Sunday, April 22, 2012

New 52 in Review - Justice League

So I picked this one up because it looked impressive.  I loved the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, so I know that the team can be done in amazingly entertaining ways.  Super teams at their best use each member’s strong points and rely on teamwork to do something none of them could do on their own.  And this comic was back to the big guns, which many people had complained about before the new 52, that the Justice League wasn’t the Justice League they wanted to read about.  So I gave it a shot.  Spoilers below, you’ve been warned.

The team gathers slowly over the first four issues, which gives some nice spotlight time to each character’s first appearance.  I enjoy that everyone is shocked that Batman is real.  We also get the origin story of Cyborg, which was the weak point for me as I felt it was a bit too rushed.  As much as I love the character he didn’t have any time to deal with the transition from normal kid to half machine.  He just kinda jumped in and became a superhero.  That could have made for interesting storytelling, but was kinda skipped over in favor of more punching.

Geoff Johns has a massive boy crush on Hal Jordon and Barry Allen and that’s more than apparent here.  It’s hard to fault a creator for focusing on characters he enjoys writing, but I really don’t like Hal Jordon myself, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as he probably enjoyed writing it.  I did grow to like Barry Allen, despite my continuing anger that his return has all but erased Wally West from existence.  Superman was a bit strange as he was portrayed very differently from his traditional boy scout persona.  But this is set five years in the past and I guess that might correspond with his growth in Action Comics, which I am not reading.  Wonder Woman, while very kickass, was a bit flat for my taste.  Kind of a mindless berserker character who just wants to fight things.  Although the ice cream scene was precious.  Aquaman was amusing, and I enjoy his regal arrogance.  He didn’t really do that much, but I did like what was there which gives me high hopes for the Aquaman series I’ve yet to read.  Batman was okay, not the best I’ve seen but also far from the worst.  Solid Batman without being anything too special.

My biggest complaint was with the use of Darkseid as the first villain.  I understand that the threat had to be large in order to assemble all of the great heroes together to fight it, but since these characters are younger and untested and don’t quite understand their powers as well as they could yet and have no idea how to work as a team it kinda just made Darkseid look like a punk.  They use a tiny bit of teamwork, but it all seems to boil down to everyone just punching him.  And woo they win and Darkseid promises he’ll be back, but I don’t care much as they beat him pretty easily this time once they attacked together.  He doesn’t seem like much of a threat. 

Also, when Darkseid first show up at the end of issue four we have a panel that takes up ¾ of the two pages that I have to turn on its side to see followed by a two page spread of I guess Darkseid’s spirit energy smacking everyone and then splash page of just Darkseid’s face.  To me that is an incredibly inefficient use of 5 pages.  You only have 22 pages a month to tell me a story, don’t waste 5 of them telling me that exact same thing.  On the other hand, I thought the splash page at the end of issue five was the perfect use of a splash page.  It shows Batman looking out at Apokolips (I assume, I don’t think it was ever actually named, but its what’s on the other side of the Boom Tube so I feel it’s a safe guess).  It’s an effective page because it demonstrates the massive scale of what Batman is up against, while subverting our expectations as he was in a small hallway moments before.  But by far the worst offender of the overuse of splash pages and double page spreads is issue six with nine out of twenty three pages used in this way.  That’s not quite half, but it’s far more that I want.  The full page spread losses its effectiveness when used that often and just really bugs me.  Although this is perhaps something I should come to expect from Geoff Johns (as demonstrated by this comic).

I don’t feel the comic made great use of everyone’s abilities in the final battle.  Green Lantern got to be a lure, and most everyone else just kinda stabbed or punched at Darkseid.  Cyborg used his crazy alien technology powers to save the day, making him important in the fight.  And I appreciate that Batman had something to do with going to save Superman.  Because really, once you pull out Darkseid, what on earth is Batman really going to do? (Ignoring Final Crisis as I’m still not sure I understand what went down there…)  So it was nice that he didn’t just have to stand on the sidelines throwing Batarangs or something.

Issue seven started a new arc, jumping forward to the present with a government support group and the team still not really understanding teamwork since Hal Jordon is just sooooooo impulsive (why do the Guardians put up with him, anyway?).  The start of the new arc was okay, with some cute stuff with Steve Trevor.  But it was a slow issue that didn’t really do much to introduce the next big threat.  And we get a backup with Billy Batson being a troll of a child that will somehow be found worthy to be Captain Marvel who I guess we’re calling Shazam now and who I really don’t want to read about.  I suppose it was really a teaser more than anything, but it really didn’t make me care about what happens to Billy at all.  I didn’t follow the Marvel family much before all of this, but he is way different from what I remembered or expected.  His costume also has a hoodie cape which I think looks incredibly stupid.

I guess I should also mention the short backup in issue six with Pandora, the mysterious hooded lady from Flashpoint and every issue one of the New 52.  I thought it was a bit odd that this was even here referencing that she “rewrote reality” and all that when the New 52 is supposed to be about new reader accessibility and all.  I would think that they would be avoiding referencing things as they used to be in order to not confuse new readers, but what do I know.  Instead it seems like this is only the beginning for this character and whatever mad quest she is on.  Which makes me wonder how we’re going to keep everything straight if she starts referencing things from the old DCU.  But maybe she won’t.  I dunno, but it just felt like even six months after reshuffling all the cards we couldn’t help but pick up the deck again.  I don’t really mind it too much, but I feel like any new readers who the book attracted could be put off by all of this.

Despite the fact that the story and action were often unimpressive, the dialogue was pretty fun.  There were lots of great lines and bits of interaction between the characters when they weren’t punching each other.

So yeah, it’s another book I am torn on.  It isn’t horrible but it also isn’t fantastic.  It’s just sort of there and hasn’t really wowed me at all.  I know there are plans to add some more characters (and many other DC people have already been mentioned in the comic) so I’m interested in seeing how that all works out.  Also hopeful that they will try to even out the genders a bit so that Wonder Woman isn’t the only girl.  But I have no idea if/when that will happen, so it comes down to if I’m willing to wait it out.  This is another I’ll have to wait until I can see the big picture of what we’re keeping/dropping until I can make a decision.

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