Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: REBIRTH #1

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: REBIRTH #1
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Marcelo Maiolo
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: February 8, 2017

A New Beginning.

That’s what the comic said. I was 12 years old (that magic age) and had been reading Justice League of America for some odd four years, where the icons of the DC Universe gave way to brand new characters — characters who would end up suffering tragic ends against a dark foe.

And then before me appeared a brand new Justice League, a team unlike any that had appeared before, full of personality and interpersonal drama from the very first page — years before things would get truly silly (what most readers today mistakenly believe was there from the start). They didn’t get along, exactly, but still came together under a united banner, each one representing a different world in the DC Universe — a new united League, sans America.

Flash forward to today, and America is back — at least in comic form, with Batman once again reforming a team of heroes that is determined to take a different direction than what has come before. The Justice League is comfortable standing above humanity as gods. It’s time for a League that stands on the ground, in community with those it purports to help.

That’s half of the basic rationale Orlando sets up for the brand new Justice League of America in this aptly named special, reintroducing each founding member of the team and beginning to chart the course for how they will interact with each other.

The other prominent half of the rationale that the writer lays out is this idea of redemption — everyone deserving of a chance to be a hero, be them super-powered or regular everyday human, presumably. Frost (I’m going to follow the DC Super-Hero Girls convention and refuse to call her a Killer any longer) is the most obvious representation of that belief, and spinning directly out of her big save in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, seemingly serves as inspiration for Batman’s new League.

What interests me most about Orlando’s set-up for the new JLA is it’s not exactly him forming his own Squad, as was proposed in some circles, and more akin to his classic move in creating the Outsiders. What feels different here though is a much more lofty ambition for what the team can be, representative of a larger fight with a bigger picture involved: that of inclusion and representation.

Is the current team of seven exactly a complete Benettoning of a super-hero team? Well, not quite yet. Seeing non-white characters like Vixen and the Atom take the lead, as well as out gay character The Ray, is refreshing, but, like the core concept of America — this League will hopefully be open to immigration of a broader segment of the DC Universe. And not to jump the gun, but the Justice League of my youth — that beautiful collection of brand new heroes — didn’t quite reach their pinnacle without a few core additions either.

Nevertheless, already I’m seeing convincing interactions between characters like Lobo and Black Canary, a pairing I would never have imagined before now (but now I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities). Lobo himself is in a curious place, much more restrained than we’ve seen from the Macho Man in decades. Intellectual even at times, but with enough of an edge to challenge the Batman. Respectfully, that is.

Beyond the interpersonal set-up and just general excitement this kind of changing of the guard tends to inspire in me, the artwork by master Justice League penciller Ivan Reis goes a long way to convince any doubters that this is indeed a JLA worthy of the name. His style radiates regality without losing any sort of personality and expression.

Far from it, in fact, as Reis and inkers Prado and Albert deliver some charming looks, particularly from Vixen and Lobo, while still giving us a few quick doses of action in between pages of largely talking heads. Nevertheless, the issue still feels like it has a palpable energy to it, owing in part to colorist Maiolo’s beautiful range from shadowy scenes to bright daylight heroism.

It will likely not be until the true first issue before we get to see Reis really burst out, but with this range of characters and the atmosphere he and his colleagues have already created, one can hardly doubt it will be phenomenal.

A true rebirth — not just of the League itself, but of that giddy excitement and intellectual curiosity I had as pre-teen holding that other great #1 — Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 is an excellent start to a brand new era. It’s not 100% clear where this team is headed, but all signs point to greatness.

The Verdict: 9.5/10

 

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