Friday, September 2, 2011

Justice League #1 – A Review

The bold, the brash, the exciting, the new formula Coke is here and ready to take the world by storm. What, it is the new DCU, errr okay. Take two.

The new DCU starts here and it started five years ago, where the heck was I?  Justice League starts five years ago and is about Green Lantern and Batman meeting for the first time. They meet, they exchange quips, they fly over Victor Stone’s high school on the way to Metropolis to investigate if the problem they are dealing with involves Superman and they meet Superman. That is about it for $4 and 24 pages of story and art.

Let’s start with the good part, Jim Lee’s artwork. Jim’s work can be super busy, but it is dynamic story telling at its best and for slam bang super hero action, Jim is hard to beat. Of course Scott Williams is always Lee’s main inker and does a dynamite job of making Jim’s pencils look their absolute best. No major DC super hero book would be complete without Alex Sinclair coloring the book. Alex is hands down the best color artist for this type of work. Alex’s work always enhances the work and is a master with any type of panel. This book has tons of special coloring effects too make the contrast between GL and Batman work. If you just flip through the pages and look at the pictures the words are almost superfluous. Finally as much as I not sure about what they are doing with Superman, the last panel of Superman standing there in his new costume looks pretty damn cool.

The story itself feels very light while reading it. Batman meets Green Lantern, they fight off the authorities while chasing a very powerful bad guy and decide he maybe an alien. Superman is an alien so let’s check him out and we go to Metropolis for the big reveal panel. That bit of logic reminds me of meeting someone in a different town and I say I live in Baltimore and then they ask me if a know Bill Jones in Baltimore. It might be alien technology, let’s go ask a random alien if he knows anything about it. Not the best transition to connect us to Superman.

In truth the story introduces a lot of elements of the new DCU. First off Batman is in Gotham and is apparently considered an enemy of the police. Green Lantern is from Coast City and has also had problems with the official authorities. Victor Stone is in High School and is not yet Cyborg. Superman is pretty much an unknown at this point and not other member of the future Justice League was introduced. Finally the bad guy is associated with Darkseid.

After that I have problems. I know DC wants to jump into books and have action happening as opposed to the endless talking heads that many stories have become. Jumping in with Batman chasing some bad guy and dodging strafing runs by military styled helicopters certainly fills that bill. I’ll even let go of the fact that Batman should be dead by about the fourth page. Then Green Lantern shows up. His arrogance of his power is well done and I guess is natural at this point in his career and that’s where the hard disconnected is coming for me. I know these characters and have known them for many years; it is hard to just accept everything is new again. I think it is hard for Johns also as his dialogue is normally much better and often the exchanges between GL and Batman feel too forced. Hal is a character Johns has been channeling for years and even his dialogue felt off. Of course trying to find a voice you know and erase experience from that voice and reprogram for how it would be different tough and Johns missed.

The other issues I have is seeing Victor Stone as 18 as we begin the new DCU, that is making him way too young in my mind and he also feels like he is being shoe horned into something that was not just an organic outgrowth of a changed continuity. I think a brand new character might have been a better fit.

Last and far from least is my concern about the use of the familiar. The character Batman and GL are chasing yells out “for Darkseid”. I know who Darksied is, I know all about the New Gods and I’m jazzed to think that this is the Omega Level threat that should bring the JL together, then I remember, I have no clue who Darkseid is anymore. DC is now free to throw out stuff and make us think we know what is coming up and then surprise us. It is a cheap shock and surprise because you are playing with my expectations. I used to throw a “fizzie” (it fizzed up in a glass of water and made it a weak grape or whatever flavor soda) up in the air for my dog after it had caught potato chips or whatever when I was a kid. Of course the thing would fizz and my dog would spit it out. At ten or eleven I thought it was funny fooling my dog. I think DC will be throwing us fizzes a lot in the coming months, I’m no longer amused.

One last quibble, the actual name of the book is Justice League, no more “of America”. National pride is not a bad thing when done for the right reasons, when pushed too far it can be a bad thing. Also Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are not necessarily America, so there is that. Right now I miss the book being the JLA, time will tell.

Overall for a book that DC is hanging out as the centerpiece and spine of the DCU I think it did a good job. In spite of all my reservations on the surface the book looked great, read fast and made you want to come back for issue #2. I think new readers may give it an “A”, I will give it a “C” and could be pushed into a “B” with a few drinks or an interview with Johns.

See our sister blog for another review.

Why do comic books suck because we are never allowed to see character grow, change and end their careers and instead are forced to have endless re-launches, re-boots, re-sets, Mephisto changes and Bobby Ewing walking out of a shower. .    

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