Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Comic Review Wednesdays - Justice League: Cry for Justice #1

Justice League: Cry for Justice #1 (of 7)
Written by James Robinson
Art by Mauro Cascioli

Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern, is fed up. Martian Manhunter and Batman have died fighting, and many of those responsible are still roaming the streets. What's the point of the Justice League if criminals are never put to justice? No longer can heros be reactive, they must be proactive. After passionately appealing to the league, Hal leaves the league with Green Arrow to do what the other league members refuse to do: deliver justice.

Robinson's base concept for Justice League: Cry of Justice, a comic now more than a year in the making, is nothing original. Proactive justice has been the starting point for at least one incarnation of The Outsiders. It is also one of the many different directions that Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel has taken, around its second year, in the form of Operation Lightning Storm. Doubtless there are additional instances of bombastic super-heros taking a more authoritative approach to crime fighting. While the concept isn't quite stale yet, it certainly doesn't serve the series well. What inevitably happens in these types of stories is that the supposedly proactive team becomes reactive within two, or sometimes even in the first story. It's likely due to the difficulty of creating plots around heros who arbitrarily circle the globe looking for villains. Robinson's title may or may not fall into this trap, and fortunately it's a mini-series, so the likelihood is at least lessened. The trouble is it's still not very creative jumping off point.

Concept however, is secondary to execution. Unfortunately Robinson doesn't even have that to lean on. The dialog is never better than mediocre, is frequently horrid, and occasionally melodramatic bordering on hoaky. With lines like, "Remember back in the day... when I lost my millions and became liberal", and "Welcome to pain" readers should be able to tare this comic up in frustration without the slightest once of guilt over the 3.99 they spent for it. Even more disturbing is that early in the comic, Superman issue the line "We start again. We begin again. And we do the right thing and we stay united for all we hold true. I mean--, --isn't that what we do?" Ignoring the overlooked rhyme in the dialog, this is a line said by Superman in which he not only stammers but questions his position on justice and the league! A worse error in character is difficult to imagine without crossing into the absurd.

If that weren't enough, Robinson one-ups himself. The issue itself is more or less a string of scenes that touch base with several major characters in the story. Setting up personal motivations, the issue touches on the emotionally charged events -- that are all unsettlingly similar-- that will unite these characters. Virtually at the end of each scene, a character literally cries aloud for justice. It's the kind of melodramatic comic puke that can make a person swear off comics all together.

The artwork, meticulously hand-done by relative new-comer Maurd Cascioli, however, is absolutely stunning. His work is of the kind not often seen in comics where fine arts illustration and sequential art are happily married. It is largely because of Cascioli's work that this title has been so long in the making, and visually it's worth the wait. It wouldn't be at all surprising if he were to quickly become one of Marvel or DC's hot cover artists.

RATING: 4 out of 10
The rating is only because of the stunning quality of the artwork, and the unexpected additional material in the back of the book (DC once again proves it cares about its readers more than Marvel by giving them more material for their extra buck). If you want to read Cry of Justice, this is the first issue and on shelves now-- it will supposedly have an effect on Robinson's upcoming run on the ongoing Justice League title and may be worth it if you're on board for that. I'm just reading it for Batwoman.

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