Though I typically skew toward hyperbole when I discuss anything, I will do my best to avoid such in this review so let’s get this out of the way right now: is Justice League the best comic book ever written? No. Is it horrible? Not at all. When it is read within the right context, it is a great book and absolutely worthy of kicking off the new DC Universe.
But remember that context is absolutely everything.
First, let’s discuss the purpose of the Justice League team.
During Morrison’s JLA, the team was designed to be an over-the-top thrill ride of giant action. The JLA didn’t have interpersonal relationships because they were too busy fending off alien invasions and world conquerors. During the 90’s, that was a book that worked. It was a book that was important and wonderful, but it was that era.
Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America was rebuilding the team after so much mistrust and anger had severed the friendship of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Furthermore, it was an extension and thematic sequel to Meltzer’s Identity Crisis. It was a book about nothing but interpersonal relationships. Again, it was a book that was (in my opinion) important and wonderful.
If you go into the Geoff Johns and Jim Lee Justice League expecting big action in the same vein as Grant Morrison’s JLA, then you will be disappointed. Furthermore, if you go into it expecting lots of characters interacting with one another to build a family relationship like in Meltzer’s Justice League of America, then you will further be disappointed, but just because you’re disappointed doesn’t mean that it is bad – it just means that you have to look at what has been presented and interpret the information given in order to explore the true purpose of this new JLA.
This is the new story of how the Justice League was formed, but more than that, it is the beginning of the DCU. Superheroes are brand new to the universe. No one quite knows who they are or whether they are friendly or not. The police certainly don’t trust them which is fine because once the heroes are established, it will just further emphasize that the world needs heroes.
The cover shows the key seven members of the team, but the interior mostly features Green Lantern and Batman with a short appearance of Superman and a pre-superhero Cyborg. Johns has written GL for a long time now, so he’s pretty well gotten the brash, arrogant tone of Hal Jordan down and over the years, Johns has explored the relationship between Jordan and Batman in new and interesting ways. Finally, he is allowed to explore them even further in their first interaction with each other. It isn’t just that Hal Jordan is brash and arrogant, but he is fearless and this is infuriating to Batman whose power is completely reliant on fear.
Their interactions with one another are a delight when viewed from the perspective of Batman. He’s used to people being afraid of him and suddenly, this arrogant and somewhat stupid glowing man suddenly wants to help him out. They are polar opposites and this heightens the comedy of their situation. Fear and fearless. Detective and cop. Brave and bold. What two heroes are better to star in this issue than the two who are the most commercially successful? Considering that Green Lantern and Batman are the only two characters who are being virtually unchanged in the relaunch, they are the perfect ones to start this story off.
Some complain that the threat that will bring together the team isn’t properly established. A cyborg parademon sets off an explosion and screams “FOR DARKSEID!” and our heroes are confused by this, but that’s fine. Old readers will rejoice in the mention of Darkseid and new readers can ponder what this means or they can just enjoy more Batman and Green Lantern having fun with one another.
And you know what? It is fun.
People have been demanding for light-hearted superhero fun and that is exactly what this comic is. No, the entire team doesn’t appear together in this issue, but that’s because this is a slow build. After all, not only are Johns and Lee building the Justice League, but they are also building the new universe here as well. They have to take it slow.
Some have complained that the interactions between Batman and Green Lantern aren’t really delving into the characters themselves, but rather superficial elements of the characters, but it’s CHAPTER ONE! It’s a slow build, to be sure, but when you’re recreating the universe, it needs to be a slow build. If this were a movie, this is the first ten minutes and it’s tough to get tons of characterization in the first ten minutes of a movie (unless you’re David Fincher, I guess). If the entire team was thrown onto the page, people would complain that there was too much going on.
But for all these moments I was still disappointed that the rest Justice League isn’t in this. There is even really a Justice League yet and it seems this first arc is going to be an origin story. I don’t think this was the best choice. Think about it. Look at the cover, if I’m a new reader who has heard about this exciting Justice League, I want to see the Justice League. (And by that I mean I want to see Wonder Woman.) Getting the band together over a few months seems a questionable.
Of course, if it were up to DCWKA, this book would have just been called Birds of Prey and everyone who worked on it from the writer and artist down to the letterer and the intern would have all been women. The point I’m trying to make (beyond the fact that she grinds my gears) is that the Justice League is many things to many people and with this in mind, we can’t presume that the book itself is of poor quality just because it doesn’t measure up to the impossibly high expectations that we have set for it. After all, this is a team of the seven most powerful characters in the DC Universe – we should all admit that our expectations are more than a little high.
What we have been given is a league that starts small and is slowly building to something great. What we have is the interactions between the two most successful characters in a meaningful way in order to slowly ease readers into the new universe. I know we all want answers for how the new DC is different than the old, but questioning the text is exactly what will get people more interested in the product. How do you think Lost was so successful for six seasons? By creating anticipation and getting people to ask questions.
In short, Justice League is a great start to the new DC Universe. It’s well worth your time and your money. I mean, it’s JIM LEE drawing THE JUSTICE LEAGUE! What more could you want?