All right, let’s preface this with a little background info on yours truly. When I was six, I found a comic book at my dentist. Spidey’s Super Stories! Spider-Man vs Mean Mr. Measles. Okay, I was a kid. I was hooked. Then a few years later I discovered the X-Men, and oh, brother, it was ON. Never the most girly of girls, there is still an undeniable part of me that must be genetically attuned to a craving for soap operas, and the X-Men fit that bill to a tee. Evil twins? Returning from the dead? Alienation and identity confusion? Infidelity? Moral conundrum? All that AND explosions, fighting and superpowers? I never looked back. Marvel comics have it all, and the “Distinguished Competition?” Well, I gave them a fair shot too, but something in them was lacking in my opinion. Years later someone, I can’t remember who, said, “Marvel writes families, DC writes pantheons.”
Exactly! That’s what was missing! That human connection. The X-Men may be an entirely other species, but they are still very human heroes, whereas DC’s Justice League? I never felt that vulnerability, that relatability from the various gazillionaires and alien/mythical/supergeniuses of the DC Universe heroes and villains. I could understand why Magneto was so angry, Doom so ambitious. Lex Luthor swearing vengeance for Superman making him bald? Eeeeeh, not so much.
Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t like any DC at all. Hal Jordan’s rise to the greatest Green Lantern, only to be consumed by fear and rage to become Parallax, before sacrificing himself to reignite the sun is one of, if not THE best fall-and-redemption stories in comic book history, edging out even the Dark Phoenix for edge of your seat drama. But for the rest of it? I just couldn’t bring myself to care.
But, I love comics. I love the medium, and all that it entails, and when I began working at my local comic shop, DJ’s Universal Comics in Studio City, CA, I realized that my lack of DC knowledge, was a bit of a detriment. So, as the fanboy legions roared their despair over the DC reboot, I decided that now was the time. A semi-clean slate. A chance to start in a fresh universe without seventy years of back history to worry about
So, today, when I picked my regular Wednesday fix of Fear Itself tie-ins and X-Universe spin offs, I slipped Justice League #1 into my stack and slunk out quickly before any of my Marvel Zombie brethren saw my betrayal.
Justice League #1, written by Geoff Johns with art by Jim Lee, starts off with a bang, and we are instantly propelled back “Five Years Ago” to a time when super-humans were not trusted, not understood. In Gotham, Batman, trying to stop a fire breathing villain, is rescued, albeit reluctantly, by a brash and incredulous Green Lantern, who tries to explain to the shadowed detective that he’s basically a space cop, and Earth is his beat. Batman finds this as hard to swallow, as GL does the realization that he is “just some guy in a bat costume…” Discovering that their prey is an alien working for something (or someone) called Darkseid when the creature shouts that name as it incinerates itself, the pair decide to seek out another member of the uncertain fraternity of superpowers… the “dangerous” alien of Metropolis, Superman. There’s a brief interlude, where we meet young football star Vic Stone, whose father is so busy studying the superpowers that he misses out on his son’s big game, and then Bats and GL land in a glowing green will power jet and instantly come into conflict with the hot tempered and “not easy to handle” Superman, who immediately asks the question that is on the lips of every hero and villain in this new and darker universe. “What can you do?”
All right, so far DC, I’m intrigued. The characters have a new a fresh feel to them. I believe that this is the first time these three men have met, in these early days before they become legends. Their personalities are recognizable, the grim and serious Batman, brash and willful Green Lantern, the bold and decisive Superman, without being weighed down with the years of drama and tragedy that had befallen their previous histories. So far, there’s no Robin in evidence, and Superman is sans red undies, but these element aren’t missing, not yet. We’re brand new to this world, just like the growing numbers of superpowers, and Vic Stone, young and still merely human, is just as lost as the rest of us, the reader’s proxy.
But there’s more here than just intros to these new versions of old heroes. There’s more than just the shock of a world changing as men and women put on capes and tights. There’s a mystery to solve, something great enough that these solitary supers are going to have to get past their own mistrusts and isolatory tactics and come together to fight. In a way, it’s similar to the Avengers coming together to defeat Loki in their first story, a group of disparate personalities setting aside ego and secrecy for the greater good. This is what I demand in my comic books. I want my heroes to be human enough to know in their hearts what is right, and yet, be super enough to have the ability to do it, even if it’s hard, even if it hurts, even if it means sacrifice and conflict. These new, less godly versions of the great Icons of Saturday morning cartoons just might have the right stuff to do it.
Story: 4 out of 5 stars.
Geoff Johns, writer
Intriguing and well written. Each character has his own voice. There’s a little too much clunky exposition, but honestly, that’s sort of necessary given the nature of the reboot. The story is easy to follow while being intricate enough to keep the reader’s interest.
Art: 5 out of 5 stars.
Jim Lee, pencils. Scott Williams, inks. Alex Sinclair, Colors.
Crisp and clean line work, dynamic storytelling. Jim Lee does like his cross hatching, but it’s never intrusive or overpowering, and Sinclair’s color work, which makes heavy use of lighting, particularly when GL uses his power ring, makes for some beautiful pages.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
I’ll give this book a full story arc. If you’re a fan of superhero teams, I’d recommend this as the beginnings of a pretty good run. DC was smart to start the reboot with this book. Let’s just hope the rest of the New 52 measures up.