It’s here! The first issue of DC Comics’ uber-hyped relaunch of their entire line of books is in my hands! By now, I’m sure you’ve at least seen some of the barrage of adverts, news, and general excitement for DC’s ‘New 52’. It’s damn near unavoidable with all the Internet and TV appearances. However, just in case you somehow missed it, here’s the five-cent tour. DC Comics, one of the two largest comic publishers in the world, decided that their books were getting too bogged down in the over seventy years of back-story of their characters. Even with the popularity of superhero and comic books on TV and movies, new readers weren’t making the jump and actually reading the comics. And who can blame them? It was an offputting task for a new reader to pick up a book with an issue number in the hundreds or even nearing the thousands. It often involved buying tons of back-issues or researching obscure characters and events on the web. DC decided to solve that problem by rewriting history and starting their entire universe over from a single starting point. The idea was to bring in new fans to the DCU as well as freshen up the place for long-time fans that were prone to bickering over all the various continuity problems that had built up over the years.
Did DC’s gamble succeed? Based on a single issue, it’s hard to give a definitive answer. ‘Justice League’ #1 both succeeds and fails at once in its purpose. As one of those long-time fans that was excited to see something fresh and exciting, this issue did exactly what I wanted. As I read, I noticed that there is a pine-scented goodness to the DCU. The characters already feel less bogged down… at least the few that we get to see. Rather than go all out with a full Justice League roster, writer Geoff Johns decided to make the first arc of the series an origin story. That decision both helps and hinders the opening issue.
A writer has a thin line to straddle with an opening like this one. You can assume that your readers already know the characters and go full throttle or you can slow it down so that new readers get a feel for the characters before getting to the action. Johns went for the latter. The tale begins with the first meeting of Batman and Green Lantern as they investigate a possible alien threat. Johns’ obviously had a lot of fun writing these characters. Watching Batman and Green Lantern’s arrogance clash is a ton of fun that feels like a buddy cop movie.
The problem for the new reader lies in the fact that these are essentially the only two characters that we really get to see this issue. There is a brief interlude with Vic Stone who is not yet transformed into Cyborg and another on the final splash page when a fourth Justice League member appears. There’s no sign of Wonder Woman, Flash, or Aquaman at all this issue. Essentially, there is no Justice League in ‘Justice League’ #1.
The lack of characters or epic battles is sure to cause some readers to argue that this issue didn’t live up to the hype. For an issue that had over 200,000 pre-orders and eventually sold out, there’s no big bang. There’s no huge payoff for the waiting and fan debate that’s been going on these past months. Yes, Jim Lee’s new costumes look great and the overall art of the comic is very beautiful to behold. But in the end, it’s a rather slow-paced opening issue with a lot of splash pages. It reminds me of watching the first opening scene to a television show. Hints get dropped, including one about a villain that regular DC readers will recognize, and ends on a splash page that merely whets your appetite. If this were a show, the final page would be where you’d see the opening credits start to roll.
All doubts aside, I absolutely loved this issue and can’t wait to see where Johns is going to take this first arc, especially since he’s started it off with one of the biggest villains in the entire DCU. Will new readers stick around? I guess we’ll find out when we see the sales figures next month.
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Stay tuned to ScienceFiction.com over the next month as we give more details and reviews on the relaunch of DC’s new universe.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and Cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS