Justice League #1
A long wait for the New 52 or DCnU (DC new Universe) as it has been called. With the end of Flashpoint setting off the end and the beginning for DC Comics, and all the hype surrounding this reboot/restart/cajigger or whatever you want to call it, the expectations for these new number ones could not be higher. For every whining fool out there that swore he would never pick up a book from DC (the popular phrase was “oh look, 52 jumping off points!”) there must be at least one that is interested to see what is going to happen. With an initial print run of over 200,000 and 2 reprint runs already scheduled, this book is going to be the big seller for august (or Sept, depending on how they calculate it) and one of the biggest of the year. DC’s attempt to grab back market share from Marvel is off to a promising start, at least from a sales standpoint. (SIDENOTE: does anyone else recall the halcyon days when a book that sold ONLY 200,000 was not a great seller? Ah for the return of the 70’s and 80’s!)
This book, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee is fun, I will say that much. But I have to be honest, it is ultimately disappointing. I was really hoping for a huge game changer. Not just in story, but in the whole approach. I had been hoping that this book might change the way we looked at comics. Something that was such a clear shift of perspective in how we read and perceived comics, that the entire industry might follow suit. No. That didn’t happen. What did happen was a decent comic that will make me pick up the next issue, and ultimately that is what the goal is.
The book is a sort of soft boot for the rest of the new 52, as this book (and Action #1) take place 5 years prior to what will be current continuity for the rest of the books. This issue really plays out as a team-up between Batman and Green Lantern. Where Batman seems more and more like the Dark Knight Returns version, all-knowing and all-confident, with everyone around him managing to look like fools or amateurs in comparison, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern is a bit of a clown. No experience and no subtlety, pushing with all his power to keep up with Batman, the Lantern comes off as an arrogant lightweight. There is also a brief look at the pre-cyborg Vic Stone. Does anyone but Geoff Johns really like this character? I certainly don’t think he belongs in the Justice League. As the issue ends, we see Superman, clearly post-Action Comics, but before his solo series starts presumably. Not the intro for the most powerful hero in the DCU. Next issue promises Batman vs Superman, but I don’t really expect much that I have not seen in other books. I am hopeful, but not very.
Many of the moments that need to be done well are not. They are glanced over for bigger action bits. The first instance where Green Lantern realizes that Batman is “just a guy in a suit”, with no special powers, should have been a strong character moment, but Lee is just not that subtle. While there is some visual storytelling going on (more than usual for a Jim Lee book), I really missed those smaller moments that define what the characters are going to be. This is the chance to make real change and develop these guys into something special. More than just a retelling, and right now, that is what this feels like. It is a retelling of a story we have never heard.
A quick word about the digital version. I looked briefly at the book on my friend Kurt’s smart phone and was impressed. The panels, formatting and the interface were easy and seamless. There was a lot of versatility in the way you could read this. One way the digital score over the paper version is the depth of the color and the black levels. This looks much darker and richer than the printed comic. It is a natural limitation of the print medium. The best comparison I can make is what we all saw when we first opened the books in the 90’s that were utilizing the better paper and computer colors. Like when you first opened Spawn #1 (ugh!) and were blown away by the visual quality of the product, if not the actual art or story. I think the biggest likely benefit from day and date digital, will be the people, not that want one or the other, as those demographics will not change. Many of us are in one camp or the other now. Where the benefit will be felt is from the people who want both. And there are those people out there, more I suspect, than anybody realizes.
This is a fun book. It just isn’t worth all the build up. But given the hype and press these have gotten, I am not sure that anything would have genuinely impressed me. Sad to say, but true.
I am still very excited to see Action #1. It holds most of my hopes for the main body of the DCnU, and after that, it will be up to the fringe books, like Justice League Dark to keep me on board.