Dark Nights: Metal is done, and the heroes of the DC Universe emerged victorious. But there was a cost: the Source Wall—the very boundary of the universe—has been cracked, exposing the worlds within to greater threats beyond. But there are other dangers closer to home, and if the Justice League hopes to prevail, they will need help from wherever they can get it. The next DC cosmic epic begins, in Justice League: No Justice #1!

Read it in print

I’ve read this book three times, and I feel very differently now than I did at the first. Part of that is surely the absorption of the story and the artwork, and the clarity of perspective that follows a more complete understanding of the material. But I suspect the format has a lot to do with it, too. My first two passes were on a screen, but the third was in print. And in print, No Justice is a very different animal.

It’s easy to forget that comics is a collaborative medium. While plenty of books survive the transition to digital just fine, others are constructed particularly with the size of a physical comic book in mind, and the artwork is unable to completely carry its share of the weight once you start cutting down the available space. This is definitely the case for No Justice.

This is a big concept, and Francis Manapul’s layouts were constructed accordingly, with nine—nine—double-page spreads. The visual storytelling is meant to fill your view and realize much of the drama inherent in the concept. When you read this book on an iPad, you’re looking at those double-page spreads at a severely-reduced size. Sure, you can zoom in or use a guided view, but it’s not the same as holding an image larger than an iPad in your hands. This is a different book in digital.

Lest you digital-only folks be driven to despair, Manapul’s work is still excellent in either format, and Hi-Fi colors him so well that, at times, I forget that it’s not Manapul himself. The book is a good mixture of solid sequential stuff interspersed with big, bold, frame-filling superhero shots. If you’re a fan of DC heroes, then you’ll probably have a smile on your face from cover to cover, because Manapul absolutely nails a metric crapton of characters throughout the book.

Don’t expect too much of the dialogue

The characters don’t fare quite as well in the dialogue, which isn’t awful, but sometimes feels off by a hair; and, other times is so littered with name-dropping that I almost wish they’d included some of those columns of head shots and names at the beginning and gotten the introductions out of the way. Even if you aren’t familiar with all of these characters, you’d probably prefer to read more natural-sounding dialogue and leave it to the writers to be more creative about getting you up to speed.

Much of the dialogue is exposition setting the stage for the coming conflict, but I think it (largely) works. Manapul’s big spreads give the characters plenty of identity, taking some pressure off of Snyder and company, allowing them to focus on putting the right pieces on the board. And, hopefully, we’ll get to know the characters better as the story continues and places them in more intimate scenes, so it’s best not to try doing that in this opening issue—there are too many characters to handle, anyway.

A compelling concept

I won’t spoil the particulars of No Justice #1, but I do like them. When the announcement for this book and the subsequent team books came out, I found the seemingly-arbitrary groupings of heroes and villains frustrating. But I’m happy to say that there’s a well-conceived explanation for it here, and I’m satisfied, at least for the time being. We may find that some of those groupings are still a bit arbitrary, but the high-level concept of unusual partnering is definitely justified after a read through No Justice.

There’s one major thread that I haven’t addressed here in the review, but it’s one that I like quite a lot. Snyder has been in a transition of sorts, moving from the intimate storytelling that marked his work on Detective Comics and Batman to something more akin to Jonathan Hickman’s work at Marvel—lots of kooky concept and seemingly-disparate plot threads that eventually align in the end. This parallel-thread-I-shall-not-name makes me think that he’s going for a similar approach here. I think Metal was entirely too busy and fell short of what it wanted to be; but I still like the idea of Snyder giving it a go, and No Justice already feels like it has a bit more room to breathe than Metal did. Here’s hoping Snyder’s grand take on the Justice League preserves that sense of space going forward.

Recommended if…

  • You like your concepts big.
  • You like your artwork big.
  • You like your starfish big.

Overall

Justice League: No Justice #1 never gets very deep, but it’s a pretty wide concept that looks glorious through the imaginative artwork of Francis Manapul and Hi-Fi. Time will tell if this story lives up to its promising premise, but I like the look of the table that’s been set, and I’m looking forward to digging in.

SCORE: 8/10