I absolutely love superhero comics, with DC Comics being my favorites. There’s something incredibly iconic about their characters that works for me on an almost myth-like level. So when DC said they were playing clearing-house with their continuity again, I was distressed, to say the least.
As I’ve recounted elsewhere, The New 52 is really working for me. There are so many things I’m enjoying about it. I love the sharp, fresh writing on Aquaman. I love the redefinition of the Green and the Red in Swamp Thing and Animal Man. I love that there’s an openly gay new member of the Teen Titans…and that it’s not a big deal to anyone on the team. I even love that they brought back Pozhar, one of my favorite Cold War era characters in Firestorm, a comic that almost lost my interest.
What I’d really like to talk about, however, is the new Justice League title, which just concluded its first story arc. This book was the first book to be released, setting itself up as the flagship title of the relaunch. Some people love it, and some people hate it. I am firmly in the former camp.
Since the new League has seven characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg), I’ll offer up 7 reasons I’m loving it. I’ll warn you now, there are some spoilers ahead.
The original history of the Justice League involved them teaming up to fight an alien threat, the Appelaxians, who basically were never a threat to earth again (their appearance in JLA: Incarnations notwithstanding). This series ups the ante by having the alien threat be Darkseid and the Parademons of Apokolips. Darkseid is a fantastic villain, with lots of resonance in the DC Universe, and a serious threat that can show up again and again. Having him be the first major villain that the fledgling Justice League take on makes the series that much more intense and rooted in DC history.
Two: Big Splashy Pages
I’m a sucker for a well-timed splash-page…you know, where one or two pages are devoted to a single image. Well, Jim Lee offers some really great ones. We get an iconic first appearance of Superman in issue 1, a Wonder Woman’s double-page spread in issue 3 (sword in one hand, lasso in the other, and she’s kicking a Parademon in the throat…man, I love Diana!), to Darkseid vs. the whole League in both 4 and 6. But, hands down, my 2 favorite spreads are the Wonder Woman vs. Darkseid single-page in Issue 6 (she just did what to Darkseid’s what?!) and the two-page spread in issue 6 of Superman rallying against Darkseid. These images really make you feel this moment in the action where all attention focuses on a single event. Great stuff.
Three: They Really Aren’t Friends
From Green Lantern’s pig-headed insistence that he can handle everything on his own, to Superman’s casual arrogance, to Aquaman’s natural abrasiveness, to Cyborg and Flash’s reluctance to get involved, this team displays issues. They aren’t Super Friends…not yet. It’s great to see the characters so plainly set-up and the evolution into the world’s greatest super-heroes happening before your eyes. Superman feels isolated, Wonder Woman’s spoiling for a fight, Green Lantern feels overwhelmed by his responsibility to the Green Lantern Corps and wants to impress everyone. Aquaman is used to being obeyed. Cyborg is still trying to come to terms with the end of his old life and the beginning of the new. I’ll be curious to see how the team evolves as the story progresses.
It’s been an ongoing theme in the Justice League comics of the last 30 years or so that Batman is basically amazing. From the “One punch!” days of JLI to Grant Morrison’s positioning of him as the most dangerous man on earth, Batman has remained a lynchpin of the team, despite the fact that he has no powers. His mind is his true weapon, and his essential understanding of human nature. Batman has a lot to live up to with so many high-profile powers around him, and a lot of the characters don’t initially respect him, since he’s “just some guy in a bat costume”. But it’s Batman who rallies Superman against Darkseid, Batman who helps Cyborg push past his self-imposed mental barriers, and Batman who gets Green Lantern to buck up and stop being a grandstanding jerk. As always, he shows his ability to roll with the top contenders of the DC Universe.
Five: Kirby’s Designs Reworked
I love a lot of the characters that Jack Kirby created for his New Gods stories. Having said that, I don’t love most of his costume designs for them. There’s been this tendency to leave them stagnant, appearing just as they always have, even though their costumes look, well…shall we say a bit dated and silly. Not so anymore. Desaad, Steppenwolf, Darkseid, and the Parademons all look fantastic! They actually look quite scary and creepy, which I found surprising and refreshing!
Six: Love for Aquaman
One of the things that’s been great about the New 52 comics in general is how they’re handling Aquaman. As I’m sure I’ve said elsewhere, I loved Aquaman unironically as a kid. I loved to swim, so being able to swim even better sounded awesome to me. I’ve seen various attempts to make Aquaman more hardcore (cutting off his hand, growing a beard, reintroducing him as a totally new character, etc.) But I think they finally realized how to do it – good writing. Aquaman basically shows up and takes command, shows off his skills with a trident (another delicious splash page), summons sharks to devour Parademons, and even makes Green Lantern back down. Good writing makes all the difference.
Seven: Back of the Comic Extras
I hope this continues past the end of the series. Issues 1-5 all have something special at the end of the book – concept art, a S.T.A.R. Labs personnel dossier, an excerpt from Steve Trevor’s debriefing following his visit to Paradise Island, and so on. Elements like this go a long ways to filling in the gaps as we try to get our heads around this new version of the DC Universe. I enjoy reading these a lot, so I do hope they keep going with this concept.
Have you been reading Justice League? Have I missed anything that really stands out about the book? Or maybe you don’t like this incarnation? Let us all know.