Justice League of America 1


Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing Justice League of America 1, originally released February 20, 2012.

Patrick: Are you fucking ready? No, seriously: ARE YOU READY FOR THIS SHIT? Justice League of America has been hyped to high-heaven – apparently our appetite for books called “Justice League” and written by mega-creator Geoff Johns know no bounds (remember how he also wrote the Justice League International annual? You better remember that one; it’s referenced here.) So, okay, we’ve all done our homework as prompted by DC, right? We’ve looked at the line-up and been all like “whoa, Martian Manhunter’s going to make this group really strong” and “Catwoman’s really more of a bad guy” and ‘WTF is Vibe? LOL!” Issue one serves to put your questions into the mouths of Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller – almost perfectly emulating the experience of waiting for this series to come out.

The bulk of this issue takes place in Waller’s office, where she briefs Trevor on the new team and tries to convince him to lead them (or train them or bake cookies for them… it’s not totally clear what Steve’s role would be). Trevor scoffs at just about everyone on the proposed team, making it clear that — not only do their powers seem ill-matched for the Justice League but — these people don’t sound pleasant to work with. He — perplexingly — offers Catwoman as a solution to the myriad of personality problems in the group.  Meanwhile, Green Arrow, wearing a silly mask and horns, has been hunted and injured while out doing… something for Waller. Ollie makes it back just in time to crash on the A.R.G.U.S. operating table.

This issue takes a page from Team 7′s zero issue, effectively giving each member of the team a page or two to express their personalities, maybe do something cool, and get out. A few of these personalities get to be expressed in more active fashion than others. We get to see real-time conversations with Martian Manhunter, Catwoman and Green Arrow, but everyone else is essentially reduced to dramatically re-enacting the case file Waller has on them. And poor Simon Baz is just a footnote in this story – appearing only as headshot on Amanda Waller’s cork board.

The Justice League of America

It’s hard not to see Waller and Trevor as members of DC editorial, picking out the best members for their new superhero book – especially as Waller takes Baz’ inclusion on the team as a foregone conclusion (I mean, Johns just spent so much time setting him up in Green Lantern, why wouldn’t he be on the team?). It’s also frustrating that the image posted above it is probably the most exciting part of the issue. Johns, or artist David Finch, had an immediately exciting way to depict how this team could stand up to the JL, and everything that comes before it serves to reach that point. But like, it’s some pictures on a cork board… and another thing – is Waller using a slightly modified cover to Justice League 1 as that poster in the center? Or is that some kind of New 52 promo art she got her hands on?

What’s extra bizarre about this chart ‘n’ headshots climax is that David Finch displays a pretty solid knack for staging action in clear, exciting ways. Finch draws the two-and-a-half page Hawkman scene like a monster movie where Hawkman is the monster. It’s moody and dark, and that mace comes down like Jason Voorhees’ machete. Or check out the smooth and kinetic — if ultimately pointless — crime fighting Vibe does here:

Vibe is the worst and i love it

I love the way the direction of the action in the scene directs your eye – Vibe rushes right, toward the next panel and then knocks the kid down, at which point our eyes hop down to the next row. And then to top it off, we see up at Vibe from the kid’s perspective, just as Vibe realizes he’s being kind of a tool. There’s a whole story in those four panels, and I like that.

Something I don’t like so much is the way Finch draws the human body. Steve Trevor is ripped. Like, he’s just huge. And his veins might as well be coaxial cables running through his body. I know Trevor’s gotta be a strong guy to keep up with this crowd, but yeesch! Also, Star Girl, you’re too skinny.

Star Girl hanging out on the walk of fame

I know she’s supposed to be a So Cal high school girl, but that ain’t right.

How much you like this issue is ultimately going to come down to how much you like the concept of these heroes running around together. If you’re content to have the first issue just sort of tease that team-up for another month, then I guess this is totally your jam. With Martian Manhunter dominating the back-ups in the future (or so the solicits claim) there still seems to be too little space to properly develop the characters I’m interested in. I’d much rather see Catwoman and Katana explored by Johns here than by Ann Nocenti in their own series, and poor Hawkman is going to get kicked out of his solo book in just a few months. Plus there’s literally nowhere else to go to get a Star Girl fix.

[Incidentally, we’re not covering Justice League of America’s Vibe from issue 1. We’re taking the “wait and see” approach, and if it warrants our attention after three issues, we’ll do one AC covering 1-3. For what it’s worth, I found Vibe to be an exciting – if exposition-heavy – way to link a bunch of different DCnU phenomenon. If anyone wants to start a Vibe conversation in the comments, I’m totally game.]

