52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
A few years before The New 52 initiative launched over at DC, James Robinson sought to tackle the Justice League in a different way. He sought to expose the difference between a league that feels like a family versus a team that truly seeks out justice. Shortly after the DC event “Final Crisis”, the League experienced a minor schism, wherein Hal Jordan wanted to seek true justice against villains as a result of the deaths of Batman and Martian Manhunter. Robinson would team with Marcus Cascioli and Scott Clark to bring to life a rather dark tale about seeking justice and the repercussions of the actions taken to seek justice.
Justice League: Cry For Justice
Following the sudden and unexpected death of two key members of the Justice League, Batman and Martian Manhunter, several heroes begin to question where the line blurs in regards to what they let villains get away with. Green Lantern and Green Arrow begin to object to the reactionary nature of the Justice League and gain the desire to take justice into their own hands. They unknowingly tackle a large undertaking that gains the support of several other heroes who have also recently lost people close to them as the result of villainous deeds. As Green Lantern assembles a squad of heroes willing to do what it takes to achieve justice, the new team begins to uncover a dark plot that threatens to push all the heroes into foreign territory as they grapple with tough moral decisions. Is murder justified if it achieves a feeling of justice?
James Robinson tells one of the darkest stories you’ll ever find the Justice League partake in with Justice League: Cry For Justice. Although dark, there’s no disputing how thoroughly enjoyable this tale is as you watch Robinson ask the hard hitting question of why superheroes always react instead of taking action. Stretching across seven issues, this miniseries takes several of everyone’s favourite DC characters, and even some obscure ones, and puts them through a gauntlet of villains and morally grey areas. At first the series seems to have a rather slow burning nature to it, taking its time to establish the characters and the direction the plot desires to move in. It’s a fair statement to say that much of the first three issues are like a chess game, moving all the pieces around the board before inevitably paying off during the last four issues. From issue four onward it is all unexpected twists and turns that are sure to shock readers with Robinson piling on plenty of moments that you won’t see coming whatsoever. The nature of these moments will leave the reader unsettled as they are truly story beats you wouldn’t expect coming based off the pacing of the first three issues.
Cry For Justice starts off with a wave of emotional reactions by Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern, as he argues with the Justice League about why they let villains take the first strike against them constantly instead of just hunting down the villains first and putting them away quickly. This creates an incredibly distinct divide between the members of the team as initially it is only Green Lantern and Green Arrow who think that tracking down the villains is the way to go and even then Green Arrow seemingly takes on the task more out of loyalty to his longtime friend than anything else. The cast that gets built around these two heroes is a rather interesting subsidiary team of the Justice League that has strong enough characters that it could justify itself as an ongoing series. There are a few characters who pop up amongst the cast like Starman and Congo Bill who just feel wildly unnecessary as it’s hard at first glance to see what they really contribute to the story overall. Their story isn’t uninteresting, it’s just one or two steps away from what’s already happening under Green Lantern’s guidance and ultimately feels like the two characters could’ve just been lobbed into the group of characters from the first issue and cut out some scenes that didn’t add anything to the plot. On the flip side of this, Robinson throws characters like Jay Garrick, The Shade, The Atom and many others who he uses quite well to serve a purpose in the plot. Even if their scenes hold some brevity, they still contribute something towards pushing the narrative forward to the satisfying conclusion of this story.
Green Arrow’s character, and more precisely his liberal nature, is hugely important as it conflicts with his views in this story, specifically during the resolution where the choices he needs to make directly contrast with having a liberal mindset. This is one of the best parts of the entire storyline as you see Ollie, after every brutal thing he’s endured throughout, have to make an incredibly difficult decision that ends the story with a true bang. As the dust settles you can’t help but cheer for Ollie and the decision he makes but then you realize that you’re cheering for the wrong reasons. It’s brilliant work on Robinson’s behalf as he makes you question your own beliefs through having these characters question and compromise their own beliefs. At the end of the day, it’s exactly what any writer should strive for with their writing, to illicit some form of emotional reaction through their body of work.
Collects: Justice League Cry For Justice #1-7, Faces Of Evil: Prometheus #1, and Secret Origins for multiple characters.
Best Character: Green Arrow
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “–I can’t feel my fingers.” – *Redacted to avoid spoilers*
Best Scene/Moment: The brutal cliffhanger ending – Issue 5
Best Issue: Issue 6 – The Game. Fittingly titled “The Game”, you watched as Prometheus systematically cuts his way through just about every member of the Justice League available, full-time or reserve. It’s a highly entertaining climax to the miniseries that shows you how brilliantly James Robinson writes the rather simple villain, using him to a highly entertaining degree. As a reader, there is just something fascinating about watching villains dissect the heroes and their methods to the point where they are utterly useless. It heightens the drama as you watch Prometheus’ master plan get revealed and the issue ends in yet another startling cliffhanger.
Why You Should Read It: The moral dilemmas faced by many of the characters in this volume are real life problems and understandably easy to relate to. Robinson just taps into an obvious superhero dilemma and uses it to drive this whole series forward into a dark, disturbing tale. This is a good Justice League story that ends up being an even better Green Arrow story when you really look at all the shades present and what the character goes through.