Truth, Justice and a P.R. Team: Justice League of America #1 Review By Jerry W. Vandal
Written by: Geoff Johns
Pencils by: David Finch
Colors: Sonia Oback with Jeremy Cox
When I saw the solicitation for Justice League of America I didn’t feel the need to call my LCB and add it to my pull list. Another team book spun out of another team book has become a commonality in the industry. Slap Avengers or [insert adjective] X-Men on the cover and it should sell (granted I’m a complete sucker for anything with an X in the title). So the concept didn’t leap out at me. It didn’t help that David Finch was doing the pencils. But, as I sorted through the books in my pile I determined I could pick up a few more and I came across Justice League of America (which sported 52 state flag variant covers) and the flag of my home state of Ohio and said why not. At the very least I’d have a book in my collection with Ohio’s flag on it.
Justice League of America however, ended up being a worthwhile read. The formation of the team is done similar to the how the Dark Avengers were formed. Each character was chosen to be a counter point to members of the Justice League. The team’s Superman role is taken by Martian Manhunter. Batman has his role filled by Catwoman. Wonder woman is replaced by Katana. Green Lantern…well, there’s always plenty of Lanterns to replace one another even in the DCNU and in this case new comer and Arab-American Simon Baz gets the call. Flash sees his role given to Vibe. Cyborg is replaced by Stargirl and Aquaman sees himself replaced by Hawkman. Green Arrow is added into the mix (Jeff Lemire did a great job on his first issue of Green Arrow and is worth picking up by the way). It’s an interesting mix of DC’s B-level heroes that are promoted as being equals to their A-level counter points in a believable way.
The opening intro breaking down the characters and creative team is a nice touch. It gives the book a cinematic feel and works great next to the opening scene featuring the Dark Hunter (Green Arrow in disguise) and what appears to be the Justice League hunting him for their “creator”. So, there’s action and intrigue, a solid combination. From there we get the bulk of the issue; a conversation between Colonel Trevor and Director Wallace. The Director’s main prerogative is to convince Trevor to oversee the project, going so far as to show him pictures of Wonder Woman (whom he had feelings for) kissing Superman. The Justice League, having decided not to work for the United States government is branded as an issue that must be dealt with. In response the Justice League of America is set up. And, perhaps in a real world twist derived from our politically driven landscape, the Justice League of America is put together by cutting unsavory deals and less than honorable means. Hawkman is given immunity from any crimes he has or may commit in his hunt for enemies from his planet. Johns does an excellent job of portraying Hawkman here as he hunts and we can assume beats a man with his mace while he claims not to be the person he’s looking for. Katana, an assassin is promised the whereabouts of the people who murdered her father—essentially okaying the fierce combatant’s need to murder. And Catwoman is a thief who has had her identity stolen. Simon Baz was accused of being a terrorist. And even though he wasn’t convicted, has little to do with public perception. These less-than-heroic heroes are a stain on what the Justice League of America will need to symbolize. A P.R. team has been put in place to spin things when they need to be spun. And that seems so very modern America that I cracked a sarcastic smile as I read it.
Geoff Johns has proven to be the guiding light of the DC universe. And he’s started off well here. That’s not really a surprise though. He has a great knowledge of what seems to be every character in the DC universe and utilizes it as often as he can.
David Finch. What can I say? I’m not a big fan of his. But, he seemed to shine here. This may be due to the heavy usage of darks in the book that disguised his flaws. But the darks were also very appropriate. I went back and looked at some of his work on the New Avengers and I still cringed. But here, he seems like he will be at least serviceable in the art department.
The two teams may end up mirroring each other. The Justice League could very well be symbolic of what America should stand for and should be—ideals. Even when this group of heroes who see things in different ways don’t agree, they unite to take on causes that they can’t handle alone. Meanwhile the Justice League of America may very well end up being a representation of what it really is—people cutting deals to get things done. These deals often involve allowing one evil to occur to take down another. They’re going to work together because they’ve cut a deal that favors their own motives. Actually they may end up not working well with another at all and hinder their team goals. Maybe that’s just me over analyzing, but considering the state of the world it’s not farfetched. To the contrary—it could be the perfect story to tell to illustrate what this medium is capable of. What works better for a country—to serve its ideals or to do things that might go against its grain to get things done? Those who have an opinion may read that and have a clear cut answer—but this book could tell the story of why that may not be the case. And maybe Justice League can do the same in its own right. Those are potential story paths that could again be way off base. But that’s what this book speaks to me—potential. And despite all of the politics that are being played in the background of this team it shares that in common with America. Potential. And that’s a good start.