Well, Mikyzptlk, what’d you think of this issue? Might it have been more fun if it was just a poster with those 14 superhero headshots, a spool of black string and some thumb tacks?  (Oh and DC sent me the straight-up American flag version of the cover – which one did you get?)

Mikyzptlk: U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A! I hope that answers your question Patrick. To answer your other questions, I actually thought this issue was quite a bit of fun. Although I completely agree that it was chock full o’ exposition, I think it was all necessary to quickly establish the Who’s, What’s, Why’s, When’s and Where’s. Oh, and I think there were a few How’s too. The thing that I took away from page one of this issue, however, was a strong sense of tension and foreboding.

Ivo is spelled T-R-O-U-B-L-E

That’s from page one. It’s set 5 years ago, as you can probably imagine, right when super powered people started to emerge. The guy who looks nothing-at-all like Two-Face there is Professor Anthony “I’m probably going to invent Amazo soon” Ivo. The guy he’s talking to is a mystery, but what’s not a mystery is that they are putting together the Secret Society of Super-villains. The idea that the Society was an immediate response to the Justice League is incredibly exciting to me. What have they been doing for 5 years? Have they been operating this whole time? How powerful are they and how far is their reach? How’s the hell are they still a mystery after all this time?!?

Patrick, you mentioned that this issue is a tease and I can’t disagree with you on that point. The reason I think I enjoyed it so much though was because the tease seems incredibly promising to me. This team is going to be extremely challenging to get to work together but it should also prove to be extremely entertaining to read. Steve Trevor has easily been the best part of Justice League with my only complaint being that he wasn’t used more. Now that we get to see him in a starring role acting essentially  as the Nick Fury of the DCU, I couldn’t be more excited.

Patrick, you also expressed some concerns about the characters you want to see developed not getting much room to do so. I completely understand and share your concerns with this, however having read Johns’ incredible run on the Justice Society of America,  I know he can get the job done. That book also featured a large team, and even though every character wasn’t necessarily featured heavily in each issue, every single character got their due and was generally better off for it. Johns has stated in interviews that this book will be a lot more like that one and believe me when I say that can only mean good-scratch that- great things for this title. Johns is a guy who knows how to resuscitate  characters. He brought back an entire generation of comic book characters in JSA and an entire franchise in Green Lantern. And while this issue was mostly exposition, what I saw in that was merely the beginning of Johns’ resuscitation of many of the characters that the New 52 hasn’t exactly been kind to. Amanda Waller, Hawkman, Catwoman, and Martian Manhunter all need some life breathed back into them and Johns is the guy to do it.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

55 comments on “Justice League of America 1

  1. I didn’t mind this issue, but my question is still: why?

    We’ve spent a year reading a Johns team book that never developed any sort of character relationships or, you know, teamwork. Justice League has been 14 issues of “this is not how a team works” and the Throne of Atlantis. What’s going to be different about JLA?

    Also, I got the Wisconsin one, and was excited in a dumb way about it.

    • I got what I assume to be the Massachusetts flag, which got me thinking: who gives a fuck about state flags? I certainly recognize the Michigan flag from elementary school, but mostly just because it’s super ugly. I’ve lived in three states since then, and have never thought about their state flag even once.

    • I feel the same way. I browsed this at the store, nothing struck me as exciting, and I’ll wait to hear it’s awesome before spending any cash.

      On the other hand, over on the other side of the aisle, Secret Avengers #1 was freaking awesome. I absolutely can’t wait for issue #2. Uncanny X-Men #1 was strong as well. I’d put Secret Avengers #1 up there with the top 4 #1 issues of Marvel NOW (with Thor, New Avengers, and Superior Spider-Man).

    • More Steve Trevor. And Martian Manhunter in the spotlight again. Plus, this 1 issue of JLA has already dug deeper into DC’s well of continuity than any issue of JL. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.

      • Also, if this issue is any indication, we are going to be getting a LOT more focus on the characters instead of just plot. Wasn’t that our essential complaint behind his Justice League? Too much action and not enough characterization were the initial problems with that book. With this, the complaint seems to be the opposite. I really felt that this issue was fantastic and I can’t wait for more!

