Friday, September 09, 2011

Justice League #1 Review

And now that I have a digital stack of new comics in my iPad, I can no longer delay my review of Justice League #1. In short… I liked it, and encourage you to read it.

There are so many panicked, pitchfork-wielding fanboys choking the streets lately , crying “The Continuity is falling, the Continuinty is falling!” To which I say, again… “eh”. The character I'm seeing are recognizable in a good way; that's all the "continuity" I really need

I open Justice League and I see Hal Jordan being an overconfident bozo and see Batman being, well… Batman. The two very different styles are highlighted and contrasted in the course of the story, resulting in yer basic “And Together They Fight Crime!” scenario.

You may not be a fan of Geoff Johns, in fact, you may be a Pantha Loyalist, and think he’s a bloodthirsty gore-hound who eats Rob Zombie films for breakfast (and possibly Rob Zombie himself). Be that as it may, ya gotta give him this: he’s no dummy. Of DC’s best known icons, the two with recent films under their utility belts and a steady and familiar characterization accompanied by surrounding elements are Green Lantern and Batman. So making them –the characters being ‘rebooted’ the least – the center of the first issue of Justice League is a smart move. Anyone who likes, or even knows, those characters will see something they are familiar with as the starting point for the New DCU.

The plot has some amusing naivety about it that almost reminded of those famous clue-sparked free associations sessions Adam West and Burt Ward used to have in the Batcave. “It happened at SEA! See? ‘C’ … for Catwoman!” If I were to discover a Mother Box in a Gotham sewer, my first thoughts would not be, “It’s alien! And so is that caped nut in Metropolis! LET’S GO, ROBIN—er, I mean, LANTERN!” But, hey, it’s young Bruce and Hal; they don’t have the perspective to say (as I did), “Kirby’s crackle! A frikkin’ Mother Box?! I, mean, STILL with the Fourth World crap? For THIS we REBOOTED…?!?!” Very little could please me less than DC’s unwillingness/inability to let sleeping Kirby Dots lie, but even I have to admit Darkseid makes a more appropriate threat for bringing together the Justice League than the Ersatzians, er, I mean, the Appellaxians.

It was interesting to see Batman and Green Lantern paired together with such dynamic contrast. Traditionally, that treatment has been reserved for Batman and Superman. In fact, the Superman/Batman comic did so with such relentless lack of subtlety that it nearly made me put my head and hand in a hydraulic press and beg Helene to throw the switch. Granted Superman and Batman do exemplify the Apollonian/Dionysian heroic disjunction rather neatly; but Batman and Green Lantern do so much more interestingly and amusingly.

Speaking of Superman… it’s good to see him back. I’m disappointed (but not really surprised) at all the fans-in-law (the pop culture hipsters who comment on comics even though they don’t actually read them) who are raising their eyebrows (with either approval, disapproval, or mere supercilious detachment) about Superman’s “new edgy” attitude (“Hey, kids! The new Superman’s a dick!”). Newsflash, hipsters: Superman’s always been a dick. As I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere, this “new edgy” Superman is, in essence, the character that actually debuted in the late 1930s, when people were poor and fed up with government’s inability or unwillingness to tackle the kinds of social justices brought on by untrammeled capitalism. Grant Morrison has decided to give us that Superman back and I agree with him 100%. Yeah… you heard me: Grant Morrison is 100% correct in this and I agree with him completely. The Golden Age Superman kicked butt and didn’t care what you, the police, or anyone else thought about it. He was, like every Golden Age hero, a smack-talking wise-ass vigilante.

Silver Age Superman (“Why is my face not on the quarter?”) was legendarily conceited, and the Bronze Age Superman was no slouch in the “sometimes it’s a drag to be infallible” department. Where DID all these youngsters get the idea that Superman was a “big blue Boy Scout”? Oh, of course…from Frank Miller and Richard Donner. “I never lie, Lois”; great Caesar’s ghost, Clark, you lie EVERY SINGLE FRICKKIN’ DAY. Your entire LIFE is a LIE. I’m fine with that, but Richard Donner kind of overlooked it. And since none of these youngsters have ever read a pre-Crisis in-continuity comic in their lives they bought this pabulum about Superman being super-nice. Yeah, tell that to the miniature rainbow Superman that he jealously sent to his death In Superman #125.


