Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day-And-Date: Justice League 1

Justice League 1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Release Date: August 31, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

Perhaps more than any other New 52 title, this issue had a lot of hype to live up to. Does it succeed? Well, it depends on what exactly you were expecting. If you were expecting the greatest thing ever to happen to the Justice League, maybe not, but if you were expecting an entertaining, well-written comic with pretty pictures of iconic DC characters looking just a little different than you're used to, then yes it delivers. There are a lot of things this comic gets right: It establishes the new DC universe, where superheroes are not yet trusted by the public at large and the authorities. It focuses on the tense dynamic between Batman and Green Lantern, which is still new enough that it feels fresh and lends itself to natural character development and conflict. It sets the stage for Cyborg's new origin, which looks like it will keep the important pieces of the original--Victor is a successful athlete who doesn't get along with his scientist father--but loses the more dated "angry young Black man" aspects, and adds an interesting twist that ties Cyborg into the Justice League--his father is presumably one of the first experts in the emerging scientific field of superhuman studies. This comic also sets up the coming conflict that will no doubt bring this Justice League together, with a sense of foreboding. It does all this in a relatively quick-paced, fun-to-read narrative with equal shares of action, excitement, and humor.

A couple of things didn't quite work for me. First, Johns has committed the same sin that Grant Morrison did with 1997's JLA 1: After months of hype about the new, awesomer-than-ever Justice League, we didn't even get to see the entire team in the first issue. I understand that this is an origin story and the team hasn't formed yet, but at least make sure each of the characters on the cover makes an appearance! Of seven members of this League, three aren't to be found anywhere in this issue (unless you count the sketchbook material at the end). Making this even worse than Morrison's sin is the fact that Justice League 2 will not be out for another seven weeks, so really this issue feels like a teaser more than anything. It's a teaser that suggests good things to come, though, and I have faith that once this team comes together it will have been worth the wait, as it was with JLA.

The second thing that didn't work for me--well, "didn't work for me" is a little strong; perhaps better "that may or may not work for me in the long run"--is that the changes to the DC Universe we've seen so far suggest that the New 52 is DC's attempt to be more like Marvel. So far we've established that the Justice League lives in a world of people who hate and fear them, and that when superheroes first meet, they must naturally fight each other. Like I said, this may or may not work in the long run. Creating conflict for the protagonists and allowing personalities to clash are not necessarily bad things. And Marvel has been outselling DC for a long time, so I can understand why they might want to try out Marvel's secret sauce. I just hope that the creators involved in this initiative are not simply saying, "Let's Marvelize the DCU," but that rather they are taking what works for Marvel and applying it to the DCU in a way that makes sense for the characters and their world. And I also hope that's not the extent of their plan.

One thing that did work for me, though, is Jim Lee's art. It isn't perfect--there were a few panels that I had to look at twice to figure out what was going on--but overall the pictures were pretty, as you'd expect, and Lee even managed to surprise me. He is not typically known for great facial expressions, at least not in the way Kevin Maguire is, but Batman's self-satisfied smile here is priceless:

Perhaps a question I should answer on each of these Day-And-Date reviews is whether it's worth paying full price to read this comic now, or if you'd be better off waiting a month to save a dollar? I say buy it now. This is a great read, and clearly an important prelude to everything coming up in the next month.

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