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Synopsis "Justice League -- Part One"
Main Story: “Justice League — Part One” (24-pages)
Five-years ago in Gotham City: a shrouded figure leaps across roof-tops as it is pursued by the Batman. Witnesses near the docks reported that the fleeing figure was attempting to plant a bomb and that it spewed fire at the police officers who tried to confront it. That brought it to the attention of Gotham’s vigilante, but the officers of the Gotham City PD are more interested in killing him than the fire-spewing terrorist.
Three GCPD SWAT helicopters are in pursuit of Batman as he tries to keep pace with his own quarry. The terrorist reveals himself to be a monstrous alien/mechanical brute (a Para-Demon). It almost overwhelms Batman before the sudden arrival of Green Lantern knocks it back with an emerald fire truck. The two men size each other up, but the GCPD’s helicopters distract them just as the Para-Demon recovers. Lantern saves the helicopters from the Para-Demon’s attack, before he and Batman follow the it into Gotham City’s sewers.
Lantern is incredulous that Batman is “just some guy in a bat costume”. Batman proves his prowess by swiping Lantern’s ring, leaving him temporarily powerless. They eventually find the Para-Demon as it is attaching something to the sewer wall. It spots them and howls “For Darkseid!” as it blows itself up. Lantern’s ring shields them from suicide/explosion. However, it cannot identify the square-box (a Mother Box) that the creature had been trying to attach to the sewer wall. Batman correctly theorises that is an alien computer. They then wonder if the Box is connected to the alien “Superman” who has recently appeared in Metropolis.
Earlier in the day, the Ford High-School Titans had convincingly thrashed their opponents with the help by their star player, No 17, Vic Stone. The crowd were ecstatic and the coach’s office was filled with eager college talent scouts. However, the coach would not let them talk to Vic without his father’s consent. Unfortunately for Vic, his workaholic father (a scientist studying the new super-humans) once again missed the game. Green Lantern and Batman pass over Ford High School on their way to Metropolis and are spotted by Stone and his friends.
The unlikely duo trace Superman to a Lexcorp demolition site where there is evidence for a recent high-powered fight. The cocky Lantern attempts to restrain Superman, but he is sent hurtling backwards for his presumption. The Batman is then left alone to face the most powerful man on the planet.
Justice League Sketchbook (4-pages)
Early design sketches for the new Justice League costumes and for this issue’s cover.
- Superheroes are feared and hunted.
- The Justice League formed five years ago. Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman are all active and recognisable.
- Batman arsenal: Wrist mounted blackout bombs, propelled grapple.
- Green Lantern has had “conflicts” with the air force. His constructs: fire trucks, PD riot officers, a safe, a jet.
The first issue of not only a new Justice League series, but an entirely new (well, mostly new) DC Universe. This issue was written to be accessible to new readers – the choice of leads made that easier (see below) – and the characters’ individual personalities/abilities are clearly displayed. What may have surprised some people is just how focused this story was. This is at heart just an uncomplicated Batman and Green Lantern team-up, albeit one that was very well done. That focus on characterisation and escapades may have caught some people off guard. If you were expecting a full-on Justice-League-as-a-team action in the first issue of a six-part origin story you’re rather misguided and are likely to be disappointed.
A hunted Batman feels very much like the Batman from midway through Batman: Year One – the sequence with Brandon’s SWAT teams in the abandoned tenement building has obvious parallels with this Batman’s pursuit by GCPD helicopters. That entire feeling – of the untrusted vigilantes – is spun out to the entire early DCU and we’re told that the world generally fears their super-human protectors. Green Lantern shrugs off that fear (to Batman’s annoyance), but it does serve as an excuse for the heroes not to instantly trust each other. Nevertheless their dodgy reasoning ( “we fought an alien terrorist” and “Superman is an alien” therefore Superman must be an alien terrorist) is a bit hard to swallow particularly when Lantern’s already met all-sorts of aliens and Batman’s meant to be rather smarter than shown.
