What to Know Upfront:
Justice League #1 pools the talents of acclaimed comic writer Geoff Johns and legendary artist Jim Lee to introduce readers to the New 52 ‘s incarnation of the Justice League.
It stands to reason that if you know comics, you know the names of the big-names behind this issue. Their pedigree speaks for itself and, if you’re a fan, you’ve probably already got this issue.
Assuming you’re new to the DC Universe, however, and wanted to jump in with issue #1 of a series to see what you think, you may want to look elsewhere.
Heavy in Action, Light on the Details:
Justice League #1 starts by shoving a gun barrel in the reader’s face. That automatically gives the comic a certain amount of visceral tension. In the following panels, Johns and Lee ratchet the excitement up with a roof-top chase involving burning buildings, helicopters laden with sharpshooters, bullets, ricochets and an alien hit full-on with a firetruck.
It’s crazy nonsense that, from a story-telling perspective, gets nearly nothing done.
But, hey, it’s a fun seven pages. I think we can give the guys a break for not giving us anything to think about.
The scene’s main function is to introduce us to our heroes, Batman and Green Lantern. And, coincidentally, to introduce them to each other.
This is an important point. This is after all the first issue in a reboot. The central conceit of this issue is that superheroes are new to the people of Gotham and Metropolis and few of DC’s iconic characters have even met at this point in the time line.
As such, this sort of a “first date” issue. It’s about Green Lantern and Batman getting to know one another. Despite the shallowness of the character development, the interactions between the two saves the issue from being a mere collage of explosions and fangs.
The writing is playful enough. Green Lantern, equipped with a ring that grants ill-defined but extraordinary superpowers, spends his time doubting Batman’s abilities when he realizes he’s “just some guy in a bat costume.” Of course, Batman manages to put Lantern in his place.
It’s a classic exercise in foil characters. Batman is comparatively quiet, to the point and methodical. Green Lantern is talkative, quick with a joke and cocky. It’s cute. But it’s only cute. There’s nothing approaching depth here.
What character moments there are in this issue are short and simplistic. A reader’s affection for the characters is completely predicated by how much you know about them going into the issue. These scenes are only really effective if you’re already invested in the characters.
Characters aside, the issue spends most of its time raising questions. As the first in a series, that’s to be expected. A reader should want to know more about what’s going on, they should want to see what happens next. But because the reader is dumped directly into a chase scene without any amount of explanation, most of the events in the issue just feel random.
Batman chases an alien for some reason. Batman in turn is chased by military helicopters for some reason. The city is on fire for some reason.
Hopefully these matters will be addressed in greater detail in further issues, but for now the story seems pretty chaotic.
Geoff Johns and Jim Lee deliver what they can in Justice League #1 and will no doubt please fans of the DC Universe. But for beginners, anyone that might be picking up the first issue of the series to test the waters, it may be a bit of a disappointment, with its negligible character development and plot.