Why yes, I’ve finally gotten my hands on something current, and I’m gonna review it! At last, a post people will actually read! Doug Zawisza, CBR reviewer, gives this debut issue five stars, but pretty much everyone else on the internet has savaged it terribly. Which side will I fall on? And can I make it through the review without the apparently requisite “gay for justice” joke? Oops.
Cry “justice!” and let slip the dogs of war!
1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2. rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3. the moral principle determining just conduct.
5. the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
6. the maintenance or administration of what is just by law, as by judicial or other proceedings: a court of justice.
10. bring to justice, to cause to come before a court for trial or to receive punishment for one’s misdeeds: The murderer was brought to justice.
The above are selections from Dictionary.com‘s definition of the word “justice.” James Robinson and Mauro Cascioli’s Justice League: Cry for Justice, however, does not believe in the apparently narrow views of the American lexicon. The superheroes in this comic cry for a different sort of justice altogether, and I can’t say it’s one I particularly agree with or understand. What the four major characters here (Green Arrow doesn’t count; he’s just along for the ride) are seeking is something called vengeance, instead. I’ll spare you the dictionary entry for that one, you all know what it means. Perhaps the eventual theme of this mini-series will involve the heroes realizing they’ve missed the point of “justice,” and do something to correct that, but for now, this drive for so-called justice is just a peg on which to hang an empty garment bag.
Said garment bag looks really damn pretty from the outside, of course. Mauro Cascioli gorgeously renders the pages in what I imagine are digital paints– the luscious coloring gives the work here its power. You’ve never seen a more beautiful portrait of Killer Moth or of a crying gorilla. Really, you haven’t. Cascioli does his damndest to make a bunch of heroes standing around and glaring at one another interesting. His art is certainly the best thing about this comic.
On to the glaring. Hal “It’s my party and I’ll cry for justice if I want to” Jordan is pissy that some of his friends have been killed and wants to strike back at the villains responsible– and is it me, or is it silly that they refer to their enemies as “villains”? I mean, I guess they would, but it seems wrong they use the same terminology as the fans who read their comics. And so Hal and the Justice League have a staring contest for a while until Hal declares he’s going to be “proactive,” a stance that will probably last– oh, what time is it now? “You want a League,” he says; “I want justice.” Green Arrow decides to tag along with him because of their hard-travelin’ heroes past (“Remember back in the day… when I lost my millions and became liberal…” Yes, he actually says that), because that’s just what pals who share the same color do, apparently.
Meanwhile, Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi, the Atoms, chase down Killer Moth to find out who killed one of Ray’s old friends, and so Ray, with a grimace and a “Welcome to pain,” tortures the crap out of poor Killer Moth to discover the truth. “Yeah… justice!” he says, shrinking his way out of the panel and into revenge. The most unfortunate part about this scene, however, are the captions. Me, I’m certainly not a fan of the first-person narrative caption, but these are the absolute worst I’ve ever seen, a ludicrous parody of the dueling captions in something like Superman/Batman, to the point where it appears as if Ray and Ryan can read each other’s internal monologues. “I am so not the Atom anymore.” “So says Ryan Choi. He is so the new Atom.” “So says Ray Palmer.” It’s caption after caption, word balloon after word balloon of guy love for two pages, as they tell each other how amazing they are over and over again. That is, until Palmer goes all grim-and-gritty. Here’s a guy whose power it is to shrink and hit people in the face (I was really confused until I remembered his costume only shows up when he is tiny) becoming a dark badass– or as Robinson describes it in the backmatter, “the ultimate survivor.” No thanks.
The next scene was the most confusing to me, as I’ve never encountered this blue Starman before, and wasn’t sure what was going on. The internet tells me he’s mad that his boyfriend is dead, and blows up a car because he is mad. And then he literally cries out, in his alien tongue, for justice! Okay then.
Now we move onto the bit that really ground my gears, where we are introduced to Emo Congorilla. Yes, Congo Bill is sad because all his ape friends are dead, even the babies, and his human body is (probably) dead, and he cries tears– of justice! Oh, and then Freedom Beast shows up just to bite it, because hey, there’s only so many superheroes in Africa that you can kill off, right? It’s page after page of overwrought captions and dialogue. “I am so sorry I wasn’t here to protect.” “–tried to be the hero you taught me to be.” “Something in the air. Faint but– ‘A smell!’ Beat. ‘A trail!’ Beat.” It’s at this point that I gave up entirely, but thankfully, that was the last scene. Half the cast has yet to show up, and there’s only the barest hint of forward momentum.
Chris Sims calls the book “not very good,” but I’d word that a bit more strongly, myself. It’s more “actively bad.” The writing comes across as parodic when it’s instead trying to be deathly serious, but there’s only so many crying gorilla-men a guy can take. My favorite bit in the issue was the two-page Congorilla origin back-up, but that one was by Len Wein and Ardian Syaf. In a measly two pages, it evokes all the kooky courage and adventure of the Congo Bill concept, but it appears we won’t get to see any of that in James Robinson’s story. No, we will instead see– justice! Or rather, vengeance. A better title for this comic would really be “Vengeance League!” That’d probably sell even more copies.
A good comic? Cry me a river. Not recommended.
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