Monday, 3 February 2014

Justice League Vol. 1: Origin (The New 52)

Alright guys, now this is going on the
Christmas cards, so don't blink!
Justice League Vol.1: Origin (The New 52)

Writer: Geoff Johns

Artist: Jim Lee

Background Information:

To be honest, I probably should have reviewed this first. Justice League is the flagship title of the DC’s New 52, and as such, volume 1 marks the first story in the series.

But let’s get on to who the Justice League actually are. Before Marvel released the first issue of the Avengers, DC gave the world the Justice League of America; a team featuring DCs most prolific heroes. Most new readers are most likely to remember the Animated Justice League cartoon of the early 2000s. A word of warning; the Justice League, like the Avengers, has changed its roster multiple times (albeit, not as dramatically), so don’t expect to see Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, or Green Lantern John Stewart in the new Justice League.

Review:

Reboots are hard to get off the ground, and DCs New 52 was no exception. When you strip away years of continuity and start afresh, you’re going to have a universe that feels less developed than what came before. So I don’t quite understand the criticism the New 52 receives for not being a well-developed universe.

Don’t get me wrong; Origin is far from perfect. However, the book has enough awe-inspiring moments to put it on par with Marvel’s live-action Avengers film.

“But wait,” you say “Origin is so shallow.”

To that I say, “So was The Avengers.”

You say “Origin’s plot had holes!”

To that I say “Tesseract, anyone? I mean, what exactly was it for other than being a shiny cube?”

You say “The characters are jerks!”

To that I say “So were pretty much all of the Avengers.”

Yet one of these is hailed as the greatest superhero movies of all time and one of these is regarded as the worst Justice League origin stories ever to be printed. I don’t get it.

Both have identical stories. A alien threat has come to earth and it takes the planet’s greatest heroes to stop it. In both stories, there are personality clashes. Batman doesn’t get along with Green Lantern, Green Lantern is confident he doesn’t need Batman or Superman, Superman doesn’t think he needs anyone, and Wonder Woman doesn’t care to long as there is someone to fight. It’s not a bad thing that Geoff Johns decided to have personality clashes amongst the team, but the choice to do so seemed a little obvious- almost like Johns chose the easy way out of developing characters. It’s a strange choice for the man who is now considered to be the best writer at DC, and their creative chief. Thankfully, he doesn’t completely resolve that at the end. Green Lantern still refuses to see the League as permanent team at the end of the collection, even if the world does. I find this a little more believable than the quick and easy “hey, we fought together, now we like each other” resolutions.

The plot is interesting enough to keep the book going, and it feels like a shorter read than its six issues actually are, but there are a couple of plot holes. I’m going to leave the New 52s five-year history to other writers to complain about (as there is really only one issue I have with it). Instead I will mention two things that bothered about the plot:

Firstly, Batman removes his mask to Green Lantern. I’m not entirely sure why he did this, and Johns doesn’t make it explicit in his writing. I’m assuming that Batman did it to show Green Lantern that he trusts him, but the actual reason is never made clear.

Secondly, Green Lantern and Flash talk about a time where they beat up a talking Gorilla together. I’m assuming they’re talking about Gorilla Grodd, and that’s fine; but Gorilla Grodd is supposed to appear for the first time in The Flash: Move Forward. So which gorilla-based foe are they talking about here?

They’re small matters, though; especially when the action in Origin is so enjoyable. Each character gets big moments and it really feels like a team book. That’s something I didn’t feel that The Avengers had (I feel that it was basically Iron Man 2.5, actually). I’m glad to say that I didn’t feel like any character got truly “shafted” here just so Batman could look cooler. It’s a trap that a lot of team books fall into and I’m glad that Johns handled it right.

Once you accept that Origin is a fairly shallow experience, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The trick though, is to understand that you’re reading a universe where not much has happened yet, so there won’t be the same relation between characters and there won’t be the same history as there was before. Origin gets a three out of five shiny cubes.

***

+ Action is great

+ All characters get spotlight

- Some plotholes are hard to ignore

Alternate Option: Justice League: New Frontier

Reportedly the best Justice League origin story around.