Reviews

Corruptive Influence: "Justice League Dark #23"

The concept of pure, tangible evil and corruption is fueling DC's "Trinity War" and it plays right into the most villainous of hands in Justice League Dark #23.


Comics: Justice League Dark #23
Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-10

Abstract concepts like evil are difficult to quantify in the same way that it’s difficult to quantify the appeal of boy bands. There’s nothing to count, measure, or touch. It’s like trying to determine the flavor of water in that the concept itself has no depth. But it’s a concept that is often at the center of many famous stories, going all the way back to the days of Greek mythology. In that sense, it’s fitting that the primary source of evil in DC’s latest event, "Trinity War", has been Pandora’s Box.

Even in the DC universe, evil that takes form and substance is difficult to deal with. I’m sure Superman would much rather be punching Brainiac’s head off than having to deal with being poisoned by some ancient box that was literally shoved into his hands. Even for Superman, a tangible object imbued with pure evil is too much to handle. In that is a theme that has played out in many different ways throughout "Trinity War". And as Justice League Dark #23 demonstrates, such an object is too much for even the entire Justice League to handle.

Like foolish hikers that chase after a bear that just mauled a herd of deer, the Justice League and the Justice League of America fight over possession of Pandora’s Box. And not surprisingly, they had no better luck at avoiding the influence of the box than Superman. It corrupts the likes of Wonder Woman and Shazam, two heroes that, like Superman, are supposed to be personifications of all things good. Yet this object that isn’t much bigger than a laptop corrupts Earth’s most powerful heroes to the point where a good portion of the comic consists of them fighting over possession of the box. It’s like Lord of the Rings if Hobbits had superpowers.

But "Trinity War" hasn’t just focused on ancient artifacts that can corrupt angels and demigods. Other sources of corruption have emerged within each respective league. Amanda Waller and the Justice League of America may not be as evil as a sinister ancient box forged by actual gods, but the corruption behind their heroics is every bit as damaging. Now Waller’s intentions have been exposed for both leagues. She organized the JLA to effectively counter the Justice League, right down to picking heroes with certain abilities that would match or neutralize certain members in the opposing league. She even had Firestorm learn to make kryptonite with his powers. What makes it all the more distressing to both leagues is that she did this in secret. And the JLA doesn’t take too kindly to this revelation. I doubt anyone would blame Green Arrow for threatening to shoot Waller with one of his non-boxing glove arrow.

This kind of hidden agenda is something that is only possible under the guise of corruption. However, it’s not the same corruption caused by Pandora’s Box. The entire conflict behind "Trinity War" has been fueled by suspicion and paranoia about how supremely powerful beings such as Superman can be controlled if they ever became corrupt. It’s a very real and logical concern for those who aren’t more powerful than a locomotive. And to an extent, Amanda Waller was vindicated at the beginning of "Trinity War" when Superman was corrupted by Pandora’s Box. Like Dean Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, she was right in the grand scheme of things.

Waller may claim ignorance in the face of hostility from both the Justice League and the JLA, but on some levels she has to know that she was right. Superman was corrupted and because of that, he may have killed someone. Even though it was revealed several issues ago that there is another sinister force working behind the scenes, it is still a clear manifestation of Waller’s concerns. If there was no plan in place to deal with a corrupted Superman, who or what could possibly stop him? He’s Superman and his power is nothing short of god-like. Yet he’s not a god in that he can be corrupted, as Pandora’s Box has shown. So why shouldn’t there be a plan in place to deal with him and his team of demigods?

While this recourse makes intuitive sense, it too is prone to corruption. And that’s exactly how it plays out in this issue. Each Justice League team fights for control of Pandora’s Box, getting corrupted along the way, until they eventually reach Madam Xanadu, who was imprisoned before she could uncover the secrets of Pandora’s Box. She is the one that finally reveals the source behind the power of the box. This also leads to the reveal of the sinister figure who has been manipulating all three leagues from the beginning. And at this point, he doesn’t even need to hide anymore. The damage has been done and he didn’t even have to do that much. Unlike Lex Luthor, this nameless figure works smart and lets heroes destroy themselves so he doesn’t have to. It may seem like a lazier form of evil, but there’s no denying its effectiveness.

This is the most telling message of "Trinity War". In attempting to create a balance of power between the Justice League and the JLA, both sides became corrupted. Paranoia and fear created the circumstances under which Pandora’s Box could be so effective. It didn’t have to be an object of pure evil. It just needed to give these heroes the right nudge to start attacking one another. In doing so, the corruption ensured that they couldn’t figure out whom or what they were dealing with until it was too late.

Justice League Dark #23 offers a painful lesson about what happens when corruption blinds otherwise good people. Even superheroes with all their power end up playing into the hands of a skilled manipulator. The scale of the conflict and the potential for it to get worse help this issue up the stakes in "Trinity War" to extreme levels. It also shows that while kryptonite is Superman’s greatest weakness, corruption is the greatest weakness to every hero, no matter how powerful they are.

8

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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