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Comic Review: Justice League #24

Justice League #24 Forever Evil New 52

Did your parents ever criticize you? Make you feel like you’re not good enough? Maybe embarass you by getting into a fight with another parent at your pewee soccer game?

That’s nothing compared to Ultraman’s childhood.

Geoff Johns’s Forever Evil tie-in Justice League #24 is the Superman origin story flipped on its head to show the villainous start of Earth-Three’s Ultraman. It’s got everything iconic about the Superman origin–the dying planet, the doomed parents, the crash course in everything on the trip to Earth, right on down to the Kent family finding their adopted son in a cornfield.

But it’s all been run through a funhouse mirror.

Ultraman–born Kal-Il–comes from a Krypton where “Be a dick unto others cuz they’ll be a dick to you,” is the Golden Rule. The comic opens with the moments before Lara and Jor-Il put their son in his rocket, and we are shown a Krypton where everyone is stepping over each other to get away on the last rocket before the planet explodes.
“We saw it first!” Jor-Il shouts. “Only the strongest will survive!”

The Il couple say goodbye to their son in the exact opposite way the Els did: They tell him he’s weak, they tell him not to fail them, and their one hope is he’ll go on to rule Earth.

Jor-Il in particular is a ball of sunshine. “Look at him now, Lara,” he says. “I can barely stand the sight. He’s so frail.”

Jor-Il hates babies, and he’s not too fond of his wife, either.

Just before the planet explodes, Lara says, “This is all your fault, Jor-Il,” to which he replies, “Shut up and die, Lara.”

Tearjerker, huh?

Cue the years-long journey to Earth. Kal-Il ages in the rocket and his father’s voice is there to “educate” him.

And by educate, I mean he basically says, “You suck, son,” all the way to Earth.

Johns twists the origin story a little more by making the Kents a pair of squabbling drug addicts who don’t last long once their superpowered son decides to live with them.

That about does it for the flashback, as the story quickly moves to a couple pages on Ultraman’s adult life that includes another teaser about the Crime Syndicate’s shrouded prisoner.

We don’t know who he is yet, but he was responsible for Krypton’s destruction, and for a catastrophe on Earth-Three.

Present-day Ultraman pops in at the Daily Planet to push Jimmy Olsen around for a little bit, but it’s Black Adam–of all people–who shows up to save the day.

Jimmy’s scenes are some of the best, as he shows the difference between a world willing to help those in need and a world where only the strong survive. Jimmy won’t back down against Ultraman, even when he’s overmatched.

Superman taught him well.

Geoff Johns packs a lot of story into Justice League #24, but the cramped panels leave little room for Ivan Reis to shine. Reis is at his best with huge flashy battles to draw, and there’s not a lot of that here.

Reis’s best panels are toward the end, when Ultraman is menacing the Daily Planet employees and shortly after, on a two-page spread where Black Adam shows up to fight Ultraman.

The early parts of Justice League #24 essentially write themselves if you invert the typical Superman origin, but Johns brings enough originality and the right measure of mystery to the remainder of the issue to make this comics a worthwhile read.

8 out of 10

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