageddon is never explained in the course of the story. Whatever it may be, it is the driving force of the Legion of Doom as they combine their forces to … help people? The greatest criminal masterminds of our time act in concert, seemingly to achieve more good than the Justice League ever could. Not everything is as it seems, however. As our heroes investigate them further, their motivations prove to be far more nefarious and self-serving.
What really struck me was how menacing the super-villains are portrayed. Here they are at their most disturbing, their most fearsome, and their most intimidating. You actually feel that the dangers posed to the heroes are real, and you’re left genuinely wonder how they’re going to get out of this one.
The writing from Doug Braithwhite is rock-solid. He does an amazing job balancing out an extensive cast of protagonists and antagonists. Even with a vast ensemble cast, each member of the Justice League and the Legion of Doom has their own chance to shine individually. The plot is intriguing, with a wide variety of twists and turns. My only gripe would be that it tends to borrow from pre-existing Justice League storylines. For example, it almost felt as though they were trying to improve upon the elements presented in Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel or Geoff Johns’ Infinite Crisis.
Call me biased, but I love Alex Ross. He is the greatest thing that has ever happened to comic books since the invention of the speech bubble. Not only is he unbelievably at what he does, but he loves what he’s doing; he’s the ultimate fanboy living the ultimate fanboy’s dream. This glorious fountain of human talent has helped produce wonderful like Kingdom Come, Marvels and Uncle Sam, along with countless other covers that have had the good fortune to be blessed by his awe-inspiring brush-strokes. I would be remiss, however, not to include Doug Braithwaite in my praises for the artwork in this book. Braithwaite draws the outlines for Ross to paint over. Like I said, this is not the first time these two have collaborated, having worked together in Marvel’s Earth-X series. Thus, the two prove that it is possible to improve on perfection.
This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who’s into super-heroes.