'Justice League' #1 review: Batman meets Superman, as DC Comics gets back to basics

Starting today, DC Comics is re-numbering 52 super-hero comic books, old titles and some new ones, back to #1 (“The New 52!,” they’re dubbing it). This morning it begins with the release of Justice League #1, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Jim Lee. If the idea is to get back to basics, to attract a new batch of readers by starting the tales of DC’s biggest heroes from scratch, Justice League #1 is scratch ground-zero.

The issue spends its entire length reintroducing us to Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and Cyborg. (Apparently other JL members Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Aquaman will have to wait for issue #2.) We’re plunged into a world in which the heroes don’t know each other, and, as Batman says, “The world’s afraid of us.” Johns’ dialogue is pretty basic-expository. “What are your powers anyway?” GL asks Batman. “You’re not just some guy in a bat costume are you?”

For his part, Batman has never heard that there’s a Green Lantern Corps, of which “our” GL is one of thousands in the universe. And both heroes are baffled by “that guy in Metropolis … they say he’s an alien.” Batman says, “He is. And he’s dangerous.” Well, probably not dangerous for good people, but we can’t be sure, because Superman only appears in the issue’s final panel, a fist cocked to wallop Batman or Green Lantern should they try to constrain him.

For readers who’ve invested decades trying to keep track of who the Flash is this week (Barry Allen? Wally West?) and keeping tabs on various Crises on Infinite Earths, continuity rearrangements in the 52 miniseries, and various other company-wide “events,” “The New 52” will probably be met with some mixture of relief and dubiousness. Johns’ writing, which is capable of a high degree of complexity in both comics history and emotion, is kept at an intentionally straightforward, almost hard-boiled terseness here. He’s grounding us in the new DC universe in a way that a pre-teen who’s never picked up a comic book (or viewed one on-line – every “New 52” title can also be obtained digitally on the same date-of-sale) will be able to follow. Jim Lee’s art work is characterized by his trademark brawny musculature that in his best panels also achieves a striking degree of fluidity: Few artists make muscle-bound men move so sleekly.

Combine this with an overall tone that mixes sincerity with wisecracks, and this is a very inviting way to reinvest in some of the most familiar superheroes ever created.

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (105 total) Add your comment
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  • Marc

    If you like comics, get Alpha Flight! The new serie is AMAZING!

    • Tom Strong

      Dumbest, lamest heroes. And it’s condescending to Canadians. “Oh you Canadians like hockey? Well here’s a little dwarf named PUCK! And all he can do is acrobatics!”

      • Leithen

        …Puck’s about the biggest bad ass on that team.

        Seriously.

      • Tom

        I’m really bored of comicbook, I don’t know about the rest of you guys.

      • pang

        I’m not a fan of this reboot, but i’ll stick with DC i just wish there was some explanation. Marvel has burned me too many times so i’m never going back.

        -

      • Frank

        You must be Canadian.

    • Jean Guy Levesque

      DC sucks, only Batman is credible. Superman is the fakest hero of all. Vive la Quebec!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Justin Poppiti

        Fakest hero of all? That’s insane. God Bless America!!

      • Tom

        It would be ok if it was only like one or two comicbook movies per year.. But it is like every movie that comes out is a comicbook movie. Isn’t there anything else Hollywood has to draw from for creativity or what? I’m serious…

      • Kalie

        What is so fake about Superman? That makes no sense.

      • osum

        his boobs

    • Genoa

      Oh, I want to check that out! I love Alpha Flight. My favorites are Aurora and Northstar.

      • Marc

        LOVE the twins!

      • RTD

        I’m sure Northstar at least loves you too.

    • Tom

      What is with all the comicbooks? I hate comicbooks.. The last thing I want to see is a another comicbook movie. Hello?

      • Micah

        @Tom, if you hate comics, why read the article with comics in the title? This isn’t about a movie, troll.

    • Jared

      Aren’t Alpha Flight all dead? Killed by the Collective? Does Marvel even address their older New Avengers stories anymore? Are people still locked up in the Negative Zone? If no one knows who Spider-man is, how does his stories make any sense? What happened in Civil War #2. They never explain anything. They just put it in there with hype added.

      I am sick of the stuff Marvel had been putting out over the past few years. They never finish anything and stuff is so out there that you want an explanation but years later it becomes clear they never intended on explaining why Tony Stark locks people up over some law. That’s NOT Tony Stark. Spider-man is a complete joke, now. We don’t get stories of everyone knowing who Spider-man is and now it’s a kids cartoon in a book.