CobraMisfit said...

Great post. You're right about the pairing of Hal and Batman. I loved seeing the cocky team with the calculating. Excellent start to JL.

But no mention of Hal getting hit in the head on his first mission of the reboot?

I'm shocked, Scipio. Shocked!!

Scipio said...

Sorry, I meant to imply that with "and the two main characters seemed recognizable". Hal's getting hit in the head is part of what makes him recognizable to me.

Though in a sense it was Hal's Head Getting Hit at a whole new level. I mean, lamps, tree branches, and toy planes are one thing....

But to get hit in the head WITH SUPERMAN is an entirely new level.

Bryan L said...

Sorry, Scipio, but I'm not on board with you on Justice League. I found it decompressed and dull to an unbearable degree, and dropped it from my pull list. It should have wowed me, but it left me saying "eh." There are 52 other titles coming for me to spend money on, and I'm going to be absolutely RUTHLESS. Mediocrity will not get my cash.

And no, I'm not giving them six issues to win me over. Those days are done -- I'm rebooting ME. One lackluster issue, and I'm out. I will consider buying the (softcover) trade later if a very large number of people give it stellar reviews.

Now, I fully agree with you on Superman's revamp. I will be buying issue #2.

Scipio said...

I hear ya, Bryan. You know I'm no fan of decompression, certainly. I guess I was looking for this issue to 'comfort' me more than to 'wow' me.

But I must say, I like the idea of angling my purchasing power toward the more compressed storylines.

SallyP said...

I rather liked Hal and Bats. It's rather...comforting to realize that no matter what universe, or alternate universe or time period...Hal is still...Hal. And Batman is still a bit of a tool. Which is also comforting.

John said...

See, when I read it, I had to check to make sure I wasn't reading a Marvel comic.

Cops don't like Batman. Batman chases dude dressed up as Doomsday. Batman's a jerk. Green Lantern's a jerk. Pop culture references and "lampshading" genre conventions to show the author is damned well aware of how stupid superheroes are, so don't bother to mention it. Lengthy exposition for obvious and/or irrelevant concepts. Vic Stone's lonely, popular life. Oh, and Superman has a chip on his shoulder, too? Awesome, I guess...

And to top it off, nothing happened. In all those pages of muddy artwork that didn't show anything useful, the plot was that someone mentioned Darkseid so two guys went to Metropolis to meet up with the Next Issue Box.

It was like reading the Avengers in DC drag. Or (shudder) the Wolfman Titans.

The only saving grace was the sketchbook in the back, answering the all-important question of, "could this have been any stupider?"

The whole story might be worthwhile, but that read like filler, not the vanguard of a new era. Say what you will about the Apellaxians, but at least they had the decency to get right down to business instead of wandering around conspicuously affixing explosives to random urban walls in the name of their gods.

Jeff R. said...

I'd have liked this book a lot better if it had been titled "The Brave and the Bold #1".

Also, recasting the hypercorrupt dystopian pre-heroic era that used to be either the 1930s or the 1970s as 2006 feels a bit, well, weird.

B.G. Christensen said...

I enjoyed the Batman/Hal dynamic too, and I'm also a fan of Superman's new/old personality--it makes the character much more interesting than he's been for the past 30 years.

Dave said...

I didn't like JL for one reason. It was hyped and marketed as the beginning of the new universe: "Everything starts -here-!" On that basis, it had to be a total knockout -- story, characters, plot, everything.

As a setup for an six-part story, it was okay. I've read better; I've read worse. As the kickoff to the new reality, it told me nothing except Batman is a dick and Hal is a tool. That's not enough.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised that anything could make me nostalgic for the previous JLA relaunch issue, which consist almost entirely of Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman's chests sitting around going thru their respective photo albums, but that seemed gritty and compelling compared to this version, which reminds me more of Radio Comics' version of the Mighty Crusaders than anything else, at least in terms of presenting the "heroes" as unpleasant and moronic.

