Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Justice League #1

Justice League #1
Geoff Johns, writer & Jim Lee, artist
DC Comics

The big event is here, and the new DCUniverse has now hit the shelves. I picked it up and I flipped through it a few times before I sat down to read it. And I read it a few times before writing these comments. I wanted to love it. I went into this whole reboot with my arms wide open, but the book didn't make it easy for me.

Don't get me wrong: there are things to like here. There are things not to like here. But ultimately, the issue falls squarely in the middle of both. It's not just average, it's aggressively average, as if Johns and Lee came out and said "Let's make the safest, best, safest, most dynamic, safest, and safest comic that we can." And, as far as I'm concerned, they hit that mediocre nail right on the head.

Things to like:
  • First meetings. It's always fun to see characters meet each other for the "first" time. Green Lantern doesn't believe Batman is real, Batman deduces the source of GL's powers, and none of them have any idea what Superman is all about.
  • Mystery plotline. There is a little mystery developing about who is behind the attacks that Batman is investigating. Of course the ultimate answer is revealed to the audience (although the heroes don't recognize the bad guy's name), it seems that Johns might be setting up a mystery among the fist-pounding heroics.
  • Final splash. The final splash page is excellent. Sure it sets up a scene that we've seen thousands and thousands of times in the last six years of comics, but it's a great page. I'd hang the poster on my wall.
Things not to like:
  • Set-ups. And nothing but set-ups. The whole book is setting up a long story arc that will play out over the next six months, if not longer. And this is the first part of that story, so characters and plot points are being set-up for the future. As a result, not a whole lot happens that doesn't make me wish I had the next issue (or the trade) in my hands so I could keep reading.
  • Most of Jim Lee's art. Jim Lee has great character designs, and I might be screamed at by the comics community for saying this, but: I don't care for his art in this issue. It's all a little busy, a little hyper, and more than a little unclear. His characters always look great, but sometimes it's hard to tell what they are doing. But the Green Lantern constructs are fun, as is a single panel of GL half-changing back to Hal Jordan. And I already mentioned that final splash.
  • (Too) Familiar ground. A friend of mine mentioned this to me, and my next read really brought it out for me. This book relies on my previous knowledge of the DC Universe, as much as Johns and Lee want to pretend it's a fresh start for new readers. It's not. It's actually a terrible way to introduce characters we've never met before (like my experience with Vic Stone), but it's a standard way to introduce characters we haven't seen in a while (think: Casino Royale or Batman Begins). I can't help but feel that the issue's content is not well-matched to the relaunch's intention.
Things in the middle:
  • Everything else. Okay, maybe that's a little snarky, but seriously, there weren't many things that stood out about this book, either good or bad. A lot of it felt very... functional.
Ultimately, it's a solid issue. Is it exciting enough that I'll pick up the next one? Sure, I guess... And that's the biggest problem. I wanted that answer to be a resounding "HELL YES!" but it isn't. At the moment, I'm committing myself to the first story arc. But if it keeps going like this, I'll have to play it by ear for the second. Good? Yes. Great? No.

NEXT TIME: Superman in "Action Comics #1..."

No comments: