The New DC: Prologue
In just a few short hours, the comic industry is set to be turned upside down as the great DC Relaunch of Oh-Eleven hits in full force. For those not in the know, DC’s entire line of current books has been thrown away, continuity has been set on its head, and throughout the month of September we’ll be faced with a staggering fifty-two brand new number one issues, which DC hopes will reinvent and revitalize their creations for a new generation of readers.
To call this relaunch controversial would be an understatement- reactions have varied from wide-spread panic to mouth-frothing rage… and no doubt a little bit of excitement too. I mean, I’m assuming about that last group- positivity doesn’t tend to communicate as loudly and widely as bitching does, especially over the internet. But since I’ve always been known as somewhat of a jaded cynic myself, I’ve drafted some fresh faces to help me read and review all fifty-two relaunch titles, all for you, the Hearwax Universe.
The whole shebang officially starts hitting shelves tomorrow, but to whet everyone’s appetites, DC shipped one book a week early. So, without further ado, let’s dig into Justice League #1!
Justice League #1.
Geoff Johns (writer), Jim Lee (penciller), Scott Williams (inker). Cover by Lee and Williams.
Spinning out of DC’s “big” crossover even Flashpoint (which I swear, I don’t think anyone I know actually bothered to read), Justice League gives us a crash course in the New DCU. Set five years in the past, superheroes have just burst onto the scene. As these mystery men begin to cross paths, they seem destined to band together into the legendary Justice League- if they don’t end up killing each other first.
Joining me to discuss Justice League #1 is my good friend and renaissance geek, Shane Zeagman. Oh, and fair warning folks- we’ll try to avoid giving away any major ~SPOILERS~ , but if even the smallest of leaked details will send you into a tizzy… well, tough. Go read something else. But for the rest of you, here’s what we thought of the first sampling of the New DCU.
Karsten: So you’re somewhat of a newcomer to a lot of these character Shane- what were your initial impressions here?
Shane: Yeah, I’m not new to comic books, but I am new to superhero comics. If this is supposed to be a total relaunch, I don’t like that this comic presumed we know these characters right from the start. It’s fine with Batman and Superman, but Green Lantern? Not every completely new reader’s going to know him, even with the new movie.
Karsten: And frankly, if anyone knows Green Lantern just from the movie, that’s in no way a good thing, since the movie was awful.
Shane: And I get that Green Lantern was supposed to be irritating-
Karsten: Which is funny, because Geoff Johns has spent the better part of a decade trying to turn Hal Jordan into a credible hero again. He tends to like to set Green Lantern up as a foil to other heroes like Batman or the Flash, and usually he writes Hal as the more relatable character in those pairings.
Shane: There’s some really weird chemistry in this book. Most of it feels so awkward that I almost felt dirty reading it- like, should I really be a part of this? I also didn’t like the combat scenes. It opened with Batman looking like he was fighting the Scarecrow-
Karsten: I thought it was Killer Croc at first. Eventually they kind of show who or what it was supposed to have been, but without giving away too many spoilers… let’s just say the art wasn’t helping me recognize anything. What do you think about the comic being set five years in the past, and opening with heroes being chased by and fighting the police and the military? Because to me, one of the things that has always defined the DC Universe is that it’s a place where people love and respect their heroes. Usually it’s Marvel that does the whole “hated and feared” riff.
Shane: It felt like I was reading Watchmen all of a sudden.
Karsten: I guess it’s just in vogue for heroes to be un-liked and unlikeable. Everyone in this comic acts like a complete cocky asshole (except Cyborg, but he’s barely in the thing), and Green Lantern is just insufferable. But beyond that, the thing that pissed me off the most about this issue was that when Superman shows up, he punches first and asks questions later. That’s the very first thing you see from the new incarnation of the most iconic superhero in history. And it’s completely ass-backwards, especially if this is supposed to be set in the beginning of his career as a hero. Superman should be approaching these strangers with an olive branch, especially since by all rights he should have no reason to feel threatened by them in the least. Superman isn’t Batman, he isn’t Wolverine- he’s not a “shoot first” character.
Shane: I’m glad you mentioned that, because Superman appears in exactly two pages of this comic, and I have so much hate for those pages. And the first (and only) thing he says sounds like a line from a video game. “What are your powers? I’m a level ten mage!”.
Karsten: To be fair and to keep this somewhat in perspective, there have been several Justice League relaunches over the years, and this is far from the worst. The pre-Crisis Detroit Team sucked, and Extreme Justice was an atrocity. The thing is, I haven’t read a comic that feels so aggressively “nineties” since… well, Extreme Justice, I guess. The “extreme” attitude, the silly armour, the forced pop culture references- it all just feels like such a cynical attempt to be “hip like the kids today,” from a writer who comes across as being completely out of touch.
Shane: The first time I saw Green Lantern, it looked like he was hitting the bad guy with Optimus Prime. And then even though they show that there was a point to him making fire trucks with his ring, they follow up by directly referencing the Transformers, so it may as well have been Optimus either way.
Karsten: At least he’s not just using his ring to make guns, like in the film. What do you think about the art? I really like Jim Lee’s stuff.
Shane: I wasn’t crazy about it. I liked the second half of the comic more, but I didn’t like his Batman at all.
Karsten: Really? I love Lee’s Batman- he may be my favourite Batman artist.
Shane: I mean more his style than his design. I just didn’t like it. I want to talk about dialogue for a second though. Did you find it as awkward as I did? It felt like everyone was talking like the narrator from Bastion.
Karsten: Well, Johns is kind of known for slipping into action movie clichés. Sometimes the one-liners work better than others.
Shane: In this, the lines like “Batman? You’re Real?”- it just felt like things a five year old would say.
Karsten: Not to mention, the entire back and forth between Batman and Green Lantern was just a massive retread of every other comic Johns has written with those characters in it. They’ve had these conversations many, many times before.
Shane: See, these are the things you know that I don’t. But still, for the first half of this comic- you don’t know anything about the enemy, you don’t care about the nameless police, and the heroes are acting like whiny bitches.
Karsten: Actually, for all my complaints, I really liked Batman in this. Yeah, he’s as cocky as Green Lantern, but for different reasons. I’ve always seen him as a character that just has such supreme confidence in his own abilities that he doesn’t feel the need to slow down and explain things to others, and he doesn’t have the patience to deal with a nuisance like Green Lantern when he gets in the way.
Shane: Cyborg was amazing at least.
Karsten: I wouldn’t go that far, but he was good, for what little he was given. I never really cared about him, but he makes for a good point-of-view character, even if this does completely screw with whatever new continuity they come up with for the Teen Titans.
Shane: He should have been in it from the start, instead of the Batman-Green Lantern bitchiness.
Karsten: So what’s the verdict?
Shane: Well, it’s no secret that superhero comics are facing a dying readership, but if DC wants new readers- hey, that’s me! I can’t wait to see what the other relaunch books are like- this was a disappointment though.
Karsten: I couldn’t agree more.
Join us later this week for reviews of Action Comics, Animal Man, Batgirl, Batwing, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove, Justice League International, Men of War, O.M.A.C., Static Shock, StormWatch and Swamp Thing. In the mean time, questions and comics can be sent to email@example.com.