Justice League #1: A Brief Review

This is a quick review of a comic book by a guy who doesn’t typically read comic books.

Not that I’m a total ignoramus when it comes to comic books and graphic novels. I’m a big fan of the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, as well as the Preacher series by Garth Ennis, and I love Fables by Bill Willingham. I’ve read Watchmen, and several issues of The Walking Dead. During the 80s I climbed aboard the Dark Knight bandwagon, and for awhile I was enthralled by everything that Frank Miller did.

But when it comes to Superman, Spiderman, Batman, the Fantastic Four and so on? I have to admit that I just don’t bother. These comics have been going on for so long and have storylines so complicated and all the titles are so tied in with each other that I figured I’d never have a prayer of simply picking one up and figuring out what’s going on, let alone getting engaged in the story. What is the meaning of this bit of dialogue Superman says in JLA #252? Well, it requires that you know what happened in Wonder Woman #’s 159 through 182. That sort of thing.

So when DC Comics announced that they were rebooting fifty-two of their titles, starting over from scratch, I was kind of excited. Of course, the part of me that thinks that reboots, reimaginings, remakes, and very likely to be bad ideas in general was skeptical. But what the heck: since I’d never kept up with the titles, perhaps this reboot was the perfect time for me to start reading comics fresh, getting in on the ground floor, and understanding what’s going on without having to go and borrow my buddy’s complete collection and spend a year doing nothing but getting caught up. This, I thought, was my chance.

So I called Big Brother Comics in downtown Sacramento to reserve a copy of Justice League #1, and during my lunch break I walked down to pick it up (during my walk I dodged a bicyclist, tripped over a curb, and ripped a hole in the knee of my favorite jeans — but that’s another story). It sat on my desk at work mocking me for a few hours until I was able to get it home and read it.

Now, despite my relative ignorance of comic books, I have been exposed to Batman and Superman, but this is a total reboot and so I tried to read this with the perspective of someone who’d never read anything about these characters.

First impressions, then. Well, it’s kind of short. This guy who’s dressed up in heavy-duty armor with bat ears is fighting something that appears to be an alien (it breathes fire and has an ugly face, so it must be an alien) in the downtown of some large city, when a guy in green shows up. The first character, we learn quickly, is Batman. The second is Green Lantern. The city is Gotham City. Oh, and all this is taking place five years ago, when no one knew what a superhero is. Though Green Lantern and Batman seem to know each other.

The two of them talk while Batman continues to fight this alien monster. We learn that Green Lantern is kind of a pompous jerk, and Batman is a grumpy sourpuss. We also learn that Green Lantern is part of a galactic corps of Green Lanterns, and he’s responsible for the sector of space that includes Earth, which is why he was drawn to Gotham City: the alien attack that Batman was warding off.

But this alien — who lets out some sort of warcry just before blowing up, I won’t reveal exactly what — is not alone on Earth. Green Lantern reveals that there is at least one other alien on Earth that needs to be investigated: some dude in the city of Metropolis who goes by the moniker Superman. Green Lantern, powered by his magic space ring, believes he can take down Superman if necessary. Batman isn’t so sure. Guess who’s right?

Anyway. I enjoyed Justice League #1. It was a worthy purchase. Will I keep on buying comics in the rebooted DC universe, and try to keep up with all of the new stories? I’m not sure. Jennifer took a look at Justice League sitting on our dining room table and asked, “So are you going to start collecting comic books now?” to which I replied, “I doubt it.” But I think I’m going to buy a couple more next week when the next round of old/new titles are released.

We’ll see.

2 thoughts on “Justice League #1: A Brief Review”

  1. I thought it was obviously an alien because, you know, it looks *alien.* On the other hand, Batman didn’t seem to care what it was, just knew that it didn’t belong in his city.

    Reading between the lines, I’d say that super-powered vigilantes have been around long enough to rouse the interest of the press and the ire of the authorities, who don’t like anyone working outside prescribed channels. There have been shades of this previously in the DC universe (watch the Justice League cartoon series for a self-contained exposition, and see the development of Cadmus, Waller, and the Army as forces that seek to control the heroes), although not nearly as strongly as in the Marvel universe (longest running, of course, being the Mutant Registration Act with the threat to the X-Men, but the recent Civil War where the U.S. Government wanted all heroes to come forward and proclaim their secret identities, leading to battle lines being drawn and the death of Captain America, is even more explicit — I didn’t read the Civil War series, so my knowledge of it is based primarily on discussion on the Colbert Report). My understanding is that Justice League International will be chartered by the United Nations (which, I believe, was true of their previous incarnation as well), but I’m curious to see what the relationship of heroes to authorities becomes in this rebooted universe, whether all of them become accepted, or if there will be someone like the Question who distrusts authority on general principles.

    Personally, I’d love to dive in to comics again (I fell out of the comics habit shortly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was, essentially, DC’s last attempt at a reboot), but 52 titles? No way I can justify subscriptions to all of them. That’s about $1,300 a year. Even a few subscriptions may be pushing it, since we’re cutting back on expenses, and I easily see 15 I’d like to follow.

    It’s always fun to see what new can be done with the characters and relating them to the current zeitgeist. I do want to see where they go.

    1. I agree, it’s the sheer cost, more than anything, that would prevent me from collecting more titles.

      I’m not sure exactly how many are coming out next week, but I know it’s more than ten. And at $3.99 per, that will end up being over forty dollars for the set. And there’s even more the week after that.

      So yeah, I’d like to collect all the titles, but it just isn’t going to happen.

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