New 52 – Justice League of America #1 review

JLA_1

I wasn’t exactly sold on the idea when it was first announced but the characters DC had assembled is so non-traditional that it did peak my curiousity. It sounded like a slightly improved version of Justice League International because now instead of getting Batman and a group of D-list heroes we’re getting a more balanced gang of B-list and C-list heroes, most of whom are anti-heroes. So it’s a gang that has quite a bit more flavor and the series also promises to have Martian Manhunter backup stories in future issues (there isn’t one here) by Matt Kindt. So, what about this issue? Did I like it? Yes. Issue #1 of Justice League of America is good enough that I’ll come back again next month for more.

Also, before I get into this, I want to hear in the comments about what cover you picked up. There are 53 possible covers available for this comic. No, that’s not a typo. There’s the original American Flag cover, a cover for each of the 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. Even crazier is the fact that you know that there’s someone out there who is going to collect all 53.  Now, on with the show…

Did you read Justice League #17 yet? It’s not necessary that you do. If you’re just not a Justice League type of guy or girl then don’t worry about it. But if you’re a fan of Geoff Johns’ other team book then I highly recommend that you read Justice League proper first and then flip this comic open. It’ll just flow more naturally. That comic ends with a final page that alludes to what’s happening here but isn’t necessarily vital information.

Do you need to know who these characters are? A big problem I’ve always had with any team book is that I’m unsure about how much prior knowledge I need to have about the cast. You don’t really have to worry about that here. Geoff Johns nixed the backup and delivered a 30 page introduction to most of the team. It’s a comic that isn’t overly concerned with what the upcoming arc will be as much as it is trying to get you accustomed to who all the people in tights are. So if you don’t know who Vibe or Stargirl are, don’t worry about it. The bios some of these characters receive may be shorter than others but you’ll get the gist. Here’s a brief rundown of the characters brought up in this issue and my thoughts on them.

