Monday, 5 January 2015

Justice Review (Jim Krueger, Alex Ross)

There’s a lotta spoilers in this review so if that’s an issue for you, so long! 

Justice is so bad. Does every comic Alex Ross does the main art for suck so completely? It encapsulates everything I hate about books in general, but especially superhero comics: it’s boring, overcomplicated, excessive, stupid, repetitive, overlong, and extremely pointless. 

I’m jumping the gun and I’ll circle back to these points later but first let’s get this semi-positive critique that I’ve seen in EVERY review of this book out of the way so the rest of this can be pure venting: Alex Ross’ art. I’m not a fan - at least, not a big one. 

I think Ross’ art is fine for covers but for page after page of regular storytelling? It’s wearying. It’s also very flat, static, and stiff to look at AND he makes Superman, Batman, Aquaman, nearly every dude, look really fat. I really don’t like fat Superman. But I can appreciate the skill, as well as Doug Braithwaite’s pencils, that went into it though I won’t give this book a pass purely because of the art. 

Alright, the story: Legion of Doom defeat Justice League of America until JLA defeat Legion of Doom. That’s it. 

Alright, the venting: 

“Justice”? Could Ross/Jim Krueger have come up with a less memorable title for this bloated “epic”? And I’m going to include Ross in the problems with the storytelling because he’s co-credited with the story though Krueger wrote the script. 

The villains all have this shared dream where they see nukes dropping across the globe and the superheroes failing to save everyone. They decide the superheroes need to go because they’re “ineffective” and they’re the ones to save the planet. Few problems with this one: don’t the villains already see themselves as the saviours and the superheroes as the enemy of humanity? That’s certainly how Lex Luthor sees Superman and I’m pretty sure a lot of the others feel the same way. So why do they need a dream at all to give them this viewpoint? And isn’t the bigger message about the nukes? Shouldn’t the conclusion be, “we need to get rid of these catastrophic weapons so the planet doesn’t die because even Superman can’t save us?” And also maybe wonder who fired all the nukes because the answer would be a villain, not the heroes. 

After decades of supervillains doing evil things, plan after scheme after plot, why does everyone take their unexpected positive gestures at face value? Captain Cold brings ice to the desert and turns a part of it into a fertile oasis. Poison Ivy brings fruit trees to a starving region of the globe. Toyman builds prosthetics for people who have lost limbs. Fine - but does no-one think “hey, maybe they’re up to something? This has to be an angle they’re working!” (which is correct). Why does everyone instantly side with the villains and turn on the heroes? Is everyone gullible and stupid?

The main thesis of the superheroes’ bad PR is that they’re not using their powers to full effect. Superman could depose tyrants around the world, Batman could use his tech to terraform regions, etc. I like to think the reason why they don’t isn’t purely because real world and superhero comics are a disastrous combo and are best left unsaid, but because Superman and co. don’t want to nanny humanity and would prefer us as a race to better ourselves. And who’s to say that the superheroes’ actions won’t turn out to be worse in the long term? 

Once more, Batman turns out to be the biggest threat to the JLA, more so than any of the villains. Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel storyline, where Batman’s intel on each JLA member’s weaknesses is used against them, is trotted out tediously again. By the way, there are no consequences for Batman at the end. Nobody says “dude, seriously - enough with this paranoid info gathering, you’re going to get us all nearly killed! At least find a foolproof way of safeguarding it!” - so this could all happen again someday (and probably will).

What is the point of the Joker in this story? There isn’t one. He’s an irrelevant part of it who’s just there because everyone loves the Joker. He blows up some buildings for no reason and then cosplays as Dracula because he’s whacky. What a pointless addition to an already overlong book.

So let’s address that: this book is nearly 400 pages long for a story that could’ve been told in a third of that space. Scores of characters are assembled for the cast, so many that it’s near impossible to follow for such a relatively straightforward story. And who’s the main character? There isn’t one. The JLA, I suppose, but that’s not a character, it’s a group with dozens of members. 

