Behind the slick Alex Ross cover where the Shadow and Doc Savage balance the scales of justice, “Justice, Inc.” #1 brings a story written by Michael Uslan with art from Giovanni Timpano, colors by Marco Lesko and letters from Simon Bowland. The story opens with Doc Savage in the present day, but spans a wide range of time and checks in with the Shadow and the Avenger along the way.
“Justice, Inc.” #1 doesn’t feature the Avenger in action, but his presence on the cover, coupled with his alter ego, Richard Henry Benson, appearing on the pages within all but guarantees an appearance in the next issue or three. As mentioned, the series opens with Doc Savage as he and his crew are revving up a universal quantum machine to take a poke through time. There is no apparent impetus for this other than to prove it can be done, but it makes for a nice plot device to wrap a time-hopping adventure around. With that firmly implanted, Uslan is able to dive into the characters’ personalities and histories a bit more extensively, and serves up some enjoyable pulp heroes of yesteryear and today.
Not quite as divergent or innovative with historical scientific figures as Image Comics’ “Manhattan Projects,” plays close to the vest, but does pay a visit to H.G. Wells, Enrico Fermi, Albert Einstein in the leap back to 1939. For good measure, Howard Hughes also makes an appearance and vouches for Doc Savage following the appearance of a wormhole.
Solidly detailed art from Timpano provides enough for readers to savor without overloading. There are panels and scenes that do get overloaded and immersed in either shadow or light, adding mystery to the setting, but those are infrequent, giving the artist more than enough room to create an integrated universe that houses Doc Savage, the Shadow and the Avenger. Lesko colors the artwork quite handily, with atmospheric tones in place throughout. New York in 1939 has golden tones overlying the landscape, giving it the appearance of the fondest of memories, while the resulting temporal tempest created by the universal quantum machine bathes everything in blues and blue-violet. Bowland matches Lesko’s work note for note and panel for panel. Shadow’s word balloons are reversed and dynamic and the conversations between characters flow naturally and comfortably. When situations call for it, Bowland breaks out the larger type and sets the balloons apart.
“Justice, Inc.” #1 is an ambitious and fun read, much like Dynamite’s Gold Key line. No allegiances are proclaimed during the issue, but connections are set in motion and the crossroads is in view. Uslan, Timpano, Lesko and Bowland do a nice job pumping some new life into the pulp wonders of yesteryear, giving readers a nice throwback read that brings the energy of a crossover without the burdensome crossover spillage into a dozen or more titles. “Justice, Inc.” #1 is a nice, solid read for fans of these characters or comic book fans looking for a fresh variation on an older concept.