Friday, September 23, 2011

DC New 52 Review: Justice League #1

Since DC has relaunched their line this month with new #1 issues of their mainline titles as well as a (partial) restart to the history of their characters, I've been searching for reviews that could give me the scoop on the books I haven't been checking out. In doing so I found very few reviews of the ones that I have been checking out that have matched my own feelings on those books or the feedback from other fans at the comic shop I do work for. So I've decided to review the books that I had enough initial interest to pick up. This is the first of those reviews.

Justice League #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Jim Lee
Inks by Scott Williams
Cover Price: $3.99

In a nutshell:
Where's the beef?

My main problem with this comic is that I feel like I've read it already. I get that this book is supposed to appeal to new readers, but that doesn't mean there aren't new ways to introduce characters in comics and team them up so that the story will be fresh. The story structure is very similar to the first issue of All Star Batman and Robin and the changes seem to be for the sake of being more provocative but really, these ones are kind of tired cliches at this point, not just in comics but other popular media as well. The majority of the story is about Green Lantern meeting Batman, we get a glimpse of pre-origin Cyborg, and most of the characters in the comic aren't in it. We see that Batman is an outlaw, but we've seen that before so it's not really a shocking start and the dialog feels contrived. Besides the dialog, it's not that the story is bad, it's that it feels like half an episode and doesn't really give us an idea of what the Justice League is about and why we should care. Since the story starts with the captions explaining that it is five years in the past, perhaps what it could have used is a scene preceding what is now the opening scene that shows the entire team in an actions sequence in the present time so we get to see the characters on the cover that haven't made an appearance yet (which is almost all of them) and we get a sense that something actually happened in the comic.

Why did I pick it up?
Curiosity, primarily. The advance images with the costumes really put me off but Jim Lee and Geoff Johns are top talent. While I'm not a hard core DC fan, I do feel a connection with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and the other "Super Friends" that I grew up with. So having really mixed expectations, I decided to take a risk on the chance that it might end up being an iconic story after all.

The Good:
This isn't Jim Lee's best art, but it's still Jim Lee with Scott WIlliams on inks (the under-appreciated member of that art team).

The Bad:
The costumes look dated, they seem to follow the trends of the 1990s with the only addition from the current trends in comics being a ridiculous amount of seams in patterns that don't make much sense. Superman has armor now for a costume and a ridiculous looking collar that reminds me of alternative versions of him we saw in 90s stories like Armageddon 2001 and the DC Year 1,000,000 Annuals. Of the DC trinity, only Batman has any story time, Superman doesn't show up until the last panel, and Wonder Woman isn't even in it which really doesn't give anything for the female reader who might be checking out the comic. The characters just seem in general to be snarky, confrontational, and pissy (kind of like fanboy posturing on internet message boards) which I don't find offensive but isn't interesting and has sort of become a cliche in modern comics. The cover is a week design, the character renderings on it and strange poses and angles are not examples of Lee's talent and the orange background cover and weak logo don't help. The characters that are supposed to be in a normal non-superhero setting looks like they're posed like superheroes and they are tensed up for battle, which might mean those kind of scenes are Lee's "Achilles Heal" as an artist (and perhaps one of the reasons Hush looked so awesome is because no other writer focuses on tailoring their stories to their artist like Jeff Loeb does). Geoff Johns has done so many amazing stories that were just home runs for me. Both him and Lee are A caliber talent. But they didn't bring their A game to this issue!

Is it worth it?
For $4 in today's economy, when most of the other books are selling at $3 with a story that feels incomplete, not at all! Which doesn't mean the complete story won't be good, but for a first chapter this really doesn't hook you. If the rest of the story arc delivers perhaps the trade would be worth it. But this single issue is not!

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