The script maybe is good – not brilliant – but it’s Jim Lee’s artwork that really seals the deal. We haven’t seen Jim illustrate an ongoing core DCU book for sometime so his presence is a big deal. Mention should also be made of colourist Alex Sinclair who does a brilliant job. I particularly like some of the lighting effects he achieves with the flood-lights behind Stone’s touchdown and from the helicopters. Green Lantern is very bright and those green glows and constructs could overwhelm – see the parts of Dark Things for an example – however, its mainly held back and doesn’t overwhelm too much.
Overall I thought this was a great start to the Justice League’s origin. I don’t accept that it’s a disappointment or in anyway underwhelming, but then my excitement for yet another relaunch has been fairly muted. Measured on its own this comic book was great fun.
Surveying the Internets
On the character line up, Manolis Vamvounis reviewing for Bleeding Cool said that
As a first issue of Brave and the Bold I’d actually go ahead and give it a 9/10. Vamvounis also thought that it was
not nearly good or significant enough to live up to its importance
, while Joey Esposito from IGN concluded that
There is a certain sense of feeling underwhelmed after reading it, simply because it’s been hammered into our brains that this book represents the ushering of the single biggest comic book industry initiative in years.
However, in Rich Johnston’ s own review for Bleeding Cool he makes the connection, that several other people have, that this issue is
something closer to Ultimate Spider-Man #1 back in the day and a book that is
lot more new reader friendly than a lot of people may take it for“.
The option to open with DC’s two biggest stars of the moment (Batman is always up there and GL is high-profile in-spite of his film’s performance) is also matched by DC’s earlier comments that its these two characters who have changed the least in the post-Flashpoint world. Grant Morrison’s Batman cycle and Johns own GL work are high-sellers and do not require any significant degree of revision. Thus this story can open with very familiar characters and nail their interpretation without stepping on the toes of any other creative team. Tony Guerrero reviewing for Comic Vine even notes that
Honestly, there’s very little change. If anything has changed, it’s the mood of the Universe rather than the characters’ look.
Compare this two with Superman, who we see dramatically at the end of this issue. He’s here literally for a single splash-page, yet by the time we get to the next issue Grant Morrison and Rags Morales will have shown us his origin in Action Comics (vol. 2) #1 and George Perez and Jesus Merino will have shown us his present day status quo in Superman (vol. 4) #1. I still can’t say I’m taken with this version of the costume, but we’ll see.
I found the commentators on Guererro’s review interesting as they got into the entire why the Martian Manhunter has been replaced by Cyborg issue – it’s odd that there has to be a debate whether Martians or African-Americans serve as an appropriate racial minority. Cyborg’s inclusion certainly fits the 5-year time line best. He joined the New Teen Titans shortly before the Crisis on Infinite Earths and that was about 5-years ago on the old 10-year time line. When he was first seen in New Teen Titans Vic Stone was already Cyborg. We now get to see him in action as a full blood human being and it’s nice to see the man before he becomes the machine. One assumes that his immediate future is going to be very painful.
This may be the first Geoff Johns issue in quite a while that wasn’t a massive line wide event (Flashpoint, Blackest Night, or even just a regular GL issue). Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly) notes that:
Johns’ writing, which is capable of a high degree of complexity in both comics history and emotion, is kept at an intentionally straightforward, almost hard-boiled terseness here.
That terseness shows up in the pace of the overall plot (
decompressed to the point of being glacial – Jesse Schedeen IGN), but the action is pretty fast. Johns certainly manages to get in more characterisation than Gardner Fox (go read Brave and the Bold (vol. 1) #28, Hal Jordan’s a cocky so-and-so in that one as well), but neither does he follow the superheroes-as-real character driven approach of Giffen and DeMatteis. This is a middle path – strong well-defined characters in the middle of action that leaves little room for introspective exploration. Conor Kilpatrick from iFanboy says that Jim Lee’s art shows a a sense of fun and a genuine liveliness.
