Justice League #1 by Alex CorreaPublisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Overall: 2.5/5 Stars
Premise: A shape shifting alien terrorizes Gotham City as Batman and Green Lantern team up for the first time to stop this threat.
Here it is: the single biggest issue of the year. This is the jump-on point to the DC Universe's new continuity. Forget about all prior knowledge of existing characters, their origins and your favourite classic stories. Everything is being rewritten from scratch (for the most part) and Justice League #1 is the issue that sets the stage for the rest of the comic line to follow.1
The new story revolves around the emerging buddy cop dynamic between the brash and impetuous Green Lantern and the solemn and over-analyzing Batman. Despite being over the top at times, the contrast between the two characters is interesting enough to keep the story afloat. This remains consistent even with an odd change in story direction, which will be addressed later.
Geoff Johns, as always, proves that he can consistently create a story that fanboys love to read. It exemplifies why I got into mainstream comic books in the first place: high octane action, larger than life characters and the threat of impending danger (which I won't spoil) that the heroes must somehow overcome. That said, this specific story is not the reason I still continue to read comic books. Having already introduced the familiar buddy cop routine, this issue's subplot piles on an additional cliche by revolving the story around a young Vic Stone (a.k.a. Cyborg), a highly talented high school football player vying for his father's attention. Johns really needs to give readers a reason to want to see this second string character on a team of elites like the Justice League. However, he chooses to deliver the scene like something out of a dated 90's teen movie and even this isn't the real eyebrow raiser.
As I hinted at earlier, the story somewhat stalls during a scene in which the alien takes his own life in an attempt to kill the two main heroes of the story, Batman and Green Lantern. In a conversation soon thereafter, Green Lantern connects this suicide bombing alien to Superman by saying: "Alien... Maybe this is all connected to that guy in Metropolis." Uh... What? Are you telling me that our space sector's patrolling officer is subject to racial profiling just like that? I won't even bother playing with an analogy here but I do shudder to think how they will decide to find Wonder Woman.
Before I discuss the art I should add that I looked at this issue with nostalgic eyes and it's difficult for me to be objective. Some have told me that Jim Lee is phoning it in or that he just isn't as good as he was a few years back. I must admit that whenever I see his artwork it takes me back to that first comic book I ever purchased: X-Men #9. That cover of Wolverine taking a fight to Ghost Rider set the standard for me in terms of what I look for in comic books, at least as a child. Looking at Lee's work now, sure it's lost a bit of its luster and sure it looks 90's but to me it's still fresh and exciting. The art in this issue matches the frenetic pace of the story without once losing a step in confusion. Lee is as solid a storyteller as ever, which I can definitely say without nostalgic bias. As minor as it sounds, I will add that for the first time that I can remember Green Lantern's ring-based constructs actually look like solid object and not just cheap holograms of objects. I mention this as a testament to Lee's attention to detail.
Underneath all the criticism, this issue is a lot of fun. Fundamentally, this is what a superhero comic book is supposed to be, especially to new readers looking for a place to start. Johns gets to the core of each character and there persists that feeling of excitement to see how these characters will interact with one another. The story could very easily go awry just as it could just as easily shape up to be one of this year's best superhero reads. Either way, I, along with many other fans, have expressed their interest in DC's bold venture.
1 Quite the change of pace from DC since they would typically have their annual event spin out of stories based on a single character. Case in point: the recent crossover Flashpoint starring who else? The Flash.