Story by Geoff Johns
Art & Cover by Jim Lee & Scott Williams
DC Comics / 40 Pages / $3.99
When a book like Justice League #1 comes out as the vanguard of a new era at DC Comics it can be difficult to judge the book on its own merits and not as a reflection of the New DC Universe as a whole.
But that’s what I’m going to (try to) do.
The book that features the Justice League should be DC Comics’ flagship must-read title and for over ten years it hasn’t been. Justice League #1 will change that. It feels big and it feels important and it feels like a must read. It features the talents of DC’s most popular writer in Geoff Johns, and arguably comics’ most popular artist in Jim Lee. So on balance, Justice League #1 is very much a success.
But when I finished the issue, when I finally put it down, I had a nagging thought in the back of my head that said, “that was good… but not great.”
By now if you have read anything by Geoff Johns then you know his style. He is of the slow burn, long form school of storytelling, and that’s what we have here. Justice League #1 is a first chapter. It’s entertaining and fun, but it’s very much a first chapter. I have no doubt that once we are done with the first arc we will have a very satisfying opening storyline, but I question if this was the wisest move to make with the first issue of the book that you are hoping to make a splash with people who don’t normally read DC Comics, or comics in general. (Well, I made it three whole paragraphs!)
Here’s the story. Five years before the current timeline in the New DC Universe, superheroes are still relatively new and the populace (and especially the police) doesn’t know what to make of them. In this new world, Batman, while simultaneously running from the cops and chasing a superpowered baddie, meets Green Lantern for the first time. Together they assess another, larger, more extraterrestrial threat on the horizon and in the course of investigating it, run into a third member of what will become the Justice League. Overall, it was a fine first chapter. I just found myself wishing that it was more action packed and less decompressed. More Grant Morrison’s JLA #1 and less Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (albeit with more action).
I’m still not convinced that Jim Lee’s style is right for the DC Universe but the art here is some of Jim Lee’s best work in a while and that’s going to make a lot of people happy. There’s a sense of fun and a genuine liveliness to the art in these pages and despite any stylistic qualms I might have I have to admit that it’s good to see Lee doing interiors again. It looks like he’s having fun.
At this point I probably sound more down on the book than I actually am.
My favorite aspect of Justice League #1 might actually be Geoff Johns’ characterization of Green Lantern. Sure, Johns and Hal Jordan have a long history, but here he presents a Hal Jordan who is, quite literally, green. He’s new on the job and he’s new to the superhero game and he’s full-to-brimming with confidence in his and his ring’s ability to handle anything. I love cocky and arrogant Hal Jordan and can’t wait until his overconfidence really blows up in his face in a big way. We’ve known and have been following most of these characters for decades and one of the great things about starting over and portraying these characters as younger and more inexperienced is that you get, what will be for most people, fresh takes on old favorites. Hal Jordan has been the greatest Green Lantern for decades and now it’s fun to see him inexperienced and overconfident.
For a long time the only knock on Geoff Johns that I could think of was that his Batman was probably his weakest of all the major characters. He’s gotten better over the years culminating here in a pretty damn good Batman. The best scene in the book might involve Batman and Hal’s ring. It’s really fun.
As I said, Justice League #1 feels big and it feels important. It’s fun and exciting and it’s a fine first issue. I love the sense that we don’t know where this story is going and because we are dealing with a whole new world the story could, conceivably, go anywhere. For someone who has been reading these characters for almost 30 years that’s exciting.
I wanted to fall head over heels for Justice League #1. I wanted to love it more than pie. Instead I merely liked it a lot. But that’s way more than I’ve been able to truly say about a Justice League book in a long, long time.
Story: 4 / Art: 4 / Overall: 4
(Out of 5)