Justice Inc. The Avenger-Faces of Justice #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Kyle Higgins and Joe Gentile
Artist: Alexandre Shibao
Colors: Natalia Marques
Letters: Troy Peteri
Review by PeteR
Richard Benson, The Avenger was first introduced to the world in The Avenger #1 pulp magazine, published by Street & Smith in 1939. The goal was for the Avenger to rival the popularity of Street & Smith’s other publishing powerhouses, The Shadow and Doc Savage. Street & Smith went so far as to claim on the cover of the first issue of the Avenger that he had been created by the same author of Doc Savage, Kenneth Robeson. That, by the way was a complete fabrication. Kenneth Robeson was a Street & Smith in-house pseudonym. Doc Savage’s adventures were mostly written by Lester Dent and the Avenger’s exploits were penned by Paul Ernst.
That first story of the Avenger was titled Justice Inc. It told the origin of how during Richard Benson’s travels all over the globe he “had made his millions by professional adventuring”. As recently recounted in Dynamite’s Justice Inc. miniseries, Benson’s wife and daughter were thrown out of an airplane by criminals while Benson was in the plane’s lavatory. When he emerged and found that his family had been murdered, he went insane with rage. Nerve damage caused his skin and hair turned bone white and his face became pliable, so he could shape it to resemble anyone.
Richard Benson swore to use his skills to enact vengeance against criminals and bring them to justice. He was soon joined by a cadre of other people whose lives had been similarly been destroyed by crime. The team consisted of Fergus “Mac” MacMurdie, Algernon Heathcote “Smitty” Smith, Nellie Gray, Josh and Rosabel Newton and Cole Wilson.
Benson, for all his fury at criminals, tries never to kill. He has a pistol and knife set he calls Mike and Ike, but when he shoots folks he is very careful to only crease their skulls to render them unconscious. The fact that he goes to such efforts not to kill is very important since the first issue of Dynamite’s newest Justice Inc. series starts with the Avenger in FBI custody for committing murder.
While Benson is infuriating his captors with his eerily, icy calm demeanor, his crew attempt to figure out by whom and why he is being framed. In the course of their investigation, they find a dead policeman, are ambushed by henchmen and Smitty gets shot. Rosabel’s actions inadvertently cause one of the hoodlum’s death. To make matters worse, the FBI obtain a warrant and begin searching the offices of Justice Inc.
Faces of Justice is written by Kyle Higgins and Joe Gentile. Kyle Higgins has, in his career, written, among other things, Nightwing, Deathstroke and Batman Eternal. Joe Gentile previously has edited three excellent short story collections of the Avenger for Moonstone Press. The two writers set up the background of the Avenger as well as flesh out some of the defining traits of his assistants.
Alexandre Shibao’s is credited with doing the artwork for Independence Day for Titan Studios. My only complaint with his artwork in Justice Inc. The Faces of Justice is, other than the vehicles, I really didn’t get much of a sense of the time period the story is meant to take place in. What I thought was interesting was his depiction of Richard Benson’s facial hair. For whatever reason, I never thought about a person with a malleable face having a five o’clock shadow. One of the things that was well executed was Benson’s total lack of any expression changes during interrogation. It aptly illustrates the Avenger’s emotional disconnect in any situation. Doc Savage trained himself not to react emotionally. Richard Benson has a void where is emotions used to be.
Natalia Marques handles the coloring for Justice Inc. The Faces of Justice. On page twenty, check out the background of the elevator and the gradation of shades on the brick walls. The lettering is done by Troy Peteri. His work has not only been used for Dynamite’s Green Hornet series, He has also provided the lettering for the previous Justice Inc. series.
Why you should buy this book? I am always thrilled to see pulp era characters back in print, particularly the ones from the Street & Smith stable. Dynamite’s choice to have Joe Gentile co-write Justice Inc. The Faces of Justice gives it authenticity to the source material. As good as the prior Justice Inc. series was, Justice Inc. The Faces of Justice promises to be even better.
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