There are a handful of celebrated artists that have carved their way into comic book lore with their instantly recognizable illustrations; Alex Ross is one of those artists. Ross has both written and illustrated a number of notable comics for Marvel and DC, the most famous being DC’s Kingdom Come which won an Eisner award in 1997.
Three years ago Pantheon released Rough Justice, a massive collection of DC artwork and character adaptations straight from Ross’ sketchbook. So is it good?
Rough Justice (Pantheon)
Rough Justice is essentially a 224 page museum exhibit that takes the comic book fan behind the scenes of Alex Ross’ creative process. The pages themselves are huge (measuring around 10.5 x 11 inches) and allow you to really appreciate the artwork on a larger scale. While the majority of the book is black and white sketches, there’s also colored artwork as well as detailed descriptions of the featured work. Ross discusses the history behind the comics as well as his artistic technique and his approach to creating some of the more memorable art pieces.
The featured work ranges from individual covers to Ross’ work on Kingdom Come and Thy Kingdom Come with Geoff Johns and even some character adaptations that never found its way into a panel. The collection is surprisingly extensive and covers the majority of Ross’ career so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. Ross’ photo-realism style is really impressive especially when broken down to the level in this book. We also get to see Ross out of character with some animated Superman sketches which I’m sure some fans will get a kick out of.
So what did I enjoy the most? Well Johns and Ross’ Thy Kingdom Come is one of my all-time favorite novels, especially due to the vast array of featured characters. Rough Justice has a lot of individual sketches of some of the less notable characters from the series such as Starman, Sandman, and Mr. America. It would have been easy to fill this book with various pictures of the trio and call it a day, but we get a truly diverse collection of heroes here.
Probably the coolest thing I found was the character redesigns that somehow never got picked up. I was blown away by the Martian Manhunter and Nightwing costumes and now I won’t rest until I find 36″x40″ posters of the images. There are also some new looks for The Atom, Robin, and Aquaman that are pretty intriguing. Other prominently featured characters include Shazam, Superman, and full spreads of both the Justice League and the Injustice League.
Is It Good
This collection goes beyond the inclusion of raw illustration and includes Ross’ documentation and explanation of his process and the history behind his work. While some sketchbooks are simply glorified coffee table books, Rough Justice is a must have for any DC fan, especially those who have enjoyed Ross’ contributions to the JSA.