JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1

By: Geoff Johns (story), David Finch (art), Sonia Oback (colors)

The Story: Proof positive that America only thinks it can do it best.

The Review: This was pretty much my feeling about Justice League International, but when I heard the announcement for Justice League of America, I had to wonder: did we really need another one?  Then someone pointed out to me that in a world where we’ve got the New Avengers, Secret Avengers, Dark Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, and, simply, Avengers, maybe I needed to have a little perspective on the one Justice League spin-off.  True indeed.

So what does JLA offer that Justice League does not?  I think it’s a sense of possibility, one that’s been missing from the League for a long time.  Despite boasting the biggest icons of the DCU, the current League feels a little mundane.  In fact, I’d say they’re downright coasting on their own fame rather than going out of their way to earn the title of premier superhero team on the planet.  Not so with the JLA; every single one of these characters has something to prove.

If that’s the case, I can’t think of anyone better than Johns to help them get there.  We all know the man has a knack for taking the downtrodden characters of the DCU and shape them up so you can take them seriously.  That skill is on full display in this issue as in short order, he punches up the street cred and presence of Hawkman, Katana, Martian Manhunter, and Green Arrow—and that’s only about half the team.

Even though revitalizing B and C-listers is pretty much Johns’ thing, he lays out some pretty big goals for himself in this issue, making you question if he can actually make them come to pass.  After all, referring to Katana and Deathstroke as potential rivals?  Giving Catwoman “the most important spot on the JLA”?  Planning for a contingency where Stargirl will face off with Cyborg?  As laughable as this all sounds, you have to admire Johns’ guts; many a writer would shy away from those kinds of ambitions, rather yet express them so clearly from the start.

Besides, Johns does earn some of your confidence here.  Although we don’t get in touch with every JLA member in this issue, we do have scenes with most of them and each manages to get their core personality across, whether it be Hawkman’s semi-crazed aggression, Katana’s semi-crazed focus, Vibe’s endearing haplessness, Stargirl’s perky innocence, etc.  But the real star of the show has to be Martian Manhunter, making it clear that Trevor might call the shots, but it’s J’onn who’s in complete control.

Another interesting aspect of the JLA is they are meant to serve several different roles: first, as a kind of P.R. stunt for the American government; second, as a direct response to the Justice League if they ever get too far out of line; and third, for another purpose altogether, one only Trevor—and Manhunter—knows (Manhunter: “I know why you’re really doing this”), one involving the Secret Society, headed by an unseen man with a cane who coins the phrase “super-villains.”

It’s kind of strange to see Finch working on the Justice League when I remember him mostly for his glory days on the New Avengers when they were actually new.  While Finch does tend to give every character the same grim expression with little variation (and having them talk with their mouths closed), he does have a slick, detailed style that suits a pop title of this caliber.  All our JLA-ers have amazing presence, to the point of being intimidating at times, and that’s not a quality you often associate with this characters.  Part of that presence comes from Oback’s subdued, moody colors, where even in the brightest light you get a hint of suspense.

Conclusion: Not exactly a game-changing debut, but a credible one nevertheless that gets you very interested in the title’s future.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I’m so happy that Stargirl is back in the world.  If you can’t have Stephanie Brown, you can at least enjoy her direct precursor, written by the man who made her popular.

– I’m also very interested in the fact that the JLA includes two young’uns.  It’s an interesting choice for any superhero team.

Grade

Conclusion