  • Amanda Waller: I liked the DC version of Nick Fury better when she was rotund. I’m not sure why. Something about big momma being one of the most bad ass people in the DC universe was kind of amusing to me. Here she’s here usual New 52 svelt self only her hair is no longer relaxed. I’m not sure if this is going to be a new look for Waller or if it was simply artist David Finch’s decision to give her a more natural hairstyle. Waller is the director of this group. 
  • Steve Trevor: I love Steve and Geoff Johns writes the character well. He was one of my favorite parts about the Villain’s Journey storyline a few months back and while his tenure as the Justice League liaison was a failure due to his romantic involvement with Wonder Woman, Argus feels that he won’t make the same mistake twice with the JLA. However, from what I’ve heard, Trevor was also a part of the recently canceled book Team 7. That group wasn’t mentioned at all here though so I’m assuming we are to act like that group never happened.
  • Green Arrow: No time is given to Green Arrow’s bio because he’s one of the more popular characters and one who is getting a MAJOR push by DC this month. His solo series finally has a decent writer and now he’s playing an integral role in the JLA. While the things Green Arrow is up to in this comic are shrouded in mystery it’s clear that it’s the catalyst for whatever their first big storyline will be. If you don’t know much about Green Arrow, go read a wiki article about him or better yet, pick up Green Arrow #17 that came out this month. It was good. And oddly similar to Hawkeye in style but the story is more plot driven and dark while Hawkeye is character driven and funny. Speaking of heroes with “hawk” in their name…
  • Hawkman: I always thought Hawkman had a cool look and I was eager to give the character a go with the start of the New 52 but his solo series was totally inaccessible to a new reader. I had no idea what was going on and was given no reason to care. This comic on the other hand does a better job of explaining what the character is about in a single page. Hawkman is a bad ass and possibly a little bit crazy. I loved his blood thirsty warrior portrayal in the last two chapters of Throne of Atlantis too so I think Geoff Johns is going to handle this guy well.
  • Katana: She’s been seen a lot in the Birds of Prey series, has her own solo book now, and we’ll soon see her in the Beware the Batman TV show. Katana is having a pretty good year but she’s far from a household name just yet. Like Hawkman, Katana is a bad ass and, again, seems kind of crazy because she talks to her sword, which is believed to hold the soul of her murdered husband. The reason for why Waller thinks she can get Katana to work for the JLA is easily the most compelling.
  • Vibe: Vibe is a likeable guy and I think a lot of comic readers are dismissing him simply because, well, he looks pretty lame. He’s looks more like a backup dancer than a superhero, but I went ahead and read Vibe #1 (he’s getting his own solo series starting today, too) and it was surprisingly good. I would even go so far as saying it’s a must-read because it sets up something pretty interesting on the Darkseid front. If you do heed my advice and give Vibe #1 a chance then you’ll want to read it before you read JLA #1. If you don’t, then it’s no big deal. Vibe’s role in this comic is small. It’s just a brief 1-2 page intro that gives you the basics of how he got his powers but you don’t get any of the personality which is essentially from the Peter Parker mold.
  • Stargirl: Two pages were spent on Stargirl but that wasn’t enough to give me a good grasp on the character. I had to go read a wiki article afterward to get more of the details. She’s cute, a celebrity of some kind, and she has a The Cosmic Staff, which is apparently one of the most powerful items in the DC universe. From what I understand, she’s also one of the characters that Geoff Johns is the best at. Her role in the JLA is still unclear at this time, but Waller says it won’t make Stargirl happy.
  • Baz: I don’t really know anything about the Arab Green Lantern other than he’s Arba and was suspected of being a terrorist. Only a single panel was devoted to him in this comic and I was pretty disappointed by that. He never actually shows up in the comic so it wasn’t a problem but I hope his backstory is explained better in upcoming issues. Otherwise I’ll need to read a few wiki articles or buy Green Lantern #0. If you’re picking this book up because you’re a big Baz fan then I’m sorry to say you’ll be mighty disappointed. That single panel is all you get.
  • Martian Manhunter: He’s everything I wanted him to be and more. Martian Manhunter stands out as quite possibly the most badass guy in the DC universe. This character is treated with a lot of respect here and is heavily hyped up by the dialogue by Trevor and Waller. And don’t worry, he gets a really great scene of his own too, unlike Baz.
  • Catwoman: Surprisingly, Catwoman gets the most attention out of anyone. This is good since she’s being written horribly in her own comic right now. You’ll also notice that the collar on her suit seems to be a lot bigger this month both in JLA and in her own solo title. Catwoman is the one team member we actually see recruited and there’s an interesting twist as to why Catwoman would want to work for the JLA that’s both exciting and a little bit confusing at this point. I’m interested to see where it goes though. It feels like I haven’t seen Catwoman in forever.

How does the book look? It varies, honestly. David Finch, who you all will know from Batman: The Dark Knight is still using the more rough, gritty style with heavy shadows that we saw during his collaboration with Gregg Hurwitz on the Scarecrow storyline. While that sketchier look worked well for a creepy Scarecrow story it doesn’t always work here. Once the story starts to get into darker territory (which is inevitable given the premise and the cast) I can see it working out a lot better. But for a quite issue that’s just a bunch of character introductions? Not so much. And the characters themselves either look great or not quite like themselves. Waller has a different face from panel to panel, Wonder Woman looks more like a 15 year old girl than a woman, and there’s something about an opening shot of the Justice League that just looks kind of frozen. But the chase scene through a spooky forest? Awesome. Martian Manhunter? He’s never looked better. And while Wonder Woman shouldn’t look so tiny and young, it works beautifully for Stargirl. Every other character looks alright and there’s plenty of detail in every scene too.

There may not be much story here but what you get is absolutely necessary. It’s a whole lot of exposition and character introductions sandwiched between two brief glimpses at where the team will be heading in the future. I thought it was pretty cool and I’ll be back to read it again next month for sure. The one-two punch of reading Justice League and JLA makes it a pretty satisfying day in DC comics if you ask me. It’s the most cohesive the New 52 universe has felt so far. So yeah, it has my endorsement. I think you should pick up Justice League #17Vibe #1, and JLA #1 and read them in that order for the most fulfilling experience.

SCORE: 8/10

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