But, like the Joker’s inclusion, so much of the book is pointless padding. Hal Jordan’s sent to some nether region of space he can’t escape from for no reason except to keep him out of the story. We keep cutting back to him as he floats aimlessly, page after page after page - is he going to die? Of course not. And then when he’s floated there long enough the Phantom Stranger pops up and pings him back to Earth in an instant - my, how convenient! 

Why was Aquaman being lobotomised - what purpose did that serve? None! But we’ve got page after page of this - you get the idea. Same with Flash - why couldn’t he stop running? Why were the villains targeting the heroes and only half-assing it, leaving before killing them? Superman was done for but they screwed it up and he survived. Ditto Green Arrow and Black Canary. Why is there a pointless scene between Elongated Man and Plastic Man arguing over who’s the more important stretchy superhero? Why bother targeting the superheroes’ loved ones if you’re going to do nothing with them? Padding! And possibly to stroke Alex Ross’ ego because he doesn’t do small books, he works on EPIC books so they have to be EPIC-long regardless of whether or not the length is required. 

There’s also no tension in a story you know the conclusion to already. The villains have the superheroes on the ropes until they’ve got to lose which they do. So predictable and such a chore to have to trudge through with no surprises. Nobody dies, nobody changes, it’s all so pointless. 

Brainiac - supposedly a genius many times over - is an idiot in this book. Everyone in this story is basically his puppet except for a handful of characters thanks to microscopic nanobots (I know, what a shit answer to the question of why the good guys are being controlled). His motivation behind everything? To manufacture some company. He wants a race of robots to be his buddy so he won’t be alone. He does this in his overcomplicated way by having Toyman make prosthetics for people which slowly turn them into robots. But later it’s revealed that Toyman can just make tons of lifelike robots anyway. So why not have Toyman do this for Brainiac in the first place? It’d be so much easier! 

Brainiac’s also got these black orbs that are cities for some of his chosen few to survive after the Earth dies. They shrink and expand because it’s neat? So, nobody on Earth was like “what, you’re just leaving the rest of us to die?! You suck!!!” Instead everyone’s still pretty much on the villains’ side even though that plot point ceased to be important long before halfway through this tripe. 

We finally reach the third act and the superheroes’ response to Brainiac’s brainwashing nanotech is to have special armour made up so it can’t get through to their bodies. Even though, as a crucial part of the plan, Green Arrow and Black Canary don’t get special armour but don’t get brainwashed anyway – no reason why that is. It also turns out that Green Lantern’s power ring purges everyone of the nanotech anyway so every single storyline involving scores of characters leading up to the finale was pointless - the only one who mattered was Hal Jordan. PADDING!!!! 

Zatanna gets way overused in the final fight - ANIHCAM XE SUED x 30! John Stewart gets Hal’s ring but later it turns out he had a Green Lantern ring anyway so not sure what happened there. And, like Batman continuing to collect dangerous info ripe for any villain to steal and use against the heroes again, Brainiac is locked up so he can one day escape and try all of this once more when he inevitably escapes. Nobody learns anything because everyone is stupid. Very, very weak ending. 

I think Kingdom Come (another overrated “classic”) is remembered so fondly that DC decided to try for a sequel of sorts in Justice (even though it is in no way a sequel) because of the Alex Ross art which is why Ross’ name features so prominently above the title and Jim Krueger’s is way down the bottom. But this was in every way an ordinary tale that was inflated to an epic scope for no real reason beyond trying to get readers to compare it to another Alex Ross “epic”, Kingdom Come. 

Justice’s story was sorely lacking in execution. There were far too many characters, far too many chapters, and far too little coherence with everything that happened to make it even a halfway decent comic. It went from ordinary to tedious to maddeningly convoluted and BORING OH MY GOD IT’S SO BORING to charity bin donation. 

Justice is just awful!



  1. THANK YOU!!! I borrowed this book from the library thinking it had to be something special, and it just wasn't. Thank you also for down-talking Alex Ross- justice in particular, was hard for me to follow BECAUSE of Ross' art: I had no idea what the hell was going on.

    1. How does atr keep you from not following?

  2. Do you ever not bitch about a book?