Tony (Comic Vine) was annoyed that
it feels like the action is abruptly cut off at the end of the issue. One could glibly point out that it’s called a cliff-hanger, but Tony’s note does demonstrate that the story ends with us wanting more. The page length was also a concern that other reviewers brought up. This isn’t one of the hold-the-line $2.99 issues, it’s a $3.99 book ($4.99 if you went combo) yet it contains little more material than a standard $2.99 issue. We’re given a few character sketches at the end of the story, but it isn’t nearly enough to warrant the increased price. A fully-filled $3.99 issue at this pace would have been satisfying, but a cut-down one feels a little empty. (Least we mention that 1/3 of the book is already available as a free preview).
Normally when I show these rating tables I list just the reviews with ratings found within the first 50 or so Google results. Typically only a half of those reviews give quotable ratings and most of them are from a dozen or so consistent fellows. Justice League #1 was different as its was the first issue of the New 52 and was associated with a massive media campaign. So it was reviewed by many more sites/people than normal. Therefore I’ve trebled the usual search for ratings. Even so this isn’t exhaustive and there may be sites I’ve missed.
|Character Site||The Captain's JLA Homepage||Jason Kirk||3.5/5|
|Digital Comic||Comixology||3042 reviews||4/5|
|Reviews Portal||Comic Vine (Staff)||Tony Guerrero||4/5|
|Reviews Portal||Comic Book Resources||Doug Zawisza||2/5|
|Reviews Portal||Comic Book Resources||Greg McElhatton||3/5|
|Reviews Portal||Comics Bulletin||Sunday Slugfest (5 reviewers)||3/5|
|Reviews Portal||iFanboy (Staff)||Conor Kilpatrick||4/5|
|Reviews Portal||IGN||Joey Esposito||8/10|
|Reviews Portal||Inside Pulse||Grey Scherl||8.5/10|
|Reviews Portal||Newsarama||Colin Bell, Scott Cederland||6 & 5/10|
|Community Site||Comic Vine||Mean of 56 reviews||3.95/5|
|Community Site||iFanboy||1741 Pulls||4.1/5|
|Magazine||Buzz Focus||Ernie Estrella||6/10|
|Magazine||Crave Online||Andy Hunsaker||7.8/10|
|Magazine||Digital Spy||Hugh Armitage||3/5|
|Magazine||Under the Radar||Jeremy Nisen||7/10|
|Blogs||The 18th Project||Bo Ali||8.5/10|
|Blogs||A Comic Book Blog||John Barringer, Wayland||92% & 50%|
|Blogs||Big Kids! Big News!||KorimTV, Sean||5 & 5/5|
|Blogs||Bleeding Cool||Manolis Vamvounis||9/10|
|Blogs||Buerau 42||W Blaine Dowler||40/42|
|Blogs||Cape Town Community||Don Ventura||A-|
|Blogs||Captain Bloggington||Wade Christian||4/5|
|Blogs||Comic Book Movie||Paul Romano||4.5/5|
|Blogs||Comic Book Revolution||Rokk||6/10|
|Blogs||Comics Addict||Wayfarer||4.5 & 4/5|
|Blogs||Critiques 4 Geeks||Richard Fagel||8/10|
|Blogs||Cult of the New||Cult of the New||B-|
|Blogs||Eye on Comics||Don MacPherson||7/10|
|Blogs||Fandom Post||Chris Beveridge||B+|
|Blogs||First Comics News||Jameson Steed||70%|
|Blogs||Funks House of Geekery||Super Marcy||4/5|
|Blogs||Game FOB||Joe T||9/10|
|Blogs||Geek and Geekier||Val||5/5|
|Blogs||Hal's Comics and Cards||Hal||B+|
|Blogs||Heretical Jargon||Jimmy Trapp||10/10|
|Blogs||J. Corey Davis||JC Davis||2.5/5|
|Blogs||Major Spoilers||Stephen, Matthew||5 & 3.5/5|
|Blogs||Modern Media Myth||Sean Gerber||4.5/5|
|Blogs||Multiversity Comics||David Harper||6/10|
|Blogs||My Comic Book Blog||Dan Rovito||A|
|Blogs||Nerd Bastards||Jeremy Hudson||4/5|
|Blogs||Nerd Culture Podcast||David, Richo||2 & 2.5/5|
|Blogs||Nerdy Girlz||Chrissy Lynn||3.5/5|
|Blogs||Nerdy Nothings||Rebel Rikki, Spaceman Spiff||B & A-|
|Blogs||Nerds Raging||Sman Ouchoka||4/5|
|Blogs||Nigh Journal||John Hunter||3.5/5|
|Blogs||Panels on Pages||Thacher Cleveland||4/5|
|Blogs||Razer Fine Reviews||Alan Rapp||3.5/5|
|Blogs||The Real Jpoe||Justin Poland||8/10|
|Blogs||Robot Eye Theatre||Professor||7/10|
|Blogs||True Believer Reviews||Otomo||7/10|
|Blogs||Weekly Comic Book Review||Minhquan Nguyen||B|
|Blogs||World of Black Heroes||World of Black Heroes||4/5|
|Character Site||Batman-News||Andrew Asberry||7/10|
