Justice League of America #1
Going into this book I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Yes, it was a new team title by DC’s go to scale guy Geoff Johns but was it going to be a small supplementary series to its straight titled sibling ( which he also scripts and which i am behind on reading) or one that is competitively epic in its own right? Would it be able to care about it either way given that it was built around characters far enough down the food chain that i was mostly unfamiliar with them? And just what was so American about this team that, on the surface, seemed to be made up of superheroes with entirely international origins.
I’m not sure what my predictions were for any of those questions because the book answers them all so quickly that there simply isn’t time to ponder. It begins with a. Covert meeting between two shadowy figures, a cliche but compelling cold open that launches into a credits sequence ( that highlights both the books characters and creators) so cool that you can all but hear the horns of an eighties action theme song playing above an animated version of Peter Finch’s classy, Jim Lee-esque action blockbuster art. Wherever the book was going I was going with it; hooked, even though I hadn’t walked in with the intention of even buying the first issue.
The job of any team book is to work as the vessel for both solo stories about each of the individual characters and to give an arc to the team itself; two things that Johns achieves here with some ease. The rest of the issue isn’t as instantly appealing as that intro, consisting as it does of a conversation between two supporting characters whose powers are based in politics, not punching, but I definitely preferred this over the obvious alternative. Not only did dedicating so much time to this talk allow Johns to continue the TV vibe by evoking a buddy-cop odd-couple conflict between Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller, the two humans tasked with handling the plague of powers that has hit the DCU, but it put their characters and relationship right at the core of the book.
The assembling of the team is used here mostly as a device within their dialogue with the arbitrary introductory action scenes relegated to quick cut aways, over and done before they could become obnoxious, but they no less effective because of this brevity. Despite the big bias in page time Johns has already sold me as well on his team as he has on those two characters, despite me not being much of a fan of any heroes beforehand. Here Hawkman is a brutal, godlike Gladiator, the Martian Manhunter a Dr.Manhattan-esque mental force, Star Girl is a starlet superhero but she has some secrets, Green Arrow and Green Lantern both rebellious radicals and even Vibe, the joke character, was compelling enough here for me to want to see his new solo series.
The one thing that didn’t work as well for me was the story and for the most part this is simply because I still don’t know what it is. On the one hand we are told again and again that the United States government is putting together a second superhero team because they are suspicious of where the superheroes loyalties lay – a good intention but never one held by the good guys – but on the other the only clues that we get about future conflicts have to do with some other source of danger entirely. Sure this Secret Society seems to be taking on the form of the original Justice League, but its clear that the two aren’t affiliated.
This isn’t much of a criticism, but I can’t make a call on the plot of this series based solely on its premiere; I will have to see more and at this stage I am willing to read more which, given my relative disinterest in the safer more action orientated superhero series is something of a surprise. Johns and Finch could easily have poured out a simple, safe and straightforward second Justice League book but they have both taken some risks in their approach here and if these pay off they could pay big. Big enough to beat or best the original? The odds aren’t in their favour but I’d give them a chance.