Sadly, my first entry focusses heavily on the last of the three categories. Justice League: Cry for Justice, written by James Robinson, is the first Justice League book that I’ve read, and if this is the standard across most of the series then it will most likely be the last. Given that I’m wary of the two big team titles for DC and Marvel – Justice League and The Avengers respectively – this was an unprecendented purchase for me, but since it only cost me $8 at comic-con and was meant to heavily feature Green Lantern, my second-favourite comic book superhero, I figured it was worth a shot. I’d heard one or two people say some good stuff about it.
Those people are now dead, because I killed them for blatant lies.
Cry for Justice starts out fairly solidly – Hal Jordan is pissed that heroes are dying left, right and centre, so he takes off with Green Arrow to take down some baddies. Along the way they’re joined by Supergirl, Captain Marvel (who DESPERATELY needs a haircut), Congo Bill, Starman and The Atom. Their main target ends up being Prometheus, who has done some pretty bad shiz to a lot of people and needs to be taken down. On the way they have to deal with issues of superhero morality, most prominently torturing the bad guys to get what they want.
Sounds good, right? A bunch of powerful heroes taking on a villainous mastermind, focussing on violence from superheroes as a grey morality issue and showcasing a few of DC’s underdog superheroes as charging forces of good and awesome, right?
What we get instead is a sappy, over-hyped and over-bloated piece that tries – and fails – to hit the mark on the aforementioned morality issue, and that contains far too many instances of the word justice. The characterisations go all over the place, there’s a stupid subplot about Supergirl and Captain Marvel getting familiar that was squished in and totally unnecessary, the dialogue is far too clunky and awkward and there are so many double standards brought up in the piece that just make it both confusing and boring at the same time.
Robinson very much has a missed moment of awesome in this book – his initial purpose of superheroes trying to dish some pain to the baddies instead of waiting for them to come to him has a lot of good push to it, and would indeed make a fantastic story that could explore a much darker side of the pre-established superhero MO. It veers from this premise early on, however, and eventually just becomes all about them trying to kick Prometheus’s ass because he’s already done some bad stuff. The whole “going against collective villains” thing goes right out the window after the first couple of chapters, and really turns into what I view as a stock standard plot about heroes vs villains and how they’re apparently incorruptible. By the end of the story the heroes are alright, Prometheus has been pwned and all seems right with the world.
Except for the 90,000 dead in Star City. And Arsenal having his arm ripped off. And Green Arrow killing someone.
And therein is one of the biggest disappointments for me in this book – Green Arrow. The Emerald Archer has been a hero I wouldn’t mind reading some substantial stuff of someday, but his characterisation in this book made me want to punch him in the face. His double standard of “We can’t torture villains like Prometheus, but it’s ok the kill them!” was so utterly contrived. Granted, he had just lost 90,000 people from his city, but Prometheus had done bad stuff before then and yet still had ol’ Ollie defending his human rights and whatnot. The selfish act of being allowed to kill him when HE was wronged by Prometheus was so completely unheroic in every sense, it made me wonder if this is how Green Arrow is meant to be in his own series as well. For someone reading most of these characters and settings for the first time, it doesn’t exactly make me want to read more of Arrow’s stuff in particular.
The twists in this story are far too pedestrian. The reveal about Freddy actually being Prometheus felt lame. Green Arrow putting an arrow between his eyes felt predictable, once Star City fell. The fake Prometheus that was actually Clayface was RIDICULOUSLY underwhelming.
It feels like Robinson wanted to take all these shocking elements and smoosh them together into something resembling a story, but ended up just creating a random miasma of crapness. There’s so little exploration of real character, apart from Green Arrow. There’s no satisfying resolution. There are too many expected twists. There’s too much awkward dialogue. There are too many characters thrown in for no reason (such as Jay Garrick, AKA the First Flash. WTF was he doing in the story, chasing down all those random heroes and JSA members? I’ve still got no idea).
In short, Cry for Justice was highly disappointing. It’s reaffirmed for me the dangers of a team piece being far too non-streamlined and awkward, as well as having too many chaarcters there for little or no good reason at all, and it’s kinda turned me off attempting to read another Justice League piece anytime soon. If someone can point me to a genuinely good one I’ll have a go, but James Robinson does not get a gold star from me.
One final positive note would be the artwork – whilst the story was bad, Mauro Cascioli’s artwork was quite beautiful. It’s a style I’ve never seen in a comic book before, but I found it far more engaging than the written words on the pages.