Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Justice League: Cry For Justice -- Promising indeed!

Originally, I was a little skeptical of the idea of a Justice League spinoff title, even as a mini-series. As I pointed out several times, the last time Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan led a Justice League team (Justice League Europe), it was a disaster. However, in the case of JLE, Hal didn't have a real motivation for leading the Justice League, other than just enjoying being in charge. That's not true in Cry for Justice #1. There IS motivation. REAL motivation. And it's a form of motivation that, so far, extends to all of the future members of the team. (Spoilers!)

The motivation is, in all honesty, the tried-and-true DC chestnut that I like to call "Batmanitis." That is, the hero has suffered a loss and/or witnessed someone else experiencing loss, and feels compelled to bring the person/people responsible to justice. But Batmanitis WORKS, and it's used in Cry for Justice #1 to great effect, to convince readers that these future Justice League members DO have a good reason for wanting the same thing Hal Jordan wants.

The story begins, of course, with the segment that was presented as a preview/teaser in DC comics a couple of weeks ago. Hal is tired of heroes and their friends and loved ones being picked off by bad guys. He wants justice, and as a space cop who's supposed to be in charge of Earth, he's going to make sure he pursues justice from now on. The other Justice Leaguers are uncomfortable about this, no doubt reminded of Hal's behavior when he was Parallax. But when Superman voices his concern ...

... Hal calls him on the carpet:

(OF COURSE Superman finds that more than a bit intimidating because, well ...

They sure do, Supes. They sure do.)

Ollie pledges his support for Hal, then Hal whips up a big green bubble and makes a dramatic exit for him and Ollie -- leading to THIS curious conversation:

Now, this conversation doesn't make sense to me. As Green Lantern, Hal can travel through space, and walk through walls -- and Ollie has traveled with him via Big Green Space Bubble dozens of times. So, why the heck would Hal even THINK about using a teleporter in the first place? He doesn't need it.

Oh, well. It's a minor quibble in an otherwise nice exchange between Hal and Ollie.

Next, readers are taken to Albuquerque, to the hideout of Killer Moth -- yes, Killer Moth. Two Atoms -- Ryan Choi and Ray Palmer -- are there beating up Killer Moth and his gang, and engaging in some rather entertaining double talk/double thought. Ray's friend Mike Dante is dead and Killer Moth is somehow connected. Ray uses a rather ruthless method to get Killer Moth to yell out a name ("--Prometheus!"), and then leaves Ryan in charge of Ivy Town while Ray goes in pursuit of justice.

Next stop for readers is a funeral parlor in Opal City. Mikaal (Starman) Tomas is there for a visitation of his friend Tony, who was beaten to death by villains at S.T.A.R. Labs in New York. (I'm not familiar with Tony as a character, so if there's more information about him out there, I'd love to hear about it!) Mikaal leaves the funeral parlor, determined to seek justice.

Next and final stop for readers (for this issue) is the Congo, in Africa, where we meet who I think is going to be my favorite character in this series. Congo Bill -- Congorilla -- is looking sadly over the remains of his band of gorillas, which have been horribly slaughtered by an unknown assailant. Not only are all of the gorillas dead, so is Bill's human body (which had been hosting the Congorilla's/Golden Ape's spirit), and so is FREEDOM BEAST.

Poor Freedom Beast! I don't know about the rest of you, but the last time I saw HIM was in the Green Lantern: Wanted: Hal Jordan storyline, kicking Hal Jordan in the head. Despite that (hey, Freedom Beast was possessed by aliens at the time), you can bet Hal is not going to be happy to hear about Freedom Beast's demise.

That aside, my heart really goes out to Congo Bill. Granted, prior to this comic, I didn't know a whole lot about Congo Bill. To me, he was just comic book trivia, a forgotten relic of the Golden Age. But writer James Robinson, with help from Len Wein, has done something great with this character. Comic book readers tend to have a soft spot for big monkeys in their stories, but I predict that the modern Congo Bill is going to turn out to be something very special indeed. I don't thinks he's going to end up being just another anthropomorphic ape character. There's some DEPTH here.

