REVIEW – Justice League of America Issue 1

DC Comics kicked off their new Justice League of America series several days ago with Issue 1 and it was, by all accounts, very good. Now it may sound obvious that the new series “kicked off…with Issue 1” but – as often happens with new comic series’ – there were a few prelude issues and the series itself (as DC puts it) came “spinning out of pages of Justice League vs Suicide Squad!”

If you didn’t read the Rebirth “One Shots” that devoted a full issue to each new team member and eventually culminated in Justice League of America Rebirth # 1, (which was, quite literally, a team formation issue), handily enough; you probably don’t have to. Justice League of America #1 does a perfectly adequate job of briefly introducing all the characters, as well as Batman’s motivation for forming this new Justice League iteration and establishing much of the team dynamic. However there would be some value in leafing through the prelude issues (time and money permitting) especially if some of the team are not all that familiar to you.

Justice League of America Rebirth # 1 suffered some criticism for being a fairly formulaic team building tale (slightly unfair as those types of comic are a bit of a necessary evil and I thought it was handled fairly well), but I found this first issue can skip by that part of any new series with little more than lip service and get straight into the action.

Writer Steve Orlando – best known for his work on Midnighter and Supergirl – has assembled a pretty unique set of “rag tag” individuals for the series, and their status as lower tier characters in the DC stable actually works in their favour. With less expectation of their behaviours and character traits than their much more well-known counterparts, the cast is free to surprise us in how they gravitate toward certain roles (leadership and otherwise) within the group. The embryonic group dynamic is well handled; Black Canary and Vixen both show the early signs of leadership qualities – something that will doubtless be required in Batman’s absences – Lobo provides the attitude and levity, Ray provides the heart and willingness to learn, Killer Frost shows another side to her icy (ahem) demeanour and Atom…..well I think we need to see more from Atom actually.

Can you see him down there!?

Given Batman’s objective was to establish a new team who would be more human and relatable to Joe Normal on the street, the decision to include Lobo is probably strange. But given that I’m a big Lobo fan I can forgive that and, although powerful, he certainly has some distinctly human frailties when it comes to decision making at times….and he’s hilarious. Which is always welcome on any team. The rest of them aren’t exactly class clowns.

The newly introduced antagonists, Lord Havok and his Extremists, are, like any set of villains, all the more effective because they believe their motivations are just. It is a relatively well known secret that Havok was created as an homage to Marvel’s Dr Doom and like that other well known rogue his image of himself as a saviour makes him all the more unnerving and sinister. I look forward to watching how his plans unfold in the forthcoming issues.

Finally, Ivan Reis’ art is also top notch, as you’d expect. All the more impressive given that there are three different inkers contributing to the issue. The characters are dynamic and powerful, but sensibly proportioned; the action is brought to life in colour, vibrancy and chaos, but also crispness and precision. The double page spreads are particularly effective in this respect.

Verdict: Justice League of America #1 is a fresh take on a well-worn franchise. The new, more obscure characters offer something different and exciting, and seeing how the team begins to develop and characters come into their own promises to be lots of fun. Lord Havok and his team provide a intimidating and challenging foil for this newly established team and the artwork is top tier. I look forward to the subsequent issues and to how the story advances.

8/10

Stephen Harris

Maker/gamer/geek/dad/husband.

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