Sunday, August 07, 2005


If this had come out a year or so ago, I would have been much more excited about this than I am.

But coming when it does, Justice #1 falls flat in any comparison to the similar Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, where Brian Azzarello's more dynamic and motivated Lex Luthor doesn't need group visions to start planning and where Lee Bermejo's stunning art blows Alex Ross's paintbrushes right off the page.

There is also the obvious similarity to the part of Infinite Crisis that deals with Max Lord and his motivations for warping Checkmate. In general, I like Azzarello's take on the whole man-versus-superman because it is far more complex than Max's more paranoid moustache twirling. Ross seems to be trying to split the difference, but ends up starving like Buridan's ass. He's got the whole Superheroes Have Made Man Lazy/JLA-as-Nanny-Statists that Azzarello is using, but without the sharpness and bite and, ultimately, the relevance. Because unless Lex is pulling a Know Man and keeping a Dr. Destiny-type chained up in Montana so that he can control the dreams, Lex is doing what he's doing to save the world and where's the fun in that?

The story itself... I'm always skeptical of stories that require pages of secret files that retcon characters to explain why they are around, but while the choice of Black Manta as a flunky was obvious, it worked far better than any of BM's other recent appearances.... even if the cynic in me was wondering if Ross had chosen him just because BM didn't get any face time as part of the Secret Society of Supervillains (did they even bother to recruit him?) and he was lying around in the bin of discarded action figures with the one-armed Major Force and the Despero that the dog had chewed on.

A year or so ago and I wouldn't have been quite as annoyed with Ross's 'If it's not Silver Age, it's CRAP' routine, which absolutely isn't news but has graduated from pleasantly retro foible to simply piling on in light of the current zeitgeist. Foible or fetish, I could have certainly done without those clunky expository patches of dialogue. All of this isn't to say that this isn't a pretty piece of art -- some of the undersea panels are luminous -- and some of the narrative prose isn't well-turned. Just that, you know, an homage doesn't have to include the parts that make us laugh at instead of with.

Overall: pretty, but not precious.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Black Manta did get a panel in Villains United. However, I think Multiplex gets more mentions than Black Manta in that.

Mon Aug 08, 07:34:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Just that, you know, an homage doesn't have to include the parts that make us laugh at instead of with."

Or tortured explanations of same, ie Earth X or Identity Crisis.

I noticed Justice has the same basic plot template as Earth X, which is, an all powerful alien race is coming to destroy the earth and the heroes are seemingly powerless to stop it. The thing is, in Earth X there was much more suspense, because the heroes were broken and screwed up and the planet was wrecked to begin with. A bunch of unseen aliens blowing up the earth post-Morrison JLA doesn't quite have the same cachet.

Tue Aug 09, 10:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Charles W. said...

Ross chose Black Manta for one reason--he was a member of the Legion of Doom on the Superfriends cartoon. Alex is doing a mashup of the Superfriends and his other favorite icons that he can fit in, like Plastic Man and Captain Marvel (Shazam). It's no deeper than that.

Tue Aug 09, 02:24:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or were the Bat-files on Luthor and Manta more interesting than the rest of the story?

Tue Aug 09, 04:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger The Comics Shrew said...

Is it just me, or were the Bat-files on Luthor and Manta more interesting than the rest of the story?

... I spent a bit of time on Aquaman's wondering which version of his backstory they were using (I could have sworn the most recent was Arthur-as-Atlan's-son).

Tue Aug 09, 04:40:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll admit I didn't even look at Arthur's at first. I read too fast to notice it, and when I did actually read it, it wasn't as interesting as the other two. Something tells me this whole thing may read better in trades.

Also, is this story even in continuity?

Tue Aug 09, 04:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger The Comics Shrew said...

I don't think it's in our continuity. I think it's supposed to be in Ross's own personal headspace continuity, which is roughly concomitant with the Silver Age.

Tue Aug 09, 09:43:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ross has said that as far as he's concerned, this isn't in any particular continuity.

Tue Aug 09, 10:04:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's just as well. Y'know how you feel about Loeb, Shrew? I feel the same about Ross. I don't think his stories or art belong in continuity.

Wed Aug 10, 01:07:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, DC fans won't have to suffer Loeb's Wizard-backed hackery for a while...while we Marvel fans have a long, long winter ahead.

Wed Aug 10, 10:01:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually like Loeb, but yeah, that does kinda suck for you Marvel fans. I'm just wondering how he's going to explain that whole "JSA: Classified 3 is going to fix the internet" comment the first time he has a meeting involving Bendis.

Wed Aug 10, 11:33:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, with the DC stuff it's a bit exciting, if monstrously insulting to the reader's intelligence. His Marvel work is not just as dumb, it's also dull.

Wed Aug 10, 04:01:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any Marvel Loeb stuff you can recommend? I could recite the DC recommendations from memory at this point.

Wed Aug 10, 05:16:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Marvel Loeb stuff worth recommending, Loeb stuff recommending...

Well, there's a Wolverine Annual he plotted and Ed McGuinness drew where Wolverine fought Red Ronin. I liked the story.

Annnnnd...that's it.

Thu Aug 11, 06:17:00 PM EDT  
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