Analysis #7: Reviewing half of Justice #4.
WARNING: Not only does this article contain spoilers for the Justice issues reviewed, it attempts to deduce the plots and mysteries of future issues as well. If you wish to be completely surprised, you may not want to proceed.
The entire issue can be summarized in one sentence: While a handful of villains make a global speech to the public, the rest take out the Justice League of America. Of course this summary doesn’t do the issue justice (no pun intended).
It is important to know that the entire issue flows around the speech with all the ambushes and attacks serving to emphasize and add impact to the words being spoken. However, for the purposes of my analysis, I am going to split the review into two parts – the speech and the ambushes – and address them separately. This article will cover the Legion of Doom’s speech.
The villains giving the speech are Lex Luthor, Black Manta, the Riddler and Poison Ivy. All are in professional suits except Poison Ivy who is wearing a formal-style dress and long-sleeved gloves, all seemingly made from leaves. They stand in a circle, backs to one another, surrounded by floating spheres that serve as holographic projectors and translators. According to their speech, they are being “broadcast” in every city and in every language. They appear as giant golden gods, and they speak in turn, passing control of the proverbial mike back and forth easily and seamlessly. Obviously they’ve practiced this speech before. It is, after all, quite an important event.
They begin by expressing empathy with the people. “I know what you’re thinking,” “Is it true what I’m hearing?” and “We know you’re wondering.” They immediately launch into their taunt, asking where the Justice League is and why they’ve never attempted to do what the villains are trying, namely, “to use their powers and abilities to make this world a better place.” They refer to the heroes’ inaction as criminal and, since the subject has come up, they make a point of not apologizing for their previous actions describing them as standing up to the “so-called standards of virtue.” They dismiss the heroes’ actions as trivial and fleeting while never changing the status quo: the hungry still hunger, the crippled remain crippled, the workers continue to suffer paying their bills and working at “useless jobs.” Real heroes, they say, would rescue people from their dreary lives.
The villains claim to be fighting “the world’s super powers,” which implies more than just the heroes to me, and trying to change the way the world works. With these words, they have linguistically converted their crimes into a “fight against the system.”
The villains invite the public to be a part of their plans and promise them wonders: cities free of diseases, poverty and struggles as well as future gifts like “the possibility of giving every man and woman the power to fly.” These are gifts “from those with power to those without,” claiming that super powers are “given” so humanity could achieve what it always wished for. The villains first extend their invitation to move into these cities to those they’ve already helped (i.e. the previous recipients of the villains’ gifts).
They also challenge the heroes to come and debate them but know they won’t. “They’ve lost their power,” Lex Luthor tells the people. “You don’t need them anymore.”
The villains will next offer residency to “the dreamers,” defined as people who’ve wanted a better life than they can achieve and are willing to take advantage of the villains’ generosity. The opportunity for a better life is available…all one must do is ask.
The villains’ speech winds down blaming the Justice League of America that the world is not as advanced as it could be and attributing the heroes’ absence during the speech to being ashamed. Lex Luthor hopes the heroes hide and never return but pledges that the world will advance without them and usher in a new age where everyone is the man or woman of tomorrow.
Well, we certainly have a better understanding of what the villains want now. Or do we? Let’s analyze.
First, let’s take a closer look at the medium. This group could have easily commandeered a radio station, a television station, or even a satellite. All of Earth’s current technology would have been easily taken over, but, instead, they chose to use a unique system – one not available to any world leader. Then they used this technology to broadcast gigantic images of themselves glowing an appealing gold. The medium sends a message here: we are powerful. More so than the rest of the world.
People with power often engender trust, and the villains try to accomplish this early on by using empathizing speech like “I know what you’re thinking.” They also emphasize their past criminal actions, which is pretty smart when you think about it. The world probably knows them better by their villainous names (like “the Riddler”) than they do their given names. So the audience will be thinking all through the speech, “these guys are villains.” But by addressing it themselves, they get the audience past that point. They acknowledge and move on. But they also do a bit of spin on the subject. Yes they’ve committed crimes, but they had to, they imply. They had to stand up to “this world’s super powers.” This phrase is certainly double-edged. “Super powers” obviously refers to the super heroes, but it also can refer to the various governments of the planet. The same governments that many people, possibly even the majority of people, feel is poorly addressing their concerns, at best, and / or corrupted, at worst. With this speech, the villains are maneuvering their actions to seem like a “fight against the man.” This is something with which the populations can undoubtedly relate.