        • Well, I think there was also a little issue of mischaracterization in JL (Batman pretty glaringly, and even Hal being too much of a ass). I’m not convinced this issue DID a lot of character work – rather than explore the characters, we kinda just got to look at their trading cards – maybe the vital stats include a note about their personalities. I’m excited to see all of that challenged and developed but the structure of this issue makes that kind of impossible. I do think that this will be a fun series with a lot of depth to it, I just don’t think it is yet.

        • I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one because I think that’s exactly what happened in this issue. To me, it wasn’t just a delivery of a bunch of stats. We got some insight into the various characters presented here. Not everyone got as much mind you, but we’ve just been introduced to these characters and it’ll take time to explore them all. I think we got a nice intro into Vibe, Stargirl, Katana, and MM. Not to mention the fact that Waller was written decently for the first time EVER in the N52. I’m convinced that this is the start of Johns massaging and molding these characters into something we want to see month in and month out.

        • I realize I’m just continuing to disagree, but I don’t think we got a good look at Star Girl or Katana (though I will concede that this was a nice introduction to MM and Vibe – also a little bit of Hawkman too, who seems insane).

          Waller is an interesting case. She does come off as both smarter and tougher here than she does just about anywhere else, but she’s still a very administrative figure in my mind. She’s basically defined 100% by her work, which leaves not a whole lot to grab onto as far as “who” she is. Like, I don’t even get the feeling that she likes being a professional whateversheis, but I also don’t get the sense that she dislikes it either. I suppose the issue should get props for being the first book I’ve read that doesn’t have me walking away from it going “fuck Amanda Waller.”

        • No worries man, it’s really more of an expression anyway. =P

          I’m so glad to hear you say that about Waller. She’s been treated SO TERRIBLY in the N52, but she’s a great character if handled right. Honestly, the best she’s ever been handled IMO is in the JL Unlimited animated series. She’s such a complex character but everything she does is because she thinks it’ll do the most good for the world. I think you understand the character perfectly because while she hates doing the things she has to do as a professional whateversheis (like creating/running the S.S.), she likes the idea of protecting innocent people and the world as a whole. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of that in this book.

          As for Katana, if I’d never read anything else about her I’d learn from this issue that she is a deadly assassin, consumed by revenge looking for those who did her wrong. To me, that’s a great set-up for the character. I can say the same thing for Stargirl. She’s a super-hero celebrity and a young woman who hasn’t let fame go to her head. She’s accomplished a TON in her career and is having some kind of trouble with her either her powers, or maybe with the person who had the powers previously. This gives us an insight (even if it’s just introductory insight) into who these characters are and where they are in their life right now.

          Plus, these characters are mysterious! Why is Katana talking to her sword like a crazy person? Who is Pemberton and what is up with the weird demonic symbol that Stargirl sees? Who’s her real father? Of course, I know some of these answers because I’ve read these characters before, but not everyone has. IMO, Johns gave us just enough insight into these characters in a way that’ll make people want to see more of them. That’s A+ work in my book.

        • See, I didn’t get that Star Girl hadn’t let the fame go to her head. She was gabbing about Lindsay Lohan and getting a star on the Walk of Fame (which… how does one do that without being in movies? ALSO, the Walk of Fame is literally blocks from my house – close enough that there’s graffiti on my sidewalk with fake stars for “Self Loathing” and “Betrayal.” Hollywood is a cheery place.) Like most of what they actually say about Star Girl is that she’s young but has access to some crazy-ass weapon, but there’s not statement about whether its a good thing or a bad thing that she has the thing.

          Also, what’s up with Hawkman being like “hey that’s close enough: you’re sorta like the fugitive I was looking for?”

        • She wasn’t gabbing about Lohan, a reporter was. Her response was that the comments made about Lohan were unfair and that she’s had it “rough” and that she, Stargirl, has been lucky (or fortunate…I don’t remember exactly). To me, this is deliberate. Johns could have had her spouting something superficial, but instead she’s shown defending someone who she thinks is being treated unfairly. This is more than info, this is insight. As for the Walk of Fame bit, maybe there’s a superhero one in the DCU? Lol, that part was a bit silly.

        • Pemberton is Sylvestor Pemberton, the Star-Spangled Kid/Skyman. I don’t know his direct relation to Star Girl, but the rest of the Starman family consider him one of them, as he used a form of Ted Knight’s cosmic rod technology. In old continuity he was killed by Solomon Grundy.

          I may or may not be working my way through the Starman Omnibus, if I find out her real dad I’ll let you all know.

          Also, I agree with Patrick, there is not a ton of character development in this issue. We’ve been introduced to these characters and learned about them, but info does not equate to insight in my book.