|Character Site||Batman On Film||Chris Clow||B+|
|Character Site||Gotham Knights Online||Brendan, Gary, Cory||5 & 4.5 & 2.5/5|
|Character Site||Superman Homepage||Ralph Silver||5/5|
Page 1. The Batman is perhaps DC’s most famous character. He first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) as a dark vigilante whose operations were as much a mystery to the police as they were to the criminals he fought. Over the years that tone shifted increasingly towards the daylight until he had evolved into the pop-culture figure of the 1960s TV Show. His more serious, darker demeanour was restored gradually during the late 1960s and 1970s, but it is the seminal 1980s work of Frank Miller in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One who is usually cited as ground-zero for the modern. It is Year One in particular which served as the basis for the Bale version of Batman seen in the Batman Begins version of the film franchise.
The Batman we are shown here would fit into the Year One period of his mythology. There is a time midway through Year One where Batman has been around long enough to have finally outlived his usefulness to the corrupt Gotham City Police Commissioner Loeb, but before he has fully befriended Lieutenant James Gordon. This appearance could drop effortlessly into that milieu.
Page 2-3. Batman’s costume has been redesigned as part of the relaunch. The original was a simple grey bodysuit with black trunks, gloves, boots, and cape/cowl. This iteration of the costume appears far more functional and visually resembles the one designed for the popular Batman: Arkham Asylum video-game.
The most obvious parallel are the hardened knuckle guards.
Page 5. This is a Para-Demon, one of the foot soldiers of the dark god Darkseid. Darkseid and the New Gods were a significant chunk of DC’s mythology and were invented by Jack Kirby (co-creator of Captain America and the Fantastic Four) after he split from Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics in the 1970s. Over use of the character as a prominent villain led DC to rest the entire setting after the conclusion of the 2008′s Final Crisis crossover. Grant Morrison’s epic showed the final defeat of Darkseid, but that was before the reformation of the time line. It will be interesting to see if Darkseid reacts to the changed Earth as he’s certainly a being who should be sensitive to such changes.
Page 8. This version of Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) originally appeared in Showcase #22 (October 1959) and was still in his try-out phase when he was included as a founder of the original Justice League. The concept of the him as just one of an entire corps of Green Lanterns has led writers to introduce a succession of human Lanterns since then including Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner. Each of these has been a member of the Justice League with Stewart, in particular, finding success as part of the League in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon.
Geoff Johns, the writer of this issue, relaunched Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern mythology back in 2005-06 with the Green Lantern: Rebirth mini-series and an on-going GL series. It is Johns’ work that was used as the basis for the Green Lantern movie and Green Lantern: the Animated Series. Both of those feature Hal Jordan. The version of Hal shown in this issue is cockier than his present-day version and is contemporary with the events from the Green Lantern “Secret Origin” story arc (Green Lantern (vol. 4) #29-35).
“You’re Real?” – Lantern’s incredulity in finding that Batman is real follows a long standing DC directive from the 1990s that the general population thinks of him as an urban legend, a myth. He deliberately propagated that belief as it helped increase the surprise and fear minor criminals felt when confronted by him. He comments in a few pages time that that fear is “necessary” to the way he operates.
