It's here! It's here! At long last, DC's re-launch begins with "Justice League" #1, and DC Comics has taken no chances by placing Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams on board. With this first issue of the revamped series, Johns and Lee are telling the new origin of the Justice League, and how the team of heroes all came together.
Sadly, I think this was a mistake for the initial storyline.
"Justice League" #1 is receiving a lot of attention; in the past week I've seen features on the re-launch everywhere from USA Today to the American Public Media business-themed radio show Marketplace. Retailers are ordering big. In theory, a lot of people are going to pick up this first issue.
So, of course, there's not actually a Justice League in position at the end of this first issue. Half of the league doesn't even make an appearance, with "Justice League" #1 really being the Batman and Green Lantern show, with a couple of cameo appearances by other characters. If I was a new reader, I'd be a little disappointed. I'd picked up a comic promising a bunch of big-name, recognizable characters (plus Cyborg), and most of them don't even show up.
There's also a lot of hanging out and chatting between Batman and Green Lantern, or at least it feels that way by the end of the issue. There is an actual plot, and I appreciate that Johns is bringing out one of the big guns for the initial villain. This is a book that needs to think big, and doing so right out of the gate is a smart move. But in this issue, at least, all we're getting are lackeys and underlings. Experienced comic readers will know there's a major villain waiting for them, but new readers might not be quite so impressed.
Lee and Williams' art is eye-catching, there's no doubt about that. The duo is packing in a great deal of detail into the pages of "Justice League" #1, and I hope it's something they're able to keep up with the further into the series they progress. I'll admit that my initial instinct on the art was a little doubting; it seemed extremely bright and garish and busy at an immediate glance. But the more I looked at it, the more I kept thinking, "This looks like a video game." And let's face it, appealing to people who play video games? That's a pretty good route to head down. I think Lee, Williams, and colorist have a perfect idea of what the comic needs to look like to keep those new readers.
Ultimately, this is an average comic that is undone by being the first issue of "Justice League." It's hard to keep from thinking that placing the origin story first was a big mistake, that this should have been the second story. Instead, open "Justice League" #1 with the new team already in place, and introduce the characters quickly and efficiently to the reader as we see what it's like to have them all working together and fighting bad guys. In other words, give the new audience that you're so desperately trying to entice a glimpse of what this book is about. Because instead, what we're getting isn't really a story about the Justice League, it's a story about Batman and Green Lantern's first meeting, plus a non-cyborg look at Cyborg's pre-hero life. It's not a bad script, but it's not enticing, and it's probably not what "Justice League" will be like on most months.
I like Lee's art (and looking at "Justice League" is a reminder that while some of Lee's redesigns don't look so good when drawn by other artists, they're strong under his pencil), and John's script is just average. As the big launch title for the new DC Comics, though? "Justice League" should have been much better than average. There's a lot of interest and potential goodwill around this title, and I fear that DC may have just given some of that away in the very first issue.