Where They Went Wrong: Extreme Justice
Over the past few weeks, I've been reading through every major Firestorm appearance, a process that suddenly became terrifying once I made it through Firestorm #100. If I wanted to continue, I was going to have to make it through quite possibly the worst series that DC ever published: Extreme Justice. And believe me...
...it's actually worse than it looks.
Seriously, when the title of the lettercolumn is "To The EXTREME," you know you're in for a rough time.
For the most part, I think you can lay the blame squarely at the feet of Marc Campos. He's the penciller for the first six issues or so, and while Dan Vado's scripts ain't gonna be bringing home any Eisners, Campos's art pushes this book over the line from "bad comic" to "crime against humanity." Admittedly, it was 1995 and everybody was doing it back then, but Good Lord, it's terrible.
In all fairness, Campos has done some good work in his time, like his recent work inking Ivan Reis in the pages of Rann/Thanagar War, but back in '95, his work was atrocious. I could sit here for hours scanning panel after panel of Blue Beetle jumping around with his knees up over his shoulders and Captain Atom constantly flying around on fire for no particular reason other than it allegedly looks cool, but there's one panel in particular that sums it all up. Have a look:
Not only does that panel give me the idea that Marc Campos had never actually seen another human being in his entire life, but it's the only piece of comic art I've ever seen that has a worse grasp of anatomy than Rob Liefeld's famous Captain America. Yeah, you heard me: Marc Campos out-Liefelds Rob Liefeld.
And it never gets any better. A few issues later, in a story by Ivan Velez and Jungle Fantasy's own J. Scott Campbell simulacrum Al Rio, we get what may be the most stirring portrayal of pregnancy in comics history:
I read the entire storyline, wherein Carol Ferris (newly-hired administrator for Extreme Justice's Mount Thunder facility) attends Plastique's bachelorette party and Neron-related hilarity ensues, and I have no idea what's supposed to be happening in that panel. All I know is that Al Rio's the kind of guy who doesn't let a little thing like a woman getting run through with a sword while Evil Dead 2 levels of blood shoot out of her thorax stop him from tossing in an upskirt shot.
But enough about the art! Let's see if we can't make some sense out of the story, and rest assured: we can't.
The main problem here is that Extreme Justice doesn't really do anything. They don't fight a lot of crime, and they certainly don't solve a lot of problems. Things just seem to work themselves out while they happen to be loitering in the general area, and on the rare occasion that they actually do manage to scrape out a victory through their own efforts, the problem was usually their own fault anyway.
Their first big adventure involves a vague and poorly-organized conspiracy to overthrow the government from a decommissioned high-level fallout shelter, which they subsequently move into. Yes, because the true mark of a hero is how fast he can come in and kick you out of your house.
After that, Firestorm shows up, and brother, if you've ever wanted to see a character you like act like a total jackass for twelve issues, Extreme Justice is for you. The issues where Ronnie Raymond (in his phase as hard-partying underwear model RonRay, a name that makes me want to punch someone into a coma) gets his powers back don't make a whole lot of sense, to the point where Scott and I had a two-hour conversation where we figured out exactly how Firestorm works. I'd explain, but trust me: It's long, involved, requires a detailed knowledge of Swamp Thing, and involves multiple uses of the words "metagene" and "Svarozich," and that's way more effort than anyone needs to put in to understand two issues of a book like this.
His main contribution to the story is a subplot about his alcoholism that's done with all the subtlety that you'd expect from Extreme Justice, by which I mean he drinks a lot of beer and then throws up on Maxima during a fight with the Wonder Twins.
Yes, the Wonder Twins: because we so desperately needed them in continuity. They show up in a story involving a "Jrxan Flesh-Driver" that's later merged with Skeets' software to become Booster Gold's new armor, and--guess what?--it doesn't make any sense. And what makes less sense is that the "extremification" of the SuperFriends cartoon continues with an appearance by the Legion of Doom.
So where'd they go wrong? Well, with Extreme Justice, it's not so much "Where They Went Wrong" as it is "who the hell thought this was a good idea in the first place?" It's a case where narrowing it down to just one problem would be pointless, because there'd still be everything else to contend with. But since we've come this far, I'll make a suggestion:
If you've got a telepathic super-gorilla robot, don't wait until the last issue to bring that bad boy out. It's what we're all here to see.