Justice League International #1
“The Signal Masters, Part 1”
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils/Cover artist: Aaron Lopresti
Inks: Matt Ryan
Letters: Travis Lanham
Editor: Rex Ogle
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
One of the many criticisms that arose upon the release of Justice League #1 was that the plotting was far too slow, that the characters that appear on the cover didn’t all appear in the first issue itself. Well, almost as an answer to those complaints, DC delivered Justice League International #1 just a week later after the flagship title, and this comic book should satisfy those who took issue with the decompressed storytelling in the main Justice League title. Writer Dan Jurgens offers a succinct “gathering of the team” scene and then takes his audience directly into some action. He and artist Aaron Lopresti present a fun super-hero story, but it’s also some fairly typical genre fare. Still, the simpler tone of the plotting might remind some readers of the Justice League of America comics of yesteryear. Replace some of these international heroes with the JLA lineup of the 1970s, and you’d have a classic Gerry Conway- or Len Wein-penned super-team story of the 1970s.
The people don’t trust governments or other forms of authority much these days, and the United Nations sets out to assemble its own super-hero team. Its goal is two-pronged: the heroes can address threats that conventional forces can’t handle, and it will also serve to foster good will among the world’s population. Made up of heroes from several different nations and led by the glory-hungry Booster Gold, the team is thrown into the thick of things when it embarks on a rescue mission in Peru. It doesn’t take Booster and his team long before it’s plagued by subterranean monsters… and friction among the members of the team.
Upon the release of Justice League #1, a number of people speculated DC was embracing a darker tone for its New 52 line as a whole, but it’s clear after reading this comic book that’s the case at all. Lopresti’s art and Hi-Fi-s colors are crisp and bright, bringing a sense of fun and plenty of energy to the story. There’s nothing grim ‘n’ gritty to be found here. Lopresti provides plenty of detail, both in the figures and the backgrounds. I have to admit I’m not at all that taken with Booster Gold’s new costume design. The sleeker one we saw in his recently cancelled series was more striking and memorable. This one is too busy and reminds me of the clunky armor he sported in Extreme Justice in the 1990s.
Just as the art signals a more fun, lighter tone, the script never gets too heavy either. Despite the angry mobs included in the plot and the callous arson, there’s generally a playful tone at play here. Most of the fun stems from the bickering among the various heroes, and Jurgens often puts characters at loggerheads along political lines. Mind you, he sometimes defines certain characters too much by their nationalities. Godiva and Rocket Red sound more like caricatures of a Brit and Russian, respectively. The Brazilian Fire is referred to as “fiery in spirit,” suggesting she’s a spicy, Latin number. Mind you, these broad strokes may just be shortcuts employed to introduce the cast of characters to the audience. Hopefully, we’ll see more depth and less stereotyping in subsequent issues.
I really enjoyed the fact Jurgens uses Batman in a comedic context at one point in the book. The character has been treated awfully seriously as of late, and it was fun to see him a bit cheeky with a colleague while still maintaining his edge. Making Booster the leader of the team is an unconventional choice, though it makes a lot more sense when one realizes Jurgens created the character back in the late 1980s. I like this more confident, organized and calculating interpretation of Booster Gold, but at the same time, Jurgens still maintains the main characteristic that sets him apart from other super-heroes: his status as a brand, as a marketable property in the context of this super-hero universe. Jurgens short-changes a couple of other characters. Godiva is ridiculously sexual, and Vixen plays almost no role in the story so we get no sense of her as a character.
This issue spotlights the awkward continuity issues DC faces with this soft reboot. Apparently, the humor era of the Justice League never happened. This story makes it clear this is the first time Booster and Guy Gardner have been teammates, but at the same time, it’s suggested there’s still some kind of connection between Guy and Ice. The bits of continuity DC has chosen to maintain — Crisis on Infinite Earths, Blackest Night, the death of Superman — and the ones it’s chosen to discard seems almost random. Of course, it’s not; the publisher has clung to the bigger sellers, ones that still have life in the marketplace as collected editions. But there seems to be no thought given to how these pieces fit together given that half of the puzzle of continuity have been thrown out.
In the end, while this is a fun, accessible super-hero team story, it also feels rather… ordinary. The inaugural mission seems to boast a generic threat, and there’s no sense of suspense. This is by-the-numbers, standard and capable genre fare, but given the hype that’s surrounded the New 52 relaunch, the audience is definitely going to expect something more special and innovative than this. 6/10
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