Thursday, October 24, 2013

Justice #11 (June, 2007)

The Joker continued to blow up parts of the synthetic cities. "It's my party now! But don't act surprised I showed up. You should have expected me to crash. You really should. You're a regular Brainiac." Meanwhile, as villains from the Legion of Doom were teleporting to other cities, Poison Ivy asked Brainiac sarcastically if everything was still going according to his plan. "Yes."

At the big battle between the Super Friends and the Legion of Doom, Action Stealth Armor Batman™ (from Mattel®) fired real working phosphorous projectile pellets at Solomon Grundy. Meanwhile, Green Lantern John Stewart destroyed the nanite worms that were mind-controlling errbody while simultaneously liberating the non-powered supporting casts previously held hostage by teen super-heroes. This allowed the reunion of Batman Family members Batgirl, Robin and Commissioner Gordon. Zatanna had nothing but her white cloak and the company of Captain Marvel, who would oddly start wearing a white cloak himself in mainstream comics around this time. Conquering, err, saboteurs Black Canary and Green Arrow helped support a clearly weary Elongated Man as Sue Dibny and Martian Manhunter looked on. Plastic Man even gave Ralph a pat on the back, a too subtle not-quite-pay-off for the page devoted to Ralph giving Plas grief issues ago. Aqualad lingered alone from a remove. Zatanna teleported all the civilians to the Fortress of Solitude while the heroes prepared to deal with the escaped bad guys.

Aquaman followed Brainiac and son to Toyman's city, and despite a considerable lead, the Justice League caught up with him inside five panels. They would be needed, as thousands of Brainiac and Arthur Junior robot duplicates swarmed the streets. Beyond the dumbfounding specificity, there's a stupefying two-page spread of the heroes destroying all the robots savagely, relying on Superman's x-ray vision to determine that none of them were the real deal. But say, the Ductile Detective and the Pliable Paladin had a friendly team-up in the midst of it!

Zatanna contacted Superman. "I know if anyone can hear me, it's you. Brainiac- the signal I've been following for him, it's gone. And I can't find a trace of Aquaman's son in the city anymore, either. There are people here, children we need to save in addition to Aquaman's son." Superman stayed in Toyman's domain, while Zatanna magicked other heroes to Scarecrow's bleak Transylvanian-style fake city. The citizens of that plane were mind-controlled and sent against the heroes. "You only need to ask yourself how you are going to save them. How will you fight back when your every defensive blow will crush a soul. Break an arm? Make a cripple? We are legion! Green Lantern then showed up to fix that, then Scarecrow unleashed fear gas to make folks kill one another. Why Lantern didn't just fix that too, I assure you I don't know.

"Chapter Eleven" was plotted and painted by Alex Ross. The script was provided by Jim Krueger, and the penciled layouts by Doug Braithwaite. Zatanna is little seen, but she seems to have the extraordinary power to fix continuity errors through patches in the script whenever needed. Since when does Zee track electronic signals and act as a message relay center? Yeesh!

Continue the story through these character-specific posts:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Justice #10 (April, 2007)

Previously in Justice

Black Manta was at a formal celebration taking place at a veritable Hall of Doom in one the the super-villains' cities, as was Brainiac. Arthur Curry Junior apparently had the perfect mind to be wired up by the Coluan and serve as vanguard to a replacement race for Brainiac's home world. "Yes, Arthur. Your father is coming for you. Of course, you'll be more my son by then, won't you? First of my people, the new Coluans." Sure enough, Aquaman in his protective armor and fellow heroes burst onto the scene. The Superman villain Parasite leapt at him, threatening to steal the Sea King's powers and then go after his wife. "Wrong thing to say, Parasite. Way wrong thing to say. You're not touching anyone." Without hesitation, Aquaman speared the creep through the chest with his trident, then slammed his body hard enough against the ground to shatter the floor. Manta came at him next firing eyebeams, so Aquaman harpooned his helmet. "You will never come between me and my son again, Manta!" Unfortunately, these distractions allowed Brainiac to escape with Aquacyborgbaby to another city via transport tube. "NOOOO!!"