      If Justice League is any indication. I’ll enjoy DC’s relaunch.

  • JLC

    I guess when I read about the plans to restart all the books at #1, I didn’t understand that they intended to completely restart DC history from square one. That does kind of stink for the longtime fans.

    • harry

      no it wont because it plays right into their multiverse formula. all this is happening in the DC 52 universe. just like the ultimate universe for Marvel.

      • Leithen

        Except the Ultimates universe didn’t discontinue the regular 616 Universe. When you had Ultimate Spider-Man, you still had an Amazing Spider-Man ongoing.

        There’s only going to be one Detective Comics, one Justice League, etc. No “multiverse” working here.

      • RTD

        No multi-verse wackiness here. Its TIME TRAVEL stuff from that Flash mini series that wiped the DCU clean. And saved me from EVER having to buy another DC book again until they “reset” it.

    • Ken

      It does and yet it doesn’t totally restart continuity. I imagine Flashpoint #5 (also out today) will be the catalyst for the reset when Barry Allen gets the world back on track, much like the original Crisis or Zero Hour did resets. But some things, like Batman Inc and the effects of Blackest Night and the War of the Green Lanterns, will continue to play out. Depending how it’s considered, it could be that Kyle, John, and Guy remember the old continuity (since they were in space) but Hal falls into the newer one (since he’s on earth). Also, right now Hal doesn’t have a ring and Sinestro is a GL again…the latter point will be continued into the relaunch.

      • Andrea

        it is nice to see these 3 covers which i hadnt seen berofe. i also showed them to my friend who was curious what they looked like. thanks for sharing these, bill.

  • Eric P

    I’m not a fan of this reboot, but i’ll stick with DC i just wish there was some explanation. Marvel has burned me too many times so i’m never going back.

    • Bruce

      House of M did me in so that I don’t like Marvel now. Infinite Crises, 52, Countdown, and a few other dances in DC are almost as bad. If I didn’t love ‘em, I wouldn’t come back. But I’m not going to throw money at them anymore.

      • Maki

        I’ll have to check that out. I’m coruius about his resources for the publication date.Thanks to both of you for the info.

  • John A

    I guess the reboot has its good and bad like any other marketing scheme. Long time fans will be pretty raged. Personally, I’m a huge fan of marvel. DC has always been a little too complicated to read casually (Earth 1! Earth 2! Infinite Crisis!), so I’m taking this opportunity to actually check out/get into DC. I’ve already ordered JL, Batman, Superman, Legion Lost, Legion of Superheroes, and GL.

  • Flip

    Not interested in the reboot at all, and definitely not interested in Justice League. I find Geoff Johns’ writing very juvenile.

    • Sateesh

      Not sure if you are roeisndpng to me, but if you are I’m not sure what point you are trying to make that is relevant to this essay.

  • Mike

    DC’s idea of moving forward for some reason is to look back and re-update. What with some creative teams pulled from the 90′s, the already specter of rotating artists, and things like purposefully keeping Wally off the page to try and reestablish Barry (one of the biggest cluster abuses of a popular character I’ve seen), I’m VERY apprehensive about this reboot.

    • Leithen

      Yes. I saw Rob Liefeld’s name on the solicitations and I sighed. I don’t begrudge the man earning a living, I just can’t say I like that particular “artistic direction”.

    • T

      I liked Wally better than Barry and collected “The Flash” on from post Crisis on until that kid, Bart took over.

      • Mike

        I didn’t really take to Wally until about issue #100 of his run – and then, he became my Flash. He was much more of a well rounded fleshed out interesting character than Barry ever was – Barry absolutely worked as an inspiration for Wally and other heroes – he’s just not that fascinating as a living character. And it angers me that despite fans still clamoring for Wally – despite many misfires with him the last few years from a company that ‘got’ Wally for so long but seemed to completely lose sight of how to handle him – DC has actively set out to make him disappear in order to promote Barry. They are withholding a popular character in order to promote a less popular character and all because the current hot creators at DC have a nostalgia for Barry.

