What Justice League #26 Offers
Several origin stories tie into DC Comics Forever Evil event. The theme the comic explores is the origin of evil. Crime and criminal behaviour is evil, according to this comic, and origin stories of the several key villains explore a question: whether evil emmerges from within us, or from outside us, in the social environment. There is a high standard of art throughout.
The new, electronic villain called The Grid narrates the story. The Grid’s role in the narrative is straightforward. Machine’s don’t feel emotion. This artificial intelligence examines the origins of each Crime Syndicate member. It’s goal is to feel an emotion by reacting to the violent content.
Power Ring, Johnny Quick, and Atomica receive the most attention in this issue, however. They receive the most pages out of the entire comic; Power Ring – 8 pages, Johnny Quick and Atomica – 6 pages. What results is that their short stories within the larger narrative receive the most attention, and therefore the most development. It’s in their stories that the themes of the comic emerge. Power Ring also includes some science fiction horror.
Cyborg has some key moments, and Deathstorm is revealed as a scientist who threw away ethics to complete his research.
Close-up images of characters drive the narrative forward, and show case strong artwork in this issue. Close to the conclusion of the comics, a character gives a a look of fierce defiance in their eyes. The sequence of panels leading up to this moment capture a set of emotions with the character body language. Despair and grief is suddenly supplanted by the defiance in the face of hurdles.
In another close-up, the artwork references the Hitchcock film Psycho. It’s a fleeting but powerful popular culture reference.
In contrast to the cool colours that surround the Justice League are bright and powerful. Apart from a wave of black ink, the colours surrounding the Crime Syndicate are anaemic and washed out. Green Lantern’s emerald green is replaced by Power Ring’s lime green. Johnny Quick has pale orange in place of The Flash’s traditional, fire engine reds.
Themes, Ethics, Values
Earlier issues of DC Comics Forever Evil event was about evil – Where foes evil come from? From outside us, or from within? Justice League #26 explores these questions through Atomica, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring’s origin stories.
A pop-culture comparison could be the musical Wicked, which also asks the question: “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” Just like the popular musical, this issue of Justice League #26 also has green light throughout the story.
Power Ring and his other colleagues in the Crime Syndicate led a variety of lives before they began to wear a costumes and commit crime with it. Power Ring was filled with anxiety, and liked to spy on people – a voyeur. Atomica and Johnny Quick were violent criminals who targeted police officers.
Power Ring is described as “Weak-willed”, and is a character who is too anxious to achieve his goals. When unlimited power in the form of a ring is offered to him, he takes it, and disregards any consequences. This short story, within the larger narrative of the comic, makes a statement that evil – defined as crime – comes from the combination of bad circumstances, low willpower, and complete disregard for consequences. Evil is opportunity, bad decisions, and certain personality traits: low willpower, no assertiveness.
Contrast this with Johnny Quick and Atomica; first, their costumes are opposing colours compared to Power Ring – bright reds clash with bright greens. Second, compared to Power Ring’s bad circumstances, Johnny and Atomica state that crime and murder are “What we [Quick and Atomica] are born to do”. They are sociopaths, with a lack of any connection to social norms.
They fit into the category of “Fantasy sociopaths” (Kotsko, 2012). Kotsko states that these sociopaths, who appear in pop-culture, have a social disconnection seen in real life sociopaths, but organised lives, with the ability to plan and achieve long term goals (2012).
These characters where born with a trait that led to them becoming criminals.
Compared to Power Ring, their evil – defined as criminal acts here – came from within.
I found, after comparing these stories, that I tended to sympathise with Power Ring far more than the unlikeable and violent Johnny Quick and Atomica – despite his questionable behaviour, seeing the results of bad circumstances makes him more slightly more sympathetic. The character development in this issue adds some momentum to the Forever Evil story arc.
Kotso, Adam. (2012). Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television. Zero Books: Hants, United Kingdom.