All in all, Justice League: Cry for Justice #1 is a setup issue, but that's okay, because James Robinson has presented something VERY promising here. It remains to be seen how all of these heroes are going to meet up (and, of course, we haven't yet seen the full team lineup), but Robinson has given them all a common purpose, one that's relatively simple yet powerful. I wish the current, main Justice League title had started off this strong.

I also love Robinson's notes at the end of the issue, which also contain Len Wein's retelling of Congo Bill's origin story. Robinson has obviously put a great deal of research and thought into this mini-series, and he brings to the table an obvious respect for the characters and their histories.

The issue isn't without its flaws. There is the strange Hal-and-Ollie exchange I mentioned earlier, which I don't quite buy. There's also the Supergirl costume controversy, which has been reported by other eagle-eyed bloggers. In the preview from two weeks ago, Supergirl was modestly covered:

In the actual issue #1, however, the artwork has obviously been "corrected."

It's a shame, really. The bare midriff look is becoming passe, anyway, so I think they should have just left Supergirl with a "whole" shirt.

I suspect, however, that the whole Supergirl kerfuffle is due to an honest error on the part of artist Mauro Cascioli as opposed to an attempt to change Supergirl's costume -- simply because Cascioli's pencils clearly show that he made a similar mistake on Hal Jordan's costume:

That's Hal's OLD costume, not his current one -- but it's been corrected in the final art.

Oh, well. Supergirl will get a whole shirt again, SOMEday. In the meantime, I'm really, really looking forward to seeing issue #2 of this series. What a nice feeling that is to have for a Justice League title.


wik said...

" can bet Hal is not going to be happy to hear about Freedom Beast's demise."
You can bet on that... Even when he's as serious as he is in this series, Hal isn't the type to hold a grudge (as you pointed out in your Hal vs Batman posts) except against certain villains. Plus, I think he's a little easier on heroes under mind control, given his past...
The issue itself was quite promising, and I am happy to see that they are planning to tie this into the actual JLA series when Robinson takes over there. Might finally add some meaning to the series again after all the strange routes the editors have insisted on taking for the storylines (not surprising, given that, since the very start, they made it clear in various parts of the DCU they were trying to make this JLA substandard).

Kandou Erik said...

I want that Golden Gorilla on the JLA Roster - NOW!

Nothing makes comics better than monkeys and other assorted primates.

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That Face! said...

what Erik said.
I approve of Congo Bill.

SallyP said...

The art was SO pretty in this. I actually rather liked the dialogue between Hal and Ollie in the bubble, I think that Hal was being a bit sheepish, in going for the dramatic exit, rather than the practical one.

If Dinah had a brain in her head, she'd be going with them.

Tony, was Mikaal's boyfriend from Starman, where he used to show up on occasion...not too often,but enough so that we knew that he and Mikaal had a rather nice relationship. He was a pleasant character and I'm sorry he's dead.

Kevin T. said...

. . . Justice? Justice. JUSTICE!

I was actually planning on getting this, because I am always for Hal and Ollie teaming up together, but then I saw that it's $3.99. Is the story extra-long, or is there bonus content or something?

Sea-of-Green said...

Kevin -- The main story is SHORT, actually. There is the writer's notes, plus some reproductions of the pencil art, and Len Wein's two-page origin story for Congo Bill. Where cost issues are concerned, I recommend waiting for the trade. I have a feeling the trade is going to be well worth it!

Sally -- Thanks! It's nice to have the background story for Tony. :-)

Duskdog said...

So Tony has been fridged, basically? It's a shame. We don't have nearly enough gay/bi characters in the DCU without them getting killed off just to give someone else angst/motivation.

Even so, I liked this and I'll probably keep picking it up. The cast is interesting, and I'm interested in seeing what exactly they're going to do to the bad guys once they catch them. I still think that Hal is a bad choice for a leader of anything, but then again, that's what might make it even more interesting.