Today, a hooded figure is hunted to ground by what appears to be the Justice League, before escaping into a forest.
Meanwhile, in Washington DC, US government security wallah Amanda Waller summons former League liaison Steve Trevor and tries to persuade him to wrangle a new team, a Justice League of America. She wants '...a Justice League we can count on. A League that isn't hiding 22,000 miles above us in a satellite. A League that can help other superhumans ... or stop them if necessary.' There's the rub. Waller wants a pet League that can take down the original team should they ever grow too big for their super-boots.
Waller tells Trevor who she has in mind, and how she'll persuade the more reluctant to sign up. There's Hawkman, Stargirl, Vibe, new Green Lantern Simon Baz, Katana, Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter. Each is intended to match a particular Leaguer's power set. Despite being uncomfortable with the mooted involvement of assassin Katana and the brutal Hawkman, Trevor suggests the criminal Catwoman as a necessary foil to Batman, and goes out to find her, giving us this issue's most satisfying action sequence.
Writer Geoff Johns plays with time a little, shoehorning the Steve/Catwoman sequence into the middle of his talk with Amanda, but it's clear that it comes a little later. And the vignettes of potential members work nicely too - Waller gives some background and we see what they're up to. Most interesting is the Stargirl scene, as Courtney Whitmore makes her debut in DC's recently revised continuity. Akin to a Hollywood starlet, she seems a suitably sunny sort, smiling for the public despite a couple of hinted-at difficult areas (I suspect the fearful murmering of the name 'Pemberton' and her night terrors are connected, though I hope not).
The heroes chasing the hooded guy in an English forest - I won't reveal who he turns out to be, though you've likely guessed - are likely androids created by Professor Ivo, given the character's background in previous JLA continuities and their reference to a 'creator'. And that's fine by me, because if it's Ivo androids, can old favourite Amazo be far behind? And there's definitely a super-villain team on the horizon.
Johns does an excellent job of referencing the wider DC Universe and setting up future plotlines, acknowledging Booster Gold's disappearance, and letting us know that Silver Age JLA villains Starro, Despero and Chronos made it through the Flashpoint event.
One thing this comic lacks is humour; there a cute meta-moment as Waller tells Trevor stuff he patently knows, for the benefit of the readers, but a few witticisms wouldn't go amiss. Perhaps once the team gets together ...
I like this issue. The thinking behind the team structure is laid out in a straightforward manner, while spotlighting the difference between Waller's manipulative ways and Trevor's old school thinking. His discomfort with the suggested structure implies that this won't be a book in which heroes get to kill without hard questions being asked.
Mind, there's one key question that isn't raised: if Waller doesn't trust the regular League after five years of do-gooding on behalf of the planet, why is she willing to gamble national security on a bunch of harder-edged heroes, including newbie Vibe, loose cannon Hawkman and villain Catwoman? I hope this comes up for discussion; meanwhile, I'm looking forward to seeing the character dynamics between the team members. Johns has me on board with his most compelling script for a long while.
And then there's the artwork. David Finch produces his best work yet for DC, with dramatic compositions filled with characters who look to have inner lives. Finch's work with Hawkman and Trevor, for example, shows a real gift for body language - these aren't cardboard cut-outs, they're strong personalities living in a very dangerous world. I also appreciate that he doesn't skimp on background detail, giving each scene a convincing setting and sticking with it beyond the establishing shot. Colourists Sonia Oback and Jeremy Cox only emphasise Finch's strong performance, presenting a world that's neither too bright nor too bleak. And Rob Leigh's letters do their part, working with the artwork to sell the script.
The marketing-led cover is a bit rubbish. I get the historic reference, but it means we wind up with a composition in which the superheroes fail to dominate their own debut issue. And that dreary purplish background lends no visual 'pop' at all.
Nevertheless, this is an entertaining opener. If future issues are as good - and with a $3.99 price point they need to be - then DC's New 52 line has another hit.