Meanwhile, Batman knocked Riddler and Poison Ivy around in his "Beyond" looking red and black armor. Martian Manhunter preoccupied himself with Gorilla Grodd and Giganta. Zatanna secretly teleported Green Arrow and Black Canary to a sewer, then returned to the battle before she could be missed. Members of the Metal Men pretended to act as protective armor for the two missing heroes, while in fact working independently to conceal their absence. Still, the ruse was eventually detected, and Clayface dispatched to stop the duo. In a moment the creators failed to establish beforehand, Elongated Man (wearing a sort of Shadow Thief/ninja alternate costume) turned out to have been pretending to be Ollie's "shadow" in near light-less tunnel. "I want to see Plastic Man do this." Elongated Man encapsulated Clayface, who continued to writhe and press within. The Emerald Archer thought to himself "Ralph's wife isn't even one of those that were taken. He's here for us... Some look at Ralph as a joke. Next time anyone says anything about him, I'll tell them of this moment..." Elongated Man cried that Clayface was chewing on his insides, and that there was only so much pain and stress he could take. Ollie called out, "You're a helluva Leaguer, Ralph." Queen went on to locate the kidnapped supporting casts of the various heroes, and smuggled a power ring to John Stewart...

"Chapter Ten" was plotted and painted by Alex Ross. The script was provided by Jim Krueger, and the penciled layouts by Doug Braithwaite. I'm guessing Ross and company thought they'd crafted the Elongated Man redemptive moment that would be praised by Wizard Magazine for years to come. Instead, it established that he was still motivated by his ego to go up against a second rate Batman villain and whine about it all being too much for him within the span of a few panels. Plastic Man gets a lot more done in subsequent issues, a reminder of what Ralph tried to keep from getting accomplished because of his stupid pride, and then throws a spotlight at his minimal competence for unflattering measure. They had better luck inspiring Geoff Johns' very popular "Have Trident, Will Skewer" take on Aquaman, but despite this being out of continuity, the guys he stabbed regenerate like video game players without a scratch on them in later issues. The Aqualobotomy subplot dragged on unbelievably, but "a Brainiac ate my baby" does its best to match it for incredulity. Mad props for giving Aquaman his big moment in the series while wearing a lame all-green armor that renders him virtually unrecognizable, by the way.

Continue the story through these character-specific posts:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Justice Volume Two (2007)

Sue Dibny gently held her husband's arm and hand as Ralph placed a call to a mutual friend. "Look, Iris, it's me, okay? I know I'm just a JLA second-stringer and I'm lucky when I get called to tutor the Teen Titans. But I'm feeling kind of like an outsider here. Where's Barry?" The Flash had been missing for hours, and none of the rest of the League was returning the Elongated Man's calls. "Well, Batman never answers my calls, but..." Ralph had at least placed calls through to Rex and Zatanna...

Aquaman lay still and bloodied on an operating table. Lex Luthor wondered if he was dead, like most of the rest of the Justice League. "Does it matter," answered Brainiac. The Coluan knew Luthor was plotting against him, and said so, but everyone still had their roles to play. Brainiac had a handful of black marble "cities" whose time would soon come...

The Batman had his cave invaded by Captain Marvel and Superman, and when he protested, was decked and tied up with his butler. There were, of course, extenuating circumstances...

Dr. Jonathan Crane used a special solution to allow the blind to see in an impoverished land. Super-villains in civilian guise continued these miraculous acts around the world, while the media (including Vicki Vale) wondered what had become of the status quo enforcing super-heroes who had gone missing. The Joker, left out of the fun, continued his inquiries.

The Martian Manhunter helped Hawkman and Hawkgirl find Toyman in Metropolis.

Batman was bound in his newly amazonian Batcave by Poison Ivy, when he was appropriately rescued by Wonder Woman. However, the Dark Knight was being mind controlled, and return the favor with an electrocution attempt. The Lasso of Truth restored the Caped Crusader's psyche, and he made short work of Ivy. Super-Gorilla Grodd, speaking through the still-bound Alfred Pennyworth, cursed the stupid human animals. "I'm going to kill you. I'm going to dance on your bones. I will feast on your flesh. You have no idea what's coming."

