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Justice #8

Posted: Saturday, October 28, 2006
By: Ray Tate



Talents: Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Doug Braithwaite
Publisher: DC

Let me explain something to any new readers that my faithful readers already know. I hate Hal Jordan. I utterly loathe him. Hal Jordan is the super-hero most likely to slap a woman on the ass and tell her to go make the coffee. Hal Jordan is more like super-white than super-hero. Seriously, Abin Sur. Your ring searched all over the planet, and this was the only man worthy to bear Green Lantern's light? If so humankind of all genders was filled with quite an allotment of piss-poor specimens during Hal's era because brother choosing Hal Jordan is really scraping the scrapings off the bottom of the barrel.

Some writers have given Hal Jordan moments that even I, a Hal Jordan hater, could appreciate, but I've only actively liked Hal Jordan twice: during Steven Grant's "Traitor" storyline in Legends of the DC Universe and in Kurt Busiek's far, far underrated JLA/Avengers. The writers showed me Jordan's heroism. Grant persuaded me to accept Jordan as a hero. Busiek convinced me that Hal Jordan, at least in his cross-company adventure, was one helluva hero. Hal Jordan saw his future. It wasn't pretty. He had the most to lose, but he threw it all away because he knew it was the right thing to do.

In Justice, Alex Ross and Jim Krueger, against my will, mind you, force me to cheer for Hal Jordan. Several issues ago, Sinestro tossed Hal Jordan into a nether dimension. Good riddance to bad rubbish. To save him, the Ring absorbs Hal's body and mind. The Ring also keeps him sane by creating a universe. A universe under Hal's egotistical control? One shudders at the thought. This issue of Justice Hal leaves his prison by swallowing his pride and accepting help from an honorary member of the Justice League.

Hal leaves his netherverse a changed man, or perhaps this is the potential that his fans have always seen in him reached. He no longer bears his arrogant swagger. He's learned a lesson in humility. He's grateful for the League. He's grateful for his friends. He's grateful for the help. He deserves a splash page, and Ross and Doug Braithwaite give him one freaking awesome splash page. If not for knowing his story in Justice this splash page would be mere artistic bluster, but this page is informed by the story. The page has meaning. This is Hal Jordan returned to a glory that I never saw until now in the character.

When Hal returns to the League, he hugs Green Arrow, his best friend, and he also appears to grip Diana's arm in a show of camaraderie. This is a different Hal Jordan. One who respects the heroes as his peers not subordinates and lessers. His first action of power--the cleansing of the alien infestation from Batman's body--is accompanied by dialogue that admits to doubt:

"Tell me if you see anything I'm missing, Superman. But I think I'm getting them all."

If Alex Ross and Jim Krueger were writing Green Lantern I think I would buy it. Hell, if they wrote every book starring every DC character in this series, I would buy each and every one of the titles. Never before have a I read an author and artist who simply gets it. He gets the magic. He gets the reason why these heroes became objects of our appreciation and respect.

Right from the opening, we get a beautiful conversation between Batman and Superman, one that amusingly talks of their similarities rather than their obvious differences. The Barry Allen Flash enjoys a great spotlight battle against Captain Cold, and Braithwaite and Ross show that ultrarealistic artwork can still work within the context of super-powers. The Flash's speed visually has never looked better.

The Batman returns to conduct an eerie interrogation of Cold, and Ross and Krueger here show off their basic super-hero writing skills. They understand the psychology behind the secret identity. Cold tries to fluster Batman by repeatedly referring to him as "Bruce." It of course doesn't work. This is just one of many subtle touches that makes Justice a superior event that should have been hyped to the heavens but was strangely played low-key.

Justice has a finely honed tight plot, but Ross and Krueger do not let plot usurp characterization. They do not forget the humanity of the heroes. Wonder Woman speaks of the tragedy that has befallen her with the surprisingly mature Captain Marvel. Plastic Man and Elongated Man quibble in an amusing scene. Aquaman shares a touching moment with Mera that also informs the heroes of a second attack perpetuated by the Legion of Doom. Oh, and I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Do not piss off Aquaman.

The telling moment of the book occurs when Cold gives up the information Batman requires. Batman easily cuts through the facade of the Legion of Doom. They still are behaving like villains. Even if the dreams they see are true, the Legion behave like the base greedy and power hungry megalomaniacs that they are. There should always be real basic differences between the heroes and the villains. Often times in comics you cannot see these differences, but here in Justice the differences are crystal clear.



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