Justice League #1 | Review

For decades Justice League has been a flagship title for DC Comics. It has acted as a hub where all the big (and sometimes not so big) names of the DC Universe came together to tackle the baddest of the bad. With this in mind, it only makes sense that Justice League would be the first title released in DC’s New 52 relaunch initiative and would pair up two of the biggest creative forces in the company’s stable. So how does the newly relaunched Geoff Johns and Jim Lee Justice League start? Unfortunately with a whimper.

Don’t get me wrong, this was a solid first issue for just about any other comic book, but Justice League just needs something… more. Johns makes the incredibly brave choice to start the new volume of the series with an origins. Not so much the origins of any one character, but rather the group itself. Set “Five Years Ago” from an undisclosed point in time, the story starts off as Super Heroes just start to emerge in the DC Universe, and these new heroes are still seen as lawless vigilantes. While some of the heroes have knowledge of each other, it’s clear that they have never met. This means that the story is forced to start off slow. I can’t help but feel if maybe the first issue or two should have been packed with some action in order to capture the attention of the reader and then do a flashback to show how this League assembled… wait… Sorry, wrong super group.

Luckily, Johns has set this series up to potentially have some giant payoffs. This slow burn intro is giving us some great relationship developments and the promise a lot more to come. The first issue also reveals a potential enemy for the group right off that bat. Without spoilers, I think this villain will force these heroes to work together and makes for a real possibility of defeat. No throwaway third string villains for these guys, and that’s exactly how the Justice League comic should roll.

One thing that Geoff Johns also does well is give the characters (at least the few that have appeared so far) solid and individual voices, even if he does miss some things that seem out of character. For example; why Batman would ever agree to leave with Green Lantern and go to Metropolis? In my mind, the Justice League has to be Batman’s idea or he has to be the last to join. He either knows the strategic value of a super group like the Justice League or he is reluctant because he doesn’t congeal with the other players’ style. This is a minor point in the long run though and I don’t blame Johns for just getting on with the story, though if you’re going to go for the slow burn intro you might as well commit 100%.

Now that we have the story out of the way, what can be said about the art? Well, it’s Jim Lee. His art is one of the defining voices of comic art in the ’90s. Many people like him and a few don’t. I don’t think this book will convert the lesser holdouts, but those who already appreciate his art will eat Justice League up. Almost every panel is packed with details and action. I think he’s perfected his style to the point that a large panel with multiple characters and a detailed cityscape background takes him less time than most people can sketch a bust portrait. Many people will try to imitate Lee, he is one of a kind.

While some of the new costume designs aren’t great (I’m looking at you armored Superman), none of them have been truly horrible as of yet. Honestly, while I don’t like the armored look of Superman, I totally dig his new costume’s collar. Batman and Green Lantern’s new looks, while only slightly altered from some previous incarnations, look really sharp in the hands of Lee. We’ll see what happens as the comic goes on with new characters being introduced and the designs getting refined in practice.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the redesigns is the youth of the members. I seriously think that every hero that appeared in issue one might look younger than me and I’m not even 30. The last page of the book features a Superman that could honestly be a Superboy if based on looks alone. I really don’t think it’s a good or a bad thing, it’s just a “thing” in general. It’s clear that DC is dedicated to turning back the clocks on their biggest heroes and that we’re going to be picking up at the very beginning of their careers.

Overall it was a decent issue. That being said, I’m not sure if this was the right issue to be the first foot forward for the new 52. It’s a huge risk to start this relaunch off in a fashion that many fans will regard as “slow.” I respect Johns and Lee for resisting the urge to start the comic with a giant two page action splash that would make all the fan boys and girls have to change their pants. I would like to think Justice League issue #1 is DC Comic’s way of saying “Hey, we’re going to be the more mature choice on the market. Our stories aren’t going to be instant gratification and they’re going to build towards greater things.” Otherwise, that just means that two of the greatest creators of our era have completely missed the mark and I don’t think that is very likely. Only time will tell if this decision, and the new series, will pay off.

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