"Shut up, Alfred. Are you okay, Wonder Woman? I'm so sorry." The Amazing Amazon was feeling raw, but Poison Ivy and Batman each had to be secured. "Your lasso is the only thing that's keeping whatever's inside me from controlling me... I need to be free to make sure whatever did this to me pays for it."

Elongated Man called in Green Lantern John Stewart from off screen.

Zatanna was quite busy this issue, despite not actually appearing. She was just in time to magic what was left of Red Tornado off the soon-to-explode League Satellite and send him to Doc Magnus for repairs. Aquaman's location was still locked in the android's head. Zee also guided John Stewart to Ferris Aircraft in Coast City to aid his search for Green Lantern.

The Martian Manhunter fretted as he made his way to the location Red Tornado had determined was Aquaman's last whereabouts. Using J'Onzz as a magical anchor, Zatanna materialized at his location. She remained hopeful against J'Onn's crestfallen pessimism, and was horrified at the state in which they found the Sea King's body. "What have they done to him, J'Onn? What have they done to his brain?"

Batman, still held in check by the Lasso of Truth, flew to the Fortress of Solitude with Wonder Woman. They were forced to wait outside until Superman arrived to lift his massive key.

Outside Atlantis, Aqualad fled the eye lasers of the Black Manta.

As other heroes arrived at the Fortress of Solitude, Batman apologized to Red Tornado for the damage he had wrought. Superman arrived to let everyone inside.

"People of magic should never be required to wait," griped Zatanna to Martian Manhunter at the headquarters of the Doom Patrol. She was concerned that Caulder couldn't "do more than he was able to do for Cliff Steele." Robotman took offense to that remark, while the Chief explained that there was nothing that needed to be done for Aquaman. While Caulder and J'Onzz compared notes on why Arthur had been assaulted in this manner, Zee thought, "The hole doesn't seem so large anymore. Did you replace some of the tissue?" Caulder assured her he had done nothing. Instead of offering a proper answer, the Chief directed his staff to place Aquaman in a healing tank he'd prepared. Zee asked Cliff "Is Niles always like this?" Robotman responded, "What, having three different conversations at once? Yeah, pretty much."

As part amphibian, Aquaman could regenerate the portion of his brain that had been removed. "He really is a man of untapped potential. Extraordinary." While Beast Boy covertly brushed against Zee's legs in cat form, the Sea King was revived with a name on his lips. "Mera...?"

Aqualad made his way to the royal palace to warn Mera about Black Manta, or so it seemed. Instead, Garth punched the queen out cold, then took her infant son from her arms. Clearly under someone's mental thrall, Aqualad fled the city to deliver Arthur Jr. to his father's greatest enemy. "I can't tell you how happy this is going to make Brainiac."

Still under the influence of the Lasso of Truth, Batman explained to Superman that there was little difference in their methods, only their effectiveness. Since Superman makes a point of letting everyone know how omnipotent he is, nobody in Metropolis wants to commit a crime based on the assumption the Man of Tomorrow knows all. The Dark Knight tried to make a parallel to the League's false assumption of safety, but Kal-El blew him off to chill out in space. Once there, he recognized the handiwork of Brainiac in the black sphere cities.

The Flash delivered Captain Cold to the Fortress of Solitude for questioning. While the rogue sat in a Plastic Man chair, sweating under a light, Batman threatened the icy villain with his own pistol. When Batman extorted information out of Cold at the potential expense of his larcenous digits, the lasso made clear it was no bluff.

Elongated Man bounced into a meeting elsewhere in the fortress to announce Batman's findings, as well as to enlarge an eye to inspect one of Brainiac's mind-controlling worm creatures under study. "Hmmm. Carter found this? Leave it to a bird to find a worm. And can someone tell me why I wasn't attacked? What's wrong with me? I have a lot of power. I'm formidable."

In a conference hall, Batman explained that the Legion of Doom had suffered reoccurring nightmares abut the world coming to an end despite (or perhaps partially because of) the Justice League's best efforts. "And so, our enemies have formed an alliance to either stop the coming end of life, or prepare a remnant of humanity to survive it." This involved killing off the heroes, seizing power, and "healing" people through the mind-controlling worms.

Zatanna materialized at the fortress, with Martian Manhunter, the Doom Patrol, and the revived Aquaman in tow. The Sea King immediately chastised the heroes for hiding in the fortress...

The Joker, pretending to be some sort of Amish preacherman, managed to score a ride to one of the black sphere floating cities.

Elongated Man decided to confront Plastic Man about his non-League presence. Eel retorted, "...Another one of those talks, is it? I'm sorry you're not the only stretchy guy... I wasn't attacked either. Maybe none of us are important. Feel better now?" Plastic Man kept trying to chill Ralph out, but Elongated Man kept insisting that the League didn't need this particular two of a kind. Eel rightly refused to leave, pointing out the similarities between Captain Marvel and Superman. Ralph insisted on being a jerk, while Plas thought maybe Elongated Man could take the form of "something the League actually needs one of these days."

Mera had Lord Yuko govern Atlantis while she searched for her missing son, beginning at the Fortress of Solitude. Elongated Man helped Mera inside, where she was reunited with her husband. Learning about the kidnapping, Superman wondered which other loved ones of the super-heroes were in danger.

Zatanna had asked the Phantom Stranger to find the missing Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and both returned from the furthest reaches of uncharted space. Zee thanked the Stranger for his aid. "It was a privilege, my dear. Perhaps now he really will be the greatest Green Lantern of them all one day." The Emerald Gladiator used his power ring to extract all the worms from Batman's body.

Aquaman stated his pleasure about everyone else being all right, but worried about his kid being in the hands of the enemy. "J'Onn told me that he had learned that Brainiac cut me open in an attempt to discover a means to control Grodd." The Sea King was furious with the Coluan and his war on all life. "He's a machine. Only a machine. And maybe that's for the best. Because I'm going to kill him."

Meanwhile, Aqualad had joined other mind-controlled teen heroes in kidnapping the supporting casts of heroes that matter (i.e. not the Martian Manhunter.)

"Justice, Vol. 2," collecting issues #5-8 of the 2005 mini-series, was plotted and painted by Alex Ross. The script was provided by Jim Krueger, and the penciled layouts by Doug Braithwaite.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Justice Volume One (2006)

The Earth was in its final minutes when the Sea King threw his hands up, ordering a crowd of frightened people back. Just as the planet's cities had burned, its oceans boiled away, leaving nothing but a burial mound for sea life the world over. Batman guided children down into his network of underground caves, hoping to escape their inescapable ends. "We all fall down. Ashes. Ashes."

Black Manta sat up in bed, sweating, cupping his face and neck. "Not again." The nightmare kept coming, and his fellow villains in the Legion of Doom shared it.

King Arthur's wife and infant son slept more peacefully, in the serene depths of their Atlantean palace. After his mother died, Aquaman promised his father he would use his powers to defend the world above and below the ocean. "I have to remind myself why I have to be anything other than a husband and father." The Sea King was restless, and explained to his queen Mera that he sensed something amiss in his domain. After playing with Aquababy for a moment, the hero excused himself to pursue his grim intuition. "If there is anything in this life I would choose again, Mera, it's you. When I need a reason to return to Atlantis, I think of you and Arthur."

Astride a giant seahorse, Aquaman surveyed his kingdom and beyond, coming upon a massive ebony dome. Suddenly, Black Manta and his men were attacking, firing lasers and clutching at limbs. Ultimately, the troop proved ineffectual, but a host of sharks ignored Aquaman's commands and set upon him. Manta taunted his foe as Arthur succumbed, then saw Aquaman into the dome. Lex Luthor shared Manta's nightmare, and as their common foe lay unconscious in the Hall of Doom, they plotted with their compatriots to save the world from the super friends...

The Riddler, garbed in a goofy-collared trench coat with an even more ridiculous interior illumination, was directing his gang on a heist. In an inspired move, the crooks had broken into Wayne industries to use its singularly powerful computer network to hack the Bat-computer. The security system detected Bruce Wayne himself rushing toward their control center, but it was in fact the Batman who would send them scurrying.

