Thursday, February 2, 2012

Comic Review -- Justice League #1-3 / Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, & Scott Williams

Okay, so I admit I'm a little late to the whole New 52 thing in terms of actually reading the material.  Part of it is that it's taken me a while to give more than a passing glance to any DC properties other than Batman and related works.  Also, finances are a concern--not that I can't afford to start collecting single issue comics again, I just see better uses for my meager income--which kept me from buying them as they came out.  A final reason is that I was one of those people who, upon hearing about the upcoming reboot, thought that DC was shooting themselves in the foot, and was hoping it would fail.

I've since changed my tune, and been surprised at the overwhelmingly favorable assessments of the New 52.  Looking at some issues, I've seen that a lot of the storytelling is very exciting and fresh.  So, with a little help from my local library, I've acquired the single issues of several titles, and figured I'd do some very late and barely relevant reviewing of the issues, starting with the flagship title, Justice League.

Individual issue reviews are a bit problematic for me.  I did one earlier, for Scarlet Spider, but it was the exception rather than the rule (though I'm strongly considering reviewing the next upcoming issue), and I didn't think it'd be a big sin to do a long review for that one.  In the interest of this not being a novella, I'm going to give each issue its own section within the post, and hopefully make them considerably shorter.  That way I can write about the average length overall, and cover multiple issues in one sitting.

Justice League #1

Okay, wow.  The cover alone was awesome, no matter which version you got.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Jim Lee does iconic heroes and poses like no one else's business.  Heroic.  Modern classic.  Iconic.  Call it whatever you want, it just looks great.

Overall, this issue did throw me a little bit.  First off was the "This is 5 years ago" premise that we're supposed to remember.  That's not so difficult in and of itself, but then there's the pacing.  We've got Batman being chased over a rooftop and getting shot at by the military while he hunts some alien monster thing and fights it and tries to make it talk about what it's doing in Gotham when Green Lantern shows up and Batman tells him what little he knows of these guys and they decide to go to Metropolis to check out another alien and Superman shows up looking for a fight.

Whew!  It just feels like a whirlwind of mostly action and just enough character interaction to keep things moving onto the next act.  I got to the end of the chapter excited for the next part, but not really feeling like I'd gotten much out of it.  I think a big part of it is that so far, it's just Batman and Green Lantern, with a Superman setup at the end.  No one else.  It's not too much, I think, to expect to find the Justice League assembled, at least by issue's end.  Not that I don't respect the story arc idea--and I realize that Geoff Johns is good at the larger arcs--I'm just uncertain it's the best way to start things off.

Art:  Jim Lee.  Scott Williams.  That is all.

Seriously, I do admire the detail that's gone into the artwork here.  I don't know what it is about Jim Lee's people, but they just look amazing.  Male, female, monstrous, it doesn't matter.  The guys look manly and heroic, the women look beautiful and strong, and the monsters look alien, threatening, and sinister.  Action flows well from their illustrations, which makes this an idea marriage of form to content.

Overall, I'd say get it.  It's the start of the reboot, it's beautifully rendered, and the writing, while a conceptually a little blurry, is nevertheless exciting.  It certainly promises a grand adventure, and I can't wait to see more.  Highly recommended.

Justice League #2

Really?  After last issue's awesome cover, you give your readers this?! I don't know what it is about the cover to Justice League #2, but it really nags at me, in a bad way.  The characters look good, but the posing seems unrealistic and contrived, like a photographer had asked them to hold a battle pose for far too long.  There's no expression on Superman's face.  I just don't like it.

Things seem to slow down a bit from the last issue, which is ironic, as I was expecting a big three-way fight between Bats, Supes, and GL at the end of the previous chapter.  That's stoppered fairly quickly, and Superman's more aggressive temper is on display, as is Hal's cockiness and Bats's keen insights.  We also get introduced to Barry Allen's Flash and Vic Stone, who will become Cyborg, bringing us a little closer to the formation of the team that we're all waiting for.

I also like how people keep bringing up the fact that Batman has no powers.  When asked, "What can you do?" he simply replies, "I can keep us on task."  With a union of these kinds of powers, abilities, and egos, that's far from nothing, and he knows it, even if the others may not.

Art-wise, I continue to be fascinated, for the most part.  From time to time, some of the facial expressions seem strangely blank or not suited to the moment at hand, but it's easy to forget that when you move to the next illustration.  Some of the new venues are interesting, like Barry's police lab and STAR labs, where Vic's dad works, though whether they'll hold up over time remains to be seen.

Overall, I liked this issue.  We're gradually getting more characters involved, and it's starting to feel like a team book.  It's slower paced than last issue, but the interpersonal dynamics--which, face it, is why we read Justice League--are really starting to come through and shine.  Highly recommended.

Justice League #3

"Move over, boys--time to make way for Wonder Woman!"  That's what this cover screams, even as it suggests the very recognizable coming together of the Justice League in combat.  It's a marked improvement from last issue's cover, and breathtaking in the way only Jim Lee could make it.

Wonder Woman gets a charming introduction as a newcomer to our world, curious and gentle even as she flaunts her tough warrior's instincts.  When she finally joins the guys in battle against the alien monster things, there are the predictable yet still humorous reactions from the men at her beauty and power.  It's these kinds of moments that Johns handles well, and as they become more integral to the narrative of this assembling team, I can see the writing getting even better.

We also witness Vic Stone's injuries that necessitate his being made a cyborg by his father, brought on by the creatures' attack of STAR labs.  The sudden concern of Dr. Stone is a little jarring, given how self-involved he'd been up to this point, though it's not flat-out unbelievable.  Realizing you're about to lose someone is often the point when you realize how much you really do care about them, and I think Silas's emotional turnabout is believable, if not exactly smooth.

Favorite line: when Flash says to Batman, "I thought you were a vampire or something."  Hilarious.

Art: LOTS of monsters in this issue, and lots of opportunities for our heroes to show off with some high-powered action.  It's all very dynamic and hectic without being clogged and distracting, which could have very easily happened.  Wonder Woman, of course, was fun to look at, and the rest of the heroes were drawn in typically awesome detail.

Overall, highly recommended.  The story is getting better as the heroes assemble, and the action is intense and fun.  Character moments abound, and I'm getting more involved in seeing where this arc leads.  Bring on the next issue!

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