Friday, June 08, 2007

Justice Machine #1

Justice Machine #1, January 1987, Comico the Comic Company
writer: Tony Isabella
artist: Mike Gustovich
colorist: Tom Vincent
letterer: Bob Pinaha
editor: Diana Schultz

On Monday, I reviewed Marshal #1, a comic book with an appropriate emphasis on law enforcement considering the media blitz surrounding Paris Hilton's incarceration. Today, I read Justice Machine #1, because, simply put, Hilton's volley from jail to house arrest and back again has challenged the integrity of the Los Angeles justice machine. Of course, like Marshal, the connection between Justice Machine, which also takes place on another world with affiliations to Earth, and these current events is via title only -- though if the "He Said/She Said" comics were still around, like the controversies surrounding O.J. Simpson or Woody Allen, Paris would undoubtedly star in a surreal one shot of her own. But I digress.

Although the Justice Machine, a team of government-sanctioned superheroes from another world, had appeared in their own comic book stories prior to this series, writer Tony Isabella's new direction is, as he describes, essentially a clean slate for new readers, though some of their relationship baggage still lingers, with universal, predominantly romantic intonations that aren't difficult to understand sans context. The first acts of this inaugural issue are essentially rollicking good superhero fun, with campy but compelling dialogue between the Machine's dynamic personalities, as they pursue their archenemy, his earthquake-creating son (appropriately dubbed "Youthquake"), and their army of robots. Though the villain slips away, the Machine's benefactor tracks him back to Earth, in a page seemingly torn out of the Masters of the Universe movie script. After we the reader get a brief glimpse into each characters' respective domestic situation, the team is rocketed to Earth; alas, because they have apparently questioned their world's authorities one too many times, the Justice Machine is abandoned to our primitive planet, ironically classified as fugitives from the justice they are trying to maintain. Such a twist, and its implications for the series as a whole, twist a simple, old-fashioned superhero story into a potentially political allegory, setting the stage for more complicated modern attempts like this week's Black Summer #0. Truly, the Justice Machine is but one cog in a larger scheme, and their tale certainly set some wheels in motion, yesterday and today.

As long as I'm exaggeratedly focusing on this series' title, I should mention my interest in the use of the word "machine" as a supplement for "league," since any team book with "justice" in the title is obviously derivative of a certain band of brave and/or bold superheroes. "Machine" is rapidly becoming a definitely twentieth century word; as computers make everything "cyber" or "digital," and, heck, as Apple simply prefixes their fancy gadgets with the letter "i," only bicycles and wind-up watches are really classified as machines anymore. (Lest I forget those pesky time line conquering Terminators!) Anyway, when I think of a machine, I think of varied parts creating an effectively larger mechanism -- an interesting concept when applied to a crime fighting force. However, Isabella intentionally dubs some of his heroes as jerks and establishes strained personal relationships between many of his protagonists. While engaging from a story telling perspective, I presume their banishment to Earth will bring them closer together, and I hope that future issues depict them each as parts of a whole, as individual super powers that contribute to a maelstrom of justice. If not, then the only real justice machine I can think of is . . . Voltron.

Unfortunately, by my definition, the Los Angeles court system and sheriff's department certainly are not working as a justice machine. Paris Hilton is without a doubt the monkey wrench in this machine, and like Comico's comic by the same name, her current circumstances are really out of this world. If this machine had been upgraded, it would already have a virus.

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