At least this made the following week's "New 52" look downright dynamic by comparison!


Beta Ray Steve said...

I didn't care for this at all.
First, it was hideously decompressed, but that's modern comics for you. It really doesn't work for an important DC title like Justice League, for the simple, practical fact that at the end of a year, you've read two JL stories, and maybe 1/3 of another. That means a story arc featuring Red Tornado or Elongated Man is going to bore us senseless for six months! Then the book is hijacked for four months by the latest crisis, it takes two more issues to get the next arc going, and before you know it, you've gone an entire year without Hal getting knocked on the head.

Second, of all the Justice League stories to start out with, "Getting the Band Together" is by far the weakest. The Justice League is not like the FF or Doom Patrol, in that there is a story-based reason they are all in the team. The reason there is a Justice League is to put DC's most popular heroes in one book, and make more money for DC.

Last, New DC? Old Darkseid.

Anonymous said...

If Superman has long been viewed as a big friendly boy scout, despite the rampant evidence of Superdickery, I say it's because readers weren't reading through the eyes of realism that we adults use today. Even if you love those old stories because of their goofy nature and you aren't just being hip and ironic, you are still asking the questions you shouldn't, such as, "how is it Superman's right to teach Lois a lesson?" or "if Lois has her suspicions about Clark and Superman, can't she just respect that Clark/Superman has his reasons and be supportive anyway?"

Then there is editorial tone-deafness in old comics, where I swear Weisinger and his successors didn't know how humans interact. You've cited Supergirl's arrival on earth as evidence of what an ass Superman is ("Can I live with you?" "Hmm, I don't think so"), but I really don't think they understood the importance of making Superman speak kindly. His motives are beyond reproach, so just roll with it.

And yeah, the nature of Superman changed once he moved from "outsider" to "cultural icon". You can be an outsider and challenge injustices in the system, or you can be a cultural icon provided you are also willing to be a defender of the status quo. Pick one; you can't be both. (For all the Martian Manhunter's apparent redundancies, one thing he brings to the table is that he remains an outsider, and you can do things with him you can't with Superman. This actually came up in his comic a few times a decade ago, where for example he threatened Project Cadmus to take better care of its creations or he would become their enemy. You can't take Superman there, or at least you couldn't ten years ago. Though I suppose the newly gilded Superman could.)

Ajit said...

Of DC’s best known icons, the two with recent films under their utility belts and a steady and familiar characterization accompanied by surrounding elements are Green Lantern and Batman. So making them –the characters being ‘rebooted’ the least – the center of the first issue of Justice League is a smart move.

That theory works best only if DC assumes that there shall be a lot of first-time buyers or people who used to read comics, gave them up, and have been drawn back by the media attention. But would either group actually stick around for five months before this wretchedly decompressed 'arc' (loathe the term!) ends?

Ajit said...

You can be an outsider and challenge injustices in the system, or you can be a cultural icon provided you are also willing to be a defender of the status quo. Pick one; you can't be both.

Robin Hood?

Steve Mitchell said...

"That means a story arc featuring Red Tornado or Elongated Man is going to bore us senseless for six months!"

Just wait till the six-issue "special focus on Vixen story" arc in JLI!

I've bought six on the new titles so far: Action, Batgirl, Green Arrow, Justice League, JLI, and Stormwatch. Action was the only one that made me realy want to see the next issue--which surprised me a bit, given my low opinion of Morrison's recent stories.

dan said...

The Golden Age Superman wasn't a dick. He was a tough guy who didn't mind scaring criminals (a la Batman).

But that's okay with GA Supes, because that was in synch with the times.

This new Superman is waaaaaay out of touch with the times. He, indeed, is a dick.

We can only hope this story is just part of an intro arc that ends with an adult-Superman who isn't so dickish.

Anonymous said...

Honestly this is more along the lines of what a GA Superman should be like: