Justice League #3
“Justice League, Part Three”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair, Hi-Fi & Gabe Eltaeb
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Lee & Williams (regular)/Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion (variant)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US (comic only)/$4.99 US (digital combo pack)
I wasn’t planning on writing a full of review of one of DC’s New 52 comics so soon after my New 52 Review Project in September (give or take a few days on either end of the month), but after reading this third issue of DC’s flagship title, I was struck by a number of thoughts and realized I could assemble a review easily. There are a number of elements in this comic book that are a lot of fun. The visuals are dynamic and exciting, and Johns’ take on Wonder Woman boasts a lot of personality and attitude. That being said, the storytelling overall is flawed. The pacing is slow, a key element just doesn’t fit in this context and too many pages are dedicated to splashes. The decompressed storytelling is quite frustrating, and it’s too bad, because using Darkseid as the catalyst and antagonist for the title team’s first adventure/mission is a great idea.
As Boom Tubes open up all over the planet and Parademons pour through to wreak havoc on Earth, other superhumans join the effort to repel the monstrous invaders. Among them is Diana, a princess from a hidden island society of Amazons. Dubbed Wonder Woman, she’s quickly to answer the call of battle, her sword at the ready to dispatch the villainous horde. She soon joins Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash in their concerted effort against the Parademons on the coast. Meanwhile, Silas Stone raids a S.T.A.R. Labs vault of technology of unknown origin and apparently limitless power to save the life of his son Victor, whose body is being eaten from within by extra-dimensional energy.
I like how Lee brings youth and brashness to these characters, especially Aquaman. It’s nice that one can see a distinction between this interpretation of the characters set five years in the past and their portrayals in other titles set in the present. The problem with Lee’s art here is there’s no real sense of flow to the visual storytelling. Individual panels or splashes look cool, but they seem to work more as pinups than as parts of a story. Sometimes it’s rather difficult to discern what’s happening in the middle of the chaotic action. There’s a big, splashy panel that runs across the top half of a two-page spread in the middle of the comic, and in it, several heroes fight Parademons. But there’s no one focal point. My eye doesn’t know where to go.
I really loved the opening scene that spotlights Wonder Woman. Johns’ take on Wonder Woman as an emerging super-heroine is quite entertaining, and while it’s significantly different from the one Brian Azzarello is writing in the newly relaunched Wonder Woman series, it’s not inconsistent either. The two interpretations make sense given the time that separates them. Recasting Steve Trevor as a liaison for a rogue element the military is trying (in vain) to control is a fun retooling of familiar concepts as well. Johns’ characterization of Diana — as being eager for battle yet unschooled in the customs and amenities of the modern world — strikes me as an interesting balance between George Perez’s and Greg Rucka’s past interpretations of the character.
While I applaud DC’s effort to offer a diverse array of characters in its New 52 relaunch, I’ve come to the realization Cyborg just doesn’t work in this story. He might be OK as a member of the Justice League, but as an iconic addition to the opening lineup, he falls flat. It’s really all about context. He’s a 1980s creation that’s been thrust into a book that features heroic archetypes that have been around since the 1940s (or earlier, in some cases). Even if one takes into account these incarnations of the Flash and Green Lantern were introduced in the 1960s, that’s still a radically different, simpler time as compared to the social and cultural backdrop in which Cyborg arose as a creation. Just look at the names. The term “cyborg” didn’t even exist when the other concepts were crafted. Furthermore, two origin stories — that of the League and Cyborg’s — just don’t fit in this one story arc. The two plotlines distract from one another. It’s a shame DC didn’t consider bringing a character of color to the lineup in some other way. There’s no real reason Barry Allen couldn’t be black in this new continuity, for example, or why GL John Stewart couldn’t have been the first Lantern to join the team.
One thing I did enjoy is the fact the first threat in this new origin story, linked to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters, serves as a catalyst for other villains. Connecting both Prof. Ivo and T.O. Morrow to this story was a nice idea. They serve as some diverting Easter eggs for longtime readers such as myself, and Johns is building new myths and connections to the League by including them in this story. I was dismayed, however, to see the level of violence the heroes use. Sure, the bad guys are inhuman monsters, but they’re sentient beings, and the good guys — at least, Superman, Batman, the Flash and Green Lantern — are supposed to be against killing. Superman severs limbs and heads here, and there’s nothing in the script to suggest the unending horde is made up of mindless monsters. We’ve seen Parademons speak and show intellect earlier in this series, so it seems wrong for supposed heroes to murder them.
Ultimately, the biggest problem is the plot is unfolding too slowly. We know where the story is headed: a confrontation with Darkseid, the formation of a team, the rise of a new hero. There’s no tension in the story, no suspense, just the sense we’re having to wait and wait and wait. I’m reminded a little of the experience of reading the first few issues of Fear Itself, in which the audience kept watching hammers fall from the sky but never seeing any forward movement in the plot. I really want to like Justice League, but things definitely need to pick up and gel. 5/10
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