PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Parliament of Justice

Ryan Paul

It is a story filled with lust, hypocrisy, violence, misguided intentions, questionable justice, and questionable motives. In short, it is a very human story.

Parliament of Justice

Publisher: Image Comics
Contributors: Neil Vokes (Artists)
Price: $5.95
Writer: Michael Avon Oeming
Item Type: Comic
Length: 56
Publication Date: 2003-03

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
-- Abraham Lincoln

"O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!"
-- William Shakespeare,Richard III, Act V Scene 3

Dark exteriors mirror dark interiors in Michael Avon Oeming & Neil Vokes' Parliament of Justice one-shot from Image Comics. It is a story filled with lust, hypocrisy, violence, misguided intentions, questionable justice, and questionable motives. In short, it is a very human story.

A masked hero named Parliament watches over a nameless city's dark streets, protecting it from crime and urban chaos. But it isn't the crime-fighting that is the focus of this story. The dark alleys of the city are just a backdrop for the dark alleys of the mind.

Oeming's history is so varied, I never know what to expect from his work. He is most well-known for his artwork on the exceptional Powers, written by Brian Michael Bendis, a comic that explores the world of superheroes from a ground-level view. He is also the man behind Hammer of the Gods, an updated version of Norse and Viking mythology, artist for Bulletproof Monk, a high-adrenaline martial arts story soon to be a major motion picture staring Chow Yun-Fat and Seann William Scott, and creator of the wildly strange world of Bastard Samurai, a psychedelic story about the underground world of Yakuza death matches. With such a broad range of styles, I had no idea what to expect from Parliament of Justice.

Even as I began reading, Oeming continued to confound my expectations at every turn. Set in a timeless Victorian-style setting, complete with funky technology (Parliament patrols the city at night in a strange motorized dirigible), the gothic architecture and shadowy artwork brings to mind classic Batman tales. The relationship between Parliament and his partner, Gypsum, is clearly meant to evoke the old Batman and Robin dynamic, and their initial encounter with the villainous Philistine seems like standard-fare super-heroism. When we learn that, like Batman, Parliament's alter-ego is an erudite, wealthy socialite, the parallels seem even stronger. But just when it looks like we should settle in for one type of story, everything gets turned on its head.

As we learn more about Parliament and the city he protects, the flaws and imperfections start to become visible. The city, which the hero lovingly depicts as the perfect society, is full of internal conflicts that threaten to tear it apart. While Parliament mingles with the elite, in the streets below the poor, the uneducated, the unwashed masses are struggling to survive. Every act of violence is blamed upon them by the upper classes, who believe themselves to be appointed by God and nature to sit at the top of the food chain. As the story progresses, we see the frustrations of the city's "dark" side boil over into violence, just as the title character's own inner demons try to escape.

Neil Vokes captures the many disparate motifs of the story and melds them into a unified and wholly engrossing reality. The action sequences of the first pages evolve perfectly into the gruesome violence that emerges later in the story. The characters are all unique in design, yet still possess a certain archetypal look that makes this a story not just about one person, but about all people and their inherent contradictions.

In a certain sense, Oeming and Vokes aren't breaking new ground here. Their concepts are not original. As I've already stated, the early pages of the book evoke classic Batman images, while later pages possess a feel and look akin to Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell. And Oeming is certainly not the first person to go behind the mask and explore these same issues. Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns also asked what could make a man, as flawed as all men are, think that he has the right to dispense justice.

But just because other people may have done something similar before doesn't mean that Oeming and Vokes haven't accomplished something special with this story. They have taken familiar ideas and made them unfamiliar again. They've created something new out of something tried and true. The last few pages of this story were truly shocking and surprising. Rereading the book, I was amazed to find just how well-crafted it was, how everything that shocked me at the end had been carefully woven into the text from the first page. And isn't that the purpose of any work of art, to take what has been done, take what you think you know, and confound all your expectations?

My only complaint was that this was a one-shot book, rather than the start of a series. The world that Oeming and Vokes create is fascinating and darkly beautiful. But, perhaps it is for the best that the story ends here. I would rather that they keep me wanting more than water down their creation by artificially stretching it out. I can only hope that Oeming continues to amaze, entertain, and confound readers with his wonderful talent and range.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.