BookBin2011: Absolute Justice

After finishing my last BookBin selection, I was definitely in a comics frame of mind. So this past Saturday, I threw on my Batwoman T-shirt and headed off to the library to see what they had that I haven’t yet read. We have a small graphic novel section, but every now and then something appears that surprises me. And on this particular day, they had all three books that compose the Alex Ross/Jim Krueger/Doug Braithwaite masterpiece Absolute Justice.

This is Ross’s second appearance in the BookBin2011 collection, and I was more than elated to get the chance to drool over his artwork yet again. Plus, this time, there would be a story involved! Bonus. This time, Ross was not the line artist. Braithwaite was responsible for the sketching of the characters and layout, while Ross was the colorist.

Ross brings Braithwaite’s line art to a level of realism that was at times both breathtaking and slightly unnerving. There are panels throughout this series that lift these heroes out of the boundaries of their recognizable comic book forms into a realm of gorgeous, glorious three-dimensionality. His renderings reinvigorate them and us with the glimpses of what these characters might look like if they actually existed.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the story that goes along with this beautiful artwork would be equally grounded in reality. Well…as near to reality as we can get with people who are bullet-proof or made of clay or guardians of the universe. However, the premise is one that I found quite intriguing: What would happen if all the villains banded together…to make the world a better place?

Of course, we all know that it’s not going to be that simple or straight-forward. And there’s going to be a twist. And then big battles with awesome ‘splosions. But an idea is introduced by the villains that I found delightful in its blatant condemnation of the ones we’re supposed to be rooting for. When they make their announcement that they want to save humanity, make life easier for those who are suffering and in need, the villains raise the following question: Why haven’t the “heroes” already done this? Why hasn’t Superman ended world hunger? Why hasn’t Wonder Woman fought to provide shelter for all? When will the Justice League actually bring about justice for all of humanity?

I won’t go into any more details behind the story, but I have to say, this is a holistically solid story arc. True, it dips into predictability at points, but even when the story temporarily sags here and there, the artwork is more than enough to keep pulling you in for more. Plus, I’m not as well versed in all the members of the Justice League as I am with the “Holy Trinity” of the DC Comics pantheon, so I very much enjoyed getting closer looks at characters like Captain Marvel, the Flash, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Plastic Man, Elongated Man, Hawkman and Hawkgirl…hell, I even dug Aquaman at points in this story (or at least Ross’s color treatments of him).

I also loved that Zatanna was featured quite prominently at points in this story; however, I’m going to have to point to Zatanna as one of Ross’s and Braithwaite’s illustrative weaknesses. Their depictions of her make her seem weak, reticent, overwhelmed by what is required of her. Zatanna is a member of the Justice League. I don’t think you get to that point by being so milquetoast-y. Zatanna is also one of my new superheroine obsessions. I’m still learning about her, but what I already know does not leave me with the impression that her spirit matches Braithwaite and Ross’s depictions of her.

That being said, I think Ross’s Zatanna action figure needs to find its way to my collection soon. Actually, I love all the action figures based on Ross’s work. I also continue to think that the Green Lantern rocks one of the coolest looking costumes of any hero. Oh, and Ross’s Joker might in some ways surpass on the creepy/disturbing scale Brian Bolland’s renditions of him from The Killing Joke.

Final Verdict: I’d love to add Absolute Justice to my collection. I simply need to find a cheaper version than the $75 one currently sold by Amazon. This is what I hate about being a genre nerd: the unrepentant bastards in charge of geek merchandizing know that they can get away with charging exorbitant prices for “collectibles.” Jerks.