Well, I’ve put it off long enough. I can’t avoid it any more. Since the weather isn’t bringing me down, it’s time to finally over-analyze the launch title of the new DC Universe, the first of the new 52. The question is whether or not Justice League #1 did us a favor.
Now since it has taken so long, you’ve probably already read the reviews (I know I have) and decided whether or not to buy it. However, this site is about my perspective and while I’m mostly doing it to get it down, I do agree and disagree with some of what I’ve heard others say. So now it’s time for my say.
Justice League #1
DC Comics (October, 2011)WRITER: Geoff Johns PENCILER: Jim Lee INKER: Scott Williams COLORIST: Alex Sinclair LETTERER: Patrick Brosseau ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Rex Ogle EDITOR: Eddie Berganza
The rest of this review won’t be done in the usual format. By now you know what happens in the issue (not much) so I’m just going to go over it with my opinions on the story, the art, and then how each character acts in the story. In my overview, however, you may get some hints on what I think of the new DC Universe.
First, the art is beautiful. I wouldn’t hire Jim Lee as a fashion consultant (and people will probably say I need one) but the man can draw a human figure and background. I still can’t get used to “everyone wears armor”, despite my love of armored heroes, but it’s the V-Necks that are getting to me.
Taken on its own merits, the story isn’t bad, either. Taking place five years before whatever the current continuity is (personally I would have started with the League taking down a bad guy, and then going into flashback mode), people are less than thrilled with super heroes. In other words, it’s the Marvel Universe with DC’s characters. Batman is chasing something but between the police and the opponent, Batman’s in trouble–until Hal smashes the robot with a fire engine construct (you know, with that imagination Green Lantern is famous for…when he’s Kyle Rayner). Batman is less than appreciative and Hal doesn’t so much try to team up with Batman as show off how impressive he is. After taking down another bad guy, who proclaims to be setting up a device for “Darkseid” (wonder who he is?), they decide he’s an alien so obviously Superman is involved…because Superman’s an alien. Hal confronts Superman, Superman knocks him into next Thursday, and then confronts Batman. We’re promised next issue that Superman and Batman will fight. Again, Marvel Universe.
And that’s my main problem with this comic. I felt like I was reading a Marvel comic. Heroes squabbling, Hal being unprofessional, Batman being a jerk, and in Superman’s one panel not acting like Superman. Although from what I’ve heard about Action Comics
#905 #1, this is par for the course. And don’t tell me this is Superman in the old days. One thing Smallville got right (I can’t believe I just wrote that) was that Clark Kent had most of the same values before Superman as he did after. Here he’s spoiling for a fight and in Action he only works for one kind of person, threatening people he doesn’t like, and in both versions uses his heat vision to make his eyes glow to be extra scary.
SUPERMAN IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SCARY! STOP MAKING EVERYBODY BATMAN!
Speaking of Batman, he’s a jerk. He doesn’t like super-powered types (although he still doesn’t mind running around in a costume–sorry, armor), fine. He’s never been into the flashy guys. However, while he’s welcome to be upset about not being able to question the threat (why was Batman chasing him to begin with?) in the beginning of the story, he not only isn’t at least thankful that Hal saved his tail but goes out of his way to make Hal look stupid. Not that Hal needs help, as he has a bigger ego than he ever did and is like a little child. “Daddy, watch what I can do, watch me watch me watch me.” Our heroes, kids. These are the people we’re supposed to be rooting for and find that hard to do. Something big must happen in five years to make these three less jerkish.
There is no Flash, no Aquaman, and no Wonder Woman, despite them being on the cover. Technically, while there is no Cyborg there is Victor Stone. Apparently, Johns wants to tell his origin story (because he who writes the origin has the greatest influence on the character–that’s my theory), so we get the usual absentee father who is more interested in work than his own son. Is this a trope yet?
With original characters, this might have been interesting. However, these are characters we’ve known and loved for years. We know their motivations, and they come off missing a number of the qualities that made them heroes, even in their old rookie years. Earlier I mentioned that I would have shown the heroes battling together as the heroes they are today, and then go into flashback mode. Both the Static Shock cartoon and the recent Mega Man comic did this and the story was better for it. It gives you an idea of the character real quick and then you can accept the origin story. (By the way, if you don’t know Superman or Batman’s origin by now, you must be new to civilization. Welcome.) Instead it’s another “written for the trades” long story that just shows off the pretty artwork and doesn’t really tell you anything. I think they’re banking on the fact that Superman, Batman, and more recently Green Lantern have had a strong enough presence outside of comics that they’ll be enough to carry this story, and they’re not.
Recommendation: If they want to write for the trade so badly, then wait for the trade. It’s really not worth getting now because they really don’t have any idea how to write a continuing storyline. It’s all trades. Otherwise, it’s not a bad story, but they did little to the reverse in selling me on the new DC Universe. But that’s a whole other article.