Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Justice League #1 review

Say hello to the New DC Universe. Tweaked costumes, younger heroes, different relationships .... it's bound to be a bumpy ride, but that's not so bad in the superhero genre. DC kicks off with its big guns book, hoping the traditional combination of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and the rest draws us in ...

Promotional images have shown more than a dozen characters. The cover depicts seven. Inside we meet four, only three of whom are yet heroes. Writer Geoff Johns is taking us back to the formation of this new JL (no 'of America' as yet), so it's understandable that the team isn't together. I would, though, like to at least check in with all the main players - most of this book is a not-quite team-up between Batman and Green Lantern as they track down an alien in Gotham City. Their efforts are hampered by an exceedingly well-equipped Gotham police force - massive guns, assault helicopters - but they fail to capture the heroes.

After planting a bomb and crying out to Darkseid, the insectoid creature opts for immolation, leaving its pursuers looking for clues. Green Lantern wonders if the creature is linked to known alien Superman, so off they pop to Metropolis. There, football hero Vic Stone is being offered college scholarships left, right and centre, but he's sad cos his dad is too busy to attend games. He's on hand as GL and Batman arrive, but doesn't meet them, though they do meet someone - Superman himself.

And that's that for the first issue. Batman, having become more rounded under Grant Morrison of late, is back to the snarly, growly fellow from the Christopher Nolan films. Green Lantern is so big-headed that he refers to himself in the third person. Quiet Man Vic is pretty much where he was in his New Teen Titans origin, 30 years ago. And Superman cuts an impressive figure, but in nine words manages to sound every bit as arrogant as Batman and GL.

I realise that DC wants new readers to feel they're getting in on the beginning of a whole new League, but my preference would have been to see the team in action today, with a flashback origin later on. I want to meet the mature League first - they don't have to be 'old', but I don't want bickering all over the place; this issue has GL shooting as much testosterone as he does Oan energy.

And what a lot he fires, wasting power on seriously complicated creations such as riot cops when a simple wall would do - gotta be cool for the kids, I guess. Which isn't to say they don't look good as depicted by penciller Jim Lee, inker Scott Williams and colourist Alex Sinclair. It's just that complex constructs were never Hal's thing, they were the USP of his successor, Kyle Rayner (then again, Barry Allen has nicked the Speed Force shtick from Wally West, allowing DC to claim he's redundant, so why shouldn't Hal also plunder the popular?).

Everyone looks impressive on the page, even with the unnecessary costume changes. Lee's Batman and GL may only stop scowling when they're being cocky, but they certainly look like powerful figures. And Superman, hideous new costume apart, looks great too, with heat vision slug trail and a fine head of hair just waiting for a kiss curl. Vic isn't a superhero yet, but there's a pleasing grace to him. And the creature from Apokolips has a suitably menacing design.

I really feel I should like this issue more; it's professional, has splashy action, attention-grabbing character dynamics and a bit of a mystery.

But it just feels so old-fashioned. I was going to use 'Nineties' as a pejorative, but that decade gave us Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's immensely inventive and sophisticated JLA. This reads like a bog-standard comic from the decade - very manly, but not especially engaging.

But it's only the first issue, for goodness' sake. As more characters are pulled in by Johns, characters who aren't all Type As, the dynamics should become less annoying. And who knows how Lee may surprise us if he's enthused.

Let's hope Lee doesn't look to his cover for inspiration, what with Hal and a humongous green gun that just screams 'tiny willy', a Superman with a head made from a spoon, a Flash with horns and a super-busty Wonder Woman too dim to notice when her costume's shrunk in the wash.

Justice League gets the new DC Universe off to a suitably splashy start. Not a wildly interesting one, but Johns and Lee have been at the comics game a long time, and produced enough good stories that I'll give this book a few issues to find its feet. The promise of Darkseid helps, with the villain having enough scary, formidable lackeys to challenge the tyro team. I just hope we finally see the fresh approach DC has promised.

13 comments:

  1. Not loving the cover very much and I can't say it inspires me to run out and buy the comic. Guess I'll have to reserve judgement on the what's inside though...

