Review: Justice League #1 By Geoff Johns And Jim Lee

No Justice League #1s in Britain yet. But they’ve just started selling them on the East Coast of America. And Dr. Manolis Vamvounis has one in his hands, and is reviewing it for Bleeding Cool….

Can you feel that tingle, flowing down from my fingers, through the keyboard, across the internets, to your screen? It’s a historic Wednesday dawning. At the strike of midnight tonight the DC Universe of soooo many decades and different bumps and reboots and tweaks and turns will be no more, replaced by a shiny new beast, the ‘DCNu’. You know the deal, the old history is swept under the rug, the universe is (softly) rebooted, the existing published history of the books is compressed to 5 years since the arrival of the first official superhero, Superman, and only the best-selling of storylines from the past 70 years get to still matter. And it all starts now, with Justice League #1 available to the general geek public through a special early midnight sale.

The issue ships with three different covers: The main one features the new “Big 7″: Supes, Bats, GL, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, the now infamous David Finch ‘lasso riding up my hooch’ variant cover features the Big 7 sans Cyborg, the third gatefold cover has the Big 7 crammed in with the 8 auxiliary members (Element Woman, Mera, the Atom, Deadman, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Firestorm, white-haired mystery chica), and each of them has been released online in two versions: with “pants-on” and “pants-off” Wonder Woman. But which version of her do you find inside?

Well, none really. See, there is no Wonder Woman to be found inside the 1st issue of Justice League. no Flash either. or Aquaman. Heck, the whole things breaks down to 20 pages of Batman and Green Lantern, 4 pages of an unconnected interlude of an all-too-human Cyborg playing football, and a last page reveal of -gasp- Superman. It’s the waiting-for-the-trade, slow-building, leave-them-wanting-for-more approach. And it’s entirely ill-chosen.

Don’t look at this as spoilers. It’s just that I consider it best to crush your hopes and dreams in advance, so you may go in pre-disappointed with your expectations pre-shattered, and enjoy the issue for what it is: a great, fun, action-packed “DC 1sts” team-up between Batman and Green Lantern.

As a first issue of “Brave and the Bold” I’d actually go ahead and give it a 9/10. It is well-written, beautifully drawn, it does a decent job of introducing its (two) characters, there’s some banter, some memorable moments (that may or may not (well, ok, I’m sure they may) bring some angst upon the DC offices from the GL loyalists), great Batman action (if not perhaps a bit too much of a focus on it, as Johns obviously revels in finally getting to write the character) and even greater (and certainly funner) action from the Green Lantern, showing more creative constructs than Geoff has ever done in the monthly GL book (which he has been writing for half a decade now, how eerie, was he saving up for this?). As this issue starts, no two major super-heroes have met before in the DC(N)U. All they know of each other are rumours and whispers and newspaper headlines. There’s a sense of that throughout the issue, in the dialogue, in the interactions, the tension between the heroes, the distrust, the sense of wonder. And that’s all good and wonderful, the greatest* writer and artist in superhero comics today together at last, on the team-up of the two great superheroes they have each helped redefine.

*(arguably, but come on, certainly most popular)

Yet, as an actual first issue of Justice League, and one so anticipated by the fans and so significant in all the ways I outlined earlier… it fails. Bad. It’s a good, heck, a great comic, but it’s not a comic you would really justify driving all the way to your local retailer to get, and it certainly does not qualify as a good primer for this brave and bold new move on DC’s part. Is it Geoff Johns’ fault for not providing a satisfyingly MAJOR first issue to launch this new universe, or is it DC’s fault for pushing it as one as such to boost sales, arranging this whole midnight sale hoopla, when they already knew the product in their hands did not correspond to such hype. In either case, don’t come in expecting explanations, don’t come in expecting to learn more about the new takes on your favourite characters, to find out what’s new or what’s different from what you knew.

Why, don’t even come in expecting to read about the Justice League, as the issue does not contain any actual mention of a Justice League or any indication of intention to create such a League — or even a threat big enough to warrant heroes gathering together to face it, apart from a familiar name in passing that will feel banal to old-time fans and inconsequential to new readers, as Bats and GL spend their super-priced 24 story pages chasing after some random unnamed alien generic villain tech-dude.

It’s good, even very good, but ultimately not nearly good or significant enough to live up to its importance.

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