Friday, September 2, 2011

Comic Book Review: Justice League #1

Months ago, I was among those skeptical about DC Comics' planned relaunch of their entire comic book universe. As somebody who grew up reading their comics where Superman and Batman wore underpants and remained symbolic icons nevertheless, I'll be the first to tell you outright that I thought "The New 52" was a bad idea. I'm not one to conform to change easily, especially when it comes to changing elements that have remained established in the comic world for almost a century. Yes it's true that without change there can be no progress, but sometimes the other old adage still applies "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Still,  I can understand the necessity to attract new readers, so there's more than legacy at stake with this relaunch; It's reinvigorating the industry as a whole.

This week and like or not, change has indeed come to DC Comics, and they have literally brought an end to the old and a fresh start to the new with the simultaneous release of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 this week, which in itself counts as a historical landmark in the comic industry as we know it. Having anticipated the latter title from the solicitations released months ago, I knew that even with my reboot reservations constantly bickering at me to resist, I would still pick up JL #1 for one sole reason: Jim Lee's compelling artwork. There's no doubt that ever since the 90's and early 2000's, I've been a fan of the WildCats and Batman: Hush artist, and now he's brimming with even more staying power these days as one of the co-publishers of DC Comics. Since taking up office, it's been a while since I've seen Lee draw a monthly title (and one that stays in schedule for that matter), so how does his work fare alongside acclaimed writer and fellow DC co-worker Geoff Johns in this new volume of Justice League? Let's find out.

I can't talk about Justice League without giving a brief description of what the book is (for those out of the loop, this is your primer right here). Basically, this will serve as DC's flagship superhero team book, in which mainstay characters and flagship heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman will gather together to fight crime and combat the forces of evil. It's a simple premise that's been done time and again over the years. However, this will be the first time that the League's story will be retold and reinterpreted for the new generation. Anyone with fears and doubts about jumping in the bandwagon because they have to read years and years of DC backstory can flush those doubts aside. This is a new beginning and and a new version Justice League, so it's the perfect jumping in point for newcomers and  those pondering a perfect return into the comic book medium. Heck, DC is already offering digital download copies of their books for iPod, tablet, and mobile device users, so there's incentive for the technologically inclined market group to jump in and start collecting themselves.

So on to issue #1's review. SPOILERS from this point, so keep away and stop reading now.

Issue #1 begins in Gotham, where the city's own urban legend hero known as "the Batman" chases after an unknown cloaked suspect, all the while be chased himself by the GCPD. Despite taking measures to elude his pursuers and catch his prey, Batman is almost beaten down by the latter until unlikely assistance comes to his aid in the form of the emerald warrior known as Green Lantern. With a common enemy to subdue, Batman and Green Lantern team up and tail their quarry, whom they later learn is of extraterrestrial origin after it tries to kill the heroes off by sacrificing itself. Discovering a device left by the alien, the duo then proceed to Metropolis to question another hero with alien origins, Superman. Unfortunately, the meeting doesn't come off to a good start and Green Lantern is soon incapacitated, leaving Batman face to face with a certain Kryptonian itching for a fight.

Alright, now that I have the first issue in the bag, what can I say about it? Well, it's certainly taking things off to a fresh and intriguing new start, and since the writer is Geoff Johns, I'm placing my trust and bet on this book to be a solid and enjoyable superhero team-up with awesome comic book art by Jim Lee. Of course, I'm a hands down Batman fan, and JL #1 delivers the goods in spotlighting this new interpretation of Dark Knight throughout majority of the book. Tagging along with him is Green Lantern, another favorite hero of mine, and they chemistry and banter that ensues between these two is just priceless. At least Johns knows how to play each character's strengths and personalities accordingly, and it's only enhanced by the sheer dynamic and stellar art that Lee has to offer. I'll admit, the latter's pencils have become a bit edgy as of late, and I'm still having a hard time getting used to the "armor n' plate" designs being incorporated into heroes' new looks. There's a reason why I still prefer the old school underwear look, but I'm one to give this a chance. Let's see how it goes.

For the disappointing remarks, I guess I should note that only half of the league is in this book. Granted, this is still the first issue, but would have it killed the creative team to add a few short panels or teaser images of the absent characters here to appease their fans? Consider this a spoiler yeah, but Flash fans in particular will be disappointed to note that the Scarlet Speedster is nowhere to be found in JL #1, and it's ironic considering his role in altering the timeline and bridging the gap between this and Flashpoint #5 (which I will say is a "Convenient Reboot" springboard for the DCnU to happen). I know comics have to keep the suspense going, but I think if it weren't for the Batman being all over this book, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much even with Johns and Lee onboard.

Despite the mixed reactions still resonating in the fanverse, it seems I don't have to worry too much about the changes DC has implemented to their comic universe. Justice League #1 does deliver in pitching a new start and a bold new direction for DC Comics readers to explore, albeit it also works as a double-edged sword, and will give old school veterans time to ponder whether they'd like to continue on with this move or not. Personally, I'm putting my reservations aside and giving everything I deem worth investing in my list a chance. It's not fair to judge a book by its cover, but I certainly think the eyecandy collectors will have no say on that once they get a taste of Jim Lee's fantastic art here. Overall, things are off to a good start for the New 52. Check this one out in comic book shops now!

Rating - 5/5

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