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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: Justice League of America #1

After months of hints, winks, nudges, and hype, the Justice League of America has finally arrived in the New 52!  How does Geoff Johns' Justice League of America #1 set the tone for the series?  Is it worth your time?  Read on to find out!

In the premiere issue, Colonel Steve Trevor and Director Amanda Waller begin to put in motion their plan to create a new team of superheroes: The Justice League of America.  Slowly we are introduced to all of the new members of this team and why they may or may not be a good fit for what humanity needs.

Aaand that's really about all that happens in this issue.  When one is starting a new superhero team book that is populated with largely unfamiliar characters, the work of the first issue is one of mainly letting the audience know who these people are while also setting the stage for the future.  How to properly pull off a first issue is something Marvel has struggled with in many of the new titles coming from Marvel NOW, so it is a relief to see that Geoff Johns has a much easier time with it over at DC.  This is probably due to the fact that, not two years ago, he wrote excellent first issues for Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Justice League.

One of the things which kind of delayed the true start of Justice League over a year ago was that the team did not really come together until a few issues in.  By this I do not mean that they were working together as a team, such a thing is expected to take a few issues to develop.  What I mean is that it literally took a few issues with every single member of the team to show up in the book.  With JLA, Johns makes a better move of introducing us to all of the members upfront (although they have yet to actually meet one another).

Johns was obviously aware that most readers would be familiar with the likes of Green Lantern (Simon Baz) as well as Green Arrow, so he intelligently glosses over their being added to the roster.  This way, we are able to be introduced to Hawkman, Katana, Vibe, Star Girl, and Martian Manhunter in such a way that we are able to begin to guess how this group will probably work together.  While everyone knows who Catwoman is, I still felt that the scene with Catwoman in this issue helped to set up an interesting dynamic between her and Steve Trevor that could potentially be used in future stories.

I have to say that, upon first glance, there are maybe only a few characters I would have cared about going into this book.  After completing the first issue, however, I feel that Johns introduces each of the characters in a way that either has me intrigued to see how they will fit into the story or downright excited to see more from them.

By far the most intriguing character for this book is going to be Martian Manhunter.  While each of the other team members has something that makes them interesting, the fact that we know so little about Martian Manhunter gives him a special allure.  Waller states that Martian Manhunter's power is unmatched, which should make for some interesting conflicts within the team itself as well as (potentially) against the Justice League.

What will really be fascinating to see with JLA is the way in which Steve Trevor and the government agency he works for are utilized in the book.  In Justice League, Trevor was basically left by the wayside in favor of larger superhero action.  JLA, while promising interesting superhero action, also seems to give a hint that we may see more of a governmental role than in its sister book, which could be interesting.

My major issue with the story of this book is that almost all of the members of this team seem to have been bribed somehow into joining the JLA.  All of them have something the government can provide for them and so they, possibly begrudgingly, have agreed to come together to protect their country. This aspect of the story bothers me because I feel like this is very weak glue that will hold this team together in the long run.  Although, one could argue, that this could also open up a door for a continuously changing roster (something hinted at in this month's issue of Justice League).

The only other issue I had with this comic was the fact that Simon Baz is going to be a member of this team.  Currently, Simon is not even in the same dimension (literally) as the rest of the JLA, which will make things very confusing if he suddenly shows up in the second issue.  I have a lot of faith in Geoff Johns, however, as he is also writing Green Lantern.  Thus, Johns is very well aware where Simon is at in his own book at the moment, even giving a nod to it in JLA.

On the art front here, there is absolutely nothing for me to complain about.  David Finch does an excellent job.  Not only are his shadows and general character designs great, but he also does a good job of putting clear detail.  There is a ton of detail oozing from these panels, yet not a single panel feels overcrowded or unintelligible.  

Overall, the opening issue of a new series is supposed to set up not only the first story arc, but lay the groundwork for what the series as a whole is going to be like.  It is supposed to answer a few questions, while asking some more.  Despite my minor gripes, I feel that both Geoff Johns and David Finch deliver a great foray into the world of the Justice League of America.

Rating: A+

Summary: Although Justice League of America #1 does little more than introduce us to the major players, it is written and drawn in a way that puts many other first issues to shame.
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