As the Batmobile pursued the Riddler’s vehicle, the Dark Knight received word from Red Tornado that Aquaman was missing. The android detailed, “Mera is accustomed to the dangers her husband faces. He’s gone missing before. But that does not make this easier.” Batman replied, “Of course not. No one wants to consider losing a part of the family. Arthur’s a friend, of course. I’ll do whatever I can.” The Caped Crusader suggested that the Martian Manhunter investigate, since the Riddler had gotten away with the identities of the Justice League and the schematics of their satellite. “I’ll devote myself to finding Aquaman once I’ve retrieved what the Riddler stole. This won’t take long.”

A grappling hook snared the van the Riddler’s crew was riding in. The Dark Knight pounced on the overturned vehicle, striking at the goons while the Riddler himself ran to “The Batcave.” Rather than the Caped Crusader’s secret headquarters, this was a Batman-themed bar in Gotham. The Riddler doubled back on Batman and swung with his question mark cane, but the blow was absorbed by way of armored gauntlet. Riddler’s men caught up with the pair and swarmed Batman, but batfan club kids pulled the goons off. The Riddler opened his coat to reveal blinding green light and a mix of holographic and material question mark throwing blades. Edward Nigma escaped, but by compulsion, left a clue behind.

Meanwhile, potions administered by Dr. Jonathan Crane allowed the infirm to walk again, Pamela Isley produced fruitful trees in the desert, and the media ate it all up.

The Dark Knight Detective used Riddler’s clue to track and capture Nigma in a local graveyard. Nigma began choking, but managed to recover, wondering “…what’s… wrong with me?” Delivered to Arkham Asylum, Nigma was harassed by the Joker, who was intrigued by tales of the apocalyptic dreams he’d been missing out on. “I deserve to be part of this…”

Batman couldn’t let go of the night’s case back at the real Batcave. “Why a cemetery?”

Aquaman awoke to find himself strapped to a gurney, an overhead light shining in his eyes. Lacking real peripheral vision, the Sea King was startled when an albino monkey landed on his chest, an electronic box wired into its skull. A voice explained that the monkey was less a pet, and more of a broken toy. Brainiac enjoyed his grisly little experiments, and as he approached Aquaman in his blood splattered surgeon’s uniform and bone cutting tools, the alien fiend expressed his desire to “get inside your head.”

Aquaman remained bound on an operating room table. Brainiac thought Aquaman was an enviably remarkable being, even by the standards of the Justice League, but the Sea King wouldn’t stop pestering him with questions. “Don’t interrupt me. It’s not befitting someone of your mental sophistication.” Brainiac felt there were two ways to deal with his envy: acceptance, or merely taking what he wanted.

Martian Manhunter had been assigned to find Aquaman, as he had remained missing for weeks. The search would not fare well, thanks to Gorilla Grodd.

Aquaman threatened that he would get free, while Brainiac expressed his disgust for humanity and its predisposition toward violence. The Coluan menace explained that we were born from chaos, but still longed for design-- for order. “That’s where I come in. The truth is that I’m only bringing you the very thing you’ve wanted.” Scalpel in hand, he continued, “Come now, Aquaman. Have an open mind.”

Edward Nigma was still an inmate at Arkham Asylum, constantly badgered by the Joker to be allowed into his scheme. From out of a purple haze, Lex Luthor materialized, the Riddler’s hat and coat in hand. Luthor was a bit put out by Riddler’s tipping his hand to Batman, but Nigma was unrepentantly his own man, which Lex could respect. “We all gloat in our own ways.” The Riddler told the Joker his goodbye as he vanished with Luthor, but the Clown Prince wasn’t prepared to give up that easily.

Aquaman was a major part of Brainiac’s plan. One continued his telepathic outreach while the other made his deadly incision. “You have no idea who it is who just killed you. You’re my hero, Aquaman. You really are.” Off the coast of Argentina, sea life formed crosshairs to direct the JLA Satellite to Aquaman’s location, but it would only do good if there was anyone left to look. Using Riddler’s stolen data and Gorilla Grodd’s telepathy, the Legion of Doom were striking out at the League. At that moment, the Scarecrow plotted outside the apartment of Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance, while ever more heroes were placed in crosshairs of their own…

"Justice, Vol. 1," collecting the first four issues of the 2005 mini-series, was plotted and painted by Alex Ross. The script was provided by Jim Krueger, and the penciled layouts by Doug Braithwaite.