07 September 2011

DCnU: Justice League #1

In an attempt to attract new readers, create more diversity, and streamline continuity, DC Comics decided to close the chapter on the universe thus far and re-launch titles new and old with new premiere issues. Some characters remain practically the same (Batman) while others are changed drastically (Superman). It’s not very groundbreaking as far as comic books go, especially DC, but it sure has gotten a lot of readers’ panties in an uproar. Originally solicited for the third week of September, Justice League was bumped to the last week of August, a week prior to the DC new Universe (or DCnU) re-launch coinciding with the finale to the comic whose storyline created this very mess (Flashpoint).

For the past week the internet has been aflutter with glowing reviews. Even those that pointed out the missteps, of which there are many, managed to give JL a rating of B or higher. I was damn near ready to abandon my review of JL #1 until I read an early review of the 13 titles dropping today. Reading about the excitement of the new titles reminded me that, Hey, Justice League really sucked, didn’t it?

 Being primarily a graphic design blog, let’s focus on the art. Jim Lee’s pencils are, well, they’re good, given his usual sketchy style. He must have put in some long nights ensuring every available space is filled with lines, lines! We need more lines! What’s worse is the lines have risen from the shading and found placement upon the characters themselves. Who can tell what’s muscle and what’s piping on Batman anymore? He’s like a Barcalounger on steroids. The costumes don’t look as bad in action as in teasers these past months, but JL does nothing to sell me on the weird gills bookending Batman’s chest emblem or the fey belt (Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize!) Superman appears to be strutting.

Based upon the DCnU Green Lantern one would never guess writer Geoff Johns redefined DC’s heretofore golden boy. Hal Jordan comes off as an ass of the utmost character, even speaking in third person. Sure, the events occur five years into the past at the dawn of the superhero and he’s sure to have matured, but even the apprentice protector of our “space sector” should show more humility than this. Batman is perhaps a little underwritten, but he’s short-tempered and takes every opportunity to one-up the superhuman, so he’s good enough for me. Bats also provides most of the action: leaping rooftops, firing improbable gadgets, and riding the crest of one explosion after another. Green Lantern hovers.

The dialogue reads at a fifth grade level, and that’s coming from a fan of the children’s animated series. The notion of the inheritor of a magic ring powered by a cosmic lantern being astounded by the existence of a grown ass man in a bat costume fighting crime displays some sleepy writing. And the dialogue fares no better, let’s hope they’ve filled their quota of you-show-me-yours, I’ll-show-you-mine powers flexing. “So, what can you do?”

Meanwhile, the events of the issue itself seem to span all of five minutes, from the meeting of our two heroes, a high school football game, and the road trip to go beat up Superman because he’s an alien and aliens are bad, even though Green Lantern’s powers are -- oh, nevermind. Meanwhile  the tone of the DCnU universe is jocking X-Men’s “fear and hatred” of superheroes so hard, a Wolverine cameo seems inevitable. Hell, the variant cover to Action Comics #2 even features Sentinels.

Maybe it’s just all in the timing, but the forerunner of the DC stimulus plan shouldn’t look so tired and clumsy. If JL had arrived as scheduled and DC’s first impression was the increasingly solid sounding Batgirl or the offbeat and creative Animal Man and Swamp Thing, this issue might have seemed fun and whimsical, but as it stands it is definitely not DC’s best foot forward.

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