Hmmmmm … Well, I can tell you that excitement of mine didn’t last too long.
Man. This was so … it was …
Okay, here it is: this was average.
So I’m having a very difficult time forming the words to adequately summarize the issue. I reiterate—it’s average, and you know, that’s kind of a big problem you don’t want to have when you’re pitching yourself and your entire line of comics very hard to those elusive new readers. What this should have been was MIND-BLOWINGLY EXCELLENT. This should have kicked things off with a bang, knocked me out of my chair, and had me smiling like a Cheshire cat for the rest of the day. But instead I’m … I’m just kind of … confused.
Let’s start with the great: the artwork. I am a complete and utter sucker for pretty much anything Jim Lee does, so having him draw this book is a sweet, delicious treat for my superhero-hungry eyeballs. While I wonder about his ability to produce on a monthly deadline, I will bow to the fact that he delivers here. I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but this is
only 24 pages of Jim Lee goodness, and I’m all over it. If I were a smoker, I’d need a puff after staring at the panels in this book. The final page … oh my God, yes. I want THAT. You go, Jim Lee!
Now, unfortunately, the not-so-great: the story. You know, only the second most important thing in a comic. I have not read very much Geoff Johns in my time—I skipped over all that Blackest Night, Brightest Day hoo-ha, so I don’t have a lot to compare this to in terms of his varying levels of talent. I can only go by what I have in front of me, and what I have here is average.
It’s not necessarily that the story is even that bad. I just question the route taken here as far as using the first issue to “form” the Justice League. The story opens up with Batman chasing/being chased by minions of Apokolips. That’s all well and good, until Batman starts firing some weird missile/projectile weapons from his arms. I know, right? What is that about? We all know Batman doesn’t use guns, and although these are technically not handguns, the page spread certainly brings them to mind. I’m going on a tangent, but it’s just kind of a weird scene, and it honestly got me off on the wrong foot right away. Batman eventually meets Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and the two verbally spar as they flee the oncoming authorities … or whatever. This is five years in the past, you see—a time when vigilante superheroes are not so adored by the public. We also transition to a couple of separate scenes featuring Vic tor Stone, but frankly, I have no love for Cyborg, so he’s completely unimportant to me. I’m actually a little peeved that he’s even being set up as a “founder” now.
The reason I wonder why Johns has chosen to tell this story immediately is because, let’s face it—this issue is the Batman/GL show. That’s entirely all it is. And while that may be fine for readers like ourselves who know these characters and this history, think about the new reader coming off “the street.” If this is meant to be accessible to them—if I’m not a comics reader and I decide to wander into a comic shop looking for Justice League #1 because I saw it advertised somewhere and I’m intrigued by this cool-looking cast of characters—how am I going to feel when I pick up that first issue expecting to see a team and not getting one? How am I going to feel expecting to see Flash or Wonder Woman and not getting either one? Seasoned comics fans know how misleading covers can be. Newbies don’t.
So, to me, the way this could have been remedied would have been to open up the first issue with the team already established—maybe they’re fighting some giant dude or whatever, I don’t know—and they’re quipping with each other back and forth, and Batman is his usual brooding but badass self, and Flash is cracking jokes left and right, Superman is eye-beaming something to smithereens, and Wonder Woman’s punching a dude through a wall. Wouldn’t the action taken here and the dialogue provide the perfect vehicle to demonstrate to you exactly who these people are and how they get along? Meanwhile, if you so choose—or perhaps you can leave this for the next arc—you can have “flashback” scenes showing all these important first meetings and the formulation of the team. The best way to learn about these characters and their relationships is to actually see them in action. It’s all about show, don’t tell. Johns didn’t need to give us the step-by-step in order for us to get it. Heck, we could have understood this team without ever seeing them come together at all, and to me, that would have been so much more interesting to just piecemeal it on my own by watching them.
So, it’s not that this was all bad—just that it was average storytelling. Is that really the best that Geoff Johns has?
I have one more major nitpick here. When this reboot was announced, we were told that we’d be reading all new stories. Yes, it’s the story of the Justice League coming together, but it was going to be a new one. Something we hadn’t read before. Well, I ask you—doesn’t this
kind of remind you of this?
Batman getting blinded by GL’s light. No? Okay, how about this
GL thinks Batman’s pretty much a jerk either way. Still not convinced that we’ve seen this meeting before? I have one more for you. Take a look at this
Why, look at that. Green Lantern gets his RING stolen … TWICE?! Yeahbuhwhaaa?!?!
The first photos in each set are from this week’s issue of Justice League. The second photos in each set are courtesy of Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman & Robin from just a few years ago. It’s déjà vu all over again, and I’m afraid you’re going to have to do much better than this to keep my interest, DC. I suppose I should expect Superman’s first meeting with Wonder Woman to be a ridiculous fight that ends with an even more ridiculous kiss, based on what we’re going for here. I mean … that’s what happened in All-Star, isn’t it?
By the way, I bought the standard shelf issue of this comic book, as I will with any other. The polybagged combo pack with downloadable copy just isn’t for me. I have a huge stigma against the idea of digital comics, but that’s a post for another day. Ultimately, Justice League #1 was an okay read, but it didn’t blast through any ceilings. Here’s hoping the following 51 offer something better.
This week, I found myself surprisingly excited for Justice League #1 … and that’s kind of weird. If you read my teary-eyed, rage-filled rant over the New 52 when it was announced a couple of months ago, then you know I was heartbroken and angry. DCnu? What? I didn’t want new. I wanted the old stuff—the good stuff. The stuff that got me into this publisher in the first place. My Wonder Woman and my Catwoman, my Birds and my Bats. Except that DC claimed that the old stuff was NOT good stuff anymore (despite all their earlier statements otherwise), and they now needed something new and fresh. You, dear comics fans—you, who have loyally and perhaps misguidedly been there from the very beginning, were being told it was time to let go … again. The search for “new readership” deems that we also become readers of the new.
So I ranted and raved and pissed and moaned, and got myself all worked up over this like the fangirl that I am, because hey—I care about these characters. And frankly, it didn’t feel like DC cared as much as I do.
But that’s kind of silly, right? Of course they care. It might not feel that way on occasion—when you are reading about gimmick after gimmick, event book after event book, tie-in after pointless tie-in, you kind of start to question the ideologies behind these companies, don’t you? Are they doing these things because they genuinely think it makes for a better story, or is it solely about being a big business—a bit of a heartless machine? Well, it’s a combination of both, and that can sometimes cause the line to blur. But at the end of the day, the people behind the scenes live and breathe comics the same way that we do, and I am trying hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. They seem pretty excited about it.
So I want to be excited for this, too. I want it to work. I want it to be good, and FUN.
Some of you—many of you—hopefully attended the midnight release of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1. I won’t be getting my copies until late tonight, so it’ll be a few hours yet before I can form some thoughts on the debut of this initiative, but the excitement is there. It’s hard not to be after getting texted at quarter to 8:00 this morning with a lovely spoiler from my friend Phil (thanks a lot).
(Skip over these images if you don’t want to be spoiler’d. Really.)
<Update: Deleted! He’s had enough embarrassment.>
I’m the one in the green, obviously. Please ignore my friend’s deplorable use of grammar and punctuation.
So, yeah. It’s 2:30, which means I have another four and a half hours or so before I can get to the comic shop. I’m excited and I’m giving this a chance. I hope it doesn’t let me down.