DC Comics 2012
Well the first batch of the New 52 collections is in. I have read 3 of the first group and the results are one incredible book and two spectacularly bland ones. JLI was just not very interesting. It failed to connect me to the characters or the story. It did manage to make me interested enough to get the second collection, but that could just be the anal fan in me. August General in Iron and Rocket Red were the only interesting parts of the book. Batman the Court of Owls however was an outstanding read.
The first collected volume of the rebooted Justice League was more like the former though. It seems that this book is only really interested in big and loud. To be honest, it barely manages that.
Collecting the first 6 issues of the monthly book written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Jim Lee, this should have been a better book. It NEEDED to be a better book. Johns has set a standard in the past of telling a good, fun and smart story with strong and engaging characters. This story was never going to be all that great just by the nature of the reboot and the needs to get things rolling, and it is clear that this is just act one. I still would have like more meat. There is no part of this book that I could honestly call an improvement over any of the recent JL books. Addressing the characters, things get a bit dicey. This, I will freely admit, is my opinion. As with any review, much of what is said is created by the natural biases, fair or unfair, of the reviewer. That said I am not fond of these versions of our heroes. Batman and Green Lantern are the first we meet, and Batman is largely unchanged. Given the reboot’s nature with him and GL, I didn’t expect much. He is still the smartest guy in the room, he is just a bit more “in your face” about it. Green Lantern is just a jackass at this point though. I know this is 5 years ago, and is just the starting point, but I wanted to bitch slap Hal. He can be forgiven for being a jerk to Bats and the others, but he and the Flash are supposed to be friends. He is a jerk pretty much all the way through this. Guy Gardner is rarely such a tool. The Flash (the Barry Allen version) is much better, but not very well-developed. Wonder Woman makes the most sense. Her manner and attitudes are exactly what I would want to see from an aloof warrior Goddess. She is above and yet in awe at times. I was against the promotion of Cyborg to the JL. Johns and the gang really seem to have a boy crush on him. His addition here mostly works well, though. He fits nicely into the story, even though his presence telegraphs the resolution of the current threat. Aquaman is not anywhere near as interesting as in his solo book and is just as odd and aloof in his behavior as Wonder Woman, only in a more snotty way. This being set in the past; continuity wise probably has something to do with that. This is also the likely reason for Superman to be so brash and quick to anger. The problem with all this bitchyness (yes, I know that is not a real word) is that we know where it is going. Supes cannot stay like this or he wouldn’t be Superman. Most of these characters are going to become the essential icons we already know, and this makes the story seem like a waste.
Jim Lee is a nice artist to look at, and on that alone it is a very pretty book. Scott Williams inking him always helps. The colors are rich and interesting and make this book eye candy at its yummiest. Now if only Lee could tell a story. Like several of the Image guys, storytelling takes a back seat to a pretty picture. Lee, like Marc Silverstri and Erik Larsen have made huge improvements in this area, but this book sacrifices all of the storytelling and strong visual structure of earlier Lee works like Hush, for the splashy, glossy smack in the face his recent work has become known for. There are whole sections of the book where the line changes and the art looked rushed. The layouts are convoluted in some areas and the overall feel of the book becomes too frantic to be able to express the visual parts of the narrative. I like Jim Lee as much as anyone, but he is on this book because of his name and position at DC. Lee’s name sells books. Unfortunately there are other artists that would have been much better suited to tell a good story.
As for that story, it is clearly just the set up for more to come. If DC’s FCBD offering is any indication, there are huge changes coming already, and I am looking forward to things settling down some. Maybe the next arc will be better structured, and give us some depth to these “new” versions of our familiar heroes. If I give the impression this was not a very good book, this is not strictly accurate. I just expected more, or at least better. The New 52 seems to me at least, to be characterized by the attempt to make these heroes seem more real to a new, more jaded audience. What comes across more often is that they don’t like themselves or each other very much. Not just here, but in several of the new books. Conflict and character have been replaced by action and bitchyness. I hope my initial impressions of the New 52 as a whole are incorrect, and that we will see more strong books like The Court of Owls.
There is a lot of room for improvement in JL as it stands now. There is a lot of fairly mindless fun here, though, and anyone wanting pure escapism without too much effort on their part is good to go.