Shiny Shelf

Justice League #1

By Julio Angel Ortiz on 01 September 2011

The cover is a lie.

That’s what you will eventually discover as you read through one of the most hyped comics from one of the most hyped events in comic book history. ‘Justice League’ #1, written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Jim Lee, features a classic group shot of the revamped team, all seven members springing into action, answering some call (or dare I say ‘cry’?) for justice.

Except half the team aren’t in the first issue.

Johns is approaching this arc from a pulled-back perspective, a decompressed approach that does not even remotely attempt to put all the pieces in play by the end of the first issue.

This is indeed the origin story for the world’s greatest super team, and Johns is going to take his time. The majority of this episode focuses on Batman and Green Lantern, taking place 5 years in the new DC universe’s past when super-humans were new and the world distrusts them.

Or rather, these new super-powered beings have done little yet to earn the world’s trust. The heroes know little of each other and trust each other less. It is this dynamic that makes for storytelling that wouldn’t have been possible before.

Here Green Lantern is very self-assured, although he has this annoying habit of referring to himself in the 3rd person. He and Batman  could not be on more opposite sides, both from maturity or practicality. These differences are what fuel the at-times humorous banter, and that is really the core of the issue as they escape the police while simultaneously saving Gotham City and seeking out Superman.

In-between Johns manages to fit in a few scenes with Vic Stone (the future Cyborg) as we gain some insight into his strained relationship with his father.

Johns has a knack for dialogue and pacing, and it simply works here in this issue. I think if you’re expecting a high-octane action issue, you will be disappointed. There is some action, and a few tantalizing teasers for what is to come, but for the most part, it’s ‘run and talk’. There is simply no Justice League in this issue, just two heroes who are unknowingly on the path to helping form the team.

The reason this fails to work somewhat is that the ending is a foregone conclusion; you already know that Vic Stone will (through some means) become Cyborg; whatever differences Green Lantern, Batman, and Superman have will be resolved so that they can team up; and that eventually Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Flash will come into the picture.

The argument can be made that it is the journey that matters, and that is a valid point. However, as much as DC wants to say this is a new start, fans have been living with some incarnation of the Justice League for decades. New versions of the team would often be put together in an issue or two, because the interesting thing isn’t the roster of the team as much as the threats they face. So here Johns is going to take several issues showing how the team met and decided to band together.

It risks being tedious.

Perhaps a better approach would have been having the team already together and through flashback reveal their origins. Despite this flaw, I don’t see it hurting the series in the long run. But the approach does dampen the excitement a bit for the first issue, and again, this goes back to the hype machine surrounding it.

Jim Lee’s artwork is very enjoyable. It has enough detail and flare to keep you interested. Lee does a great job bringing Johns’ script to life, with a ‘widescreen’ look you would expect for a series such as this. In short, if you love Lee’s artwork in the past, it’s still quality here.

So does ‘Justice League’ #1 live up to the hype? Not really, but it would have been impossible to do so anyway. As a comic it entertains, but as a first issue for the new DC universe it is unexpectedly understated. I suspect it will read much better in the trade paperback; until then, drop your expectations a few notches and have the patience to see how this plays out.

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By Julio Angel Ortiz

Julio Angel Ortiz maintains his collection of curiosities at You can also Like him on Facebook as well and check out his latest writing projects.

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