Monday, September 12, 2011

New 52 Review - Justice League International #1

Justice League International #1

It’s probably not entirely fair to compare this book to the ‘flagship’/’centerpiece’ Justice League book that came out the other week, but c’mon, they both have the words “Justice League” in the title, and they’re both #1’s…and theoretically they both serve the same purpose: to introduce readers (old and new) to not only the characters, but why they’re together as a team and what their place in this new DC Universe.

To be completely honest, there’s not one character in this book that I would really say I’m passionate about. Not Batman (Sacrilege, I know…), not Booster Gold, nor Vixen, nor Fire or Ice, nor any of them (regardless of who the woman in the lower left hand of the cover is or was). This book made my pull list based on the merits of the creators involved. Dan Jurgens is one of the few writers who has been around for almost as long as I’ve been reading comics and one of the only such writers who has actually been able to hold his own alongside the new breed of Johns and Bendis and their ilk, and artist Aaron Lopresti’s work caught my eye with his run on Marvel’s now canceled Ms. Marvel volume 2. So yeah, based on those two names alone I decided to give this book a chance.

Going back to last week’s Justice League, that book’s roster is made up of heroes that Monks in Tibet are aware of: Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Flash…and Cyborg...conversely, Justice League International has Batman and a Green Lantern, but that Lantern isn’t one that the general populace would be aware of. The rest of the cast are familiar to long time comic book readers, but to your everyman on the street, they’re complete unknowns. This gives Jurgens a harder sell than Geoff Johns has on his Justice League book. Jurgens needs to not only introduce this team, but the characters themselves to any new readers coming on board with this issue. I’m happy to say that he pulls this off admirably, giving introduction to the members of the team, their supporting cast, the reason for the team’s formation, and managing to work in a satisfying amount of conflict (both internal and external).

I’ll get to the books big flaw in a minute, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Lopresti’s pencils. Sure he’s not a superstar on the level of Jim Lee, but he’s definitely one of the best *comic book artists* out there today. He has mastered sequential art and the panels and pages flow well, allowing the reader to follow along with the story. When I found myself pausing to gaze at a particular panel, it was because I wanted to soak them in or give them a second look…not because I couldn’t figure out what was going on, or how in the world the story managed to get between two different panels because they were so disjointed.

Now, onto the bad news: The failing of Justice League International has nothing to do with this book itself, nor does it fall at the feet of either Jurgens or Lopresti. The problem with this book is that a lot of what seems to have motivated the formation of this team is dependent on the actions of the main Justice League. They’re referred to in JLI as “effective but independent” and “Helpful”. There’s a Hall of Justice, and in fact more members of the Justice League appear (albeit very briefly) in this book than in Justice League #1. However, if you’ve ‘read’ Justice League #1 (and yeah, I use the word ‘read’ loosely), you know that there is no Justice League to speak of. You don’t know how they’ve gone from being hunted down like Marvel Mutants to being the ‘major league’ of super-heroes, championed by the people. And there won’t be any answers to that for about six months, until the drawn out origin story in that book is complete. I suppose it’s possible that I’m the only person out there who sees this as a failing, but by making these two books connected and allowing the dependent book move ahead briskly while the parent book progresses at a glacial pace, DC has made an otherwise excellent book needlessly confusing and further highlights the flaws of a really bad one.

Bottom line: This book should appeal to fans of the original JLI book as well as old school Avengers fans (I’m talking about old school from the days of Henry Peter Gyrich and the Hawkeye/Captain America conflict). I’d even feel okay recommending this book to a true comic book/genre virgin, and I definitely hold this book up as the ‘right’ way to introduce a team book to its audience. It’s not a done-in-one origin + adventure story, but there’s enough information and adventure packed into this book to make you feel like you actually bought an entire comic and not just a 7-Page preview that got stretched out to 24 pages.

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