DISCLAIMER: Please note that the following article is an opinion piece. It is simply my thoughts laid out for your reading pleasure. With that said, enjoy!
Welcome to DA Reads The New 52, an ongoing series of articles where I look at the first trade of a title released during one week of DC Comic’s “The New 52” relaunch that occurred 2 years ago. I’m doing this because, as stated previously, DC lost me as a reader after the DCnU came about. However, I decided to give The New 52 a chance. As such, we will be diving into the first trade paperbacks of 1 book from each week that new series came out of the relaunch, with the titles being ones that should (theoretically) be what new comic readers pick up as first time comics. Please note that I don’t really have any plans to review books from the later waves, however, I might later on if this is successful. With that said, let’s look at our first book: Justice League, Volume 1: Origin!
The trade collects the first 6 issues of the series. The book flashes back 5 years from the current time of the New 52 and shows how the team came together and the origin story of Cyborg, who has now been made a founding member in this new continuity. The story is actually done pretty well, at least as a trade. We’re introduced to the characters well, although with some not appearing until 4 or 5 issues in, they can leave something to be desired, particularly with Aquaman. The conflict is set up well and is definitely a crisis that would require all these heroes to meet. We get some good character interactions, although admittedly not all of them work. And the conclusion works well as the set up to a new DC Universe, even setting up the storyline of Pandora.
Now, let’s talk about the characters. First seen is Batman, who is one of the best-written characters. He’s level headed, uses his skills, and feels very true to the character, despite a rather pointless scene in which he takes off his cowl and runs into a portal to Apokoplips.
Second is Green Lantern. Hal Jordan is written as a self-centered jackass who at times is just plain stupid. I just don’t get it; Geoff Johns has been writing Green Lantern for several years now, and has written Hal Jordan well. I get that he’s trying to show Hal when he’s just starting out, but Hal Jordan has never been the idiotic ass he is here. He’s cocky, yes, but he’s never been a complete jerk and he’s always been competent.
Next up is Superman, who has probably gotten some of the worst treatment from this whole reboot. When we first see Superman, he attacks Batman and Green Lantern and never bothers to stop and listen to them despite MULTIPLE attempts by Batman to stop fighting and TALK. This is not Superman. Superman would be the first to talk things out instead of fighting. Maybe he would have acted like this if Green Lantern had threatened him, but that still wouldn’t make sense for Green Lantern. It takes The Flash intervening and outrunning Superman to get him to stop and listen. In fact, Barry Allen is probably the most intact character. He’s kind, smart, and helpful to those around him.
Then we see Wonder Woman. Geoff Johns’ NEW Wonder Woman, which of course means that she is almost NOTHING like her original character. She knows nothing about the world, prioritizes battle, and threatens ice cream vendors with swords. There are some scenes where her character appears intact, such as when she meets a child who has dropped her ice cream. And she does show that she cares about people and fighting evil. But there’s just something about this portrayal that rubs me the wrong way.
Next up is Aquaman. Aquaman is actually written rather well. He has a very commanding presence and comes up with some of the teams strategies, something you would expect from the King of Atlantis. However, we don’t see him do very much aside from stab things with his trident. I guess it comes with the fact that he’s a water-based hero, but if you’re going to have Aquaman as a founding member of your Justice League, give him something to do after introducing him!
And finally, we have the newest member of the League: Cyborg. His origin is the only one actually (re)told in the book, since most mainstream readers probably won’t know his story. Cyborg’s origin is pretty much the same, other than the fact that is cybernetic body is now made of Apokoliptian technology, which I think is actually interesting. My only real problem with Cyborg is, well, that he’s there. He was apparently added to the roster for more diversity (so he pretty much became the token black guy), but if you really wanted that, why not another character with actual ties to the League? Why not Black Lightning, John Stewart, Mister Terrific, Vixen, etc? Heck, Black Lightning could also fill the tech-based hero roll. But, this is probably just my Titans fanboyism showing.
One thing the book has going for it is great artwork, which is what you expect from Jim Lee. However, some of his design choices did leave me scratching my head. Batman and Cyborg’s designs were very well done, luckily spared the stupid collars everyone else got. Also spared a collar was Flash, though I HATE the “Electric Seams” he was given. I guess it was to give an explanation for why lightning always appears around The Flashes when they run, but it looks weird whenever you see it somewhere and the figure is static. Green Lantern and Aquaman’s costumes were pretty well done, aside from the collars. And Superman and Wonder Woman’s were fine aside from a HUGE change of colors. Now I understand the removal of the red tights, and that I can get past; but why did they change the gold on Wonder Woman’s suit to silver. It’s just very jarring seeing her in all this silver and it takes away some of the iconic-ness her costume.
Overall, I’d give Justice League Volume 1: Origin, a recommendation. If you want to get into the New 52 or just DC Comics in general with this new universe, it’s the best place to start. Next time, we’ll be looking at the very first appearance of the modern superhero: Action Comics, Volume 1: Superman and The Men of Steel.