Justice League #24: Contempt For The Weak

Justice League #24

 

I’ll hand it to Geoff Johns, he’s really looking to up the ante with the Crime Syndicate. Some have grumbled that using an old stand-by villain team in what is supposed to be the “New 52 Universe” is a copout. Fair enough. However, I think Justice League #24 might change some minds. It’s here the Johns deepens and strengthens just how screwed up this team is. He also injects a bit of mystery in the vein of something the Crime Syndicate fears.

Justice League #24 opens 25 years ago, with the destruction of Krypton. Not the Krypton we know, but the fucked up planet of horror that Ultraman comes from. These opening pages are some of Johns' best writing all year. Apparently, whatever force comes to drive the Crime Syndicate from their Earth begins by destroying Krypton. During the destruction, the Kryptonians of that world are literally crushing each other to get to escape pods.

Cue Jor-Il and Lara-Il, two of the most horrific parents you’ll ever meet. After setting people on fire to get to the last escape pod, they drop their baby in it, not to speed him to safety, but to make sure somebody survives to get revenge on whatever destroyed Krypton.

The following pages are brutal. During Kal-Il’s trip to Earth, the recording of his father’s voice utters things like “Weakness must be stomped out” and other cute gems like “You pathetic child” and “Your current state sickens me.” It’s years of child abuse crushed into a three year trip to Earth. In fact, the last thing Jor-Il says to his son before sending the ship off is “Be the strongest there is or be nothing at all.”

When Kal-Il lands in Kansas, he meets the Kents. A drug addict white trash couple.  After burning off Pa Kent’s hand, Kal-Il lives with them for a bit before killing them and burning the house down. By the end of Kal’s origin, you almost feel bad for the guy. From there, Justice League becomes about Ultraman in the current Forever Evil setting. Johns takes another step here, removing the simplicity of “we are bad guys” from the Crime Syndicate and replacing it with a contempt for weakness. Ultraman hates humanity because we care for the weak and crippled.

Johns also gives the Crime Syndicate further cracks in their armor. Ultraman wants to kill Superwoman, but needs her to be the mother of his child – a child which really belongs to Owlman. Grid is trying to evolve into something human, but Ultraman is having none of it. Finally, Owlman is feeling some kind of weird emotional tie to the recently captured Nightwing. As great as all of that is, nothing beats the end when Black Adam shows up to stomp Ultraman’s ass. Sadly, the fight itself will play out in the next issue of Forever Evil.

Helping bring all this to life are the wonderful pencils of Ivan Reis. He is part of a breed of artists who look to perfect the comic book style. They might not step too far out of the zone of comics, but their contributions to the art are without equal. Reis is a master of faces, forms, dramatic tension, action and movement. Justice League #24 is page after page of proof that Reis is one of the best comic book artists around.

Justice League #24 gives us more meat to chew on with Crime Syndicate, and makes their story fresh enough to belong in the New 52.

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(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)