  • Josh

    I hate that they got rid of the Secret Six. I hate that every comic will now be an origin story. No more DC for me. Just Deadpool and The Walking Dead (maybe Irredeemable)

  • Disappointed Reader

    This was a terrible issue. I think it was mis-titlled because mine said Justice League. None of the characters are likable. There is way too much exposition that is misplaced. This could have been written in 20 minutes, which is twice as long as it takes to read it. The art, while it is pretty, is way too busy. And why, WHY is Superman’s first thought to fight. Really? The only reason I can think of is that his high collar is cutting off his circulation and he isn’t thinking clearly. The entire scope of heroes at DC does NOT need to full of be arrogant jerks whose parents died and they are bitter. Heroes sometimes can simply be heroes because they are good. If I were a new reader, I would not continue. As a long time reader, I will not continue.

    • mikeman

      hal was going to restrain him for questioning and superman proved too much for him. he didn’t go right to fighting, he responded to what he perceived (correctly so) as a threatening situation. maybe your collar is too tight, brother.

  • Scott

    How do we download a copy?

    • Solo500

      You can search around the DC site. It’s buried with the new releases. Really, they’re hedging their bets or their design’s bad.

  • Leithen

    Shorter stories and flashier art?

    Nah. I didn’t go for this in the nineties when it was called Image, and I won’t go for this. Just leave Vertigo alone, please.

  • Michael

    I love it wish Marvel would do it I swear they comics are so mess up right now its not funny

    • Frowny

      NO. MORE. ORIGIN. STORIES.

      And Marvel did this 10 years ago. It was called Ultimate. And they were smart enough to not pulp their ongoing central universe to accomplish it. DC sort of threw the baby out with the bathwater with this one.

      • G’nort

        I agree.

    • moreno

      , *loosely* based. It is in fact Vandal Savage, and I’m also concerned over the priorfeiatlon of the Royal Flush Gang without Booster Gold around to stop them.I will watch this movie, but I am concerned as to how far they’ve strayed from the source material, when the source material was so good.

  • DavidJ

    I’m all FOR this reboot personally. I’ve wanted to get back into DC for a while, but the continuity has gotten so comliplicated and convoluted over the years that it was impossible to pick up a book and know what the hell was going on.

    • Mike

      I hear plenty of people say this, but I’ve never understood this. When I was a kid and discovered comics, part of the fun was knowing there was this history that I would need to figure out. Coming in to an already established series left relationships to be defined, histories to be discovered, past nuggets to figure out – and I loved it. Today, that same sense of discovery that I so completely enjoyed seems to be an impediment to new readers who don’t even want to bother with it unless they are on the ground floor or have all the answers at their finger tips (which, oddly enough, they do with the internet). Different times, different outlooks.

      • Rob C

        @Mike–you are dead on with your observations! The fun of reading comics was getting those back issues and figuring things out! I feel like the folks at DC have forgotten about people like me who have been reading their comics for over 20 years and now we’re expected to forget about it all. I mean, how can I forget about ‘the Great Darkness Saga” or when Aquaman lost his hand? ugh.

      • Tim Terrell

        Some people don’t want to do research on the internet to read a comic book. And the idea of “back issues” is archaic. You’d have to buy old trades to catch up on the current stories.

        I bet the first comic you read decades ago was either a done-in-one issue or the concluding issue to a 2 issue story. Recently, if you pick up a Daredevil or Green Lantern comic it is usually part of a saga like Darkest Night or part three of a six part story. That’s no good, and I hope all that will change with this reboot.

        Most people just want to pick up an issue of Superman, read it, get a cool story and be done with it. Maybe they’ll pick it up next month if this month’s story was good.

      • Leithen

        Did they suddenly stop selling back issues at your comic store or something? How is the concept archaic?

      • Mike

        Again, it’s like I said – a different time, different outlook. We do live in a world full of instant gratification where everything you need is right there – the idea of having to wait, to figure out, to have patience – each generation has less and less of those qualities. People are a product of their time for better or worse.

  • Chris

    I wish they’d do a reboot of Luann and Blondie.

  • ChrisV

    I read about 12 Marvel titles a month, but I haven’t picked up a DC book in years. However, I think I’ll pick this one up. I got exhausted with DC’s constant reboots (Infinite worlds, etc.), but if this first issue works for me, it might draw me back. We’ll see. But I’m open to the idea.

  • Jean Guy Levesque

    DC sucks, only Batman is credible. Vive la Quebec!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Leithen

      We’re talking super-heroes. Where does ‘credible’ even enter the discussion?

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