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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Comic Book Spotlight: New 52 Justice League Volume One

Well, guys, the premiere date of Justice League has come and gone and while I haven’t seen the film at the time of writing this article everything that I’ve heard about it from critics that I trust and people who went and saw it seem to indicate that it’s a mess.  Obviously, it’s not a Batman v Superman level dumpster fire, (but then again what the fuck is?), but it’s pretty clear that whatever the film was supposed to be has been torn apart and stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster into something that no longer resembles the original intent.  No one is exactly saying that it’s bad per say but certainly not as good as people were desperately hoping it would be.  But since the film is out, we at the Nerd Hub still decided that this would be a good time to take a look at a Justice League related comic.  Specifically, the first volume of the New 52 Justice League: Origin.
I think that it’s safe to say now however that, on the whole, the New 52 was something of a failure of an imprint.  While its initial launch saw a massive spike in sales for the company it ultimately failed to maintain these numbers with fans abandoning books in droves due to poor storytelling and various creative and corporate decisions that many saw as a betrayal of what many of the characters stood for.  But it does have to be said that a small number of writers consistently produced great books regardless of what insanity was going on behind the scenes of the New 52.  And yes.  Geoff Johns was absolutely one of these people and his Justice League book was absolutely one of these books.  Even if it does have its flaws.
The first volume of Justice League was meant to be the big introduction to the New 52 and the status ques of its new universe.  As such the book apparently takes place roughly five years before the start of…well…everyone else’s books in the New 52.  Superpowered beings only just started to emerge roughly five years before the start of the book and the question is still very much in the air as to whether they are heroes or a menace.  The story proper begins with Batman, (because of course, it does), chasing down a seemingly alien monster with a mysterious box.  As he is in pursuit he runs into Hal Jordan Green Lantern, (because it was 2011 and Warner Brothers still thought Green Lantern was going to be a big hit and kickstart their own cinematic universe), who team up to discover just what this thing is and where it comes from before it is revealed that they are in fact Parademons from Apokolips who are setting up gateways for Darkseid’s invasion of Earth.  Along the way they team up with Superman, Hal calls in his buddy The Flash with Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg just kind of running into the other four.  Soon, however, a full-blown invasion occurs and the seven must quickly learn to work as a team if they want to have any chance of defeating Darkseid and his armies.  And on the whole, the thing is a pretty good read.  It’s not exactly what you would call a deep story, but it is none the less entertaining.
The interactions between the characters, for example, are all very solid.  There is this odd borderline bromance, buddy cop thing that Green Lantern and Batman have going on and the back and forth between the two never stops being entertaining as is the banter between the rest of the characters.  Most of all this applies to Green Lantern and The Flash who clearly have a history with each other that is conveyed through subtle writing and artwork that never has to resort to flashbacks or overwrought exposition.  It also has to be said that the majority of these characters are very well developed despite the plot being something of a barebones Darkseid invasion storyline.  Batman quickly assumes the role of a kind of player-coach character and knows exactly what to say to his fellow heroes and when.  Hal Jorden is something of a clown who obviously has heroic leadership qualities and the book knows how to keep him from tipping over into the cliché-ridden version of this type of character that we’ve seen a dozen times before.  Wonder Woman’s naivety to the ways of the world makes for some great comedy and The Flash has a nice little arc about how and when to use his powers.  And Aquaman…doesn’t actually get much to do but Johns and Lee do deliver one hell of a panel that acts as a giant middle finger to anyone who ever said Aquaman was lame.  The big standout though has to be Victor Stone/Cyborg for whom the book doubles as an origin story.  Throughout the book, it tells us everything we need to know about him and his relationship with his father through a perfect combination of plot points, character actions, facial artwork, and dialog.  It’s so good in fact that it almost makes you wonder why the entire book wasn’t about him.
Sadly, the one who ultimately gets the short end of all of this is Superman.  He isn’t exactly unlikeable in this version but there really isn’t much to his character besides being the big intimidating alien that everyone respects. He’s less the moral center/leader of the group as he is the muscle that the rest of the Justice League used to beat up the heavies.  And as it turned out this was foreshadowing the unfortunate directing that DC and WB would be taking the character for the worse that it still hasn’t quite recovered from.
It also must be said that the actual plot isn’t especially interesting.  For the most part, it amounts to Darkseid attacking and the Justice League fights him off and doesn’t really do anything to shake the formula save for the Cyborg origin story.  But it is a very well told one that is greatly reinforced by the artwork of the great Jim Lee, even if some of the new designs were a bit questionable.  Superman’s new outfit, in particular, turned out to be a poor decision in the long term with the design making him far more slender and less imposing, forcing artists to constantly make his eyes red as a means of making him look intimidating.  Many of the other costumes had a few to many details and several of the characters had an odd V neck collar for reasons that remain unknown to me.  BUT the artwork itself is gorgeous.  Every panel looks as if it should be framed, packed with details perfectly complementing the writing and keeping everything moving a brisk pace.  They’re just great visuals.  And that’s all that one really needs to say about this one.
Now granted some of the redesigns are a bit cringeworthy and Johns’ later Justice League story arcs would put this one to shame but it’s just a fun story through and through.  It has great character interactions, most of whom are well developed and with gorgeous artwork to keep everything visually stimulating.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s a good place to start reading the Justice League comics, (it is over six years old after all), but it’s a good read and an entertaining enough way to spend your time.
           So until next time, please Like the Nerd Hub Facebook Page, check out The Nerd Hub Facebook groupSubscribe to us on YouTube and be sure to check out my own personal blog, Trey’s Take On…as well as giving my Facebook Page a Like, contribute a dollar or so to my new Patreon Page and checking me out on Twitter.  Until then, let's hope that one day the DCEU films will actually reflect the comics that they are based on.



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