So, fellow comics aficionado Ed and I have taken it upon ourselves to review a variety of the DCnU books as they come out over the next couple weeks. We've decided, for this first post at least, to share with you some brief thoughts we had about Justice League #1, the flagship title in the revamping of the entire DC Universe.
Below is a synopsis of the book, a look at the art, and then our conversation about the book as a whole.
Without further ado, here's JUSTICE LEAGUE #1:
Well, who else could be behind that little fire engine that could? Nobody but the em-effing Green Lantern!
Then they see that weirdo monster in the sewers, and when it cries out:
Bats and GL land in Metropolis. They argue about who's going to approach this strange visitor from another world. GL decides to saunter right into his quarters and smack him around a bit. Surprisingly enough, Superman isn't having this, and punches GL's lights out. Then he stands before Batman and says:
Sarah Getting the Ball Rolling ...
Okay, Ed, after reading the issue a few times, here are my thoughts: DC is shifting its Big Three Trinity; no longer is it Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman as their three biggest legacy characters. It's now Bats, Supes, and Green Lantern -- a character with the most convoluted of all origins. This is not a slam on him necessarily, it only tells me that DC's emphasis is no longer on the wonder and impressiveness of their big three anymore, at least not in this book. Justice League will be all about what sells the best.
This is not to say Wonder Woman isn't confusing; writers made her that way, to fit their whims or what they thought might sell her books. Hal Jordan's GL is a character who's been twisted inside-out often enough, whose basic ingredients have been rewritten time and time again, all to make him cool to readers in the moment (he's not fallible to yellow anymore, he never killed a planet-full of people -- a bacteria or something made him do it, etc.). He's not timeless like Batman (the avenger) or Superman (the symbol of justice and America's primo male physique) or Wonder Woman (the epitome of female love and violence). Having him present in the first issue of Justice League tells me this rewrite'll focus less on the myth of superheroes, and more on the accessibility of superheroes.
Which okay, fine. But accessibility is impossible! Because superheroes don't EXIST in real life. Why make things edgier with heroes on the run in a five years' prior timeline? What does that running-scared story -- that origin story, nonetheless -- tell me about my everyday life?
I have to say this is a safe comic. Barely anything happens, other than establishing the characters' temperaments. Also, the fact that Geoff Johns writes the most ridiculously exposition-heavy dialogue ever needs to not go unnoticed. Especially considering he has to explain where GL's from for almost two pages, and also why these characters aren't accepted by mainstream society -- in both cases, the explanations take up valuable action time.
I feel bad that I don't have more to say about this narrative or the art, but I legit don't care much about this origin story, when there's little in the way of stakes for these heroes so far. I assume next issue, Superman and Bats'll fight, and learn from their misunderstanding in a way Hal and Bruce didn't. But what does that mean, when we're living in a world where heroes are scarce? I dunno and that's an issue, aka, a problem in a rebooted world.
Ed's Response ...
I guess I've never really bought into the idea of the "Big Three." I mean, the book is the Superman/Batman Adventures, you know? So, the idea that they're shifting focus from WW to GL doesn't particularly bother me, nor does it come as a surprise. GL is one of their main properties, especially with the Color Corp and whatnot. I guess my big problem with this whole reboot, and especially this "FIVE YEARS IN THE PAST" conceit, is that I just don't care about these characters with their mistakes stripped away. To me, Hal Jordan was only an interesting character when he was unsure of himself, either be it through his road-trip with Green Arrow, or post-Parallax. Cock-sure fighter pilot Hal Jordan is aggravating, and I found myself hoping Batman trapped him in a yellow room and kicked his teeth in. This complaint goes for Bats, too. After reading the past couple of years of Morrison's work, it's hard to be invested in this sort of clean slate Batman. I vaguely like the idea of GL being a stark contrast to Supes and Bats (both of who are tremendously aware of their power, and their need to control it), while Hal is all "HAI GUYS I FOUND THIS RING AND HAVE NOT SPENT YEARS LEARNING HOW TO HANDLE MYSELF," but I don't feel like it's going to be explored more than "Shut up, Hal." "No, seriously, shut up, Hal."
Pretty much nothing happens here. I think this will read better in trade, but I think it was a big mistake to make this the flagship issue of the DCnU, especially at the price point of $4. How many splash pages were there?
[Editorial Answer: Too many. A lot of people like Jim Lee, and he brings a cinematic scope to his work at times. But here a continuing problem pops up -- the lack of emotional expression in his characters' faces.]
Sarah's Response ...
Agreed on your points about this clean slate thing. I don't really care whether or not anyone gets blown up by a mother box because I don't know these characters. I know a lot of people might find the "new yet familiar" approach exciting. I myself have a hard time investing in a story where we learn about the world solely through exposition, not the characters' actions. While I love the idea of these guys meeting and having to forge an alliance in theory ... in practice, it gives me the snoozes. Because I no longer know their archetypes or origins, I have no sense of their motivations or their skill sets. I don't know what choices they'd make or why. So why would I spend four bucks and my valuable time on these cookie cutter versions of characters I used to know?
Frankly, I have a hard time believing these guys haven't been heroes for very long (even if just in the public eye), because what they do here is so blah-blah generic superhero stuff, i.e., "Let's handle things attacking us; now let's figure out the mystery; now let's be sidelined by an evil minion, and even more sidelined by another character's surprising arrival (here, Superman)." To me, it all reeks of very calculated plot points meant to not scare people away. Which makes me sad. Because if you're going to go a new direction, why not tell an origin story in a different way?
Ed's Response ...
Well, I don't want to sound like I'm hating on the reboot just because it's a reboot. I loved the way Ultimate Spiderman started, the way we got to know everyone involved in the story even before the costume showed up. The stakes were explained, like you mention, through actions and characterization, not through "YOU'RE THE BATMAN. I DIDN'T THINK YOU WERE REAL. YOU FIGHT CRIME." word balloons.
It (the story) does feel really... pat, i suppose is the best way I can put it? Bats is grumpy, Hal is cock-sure, there's a monster! There's a mystery! There's Superman! Darkseid! I'm interested to see how Gotham's super villains are explained away, since Batman is still a myth right now.
I guess I kind of wish all the JL-ers had their single titles come out so you kind of knew the status quo before seeing them all meet? I guess I also wish there was a story here.
POST-SCRIPT: I know we didn't spend any time talking over the Vic Stone section of this book. It's pertinent in that Vic eventually becomes Cyborg, a member of the Justice League. But this was a snippet of his story, and I can't tell where it's going, based on the scant amount of time dedicated to it. I felt it best not to comment on that plot line until Vic develops an actual narrative.
Justice League #1: Geoff Johns, Writer; Jim Lee, Penciller; Alex Sinclair, Colorist; Scott Williams, Inker; DC Lettering, Letterer.