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JUSTICE is a difficult book for me to review, as I have such mixed feelings about it - perhaps more so than any other comic. Conceived by Alex Ross, it brings in co-writer Jim Krueger and penciller Doug Braithwaite to present what is essentially the Super Friends vs. The Legion of Doom, albeit with a much darker tone than the Saturday morning cartoon. Over the years, Ross has proven himself to be not only a spectacular artist, but a pretty good idea man. When those ideas were developed by writers such as Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid, the results could be brilliant; however, Ross' collaborations with Krueger have resulted in unfocused and drawn-out stories that don't seem to know when to end. Based on that, I had planned on avoiding this 12-issue limited series, but a free copy of the softcover edition changed that.
The story begins with the destruction of the Earth, despite the best efforts of the Justice League. It is slowly revealed that this is a dream shared by the League's enemies, apparently foreshadowing a great disaster brought about by Earth's over-reliance on its heroes. As a result, the villains decide to use their substantial powers to solve world problems and empower humanity. Utopia appears to be at hand, but at the heart of it, the heroes know that something isn't right. The compromising of their secret identities and subsequent attempts on their lives lead them to uncover an insidious plan that, frankly, only ended up confusing me.
At the heart of JUSTICE is Alex Ross' love of the Super Friends, and as such, we get classic '70s versions of our favorite heroes and villains; not just the core Super Friends, but also supporting members, as well as the Doom Patrol and the Metal Men. The characterizations are excellent, and the creators do get some neat ideas onto the page. Unfortunately, these various bits are mired in a tedious narrative that ups the ante at every turn, so that by the time I reached chapter 8, I was ready for the story to end. There are so many ways in which Krueger and Ross could have streamlined this story, eliminating some dead ends and tightening the plodding conclusion. Artwise, it's difficult to appreciate Braithwaite's contribution. He is an accomplished artist in his own right, and I'm a huge fan of his, so it would have been nice if his style weren't completely hidden by Ross' paints. On the other hand, Braithwaite's jarring and awkward layouts really make it difficult to follow what's happening. Cuts between scenes are not handled well - they are extremely abrupt, to the point that I had to constantly go back to make sure that I hadn't missed a page. Some objective oversight of this project might have helped to smooth things out, but I guess editors are hesitant to say "no" when Ross is involved.
I can't help but to compare the overall product with the grand mess that is Marvel's Secret Wars, as there are numerous similarities between the two (even the toys!), but with JUSTICE, I at least enjoyed the better part of the ride. This was such an ambitious project, and it does fare much better than most of Krueger and Ross' collaborations, but ultimately, JUSTICE comes across as an indulgent pet project of the creators, rather than something done for the readers.