In Justice, Lex Luthor and Brainiac team up and devise a plan to defeat the Justice League once and for all, by striking at various members simultaneously. A good premise in theory, but the specifics of their plan turn out to be rather uninspired and poorly calculated, leading to a somewhat convoluted and confusing plot. For example, an exploration into the mayhem that would ensue should a villain or group of villains get hold of Batman’s files was executed fantastically in Tower of Babel. It’s use here comes in at a distant second.
The authors betray a fundamental misunderstanding of Batman as a character. For a start, included in the last pages of each volume is a collection of “Bruce Wayne’s Files from the Batcomputer.” It seems pretty basic Batman to know that Bruce Wayne doesn’t have any files in the Batcomputer. Batman has files in the Batcomputer. Bruce Wayne and Batman are two totally distinct characters, partly for security, partly for the effectiveness of Batman as a crime fighter. Bruce Wayne is a man. Batman must be more than a man; he must be a principle, an idea, as made explicit by Ra’s al Ghul in Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins. He must be more than a man because he must be able to make the kinds of decisions men are not able to make. He must avoid Hector’s mistake, remaining objective, distant, free from the lower concerns of family and friends. For example, as evidenced in The Dark Knight and pointed out by Alfred, Batman must be able to concede casualties in the name of the larger goal—establishing Justice and Peace.
Second, in the introduction, Jim Krueger says explicitly that it was one of his goals “to reinforce the friendship between Batman and Superman.” I agree wholeheartedly with Frank Miller on this issue. Batman and Superman would never, never be friends. I admit that, in their later years as they are presented in Justice, Batman and Superman would have found a way to work amiably with one another, but they would not be friends. This is shown cleverly in the three-part cross-over episode of Superman: The Animated Series “World’s Finest.” Luthor and The Joker team up, so Bruce Wayne finds an excuse to visit Metropolis for a couple of weeks. In that time, he and Lois Lane fall for one another, much to the chagrin of Superman, of course. It’s ironic, but true, that Superman (Clark Kent’s true self) and Bruce Wayne (the façade) would definitely be friends, and Clark Kent and Batman might get along, but never in any other combination.
In addition, Hal Jordan is portrayed as an irresponsible, foolhardy jerk. While he certainly exhibits these characteristics in some measure, they do not hit at the heart of who he is. It could also be argued that these traits fell more and more by the wayside as he grew older and wiser. Presented as he is (somewhat middle aged), they should be mostly absent.
Don’t get me wrong, Doug Braithwaite’s pencils and Alex Ross’ painting are inspired. It’s worth buying just for the art. The characterization of many of the primary and especially secondary players (e.g., Captain Marvel) is first rate. Overall, I’d say Justice is thought-provoking and ranks up there with other great Justice League ventures like Tower of Babel, New Frontier, and Identity Crisis, even though it bears imperfections.