JUSTICE LOST, PART 3: The Watchtower is destroyed and as the League works to salvage it, they are trapped between numerous African nations who all want the technology housed within. To make matters worse, some just want to kill the refugees. Can the League defend their Watchtower and the refugees while remaining true to their charter? Probably not.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #41
Authors: Christopher Priest
Artists: Philippe Briones
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Willie Schu
Publisher: DC Comics
What You Need to Know:
The Justice League is dealing with a League of Fans, superfans who are wanting to make the League better but whose methods are unethical. The Fan has infiltrated the Watchtower and has a host of weapons from the League, making him a formidable adversary. He’s even managed to trap both the Justice League AND the Justice League of America on the Watchtower as it plummets to Earth.
Meanwhile, Batman is no longer in charge of the League. That task has fallen to Cyborg but he’s not doing such a great job of it as public perception is quickly turning against the League.
What You’ll Find Out:
The Lanterns are flying back towards Earth after helping out J’onzz. Simon, of course, is still obsessed about how Superman asked him to lunch. He’s rambling of course and self-aware of what he sounds like. So as he says he needs some way of getting his mind off the lunch, Jessica mentions that she kissed Batman. That sure shuts him up.
In East Africa, Deathstroke and his buddy, Matthew Brand aka the Red Lion, are overlooking something…we don’t know what just yet…but Brand wants to get involved while Deathstroke wants to stay out of it (mostly because he’s not getting paid to get involved). Down at the site, a host of armed soldiers are held at bay, forced to stand outside of a perimeter set by the Justice League as they protect their crash site. The Watchtower landed, but then hundreds of refugees, fleeing various warlords, have sought refuge. The military (for simplicity sake, we’ll just refer to their leader, Kamala) has pursued them and wants an opportunity to take them into custody, but the League will not allow armed soldiers onto their site, even if it is technically Kamala’s land. Ultimately, though, Superman states their charter must keep them separate from local disputes, even if by taking in the refugees they have inserted themselves into one such “dispute”.
Inside the crash site, Flash arrives and mentions how Batman’s team went on their way. He suggests Cyborg go and talk to Kamala, but Cyborg is busy and even interprets Flash’s talking as racist: wanting the black guy to talk to the other black people. It’s clear that Cyborg is just stressed about his failing attempt to lead the League. Even as Cyborg criticizes his own failings, Wonder Woman helps the refugees, including a boy, Kaleb, and his younger brother, Adah (remember this…it will come back to us later).
In East St. Louis, in a darkened room, a man is checking out a smorgasbord of geek merchandise. Someone in a wheelchair enters and screams and the man pulls a gun. Turns out the intruder is Aquaman and the gun is just a BB gun, belonging to the guy in the wheelchair. The guy’s name is Joshua…and he does, indeed, work for Lexcorp and helped build the watchtower. But he’s not the Fan. He certainly is A fan. Just not THE fan.
Back in Africa, an airship approaches the remains of the Watchtower, claiming they are there for an official government salvage operation. The government, though, is not one they thought, but rather is the government of Beredunia. The salvage is headed up by the Red Lion. The Lion moves against Cyborg while Wonder Woman and Superman deal with the troops. Unfortunately, Flash notices the warriors on the ground moving into the demilitarized zone against the refugees. Wonder Woman orders an immediate disarming of all of the troops…not just the warlords but the official government troops as well. This causes a problem with Flash as it goes against the League’s charter. Meanwhile, Cyborg is losing against the Red Lion. Somehow, his systems are failing and he realizes, too late, that it must be the Fan’s doing.
In Metropolis, the Fan materializes in a warehouse, dressed as an amalgamation of Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, and others. But Batman, the REAL Batman, is waiting for him. But Batman is ready for him. They fight, and as they do so, the Fan rattles on about how he’s managed to beat the League and trick them. He almost seems to be bragging. Finally, he’s downed, but he’s not upset. He knows the League can’t do anything to him but on top of that, he’s thrilled to have been beaten by Batman.
The battle rages on in Africa, with the League trying to keep the peace and keep any of the sides from harming each other while at the same time trying to obey their charter…which, of course, means that at they’re running counter to each other. Superman and Wonder Woman continue to argue. Superman wants to stay out because ultimately they’re not there to intervene in government business. On the other hand, Wonder Woman feels they must defend the helpless. Since the government wants to harm the refuges, it means engaging the government. The two face off but something about Superman spooks Kaleb. He fires his gun. It doesn’t harm Superman, but the ricochet strikes Wonder Woman, leaving her bleeding on the ground.
What Just Happened?
I have to get something down first and then we can get to reviewing the actual story.
I know this isn’t his first appearance. He’s been around since 2016 and is a creation by Priest. This is my first experience with him so this showing is going to trigger my ire.
He’s a %&$#ing Black Panther rip off.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a huge Panther fan. But when someone is so blatant a ripoff, I have to call it out, and admittedly it kind of soured my initial read of the book. Lion is Priest’s own creation and Priest worked on Black Panther a bit ago, so maybe it was a momentary lapse in creativity or maybe Priest isn’t that good at creating all new characters or maybe it was his own little dig at Marvel. I don’t know. But here is a guy, who is king (okay, “President for Life”, which amounts to the same thing) of a small African nation, who wears into battle a traditional garb based on an animal whose name is even a combination of a color and the animal’s name. His suit even looks near identical and is even made of a promethium mesh that converts hits into power for the user. SERIOUSLY? I hated when Liefeld did it, and I hate it even more when Priest, a guy who should know better, and obviously has talent at writing, does it.
But if you can get past the Red Lion…if you can realize that any generic villain would have fit that role in this story…then you can enjoy the story, as I did, and realize the implications of this story, and what the story is trying to get across…which it does very well.
There’s some fun little development, some humorous moments. The book starts off with the Lanterns talking and Jessica’s way of shutting up Simon actually made me laugh out loud when I read it. And Simon’s fanboy status is enjoyable. Imagine getting asked out to lunch by your idol. Simon is going gaga over this and it’s funny to watch.
Ultimately, this book can be divided into two themes. The first one, which is one that Priest has been going for since a couple issues ago, is the racial undertones amongst the league. Cyborg isn’t handling things well and he’s feeling the pressure, especially as the first African American leader of the League. And so when Barry Allen makes a remark about having Vixen, a black woman on Batman’s JLA, talk to the African warlords, Cyborg takes it as a racial snipe against him, despite the fact that he and Flash are close friends. Of course Flash only suggested Vixen because she is from Africa and might understand the culture better but it’s still an understandable reaction by Cyborg given the current climate (which, of course, mirrors our own racially divided culture).
The second is whether or not an isolationist policy is a good one. Should the League stay out of other countries’ affairs or not? This has been brewing for issues now, as Wonder Woman feels like the League has lost its purpose. And really, is it even a realistic goal? Clearly, to remain separate from intervening in governments means allowing the massacre of hundreds of refugees. So when one goal, to remain separate from the governments of the world, conflicts with another goal, to save the citizens of the world, collide with each other, which do you choose? Which is the right way to go?
And this is why Priest is so adored by readers. I’m still not a huge fan of his run, but this is easily one of the most thought-provoking issues yet and I’m finding that the issues I enjoy are outnumbering the issues I hate.
So ignore the Red Lion. He’s not necessary to this story. It could have been Gorilla Grodd or any number of characters from Africa. The story is about the issues it raises, about the racial conflict and about the goal of the League.
Final Thoughts: It’s probably the most thought-provoking issue yet with some good humor mixed in. If you love Priest, you’ll love this issue. If you’re not a big fan of Priest’s work…give this issue a shot. It may turn you around.
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