Of course the villains cannot keep their contempt for the super heroes out of their speech and, in fact, they bring them up in the fourth panel on the first page. Then they focus all the peoples’ problems on the heroes: hunger, disease, handicaps, you name it. This, of course, is amazingly unfair and one-sided. What the villains have done, and what they claim the heroes should have done, is take control of the peoples’ lives from them Â– to make decisions for them. These cures the villains are using have not been tested. The public has no safety information on these. They don’t know if there are harmful side-effects. There’s no review of the process at all. In fact, if you recall, the Scarecrow had to hold the medical staff at bay with fear chemicals in order to be able to use the serums. So there’s no system of checks and balances with what the villains have done. Now one could argue that leaders of desert-laden countries could have asked the Justice League for help. Maybe Superman could have grabbed a glacier and brought it to the desert. There are a lot of good things the super heroic community could do. There’s also a lot of damage they could do. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that the first time they screw up, the world will turn on them. If I had super powers, for example, I’m not sure I’d go messing with the ozone layer. But that might just be me.
Throughout the speech, the villains taunt the heroes and challenge them to come forth and argue with the villains. This is doubly effective knowing that the heroes can’t respond for two reasons. First, they’re all under attack which is keeping them pretty busy and, second, the villains are speaking simultaneously in every city on the planet. Even if they spread out, the heroes couldn’t even cover a fraction of a percent of them. But the heroes’ absence is notable nonetheless, and only serves to sway the people away from their side.
And there’s one final thing the speech addresses, the villains’ offer: relocation to cities where the problems of the everyday world will be a distant memory. The offer is extended in shifts – first to those people most likely to join, those who have recently been helped by the villains. Then everyone else will be invited to join.
This seems like an excellent time to revise our agenda to divide the tasks by their overall goals. This is what I’ve come up with:
LEGION OF DOOM AGENDA
I. TEAM PREPARATION
1. Unite several supervillains through dream manipulation – The Mastermind
II. WIN OVER THE PUBLIC
1. Use the villains’ powers/technologies to help the needy and sway public opinion – Captain Cold; Poison Ivy, the Scarecrow, the Toyman, (maybe others)
2. Make an announcement to the whole world inviting them to move into the villains’ cities. – Lex Luthor, Black Manta, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler
III. DESTROY THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
1. Download the files from the Batcave computer. – The Riddler
2. Use those files to learn Batman’s secret identity and devise a means to control him. – The Mastermind
3. Use Batman to access the JLA Satellite and learn all the other heroes’ identities. – Gorilla Grodd (assumption)
4. While the speech is occurring, simultaneously attack the individual members of the JLA. – Bizzaro, Solomon Grundy, Parasite, Metallo, Cheetah, Sinestro, Toyman, Giganta, Captain Cold, Clayface, and Scarecrow
IV. BRAINIAC’S PLAN
1. Kidnap Aquaman – Black Manta
2. Operate on Aquaman – Brainiac
The observant may notice that in III.4 I list Giganta. In the last article (and in the next one where I discuss the attacks) I only mentioned an unidentified gunman who’s aiming his/her gun at Ray Palmer (the Atom). Well, in this issue, it becomes clear the gunman is a red-haired female. Since Giganta meets that description and, to date, she is the only known member of the original team to not yet appear in the series, I think it’s a safe bet to identify her as being the gunman. Time will tell, of course.
#2: Who is(are) the mastermind(s)?
There’s little in this issue to comment on that hasn’t been already said except that, from the general population’s viewpoint, Lex Luthor probably appears to be the leader which, undoubtedly, is fine with Lex, Grodd and Brainiac.
I only have comments on a few, and I’m going to mix the order up to make my comments flow a little better.
This world isn’t big enough for the two of us. Ain’t that right, pardner…
We have villains apparently building cities which are going to be separate from the world at large. Whether this means they all end up on the oceans’ floors like the one we’ve seen so far, we can only guess, but it’s safe to say that these cities will probably not be interacting with the world that new residents leave behind. In essence, the cities will effectively be their own countries where, one must assume, the villains will rule and heroes will undoubtedly not be allowed. The ironic thing about this is that the villains will undoubtedly have to develop some kind of means of rule (i.e. a government) and a mechanism for enforcement (i.e. a police force) and will end up serving the role of hero themselves.
What’s the cause of crime? Why is there crime? Why is there suffering in the world?
According to the villains’ speech, it’s because the powerful don’t help the weak. They may protect them, as Luthor said, “from a giant starfish now and then,” but they aren’t helping to end the suffering that stems from the world’s inability and / or unwillingness to solve underlying problems like poverty and shortages of basic necessities like food and water.
Oh, and the giant starfish has a name by the way. It’s “Starro.”
Now that we have a handle on the speech, meet me here in a week when we’ll discuss the villains’ attack strategies.