Justice League #1
“Justice League, Part One”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Lee & Williams (regular)/David Finch & Richard Friend (variant)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US (comic only)/$4.99 US (digital combo pack)
We already know Justice League #1, from a sales perspective, is a huge success. Its initial orders topped 200,000, and its sales will likely remain strong as long as DC keeps its two top talents on the book. But the question is: the story any good? While this comic book appears set to break sales records for 2011, the story’s not going to blow anyone’s mind. There’s no moment in the first issue that’s going to keep people talking non-stop until the next issue. Nevertheless, Johns turns in an entertaining first issue that focuses more on how the characters interact, and that’s a good thing. But the really good news is just how accessible this first issue is. The whole point of “the New 52” is to attract new and lapsed readers to comics, and this initial step in the relaunch initiative is one that’s headed in the right direction to achieve that goal.
The Batman chases some kind of monstrous would-be bomber across the rooftops of Gotham City, and he has the city’s police department nipping at his heels, ready to riddle his body and that of his prey with bullets. Once the Dark Knight catches up with his opponent, though, he quickly finds he grabbed onto more than he can handle, which makes the timing of another costumed hero’s appearance quite fortuitous. As Batman and Green Lantern compare notes and try to piece together what the inhuman, malevolent creature is plotting, elsewhere, young Vic Stone dazzles the crowds and college scouts at a hometown football game, but his success is for naught. The one person he wanted to witness his victory is nowhere to be seen.
The most fun aspect of this comic book is the interplay between Batman and Green Lantern. It seems fitting that the comic book leading up to this New 52 line, Flashpoint #5, was essentially a Flash/Batman teamup, and the first in the New 52 line amounts to a Green Lantern/Batman teamup. What makes the character interaction so much fun is what the two characters represent and how different they are. Johns take on Hal Jordan as a rookie Green Lantern in this story is to present him as the cockiest son of a bitch who ever lived. That contrasts nicely with Batman, who’s the most confident and prepared bastard who’s ever lived. Both are arrogant, but in different ways. GL jumps headfirst into any situation, convinced his power means he can’t be touched, whereas the Batman carefully considers every situation before taking action. Honestly, the diametrically opposed personalities here make for an unlikely comedy team. The dynamics between these two characters in their new interpretations had me smiling several times.
What I enjoyed most about Jim Lee’s artwork as well stemmed from the contrast between those two characters. Lee does a great job of conveying the two heroes’ different styles in the visuals. He immerses the Batman in a dark, gritty, urban world, but Green Lantern is all about light and attention, as opposed to the Caped Crusader’s stealthy approach. Lee is assisted tremendously in that effort by colorist Alex Sinclair, who does a great job of conveying the blinding, garish energy of GL’s ring. There’s a wondrous, magical quality to the ring effects in this comic book thanks to Sinclair’s colors, and the bright, loud green tones mirror GL’s brashness and overconfidence. Lee also does a good job of presenting these familiar characters as younger than we’re used to seeing them, especially when it comes to GL and Superman. The one aspect of the artwork that didn’t quite work for me was the double-page spread of the Batman in mid-leap. The figure doesn’t quite look right. Batman looks slightly distorted somehow.
The first thing I did after I read this comic book was to go back and count the number of pages featuring story and art. I was disappointed when my count ended at 24. Furthermore, two of those pages make up a double-page spread of an overly familiar visual (Batman dodging bullets) and two others were single-page splashes. And all three of those splashes simply serve to introduce characters. Mind you, it works with the single-page splashes as a means of emphasizing a moment and granting a mythic status to these colorful heroes. But 24 pages of story and art, with a few pages featuring character designs and cover roughs — the package doesn’t seem to be the kind of value DC promised its audience not so long ago with its “Drawing the line at $2.99.” This read like a $3 comic, not a $4 one.
Breaking up the over-the-top super-hero action is a scene introducing Vic Stone, the once and future Cyborg. In his original incarnation, he was a founding member of the New Teen Titans, fresh from his reluctant transformation from man (or teen, anyway) to machine. I was surprised this new interpretation of the hero starts out as a high school jock as well. I had expected Johns would cast off the teen part of this former Teen Titan, but his new origin seems to starting out around the same point as his old one. Still, I appreciated the fact that Johns opts for a more detailed introduction to the more obscure character to join the title team’s inaugural lineup. His inclusion was no doubt in part due to DC’s effort to offer a more diverse array of characters to its readership. That Cyborg will be differentiated from the rest of the Justice League by his age as well is… well, I don’t know what to think about it yet. Maybe combination of the age and race distinction will be handled well, offering some strong characterization possibilities. Or maybe it’ll seem like the one character of color in the series is getting the short shrift.
Johns’ script isn’t exactly cutting edge. The issue is made up of mostly standard super-hero genre fare, but it’s executed capably. But what the script does offer is the best of both worlds in terms of reaching its audience. It’s thoroughly accessible, using appropriate shortcuts (such as giving the audience credit for knowing Batman’s deal), incorporating exposition into the dialogue (such as GL’s explanation to Batman about the Green Lantern Corps) and offering a grounded introduction and complete origin for a lesser-known character. At the same time, Johns offers something to the longtime DC reader, and that’s discovering the small and big ways in which he’s tweaked these iconic heroes. Johns and Lee don’t reinvent comics here (as has been suggested by all of the hyperbole leading up to the New 52), but they do offer some fun comics. 7/10
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