Monday, July 23, 2012

The Back Bench Of DC Universe Heroes Comes To The Forefront With The Worthwhile Justice League: Cry For Justice!

The Good: Generally wonderful artwork, Good tone, Interesting character moments.
The Bad: Gaps in the story, Elements of the resolution are very unsatisfying.
The Basics: Justice League: Cry For Justice finds the DC Universe in chaos following Final Crisis, leaving Green Lantern and Green Arrow to do some of the heavy lifting.

I quickly realized just how good Justice League: Cry For Justice was when my local library managed to get a new Flash graphic novel in for me via interlibrary loan. I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next Flash book as part of my Flash Year. Even so, I found myself pleasantly engrossed in Justice League: Cry For Justice and unwilling to stop reading it before I started the new book. I am, by and large, glad that I did.

Set in the darkened world that followed Final Crisis (reviewed here!), Justice League: Cry For Justice has the superhero community reeling still from the loss of Batman. Illustrated with paintings, much like the style of Kingdom Come (reviewed here!), Justice League: Cry For Justice was an unlikely story to captivate me, though I do tend to enjoy many of the stories set in the DC Universe that do not involve the main members of the Justice League. Justice League: Cry For Justice only has the big members of the superhero universe peripherally involved and as a result, has the sense throughout that the heroes who are involved easily could fail.

With the Justice League of America licking its wounds, Hal Jordan decides he has had enough. With evidence that supervillains are congregating, Jordan decides that he and the others ought to bring the fight to the villains. With Oliver Queen at his side, Hal Jordan departs to start dispensing justice. Soon, though, Hal is not alone. Ray Palmer, the Atom, has resurfaced and he is hunting for the supervillain Prometheus, as are Bill the Gorilla (formerly Congorilla) and Starman (Mikaal Tomas). When Prometheus assembles villains in Gotham, the various heroes on his trail meet and decide to team up. Joined by Supergirl and Shazam, the heroes narrowly survive an assault by Clayface.

With all of their leads pointing to the need for backup, Hal Jordan and his team journey to the Justice League Watchtower to ask for help. Aboard the space station, Red Arrow is brutally attacked and Prometheus finally makes his appearance. But when Prometheus cuts through the ranks of the heroes, he inspires a debate about how far is too far and what level of conflict will actually net justice!

“Justice” is, naturally, the buzzword of Justice League: Cry For Justice. Various characters debate through the tome just what the real meaning of justice is and how best to achieve the goal of getting justice for fallen heroes (and dispensing it upon villains). Justice League: Cry For Justice oversteps any murky gray area in the debate, though, by utilizing Ray Palmer as a torturer. Rather troublingly, there is very little debate over how ethical it is for Palmer to enter the bodies of villains and give them headaches until they confess what little they know. Fortunately, author James Robinson is just sophisticated enough to acknowledge that torture is not a reliable source of information, as most of the villains Palmer assaults know nothing the heroes can use.

What is refreshing about Justice League: Cry For Justice is how effectively the second-run heroes actually manage to step up during the crisis. James Robinson takes characters few will care about, most notably Gorilla Bill and Mikaal, and makes them surprisingly vital throughout Justice League: Cry For Justice. With all of their friends slaughtered, they form a reasonable pair of heroes who are quickly challenged to define their own borders as they work unaided by any of the big heroes of the DC Universe. And, late in the book, it was enjoyable to see Donna Troy enter the narrative (this might be the book I’ve read that actually gave her a substantial role!).

From almost the moment Hal Jordan walks out on the Justice League, Justice League: Cry For Justice does something few other books set in the DC Universe do; it reminds readers that Superman is not the absolute good or most powerful individual in the DC mythos. While Supergirl enters the story and events involving Krypton are referenced without any explicit explanation, the book focuses largely on the power of Green Lantern and the principles of Green Arrow. Together, they set a new course and it is a remarkably sensible one.

Justice League: Cry For Justice has Hal Jordan actually policing Earth the way he is supposed to as a Green Lantern. When Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash leave the narrative, Hal Jordan assumes a rightful mantle of leadership. Even as Green Arrow expresses concern over leaving Dinah and her Justice League to strike out with Jordan, the decision seems like a good one for all concerned and the book presents Hal Jordan as an unconflicted, natural leader. That’s a pretty sensible characterization for a man whose innate power is his willpower.

With art by Mauro Cascioli and Scott Clark, Justice League: Cry For Justice looks exceptionally good. Panel to panel, this is one of the nicest looking graphic novels I have read in a long time! Unfortunately, the panel arrangement is not always the clearest and there are some stretches where the book seems very disorganized. Justice League: Cry For Justice finishes with “bonus features,” vignettes that explore Prometheus’s rise to power and origins of some of the heroes who participate in Justice League: Cry For Justice.

Ultimately, Justice League: Cry For Justice is a worthwhile graphic novel that stylishly overcomes what could be a pretty mundane plot by presenting deep, relevant themes and character events that shake up some very interesting, if second-string heroes!

For other team stories that involve the secondary characters from the DC Universe, be sure to check out my reviews of:
I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League
Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter


For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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