Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Justice League of America 1

Non Spoiler Review:
With much anticipation, DC has rebooted its line with 52 titles, some new, some old, but all starting at issue 1 following the Flashpoint event. While that does wipe away decades of history for some books, the first out of the gate is the Justice League, a prequel to the rest of the DC line.

Justice League has been a mess for years, despite that it should be one of DC's flagship books. What's new about this series is that it takes place five years prior to most of the upcoming titles so as to cover the beginning of the heroic age and all the goings on involved with that. It's immediately apparent this is a different DC Universe, where super-powered beings have only just made their debut (bye-bye Justice Society), mistrusted, misunderstood, and hunted by the powers that be as vigilantes.

I'm old enough to have lived through numerous DC Universe crises, all of which affected the timeline in some way and threw out or rewove character histories. So the latest really had me considering dropping most of the books entirely. Some characters, like Batman and Green Lantern, are supposed to retain most of their continuity, while others like Superman may receive a considerable revamp. I'm not sure how that will all work out, given it appears huge chunks of history, like the golden age, have been completely eliminated.

Written by Geoff Johns, with art by Jim Lee, the bulk of the issue involves Batman's first meeting with Green Lantern, as they cross paths while tracking a creature in Gotham. Hal is cocky and overconfident, while Batman trusts no one. Between annoying barbs, the two guess that this creature is alien and might be connected to that other alien operating out of Metropolis, so head there to check it out. That brings them to their first meeting with Superman. Also making an appearance is Cyborg (pre-accident), a promising football player dealing with his aloof father.

The story itself just wasn't captivating at all, and comes off as a first installment in a very big storyline to eventually assemble everyone together. What's more, Hal is a dick, and Batman continues to be cold and methodical (as well as pulling off some outrageous stunts, like pocketing Green Lantern's ring). It falls victim to the old trope of heroes either outright battling one another or at the very least mistrusting each other when they first meet. The behaviour and character of all these heroes we've grown accustomed to is now up in the air. Handled properly, it could make for some good reading and suspense, but I found myself distracted every time Hal uttered a sarcastic comment.

This is the most thorough redo of all the DC characters since the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, making a clean break from the past and starting everything in the modern era (within five years of the present). It is a very different world than we're used to. As such, Justice League seems to be geared to new readers, and not the followers of decades of continuity that has told and retold the origins of how the group came together.

Even if it takes a different direction, I don't know if I have the patience to follow what could be a year long origin story (especially given the other heroes' backstories are in flux and to be dealt with in their own books, so there's no foundation to refer to for anyone at the moment). The art was fine, and Geoff John's writing is not the problem at all, just the story itself. This was a disappointing and slow issue to introduce the fulcrum of the DC Universe. I'll give it a chance, but it's started off on shaky legs.

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