New 52 Review: Justice League #1

Justice League #1

So after the mess that was Flashpoint, DC's New 52 is finally here with the arrival of Justice League #1, in which Geoff Johns and Jim Lee set out to establish a brand new origin for DC's premiere superteam.  However, there are only three (or 3.5 if you count a brief aside to a pre-Cyborg Vic Stone) of the team members present here, and one of them is a completely unlikable asshole that you want to punch in the face.  Not the most compelling start.

It makes sense that DC would want to start their new-look universe by focusing on their two recent movie stars, Batman and Green Lantern, so that's what we get.  Green Lantern meets Batman, and that's pretty much the entire issue.  It would be kind of cool, if Hal Jordan wasn't such a colossal douchebag.  I've long maintained he's the least interesting of all Green Lanterns, but here, he's especially grating.  Granted, he's supposed to be cocky and arrogant and in dire need of humbling, but it doesn't make it any less annoying.

The point of this new rebootlaunchvamp, however, is to leave the past baggage behind and experience DC's vast cast of characters anew, so let's try to leave behind the baggage of the DC of old to look at this with fresh eyes.  Set five years in the past, we're in "a time when the world didn't know what a super-hero was."  Thus, nobody knows anybody, and the cops are chasing the urban legend known as Batman around Gotham City, while he's trying to chase down a weird-ass fire-breathing alien.  When aliens are involved, though, space cop Green Lantern is drawn to the scene as well, and he's incredulous that the Batman is real. 

Cue back and forth banter peppered with exposition and Jordan being completely full of himself, scoffing at the fact that Bats doesn't have any super powers, while Bats just rolls his eyes at the attitude, taking quiet digs at him while they're trying to track the monster, which turns out to be some servant of Darkseid – which is officially pronounced Dark-Side here, so all you "Dark-Seed" people can officially stop now, if you hadn't already.  The thing seems like a new-look Parademon, but it could be something else entirely.  However, since neither Hal or Bats have heard of Darkseid yet, they start to wonder if it's connected to that other alien they've been hearing about, which sends them off on a fateful trip to Metropolis.

After my first read-through, my main impression was 'god, I hate Hal Jordan and I can't wait until every other superhero lines up and cracks him in the face, so everybody will have a 'one punch' story about him.'  He's like Guy Gardner without the roughneck charm.  However, you can't just leave it at one go-around, especially with an event like this.  The second time through, Jordan was a bit less off-putting – possibly because I expected it this time – but even when Superman jacks him in the jaw, it's not cool enough, because it looks like a giant red and blue pole is hitting him instead.  HE HAS NOT BEEN HUMBLED ENOUGH. 

But you know what?  I'll be damned if that last page of Superman in his full glory doesn't make me want more.  I don't care that he doesn't have red trunks, and I don't care that his suit has a few pointless lines on it to make it look sort of armorish instead of tightsy.  I don't even care that there's no spitcurl, but just an approximation of one.  He's still Superman and he's still great.  So far.

A lot of this can be attributed to Jim Lee, because when he's on his game, his work just seems to define the look of modern comics.  He sets the standard for normal, straightforward superhero stories to which other artists aspire, or from which they can stylize to their own personal satisfaction, and there's nothing wrong with that.  He can get a bit staid or excessively burly with his renderings sometimes, but here, it's all good stuff.  The knick-knack costume tweaks aren't bothersome so far, even if they're likely changed to be more movie-ready.  The crucial iconography is still there where it needs to be. 

It's Johns' story that I'm not quite sold on just yet.  Maybe it's the fact that, given all the hype, I'd hoped too much to be really jazzed by the end of the first issue, and there was no way it was going to live up to the expectation they'd manufactured for themselves.   Maybe Flashpoint left a bad taste in my mouth.  Maybe Hal Jordan is the space cop and he shouldn't be asking "some guy in a bat costume" what the alien monster he's chasing actually is, nor should he look at a spidery thing and call it a dog.  It's one thing to be an unlikable ego case, but if you add dumbass on top of that, no amount of inventive ringslinging is going to make that cool.  He's supposed to be funny here, but it's not good to be rooting for a hero to get kicked in the nuts.  Bring on Wonder Woman and Aquaman, stat.

Overall?  Justice League #1 does its job in a workmanlike manner rather than with any spectacular flair that we may have hoped for.  It sets up a new world where nobody knows each other, it lays the groundwork for a big sinister alien plot as well as an origin story for Cyborg, it gives us decent superhero banter and it has Batman in it.  It's not enough to blow us away, but it's just about enough to make us want a little more before we decide whether or not we're down with this whole New 52 thing.