Saturday, July 14, 2012

Geoff Johns Surprises Me And Gets Me To Enjoy Justice League, Volume 1: Origin!

The Good: Decent story, Moments of character, Generally decent artwork
The Bad: I’m still not keen on the reboot! Some character issues.
The Basics: Justice League, Volume 1: Origin, one of the first volumes of DC Comics’ “New 52” gets surprisingly high marks from me . . . one of the people who loathes the reboot of the comics.

I have been a skeptic of DC Comics’ “New 52” comic line. The strategy seemed like a big, bold, plan thought up by a marketing department desperate to rebrand and recreate the comic book company. Given how fond I was about the Brightest Day Saga and how I liked the potentials represented by the end of that series and Justice League: Generation Lost, the mortgaging of all that potential for the lackluster alternate-universe arc Flashpoint and then a full-universe reboot represented by The New 52, I was not inherently keen on Justice League, Volume 1: Origin. I was, it is fair to say, actively biased against the book.

Then I sat down and read Justice League, Volume 1: Origin.

I should have guessed that, if anyone could sell me on the New 52 DC Universe, it would be Geoff Johns. With Justice League, Volume 1: Origin, he manages to sell me on this corner of the rebooted universe and, in the epilogue to the book, he highly implies how the whole retooling occurred. It is enough of an explanation that I can buy it . . . at least in the context of the Justice League. As the name suggests, Justice League, Volume 1: Origin is the story of the first adventure of the Justice League and it serves as the story of how six disparate superheroes came together and how one was created in order to fight crime.

In Gotham City, Green Lantern and Batman encounter one another when Green Lantern arrives on the trail of mechanized flying aliens. They track the invaders to the point where they install a Motherbox in the sewers. Realizing the invaders are extraterrestrial, Batman wants to see if they are related to the other rumored alien on Earth, Superman. So, the pair fly to Metropolis where they discover it under siege by the same alien invaders. Soon, Washington is attacked as well and Green Lantern desperately calls the Flash, with whom he has (apparently) worked before.

Around the same time, high school student Vic Stone finds himself pining for his father’s attention. A football star, Vic has little in common with his father who is a research scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs. But while Victor is visiting his father, he is wounded and Dr. Silas Stone has to use technology from the Red Room to save his life. Victor is transformed into Cyborg and he discovers he is able to interface with the Motherbox technology. He joins the assembling heroes after Wonder Woman and Aquaman pop up and together, they begin to defend the world against the assault of Darkseid.

Justice League, Volume 1: Origin is a much more realistic origin story than some of the other incarnations of the Justice League of America. Johns, who wrote extensively in the Green Lantern universe, has recast Hal Jordan as a brash, cocky hero who does not feel like he needs anyone else’s help. The recharacterization makes Hal Jordan resistant to the idea of a team-up and that makes sense; he is the Green Lantern of this space sector, why should he rely upon Batman, the Flash, or Superman?! The initial conflict between Green Lantern and Batman makes quite a bit of sense, then. By contrast, Jordan’s ignorance of Bruce Wayne seems a bit forced. After all, that is like someone not knowing who Donald Trump is and unless it is explained in the Batman corner of the new 52 universe how Wayne Enterprises survives without any military contracts, it seems like a test pilot like Jordan would have heard of Bruce Wayne.

Justice League, Volume 1: Origin does not explain or present all of the necessary information to truly understand all that a reader is likely to want out of the book. While Wonder Woman is fairly well glossed over (as always), much more troubling is how a prior relationship between Barry Allen and Hal Jordan is casually established. Those vested in the past DC Universe are likely to be irked at Superman’s lair and lack of clear origins.

That said, Justice League, Volume 1: Origin does a decent job of establishing Cyborg as well as the new team. Aquaman, as one might guess, seems like something of an afterthought and is given very little to do in this particular story, but the way he tries to lend a hand works. As well, Victor Stone is given enough initial characterization to hold his own with the (mostly) familiar characters in the Justice League. In many ways, though, Cyborg would seem to make Batman obsolete. Instead of building fear and needing time to evaluate dangerous circumstances, Cyborg has the ability to interface with technology he encounters and adapt his armored suit almost instantaneously.

The cover art for the six comics contained in Justice League, Volume 1: Origin is far more inconsistent than Jim Lee’s artwork within the actual book. Justice League, Volume 1: Origin has great coloring and mostly wonderful artwork in the panels (there are a few where the details are lacking, making it a little less consistent than is ideal). For the most part, though, the artwork matches the fresh look and feel of Geoff Johns’ story and is enough to both comfort those looking for something familiar and intrigue those looking for something new. Both the writing and the artwork contain some interesting conceptual changes that I never saw in the prior iterations; namely that Superman shatters Green Lantern’s constructs, as does Darkseid!

Justice League, Volume 1: Origin works effectively at bringing together heroes in the process of becoming at a time when the world needs them. This may be the essential New-52 volume.

For other Justice League books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Identity Crisis
Justice League: Secret Origins
I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League!
New Maps Of Hell
The Tornado's Path
The Lightning Saga
Justice League Of America: The Injustice League
Second Coming
Justice League Of America: Dark Things
JLA: Terror Incognita
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 1
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 2


For other book reviews, be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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