Justice

As previously discussed, comic shops have tons of comics just begging to be collected together and sold as a set, clearing out inventory and exposing fans to great comics they probably missed. Here's another that deserves the distinction. Title: Justice Genre: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction Issues: #16-32 Publisher: Marvel/New Universe

In 1986 the New Universe line of comics was to be Marvel's next big thing. As it turned out, it really wasn't; but it mostly survived for three years with a couple of gems among otherwise less-than-average titles. Justice was one of the stranger stand outs. The concept behind the New Universe was simple enough: what would really happen if people with extraordinary abilities began appearing in the real world (which was the result of a cosmic phenomenon known as "the White Event")?

Unfortunately, someone didn't get the memo as Justice/John Tensen (the lead character) began as a sword and sorcery enforcer holding back the evils of magic in a faraway alien world---quite the opposite of what the New Universe was supposed to be about. Likewise, for numerous reasons, the entire New Universe line got off to a rocky start. It wasn't until about 16 months in that things really started to gel, and the various titles began to occupy a world that was showing the cracks of all the changes it was undergoing (in contrast to mainstream comics where heroes never age, the New Universe world evolved in "real time," with each issue taking place roughly a month after the one before it, which allowed the writers to show the consequences of their characters' actions on the world). At about that time, Peter David was given the writing chores of Justice, and he took the title in a radical new direction (but one that was more in line with the New Universe's original intent).

Tensen was a delusional psychotic. The time he had spent waging war in the alien fantasy world was all in is head. He did have amazing abilities (projecting energy shields and swords out of his own body), but these only furthered his schizophrenia.

As David began his run, Tensen begins to awaken from his psychosis and to remember his job of Federal officer. And with his newfound power, he becomes a government agent who can help track down other paranormals (who have been popping up everywhere since the White Event) and ensure they aren't causing problems.

What made Justice stand out was David's handling of the Justice/Tensen identity crisis and his relationship to other cast members. Tensen, recovering but still not completely with it, takes his role of persuer to a new level, seeing himself as an instrument of Justice: he not only seeks out new paranormals, he becomes their judge. And if he decides that they are not using their powers appropriately, he exacts swift retribution, usually in the form of capital punishment.

David paints the picture of a uniquely unbalanced individual trying to bring black-and-white order to an increasingly murky world. And David pushed the concept further by placing Justice in situations that strained easy decisions, like good people who must do bad things, and discovering his own daughter (Angela) to be a paranormal. Perhaps most interesting, Justice has no tolerance for other vigilantes---especially those who follow his example.

As time passes and more paranormals are discovered, more changes to the world at large take place: Pittsburgh  is obliterated, and America gears up for war. Justice becomes part of these activities, and heads to Manhattan which has become a refuge for paranormals. Unfortunately, the New Universe line was cancelled even as it was getting more interesting. But the good thing about finite stories is that you can actually give them a proper ending. And David allowed Tensen to grow into the role of supreme judge of his peers (other paranormals). And while Tensen's dementia allows the reader to understand that he has a ways to go before he becomes the new Solomon, we see that Justice is on the right path.

The artwork of Justice was not always pretty, and it was often difficult to tell whether this was intentional on the part of Lee Weeks, or whether much of it was due to Weeks learning the ropes of comic-making. In any case, Justice provided a dark and off-kilter look to a title that could easily have been presented as just another superhero.

----------

Other Never Traded reviews