DC Graphic Novel Review: Justice (2005)

Michelle continues churning out the graphic novel reviews. That's justice.

Justice is one of those weird mixed-bag comics where even though the separate parts are interesting on their own, together they equal a whole that is much less stellar. Fresh off of their Marvel team-up on Earth X (1999) Jim Krueger and Alex Ross attempt to put a new spin on the 1970s era Justice League (more specifically the Super Friends incarnation) and have them battle to the death with the Legion of Doom. While this concept sounds awesome on paper, unfortunately the execution leaves a whole lot to be desired.

The main gist of the story is that the supervillians in the Legion of Doom have been having recurring nightmares about a nuclear armageddon that the Justice League is powerless to prevent. This causes them to band together and play the "good guys" to try to avert the catastrophe and in the process also discredit the Justice League. Though the narrative starts out promising, it quickly becomes convoluted and ridiculous with some plot lines that are never resolved. There are some shining spots here and there, but they are too few and far between to save the story. For what it's worth, Alex Ross is not known for his writing skills, he is known for his gorgeous photorealistic watercolor art style.

One of the more interesting ideas that this series proposes is: why don't superheroes use their powers to make human society a utopia?  Villians Toyman, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and Captain Cold use their powers to heal the sick and cure world hunger which gives the Justice League a negative reputation with the general populace. Alan Moore tackled this very subject with his masterpiece Miracleman (1985) in which a band of superheroes eventually take over all of humanity with their powers and turn it into a socialist utopia. Moore's work explored the idea to its fullest and was incredibly intriguing as a result. Justice never goes anywhere meaningful with the concept and it's written off as just another plot device to move the story along.

Alex Ross' art is prolific and epic though some do not enjoy his realistic approach to comic art. He uses real life models as a reference point for his character designs and his style has more than a little in common with Norman Rockwell. In Justice, Ross paints over Doug Braithwaite's pencils and the results are stunning. Every single page is filled to the brim with large colorful depictions of superheroes and villains alike and it lends an air of seriousness to the proceedings. Ross' work with lighting and shadows is especially impressive and some of the panels look like they are stills from a live-action movie. I do think that his stuff can come across a bit stiff and sterile, if you will, as Ross doesn't seem to have an eye for portraying dynamic action. Overall though, the art is definitely the best thing about Justice.

The hallmark of a great comic book is the ability to strike a balance between the story and the art. Both things are equally as important to the final product and if one is lacking it brings the entire comic down. I feel that because both the story and the art are dense and complex in Justice, that they are competing for the reader's attention and that neither get their due. It's just too much visual noise and together it overwhelms the senses. The narrative has too many subplots and red herrings and is tied up in an improbable deus ex machina assisted bow which ultimately ends up to be unsatisfying. If anything, just give this book a peek for the amazing art, but don't expected to be impressed by anything else.

Addthis Twitter Facebook StumbleUpon Google+ Pinterest Flipboard Reddit Digg


-Michelle Kisner