Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Superheroes Overcome The Odds Again In Justice Volume 3!

The Good: Incredible artwork, Decent story, Good pacing
The Bad: Fairly predictable ending, Not the whole story
The Basics: A powerful conclusion to the Justice Saga, Volume 3 does not hold up on its own in any meaningful way, despite having incredible artwork!

For those who have not been following my reviews of the other Justice books, it is utterly pointless to read this. Justice Volume 3 is the conclusion to the story begun in Volume 1 (reviewed here!) and continued in Volume 2 (reviewed here!). In order to discuss Volume 3 with any reasonable sense of understanding, one has to know what came before it. Because I have thorough reviews of those issues, I won't recap; the story picks up where Volume 2 left off.

This, of course, is the greatest weakness to Justice Volume 3. The Justice story was intended as a limited series, a twelve-issue series occurring in its own reality. The twelve-issues were then anthologized into three four-issue volumes, which are now completely obsolete because there is a full anthology of Justice (reviewed here!). In other words, no one needs to pick up just the final volume of Justice; you can (and should) get the entire story in one fell swoop! Volume 3 contains issues nine through twelve and they conclude the standalone story of Justice.

In Chapter 9, those who are vulnerable to Brainiac's parasitic worms are held in reserve while the Metal Men form armor for them. While half of the Justice League waits, Captain Marvel, the cursed Wonder Woman, the robotic Red Tornado, the magician Zatanna, Green Arrow and the protected Green Lantern make an assault on Gorilla Grodd, who is protected by a yellow weaponer's ring. But as the battle with Grodd begins, Captain Marvel is taken out by Black Adam and his infected family! The battle with Grodd nets an unexpected gift to the heroes as Superman and Batman learn the unfortunate truth about the humans that Brainiac's minions have cured of all infirmities. After Captain Marvel's mind control is reversed, he learns of the true culprit behind the parasites.

In Chapter 10, the superheroes are outfitted with their armor which will protect their bodies from being infiltrated by the parasites. With that, they crash a celebration Luthor and the villains are having to celebrate their victory over the Justice League. With Brainiac's plan to transform Aquaman's son into his own offspring, Grodd becomes unstable and the Justice League invades. While the Justice League tries to stop the principle villains, Green Arrow and Black Canary move to rescue the families of the heroes who have been captured, while many of their possessed allies take on the giant Rita. And when things appear darkest, Green Arrow's plan works and a new superhero is born!

While the Joker blows up one of the cities, Parasite makes an apparently fatal error which opens Chapter 11. With their allies freed from Brainiac's control, and the villains freed of his parasites as well, the forces of good finally turn the tide. But even as Aquaman goes on a rampage in a last-ditch effort to recover his son from Brianiac, Brainiac uses his influence to launch every nuclear weapon on earth.

The conclusion in Chapter 12 starts with Superman finally finding Toyman and in the confrontation, he learns more about the alliance of the villains. Martian Manhunter links Lex Luthor and Gorilla Grodd to redirect the missiles on their courses. But as Wonder Woman nears death and the other cities of the villains are cleared out Aquaman faces off with his nemesis to save his son. And Superman and Brainiac square off to determine the fate of the Earth!

Perhaps what is most surprising about the final volume of Justice is that it keeps progressing almost up until the last few pages. There is very little in the way of denouement and while there are loose ends to tie up, some of them have very little cathartic resonance because the resolution to one conflict is immediately followed with another conclusion and another. The other surprising aspect is how integral Zatanna becomes to wrapping this story up. If you're like me, you might never have heard of Zatanna, so to see a magician helping to completely turn the tide in this book is surprising.

Fortunately, Volume 3 of Justice has an appendices which includes some of the original sketches for the book as well as character profiles on several important characters, like Zatanna. Thus, readers who are less familiar with characters like Green Arrow, Sinestro, and Clayface (among others) can get a quick primer before reading the story. This allows them to appreciate the complexity of some of the team efforts. Just as Brainiac needs Gorilla Grodd because the robot cannot read minds (while the ape can), Superman cannot follow Brainiac's teleportations instantly the way Zatanna's magic can. The result is that in this final volume of "Justice," the partnership between the members of the Justice League of America is truly highlighted.

Unlike the prior volume, there is a decent sense of character development as well. Amidst the action and the fighting, characters wrestle with the choices they have made. Wonder Woman, for example, becomes bait to save lives by distracting Cheetah while others evacuate Cheetah's city. Hal Jordan and Sinestro have a decent back and forth while they fight and even Captain Marvel is given the chance to explore what wisdom he actually possesses when facing off against Black Adam. Perhaps the most compelling character study comes from one of the villains actually understanding exactly what he has become in the book's final pages.

But in the end, this is ultimately a superhero story and as a result, there is some predictability to it. While there was a moment I actually wondered if the world would be saved (standalones are allowed to shake things up by actually destroying the world, one would think), the moment passed quickly and what makes this volume of Justice so good is that it does what great hero stories are supposed to; it puts the heroes in the worst possible situation they could get into and then drags them out of it!

What Justice has in the third volume as well is what it has had all along; amazing artwork. Volume 3 continues the style of the earlier two volumes with each panel being a painting. Artists Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross worked together with Braithwaite pencilling the drawings and Ross painting over them. The result is a book that looks anything but like a comic book. Instead, each page has a little painting, complete with realistic shading and respect for light and perspective, as well as an amazing sense of motion to it. This is an adult book and it is incredible how well it was executed!

But, in the end, this is the final few chapters to a book that is now available in its proper full book form, which is why I am unable to recommend it. Despite the inherent quality of Volume 3 of Justice, readers will not get all they ought to from this volume: buy the full book instead!

For other trade paperback anthologies, please check out my reviews of:
Kingdom Come
Blackest Night: Tales From The Corps
Wonder Woman: Warkiller


For other book reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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