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  2. So that is all of story you got for your 5 bucks? Seems awfully slim

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  3. I was going to buy this as my first digital comic, but after hearing all the dismal reviews, have decided to wait at least until the issue goes down in price... if ever.

    Funny comments, Mart!

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  4. I enjoyed it.

    I wanted to be blown away, and I wasn't. I wanted to see more of the heroes right away, and we didn't. But I enjoyed it well enough for a first issue of Justice League. Just not quite enough for a so-important-that-it's-one-of-only-two-comics-we're-publishing-this-week issue of Justice League.

    It's nice to see that Vic will still be a *little* greener than the other heroes, at least at first. Looks like we're in for another round of Angry Vic Stone!

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  5. Purely as a guess, I suspect they're going to emulate the story structure of the Silver Age JLA, with different chapters dedicated to 2-3 different heroes, and then the last few chapters showing the team coming together. It's not a bad story structure to use, but I'm not certain it's the right approach for the first impression of what is supposed to be one of your company's signature books.

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  6. Like I stated in my review....this is going to be, for a little while at least, a title filled with the youngins sizing each other up. Hopefully Wondy can calm them all down.

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  7. Completely agree that we needed the whole team here as a hook. Even a framework story leading to the origin would have been fine.

    Great review!

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  8. I liked the advertised colour scheme more, Baron. Supposedly orange covers don't sell - this seems to have done OK though.

    It was $3.99, Travis, with a bonus feature showing sketches by Jim Lee. It seems that at one point Hal was going to get the ridiculous knee-hole boots poor Kara wound up with.

    You can have mine. Carol, I can't see this ever getting read again. It's interesting for what it represents, not what it is.

    I really hope Vic's character is tweaked slightly, the angry guy bit was already a cliche first time round. How about this for an idea? Silas Stone was dying so he asked a promising STAR Labs colleague to raise Victor as his son ... Lex Luthor!

    Naaaah.

    Good guess there, Knightsky, though it looks as if we're still with Bats, GL and Supes next issue.

    Ah, Jimmy, watch DIana be as bad as the rest of 'em.

    Thanks Anj, I'm off to see what you reckon, over at Supergirl's Comic Box Commentary"

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  9. Boring comic! It reads in all ways like a missing issue from the deplorable All Star Batman, though maybe the heros are slightly less arrogant and misogynistic here. Uhg, Batman meets Green Lantern. How many times have i read this? Is there really anyone reading this comic that wants a JL with no history? Kids(even new to comics kids) want badass and cool, not necessarily blank slate. The new mainstream DC titles will give Hollywood plenty of superhero meeting superhero stories to plunder for the movies and not much else. I'm looking forward to the weirder titles, specifically Animal Man, the covers to that series look great. You're a real trooper with your reviews Martin!

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  10. I agree it wasn't a perfect comic, but when I told non-comic reading friends about the DC reboot, a few were interested enough to order a few comics online - for the first time ever. So perhaps DC is doing the right thing in trying to clean the slate and make their comics accessible to people who've not been reading for 20+ years. But I guess only time will tell...
    n-comic reading friends about the DC reboot, a few were interested enough to order a few comics online - for the first time ever. So perhaps DC is doing the right thing in trying to clean the slate and make their comics accessible to people who've not been reading for 20+ years. But I guess only time will tell...

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  11. Brynocki C, there's a fun instalment of the Quiet Panelologists at Work podcast in which a non-comics fan, Tim, is given JL #1 to read. It's rather interesting:

    http://panelologists.com/

    I'd love to hear what your pals reckon, Rob.

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  12. Yeek! I just heard what those panelologists called Wondie!

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  13. He's not a regular, honest - that's laddish Welsh, to use that word in such an offhand way. Hate it.

    Have you tried the House to Astonish podcast? Very intelligent analysis from two smart, funny fellas, Paul and Al. I especially enjoy their Official Handbook of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

    http://www.housetoastonish.com/?p=1014

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