As the 12-issue series begins, the Justice League of America find themselves powerless to save the human race from a fiery Apocalypse. Green Lantern is assigned to save as many people as possible in Hawaii.

‘Justice’ has creative-
talent pedigree

Of all of the iconic characters DC Comics has, one group has always appealed to me, and that is the Justice League of America. My interest dates to small-kid time during the Silver Age of Comics of the 1960s, and it was that group of superheroes that brought me back into reading mainstream titles in 1997 after a strict diet of alternative comics.

From original creator Gardner Fox and jumping to the contemporary stories written by Grant Morrison and Mark Waid, Justice League tales were top-notch. When the core group of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, the Martian Manhunter et al fought together on a planetary -- and even interplanetary -- crisis level, the comic book nerd in me couldn't help but be thrilled.

Since the revitalization of the title in '97, the JLA has been a steady seller for DC, spawning some offshoot titles ("Justice League Elite" and "JLA Classified") and even a kid-friendly series on Cartoon Network.

Now you can add another JLA-related title that just hit stores last Wednesday, "Justice." It's a book that comes with a high pedigree in creative talent in premier painter-illustrator Alex Ross and fellow collaborators Jim Krueger and Doug Braithwaite.

Ross has been called "the Norman Rockwell of comics," famed for his photo-realistic renditions of full-bodied superheroes. Building a résumé of impressive work that started with the one-two punch of "Marvels" and "Kingdom Come," he's also been known of late for his inspiring collaborations with writer Paul Dini on a series of large-format graphic novels that featured stories of Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and the Justice League of America, released during successive holiday seasons starting in 1998.

"JLA: Liberty and Justice" in 2003 was his last work for DC, before collaborating with Krueger and Braithwaite on rather unwieldy variations of the Marvel Universe called "Earth X" and "Universe X."

Ross embraces taking on the Big Picture of superheroes, and while he's succeeded on a scale as large as his heroes' exploits, he has stumbled on rare occasion. With "Earth X" and "Universe X," Ross et al created an entirely new mythology for Marvel's large cast of redesigned superheroes. For me, the result was less than rewarding.

"Justice" may turn out to be the trio's retribution, with Krueger and Ross co-scripting, and Braithwaite's pencils getting fleshed-out with the royal Ross paint treatment as well.

In an interview with Newsarama.com, Ross addressed the team's modus operandi. "We know how to pack it all in, but the problem is we have the desire to pack it all in, which means occasionally, we can completely confound the readers with too many distracting characters and subplots. Our commitment to (the 'Justice') readership is to do a better job than we've done before with this -- hopefully make it succinct and focused. Still accomplish all the things we want to do as fanboys -- to play with all the toys in the sandbox, but to do it in a way where readers don't switch to glassy-eyes stares and stop reading the words mid-issue."

Gee, that was my response with "Earth X" and "Universe X" in a nutshell. But, in terms of "succinct and focused," "Justice" looks to be off to a solid start.

With eye-catching covers by Ross, the 12-issue series will chronicle the JLA's battle with an equally strong group of supervillains acting in concert -- and supposedly for good.

As the book begins, the Justice League and humanity in general have been having a recurring collective nightmare. The JLA find themselves powerless to save the human race from a fiery Apocalypse.

Some of the heroes die, while others succeed in their rescue missions. In one scenario, Green Lantern tries to save as many people as possible in Hawaii, of all places. (While it's great to see the islands get a mention, it's not a very comforting notion to see that our "paradise" would not be spared such destruction.)

The story proper kicks into gear when Aquaman leaves his wife, baby son and his kingdom of Atlantis to take on his arch-nemesis Black Manta. When the hero is defeated by an overpowering school of sharks under the Manta's control, the unconscious Aquaman is taken to a secret lair where Lex Luthor is waiting.

Now, what does the villain of Superman has to do with this? And, in an earlier scene, why does Captain Cold -- part of the Flash's Rogues Gallery -- create a pyramid of ice to help its desert inhabitants? Are supervillains reforming and trying to actually SAVE humanity, thereby taking the place of the Justice League??

Stay tuned. There's an intriguing premise behind "Justice" that may ultimately satisfy the fanboy in all of us.

| | |
E-mail to Features Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com