Ten years ago this month, Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Doug Braithwaite began unfolding their acclaimed Justice series.
Inspired by the Saturday morning cartoon Challenge of the Super-Friends, Justice aimed to tell an epic, timeless tale of the Justice League. With a membership based on the late ‘70s/early ‘80s line-up (plus several friends and allies), the Justice League clashed with a collective of its most dangerous foes, the Legion of Doom.
The action kicked off with various villains having apocalyptic dreams of the end of the world. The villains decided to “save” Earth and make its people self-reliant. They embarked on a program of curing the disabled, feeding the poor and transforming deserts, among other things (though of course, they had an agenda). At the same time, the villains stole information from Batman that revealed the secret identities of the Justice League’s members. The Legion of Doom then systematically attacked the heroes, badly injuring some of them, to keep them out of the way. They kidnapped loved ones of the League as hostages and used mind control to turn their allies against them.
With some help from their friends (including the Metal Men, Teen Titans and Green Lantern Corps) the Justice League fought back, deploying some clever bits of strategy along the way. The true nature of the villains’ conspiracy emerged as a nuclear Armageddon loomed. But one epic showdown later, the good guys emerged on top.
Ross and Krueger conceived Justice as an iconic take on the classic Justice League. They freely mixed characters and concepts from a variety of eras to craft the ultimate “heroes vs. villains” smackdown. The story took a lot of twists and turns, producing some first rate action and drama along the way. Krueger wrote some rather nice dialogue that dug into the classic characters, highlighting the qualities that make them legends.
Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were front and center, of course, and get star turns in the story. But Justice wasn’t only interested in the Trinity. Numerous other heroes, and some of the villains, got their time in the spotlight. The oft-misunderstood Aquaman came across particularly powerfully, and favorites like Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Atom, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Captain Marvel and Zatanna all had strong moments. Even Elongated Man, frequently treated as a joke, got his turn. It was a great use of the heroes that nicely mixed their larger-than-life and down-to-earth qualities.
Even without a strong story, Justice would have become a classic for its beautiful art. Braithwaite’s pencil work was crucial in choreographing the action, coming up with dynamic layouts and providing Ross with a strong foundation to do his thing. Ross’s painted art is just effortlessly beautiful. It’s full of movement, color and imagination. Ross and Braithwaite’s collaboration was an amazing alchemy of two talented artists bringing out the best in one another. There almost too many iconic images contained in the 12-part story. Highlights included: a two-page spread of the Martian Manhunter with a fiery apocalypse behind him; a two-page overview of the Bat-Cave; a weakened Superman punching a mind-controlled Batman; a fiery Superman emerging from the sun; Batman and Wonder Woman looking up the Fortress of Solitude; Green Lantern charging his ring; a two-page panorama of the timely arrival of the Green Lantern Corps; and the collected Justice League hovering over Paradise Island while Wonder Woman’s mother cradled the critically injured heroine. This was epic, widescreen comic book storytelling engineered to impress. It did not disappoint.
A decade later, Justice has lost none of its power or impact. It’s a great way to experience these iconic heroes and is especially appealing to those of us who scampered out of bed every Saturday to watch them on TV.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on August 19, 2015.