        • I actually know who Sylvestor is (that’s hard to write without sounding like I’m copping an attitude with you but I assure you I’m not! lol) , I was just writing those questions as examples that fans could have if they weren’t aware of some of these characters before picking up this book. Syl doesn’t really (or didn’t anyway) have too much to do directly with Stargirl. His sidekick ended up adopting Courtney which is how she eventually got the superpowered hook-up.

          P.S. I’m jealous that you are reading the Starman Omnibus, it’s SO GOOD.

        • @Patrick, Re: Hawkman. You know, I haven’t read any New 52 Hawkman AT ALL, but I got this weird theory about that. Hawkman has been a confusing character with multiple histories (sometimes he’s from Earth, other versions are from Thanagar) to the point even that a portion of Zero Hour was dedicated to streamlining the multiple versions into one character (which then created more problems). I bet what this is all about is that they’re playing him in the New 52 to be a crazy human who BELIEVES he’s from Thanagar… or maybe they’re playing it ambiguously to where the read doesn’t even know for sure. Can anybody confirm this?

        • I realize I’m a little late to this conversation, but if I may: it looks to me like Mik is giving Johns the benefit of the doubt, here. That is to say Patrick is being quite literal with what Johns has shown us here, while Mik is being charitable with what he imagines is going on “off the page,” as it were. They’re both totally valid reads, which I think rely heavily on our opinions of Johns. I felt like I was being similarly charitable with the early Aquaman issues, which kind of let me down. Still, Johns seems to be putting everything he’s got into this title, so it might not be unreasonable to expect great things. It seems unlikely that it will fall anywhere in between (and lord knows I’d hate to be the voice of compromise here), but I’m not yet convinced of which way it will fall. If nothing else, watching that happen will at least be interesting.

  2. I’m going to withhold judgement until we’ve seen this team in action, but my big problem is the nebulous role that this team serves — some kind of nebulous space between the Justice League proper and the Suicide Squad, both of which are name-dropped (and led by one of these two people). It unfortunately reminds me that DC has a LOT of team books, very few of which I actually like. In fact, I’m not entirely sure what separates this team from the Suicide Squad, other than that not all of the team members are explicitly criminals (though they really do seem to be playing up the criminal behavior of as many of them as possible). What do we see the role of this team being?

        • This is all just conjecture on my part, but ARGUS is the attempt at controlling the JL, but they know the JL isn’t something they can ever truly control. They HATE that they can’t just go up to that satellite whenever they want. Cooperation isn’t enough for them, they want total domination. And if they can’t control something, they’d rather just get rid of it. I think the problem is that they know the JL serves a purpose. They know that super-heroes are needed to fight off the super-baddies. I think that they desperately want to have their own team of heroes that are powerful enough to do what the JL can do, but on their own terms. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that if the JLA ever became more powerful than the JL, Waller would order her League to take the others out in a heartbeat.

    • It’s pretty clear that the American gov’t simply doesn’t trust the Justice League. In the eyes of the gov’t they have too much power and essentially do whatever they want to do. Their biggest fear is the the JL will go rouge and try to take over the world. The U.S. Gov’t wants a public superhero team of their own that they can parade around to it’s citizens and essentially say “these are our real heroes,” those other guys aren’t associated with us and when they finally step out of line (which they seemed convinced the JL will do), our team will take them out.

      • Shoot, I don’t have my issue in front of me, but I thought the point was that they wouldn’t be the public face like the Justice League is (which is why they can employ assassins, burglars, and violent criminals). I got the impression that they were going to be very behind-the-scenes, but maybe that was just in my head.

        • I think the point is that, unlike the Justice League, the USA gov actually has leverage over these individuals so that they’ll actually do their bidding – JL doesn’t do that, they do what they want. They are also, as illustrated in the corkboard page, a contingency plan for taking out the Justice League if that ever becomes necessary (Although, really, no way this team would ever be able to do that. And what’s with matching the dude who flies up against the guy who lives underwater?)

        • I thought the exact opposite, especially since they went out of their way to choose heroes with “good Q scores” (Stargirl) or heroes that the public wasn’t very familiar with yet whose reputations could be shaped by the government (pretty much everyone else). Trevor mentions keeping Catwoman the known felon out of the public eye, which implies that the rest are going to be very much in it.

          At least that was my two cents.

