September 2, 2011

...But It's the Same Soundtrack: A Review of JUSTICE LEAGUE # 1

(Obligatory Graham Parker reference as a shout-out for my pals at the Comic Treadmill)

So here we are - after all the hype, all the publicity around DC's go-for-broke reboot (The first major one since Crisis on Infinite Earths), we come to the first major release of the "new DC Universe", Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League # 1. And many of you may be asking....Is it any good?

The answer

In all honesty, it's not that the tone is wrong: in fact, this book is perfectly pitched towards a younger readership. That's one of the things that Johns gets right - it's not your Bronze Age fan's Justice League book. I'm not going to criticize it for "reading younger", since DC is looking to go after, essentially, the Marvel audience.

Much of the problem of the book, however, is that it apes too much of other books to be distinctive on its own. The decompressed storytelling comes dangerously close to making "Geoff Johns" DC-speak for "Brian Bendis". The Batman/Green Lantern riffing was better done by Frank Miller in All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. (Although GL's "you're just a guy in a Batsuit" is priceless). Jim Lee's art seems....well, way too generic for a book like this. Although there's room for "big screen comics", Justice League # 1 seems more like a "mockbuster" than, say, a Bruckheimer spectacular.

And for a book called Justice League....well, I get that you need to do the "getting the band together" sequence. Not much happens, except that two heroes fight, we learn about the possible "big bad", and that Victor Stone likes football. Oh, and a third hero comes in to continue the fight. It's as if DC's editorial staff predicted that the leadoff book would sell high, so why even try to put together a decent story?

However, I have to admit that I'm still holding out hope for the rest of DC's relaunch (including the upcoming Action Comics # 1, which shows us an earlier Superman that seems closer to his socially conscious roots - don't believe me? Watch this recent documentary).

Ultimately, DC is taking a well-deserved gamble on its line after spending much of the past few decades "tweaking" continuity since Crisis on Infinite Earths. Not every book will be a success, admittedly, but the lead-off book should be relatively strong, providing a much greater "hook" for potential readers.

Although its initial pre-orders were strong, Justice League # 1 shows that although it gained great loses where it matters most: it's not a good comic.