Page 12. “A Transformer?” – It feels wrong that a pop-culture character from the late 1950s knows what a Transformer from the 1980s is. Lantern also describes the demon’s form as “some kind of dog.” This could be a further Darkseid reference as his old army used dog cavalry.
Page 13. In the middle-panel we see an old Railway Station. Jim Lee mentioned during a panel at 2011 San Diego Comic-Con that he was so taken with a Railway Station shown in All-Star Western #1 (another of the new DC titles) that he light-boxed it for his Justice League work. The thinking was that All-Star is set in the 19th century so it makes sense that some of the Gotham City landmarks will have survived into the 21st century.
Page 15-17. A square box that goes ping and looks like an alien computer points to it either being a “Mother Box” (as used by the heroic New Gods) or a “Father Box” (as used by Darkseid’s followers). These devices are miraculous alien computers which are inhumanly sentient and have the ability to restructure matter.
Page 18. Mumford and Ford are two High-Schools in Detroit, MI. Geoff Johns is a Detroit native and has a habit of using Detroit landmarks for character names and inspiration. He recently told the Detroit News that
I make a lot of my characters from Detroit. I think self-made, blue-collar heroes represent Detroit. I took the inspiration of the city and the people there and used it in the books.
Samuel C. Mumford was a former president of the Detroit Board of Education and Henry Ford was the founder of the Ford Motor Company. On our Earth their teams are the Mumford Mustangs (colours blue, burgundy) and the Ford Trojans (colours Brown, Gold). In the DC Universe Ford’s team as called the Ford Titans, a nod to Cyborg’s origin as a member of the New Teen Titans. Cyborg’s base in Flashpoint was also shown into be in Detroit.
Added after posting: Bleeding Cool spotted that there is a very subtle reference to Flashpoint #5 in this crowd scene. Look at the edge of the bleachers and you can see in a pink/magenta hooded girl. She appears to be the same figure that spoke to Barry Allen about the converging time lines in Flashpoint #5. We’re teased to spot her as she’s hidden in the panel with the text “You have to see this kid.”
Page 19. Victor Stone, alias Cyborg, was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez and first appeared in the New Teen Titans insert in DC Comics Presents #26 (Oct 1980). Vic’s parents were scientists working for STAR Labs when an accident with a dimensional portal killed Vic’s mother and left him mortally wounded. Vic’s father saved his life with cybernetics, but it took Vic a long time to come to terms with man/machine that he had become.
Cyborg was am original Titans (he’s was in the popular the Teen Titans cartoon) and a contemporary of the Justice League’s sidekicks (Robin, Aqualad, and co). Vic has become more of a hero in his own right as those characters have aged. He was included in Geoff John’s version of the Titans as a mentor to the second generation of sidekicks and eventually progressed to the Justice League at the start of James Robinson’s run (the one that finished immediately before this one). However, a running subplot with him helping to enhance the Red Tornado took him out of the team and he was left in reserve status during the League’s final battle with Eclipso.
Newsarama asked Geoff Johns about his choice to include Cyborg so prominently in Flashpoint where he served as that world’s prime superhero:
Cyborg, much like Aquaman, is one of my favorite characters. I brought him into The Flash way back when and I brought him into Teen Titans. I always felt that he was so recognizable and I thought he was such a great character. He’s one of my favorites. I just felt like there are a lot more stories to be told about him, and he’s a character that I really wanted to work with more. I would love to elevate the character. He’s not usually in the center of these events.
Page 22. Metropolis. It’s a minor point, but the site where they find Superman is marked as a “Lexcorp” site. This means that Lex Luthor’s business still exists post-Flashpoint and he is therefore possibly still the evil-billionaire business-man from the 1980s Man of Steel reboot.
Page 24. Superman. More on him after Action Comics (vol. 2) #1 and Superman (vol. 4) #1.
- Updated 11-June-2012 — Inclusion of sales data, slight reformatting, added links to additional reviews.