The Good: Much of the artwork
The Bad: Surprisingly lame story, Lack of character development, Lack of themes/purpose
The Basics: A strange standalone story from 2008, Justice League Of America: The Injustice League is an odd tale without any real consequences or purpose.
Hero stories often bore me. I've lost patience with simple archetypes of good and evil. I tend to enjoy complexity in characters. It is probably why, up until recently, Wonder Woman has been my favorite hero; she has a powerful moral compass, but she recognizes that the world is not as simple as, for example, Superman makes it out to be. Well before Batman broke his "no guns" rule to shoot Darkseid and begin one of the most pointless "character death and rebirth" stories in comic book history, it was Wonder Woman who killed a man in order to stop the use of Superman as a weapon of mass destruction. That action had devastating - and compelling - consequences.
What has started to interest me much, much more are the well-constructed villains. Arguably the greatest graphic novel of all time, Justice (reviewed here!) explores attempt on the part of the villains to create a community and turn the world in the direction they see fit. Through that book and reading the DC Universe Online Legends (reviewed here!) book, I've come to enjoy the character of Lex Luthor. More accurately, I tend to enjoy the writers who have an interesting take on Lex Luthor, like Brian Azarello had with Luthor (reviewed here!). Unfortunately, Dwayne McDuffie, author of Justice League Of America: The Injustice League is not one of those insightful writers, at least not in this book. So, coming off a number of successful, interesting and character-filled books about the villains of the DC Universe, Justice League Of America: The Injustice League flops hard.
As the heroes in the DC Universe prepare for Oliver Queen's bachelor party, Lex Luthor, Cheetah and the Joker put the final touches on their new organization of villains. On the night of the bachelor party, Firestorm is led into a trap by Killer Frost and is incapacitated by the Joker and the Injustice League. Firestorm's near-lethal wounding lays the trap by which Wonder Woman, Batman, Geo-Force and other heroes from the Justice League Of America are drawn out and captured. Held in the swampland Fortress Of Doom, Lex Luthor goads Superman into coming to find the assembly of villains.
Naturally, Superman and the remaining heroes ride to the rescue of their brethren and the Injustice League begins to collapse, most notably when Cheetah attempts to kill Dr. Light, as he is a rapist and Cheetah is the dark avenger of all women. Following the main story, there are two rather pointless stories. In one, a villain from an alternate universe is deposited in our universe, establishing a porn-star lookalike version of the Flash in the main DC Universe. The other story features Red Arrow and a reformed villain who just wants to be remembered by the superhero community.
What Justice League Of America: The Injustice League lacks is a real purpose. Lex Luthor is a smart guy. In fact, in DC Universe Online Legends, he is characterized as the smartest character and best tactical thinker in the world, above both Bruce Wayne and the Atom. So, when McDuffie somewhat witlessly characterizes him as a guy just out to get Superman angry, the reader has a hard time truly buying the premise. Lex Luthor ought to be smarter than this and of all the ways to get Superman riled up, the capture of his friends is a decent one.
The fundamental problem, though, is twofold. First, the execution of it is so poor it is hard to imagine such a smart guy could come up with such a stupid plan. To wit, once Superman witnesses his friends incapacitated and Luthor explicitly states that he's trying to get a rise out of Superman, it takes only a few pages - mere moments - before Superman, Black Lightning and Firestorm actually locate the Hall Of Injustice (which looks just like it did for the Superfriends cartoons!). So, the book flops because it is - in large part - smart people doing dumb things and that is never as fun as people make it out to be.
The second half of the problem is the lack of purpose. Lex Luthor wants to get Superman mad. Fine. Why that is is not adequately explored. Sure, other books delve into that extraordinarily well, most notably Luthor. But the lack of motivation for the villain who is masterminding the entire operation is disappointing. Equally as disappointing is that he lacks safeguards to keep his Injustice League intact. Luthor is supposed to be super-intelligent and knows that Cheetah hates Dr. Light, so how he does not build in a fail-safe to prevent the two from interacting seems remarkably dumb. So is working with the Joker, who is such a random element that he is purposely excluded from the plans in Justice. But Justice League Of America: The Injustice League seems to have a shocking lack of foresight in that department. Instead, Luthor just seems to be bored and trying to piss off Superman and that makes for a remarkably banal story.
What Justice League Of America: The Injustice League does have is pretty consistently good art. For sure, the panels of Dinah Lance on page 56 or Killer Frost three pages later look like the wet dreams of teenage boys who were raised on a solid diet of smuggled porn and The Girls Next Door, but that's the genre. The characters are easily recognizable in every panel and some of the panels have a decent sense of movement between them, which uses the medium fairly well.
Finally, one of the problems with Justice League Of America: The Injustice League is that it neither utilizes, nor explains enough of the villains well-enough for new readers. For new readers, it is unclear what the powers and limitations of some of the obscure villains like Killer Frost, Fatality and Shadow Thief are. But for seasoned readers, it is hard not to read some of the panels and wonder if the writers of the book even knew all they needed to. For example, as the big battle commences, Firestorm squares off with virtually every villain in the DC Universe. Even with limited knowledge of all of the villains, my thought was not "why isn't X villain kicking Firestorm's butt," it was "If everyone in the world is vulnerable to Firestorm's powers and ability (which seems to be the only actual purpose of Justice League Of America: The Injustice League), why isn't Gorilla Grodd manipulating Firestorm's mind?" Just as Firestorm is an exceptional power over all matter, Grodd exploits the mental vulnerabilities of almost everyone in the DC Universe, yet in the climax of Justice League Of America: The Injustice League he is simply displaying brute force. This is the equivalent to writing stories wherein Superman spends his time using his heat ray eyes to heat up and open cans of soup.
Serious readers will not find enough in the Justice League Of America: The Injustice League graphic novel to stimulate and that makes it easy to leave this one in the juvenile section. For the first time in a very long time, this is a graphic novel I've read that belongs there!
For other DC Universe graphic novels, please visit my reviews of:
Justice League: Generation Lost - Volume 1
Brightest Day - Volume 3
For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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