        • Ah, right you are. Still, it seems like this team is going to have even more problems then the Justice League if they also need to maintain the pretense of Hawkman’s sanity (or Katana’s, for that matter). Then again, maybe the fact that I’m also not sold on this team (Vibe? Really?) will make the prospect of seeing them sold to me all the more interesting.

        • Honestly, I think Vibe has a lot of potential, especially as a viewpoint character and as a new hero. He’s this team’s Bunker or Cyborg, and it should be interesting to see him develop into a hero, I think.

          They got rid of the breakdancing, I really don’t know what else about him was so ridiculous.

        • well you know what I always say: Breakdancing or GTFO.

          I also like Vibe as he’s presented here (and in his solo book) – I love that his powerset is tied into the interdimensional wankery that DC is so fond of employing in its big stories. He’s just discovering his powers now, but he could end up being the Rip Hunter of parallel worlds, and that’s exciting to me.

        • Damn, now I gotta go back and buy Vibe :*( That sounds pretty cool. Do they really get into what The Circus room teased way back in the FCBD is? The solicit specifically mentioned it

  3. I’m so freaking excited to find out who that is with the cane that’s gathering the SSoSV. And they had to have been active secretly, right? There’s that weird bit in Justice League when Cheetah is brought into custody which implies it’s part of a larger plan that involves Black Manta (both of whose pictures are featured on Cane Guy’s desk in either JLoA #1 or JL #17, can’t remember which)

    • I’m with you Mogo! The SSoSV have been secretly scheming for 5 YEARS. Who knows what they’ve been able to accomplish. I know we haven’t really seen them at all, but I’m just so excited about the potential here. Johns has me hook, line, and sinker with this issue.

    • Moogles! I think you just spoiled a little JL17 for me. THAT’S OKAY I FORGIVE YOU.

      I like the idea of building up the villain’s stable in the New 52. Outside of Gotham, I feel like the well of baddies is kind of shallow. Like we’re not really to the point where the idenity of a villain can be mysterious for a while because there’s only like one or two established bad guys to choose from (unless you turn Vulko as in Aquaman).

      Hey, so the SSoSV – that’s distinct from the collection of anti-Justice Leaguers that’s sort of appearing now right? (I’m referring to H’el, Owl Man, Volthoom, etc.)

      • Oh my god man, I am so sorry, I don’t know why but I never even think about spoilers on this site, you guys have usually read the books before me :*( My apologies!

      • And yeah, Crime Syndicate is different – instead of having a collection of heroes’ most recognizable enemies (which is what SSoSV is, similar to Sinister Six for Spider-Man), Crime Syndicate featured evil, Mirror World-ish equivalants of the Justice League and was usually relegated to an alternate universe (until Crisis, anyway, at which point they began introducing character-specific work-arounds)

  4. I gotta say it – David Finch is my least favorite artist assigned to a Johns book since the reboot. Where’s Mahnke going after the big GL switcheroo? I’m going to really miss that team. I prefer all of those guys to Finch… Mahnke, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis (obviously). He’s obviously a professional-quality illustrator, it’s just that his style doesn’t do anything for me (much like recent Jim Lee)

    • I’ll admit though, I do appreciate the direction beats, if not the illustrating – the Vibe and Hawkman segments pointed out in this AC are good examples of that… it’s the illustrating itself I’m referring to. Who knows, maybe this will end up being the book that makes a Finch fan out of me

      • Yeah, I touched on this briefly in the write-up, but I don’t much care for Finch’s drawing style. Which is weird, because i feel like he gets so much right. The sheer variety of distinct faces he draws in this issue is impressive (he notably resists drawing the same face over and over, like Tony Daniel). And some of that genre-y staging is super-effective. But I don’t know, I just don’t love it. Manhke is going to need a place to call home come June.

  5. You guys touched on this a bit, but I just want to reiterate my hopes that because this book is deeming itself the ‘group-of-rough-personalities-that-doesn’t-get-along’ maybe it means that Justice League Proper will start acting like a group of people that works together and cares about each other. Especially after Throne of Atlantis, I think they are starting to act like the JL I want them to be, but it has been a long road of in-fighting to get here.

    • We touched on that? That’s a beautiful thought. I’d really like a reason for the JL to work together like friends – something they have yet to do. I’m not sure the JLoA has to be a bunch of jerks to accomplish that, but whatever – I’ll take what I can.

      Also, see this is what I’m taking about: we don’t know that how this team is going to work together because we really don’t see them interacting. I know we’re going to see it eventually, but I currently feel exactly as qualified to judge to effectiveness of this team as I was a week ago.

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