Hey there everyone, Shrine Correspondent Andy Luckett here with my review of Justice Chapter Eight, by the stalwart creative team of Jim Krueger, Alex Ross and Doug Braithwaite!
Superman and Batman have one of their classic "our methods differ" discussions, but Batman makes an interesting point: whereas he uses the fear of the unknown shadows of Gotham to achieve success, Superman renders the shadows of Metropolis useless to criminals by the fact that he can see anywhere at anytime. Batman believes that this type of perspective has made the Justice League overconfident, and that the Legion of Doom's campaign against them is intended to instill fear in the heroes. Superman flies off to contemplate this, and as he floats in his "listening spot" over the Earth, he suddenly sees Brainiac's spherical cities at their places around the world.
In the Middle East, Leonard Snart (alias Captain Cold) is enjoying the sweet life. The Flash sprints in, telling Cold that his attempt to destroy the speedster has failed. Cold goes for his pistol, but of course Flash gets there first, only to find it an ice sculpture decoy. Cold tries to run, using an array of ice-based tactics to delay Flash. He doesn't make it far, however, and the Flash immediately takes him to the Fortress of Solitude for interrogation by Batman (looks like Snart's day just went from sweet to terrifying very quickly).
Snart's interrogation begins with Batman asking him if he is sentimental. Snart tries to play it tough at first, reminding Batman that the entire Legion of Doom knows his true identity. Batman's response: "I'm thinking about your fingers. And how many of them you'd like to keep." Snart's response to that? Wide-eyed terror. From that chilling scene we cut to Hal Jordan's ring, still adrift in the deepest reaches of space. Inside the ring, Hal carries on a conversation with manifestations of his brothers, who tell him that his wish to be forever free in the skies doesn't count for much without moving forward in his life, and without a family.
Back at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman and the Hawks stand by as the Atom examines the mechanical worms found by Hawkman in the Toyman's factory. The Atom discovers that the worms are very complex, and seem to be much more advanced than the League believed Brainiac to be capable of creating. Ralph Dibny comes hopping in to tell them that Batman has successfully interrogated Captain Cold, and wonders aloud again why he wasn't targeted for attack. The League gathers as Batman emerges from the room, leaving behind a sweating, shaking wreck named Leonard Snart. Superman realizes that because Batman is still infested with the worms and thus wrapped up in Wonder Woman's lasso, any threats he made to Snart were true, and would have been carried out if necessary. Batman informs the team about the recurring dreams of Armageddon that the villains have been experiencing, and theorizes that they intend to either stop these catastrophies or use the floating cities to save a certain percentage of Earth's citizens.
Batman also concludes that instead of warning the world, the villains are trying to use the coming crisis for their own advancement; but he acknowledges that their recent philanthropic activities may make it hard to prove that to a grateful public. Just then, Zatanna arrives with J'onn J'onzz, the Doom Patrol, and a revived Aquaman, who quickly takes the lead:
Meanwhile, The Joker (still wearing his creepy Amish disguise) gives a rousing "old-time religion" speech before being lifted into the floating city. The Legion of Doom's plan to capture the League's loved ones continues elsewhere, with Supergirl, Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon being the latest victims. And inside Hal's ring, his childhood reveries are broken by the arrival of The Phantom Stranger.
In the Fortress of Solitude, Captain Marvel asks Wonder Woman about her scars. She tells him that the Centaur's Poison is devolving her back into the clay from which she was formed. In a sense, she is becoming unmade. Captain Marvel is naturally horrified by this, but can do nothing but lend his support to Diana. In the same room, Ralph Dibny asks to talk to Plastic Man, who already knows what the conversation will entail. Ralph again tells Plas that there isn't room for two malleable heroes in the League, especially since Plas isn't a full member. Plas responds by asking Ralph whether he wants to tell Captain Marvel that he's too similar to Superman and thus should leave. Plas storms off in a huff, and the issue is dropped, for now.
Out in space, the Phantom Stranger snaps Hal Jordan out of his funk and returns his ring, lantern, and sense of purpose. Hal realizes how much he needs the Justice League, and how much they need him. But before returning to Earth, a sacred oath must be taken:
Outside of the Fortress of Solitude, a strange craft pierces through the thick ice, and from within emerges the determined, regal figure of Mera, who tells her advisor in Atlantis; "You will not hear from me again nor see me walk the halls of Atlantis until I find my son. Take care of my husband's kingdom until I return." She is brought into the Fortress, but her reunion with Aquaman is more bitter than sweet, as she breaks the news of Arthur Jr.'s kidnapping by Aqualad. Batman tells them that Aqualad must be under the Legion's control as well, while Superman wonders, "If they went after Aquaman's son, who else did they go after?"
Just then, Hal returns, much to everyone's delight. He immediately uses his ring to destroy the worms in Batman's body, allowing Wonder Woman to reclaim her lasso. Aquaman is also glad to see Hal alive, but he reminds everyone that "…my son is out there. From what I hear, he's in the hands of the monster who cut into my head and removed part of my brain."
He continues: "J'onn told me that he had learned that Braniac cut me open in an attempt to discover a means to control Grodd. Superman said he saw the same microscopic worms that were controlling Batman inside Captain Cold. This is a conspiracy. Not just against us, and not just against humanity. Braniac is behind this. He's behind it all. Anything living, anything organic is his enemy. He told me this before he cut into me. This is him against everything that breathes. He's a machine. Only a machine. And maybe that's for the best. Because I'm going to kill him."
Superman thinks to himself: "These were not words of vengeance, or hatred. Aquaman wanted a reckoning. He knew that this was a fight to save our enemies as much as it was to save his son." From Superman's Monitor Room, the Red Tornado informs the team that all of their loved ones have been kidnapped. The heroes think to themselves about what is at stake if they lose this fight. Not only their lives, but the lives of every person who makes them happy. They prepare to fight for it all, but one nagging question is posed by Rita Farr of the Doom Patrol: "What if the dream is true? What if stopping the villains now will only make certain the Earth is not saved?"
And now we arrive at the turning point for our heroes. They know the culprits, they know the actions, and they know the motivations of their enemies. They now even know the chief architect of the entire plan. So how will they save not only their loved ones, but all of Earth in the process?
Again I have much praise for the creativity and imagination put into this series. Krueger and Ross excel at portioning out the little character moments and details of these characters, making the reader feel closer to knowing them with each issue. Much of this is accomplished non-verbally, with body language, posing, and expression. Look how the Flash slumps after realizing he ingested the worms during dinner with his wife, or the mixture of sadness and tenderness as Aquaman and Mera embrace after her arrival. I feel much better about the revelations this issue regarding Brainiac. He's controlling everyone, be it hero, villain, or ordinary citizen. I no longer find the overall villainous plan confusing. My one story nitpick, however, is with the Elongated Man subplot. While I know insecurity about his powers has been a part of Ralph Dibny's character for a long time, the fact that he seems to bring it up each time he appears makes him seem petty and small, especially when confronting Plastic Man about it out in the open.
But hey, in the plus column, Aquaman gets to be proactive, with a commanding presence and a great speech that sets up the fury to be unleashed in the coming issues. After sitting out so much of the previous few issues, now it's Arthur's time to strike back hard against his oppressors.
Be here next time as the final fight begins! As always, here are Batman's case files on The Flash and Captain Cold. See you soon!