Written by Geoff Johns
Art by David Finch
Release Date: February 20, 2013

jla1aThere’s a new League in town and this one is specifically designed to kick your ass.

An obvious blend of B-Team Justice Leagues of the past and the government run Suicide Squad, the brand spanking new Justice League of America seems to encapsulate the best of both of those worlds, and grows right out of a fan boy’s dream. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way at all (as some might immediately take it), but want to express how functionally right this team now feels to me after having read the first issue. Seeing these eight characters — Martian Manhunter, Catwoman, Katana, Simon Baz, Vibe, Stargirl, Hawkman and Green Arrow — standing in a line didn’t initially inspire my confidence, despite my appreciation for the greater gender and ethnic mix of a team with the appellation “America” attached to its title. But once explained, quite concisely, why these characters are meant to form this particular team, it makes brilliant sense and harkens back to dozens of arguments and plans me and my friends would have about the members of the League over the years (and honestly, still do). Not to spoil anything, but even (or especially) Catwoman’s spot on the team is perfectly pitched and forms a great parallel to Steve Trevor’s own reluctant involvement.

Johns devotes much of the issue to detailing each new member of the team, their status quo and reason for coming aboard, cast in a compelling conversation between Trevor and his new boss Amanda Waller. As a longtime Justice League fan, these are the issues I look forward to, the compiling of the dossiers so to speak — although in this case, literally — to form a new team. Johns does a brilliant job of layering in several newfound mysteries throughout each character’s brief appearance, so that no vignette feels like a wasted moment. Of particular note is the ultimate appearance of the Martian Manhunter, both familiar and refreshingly spooky all at the same time, as he returns to service in the place we have wanted him all along. No surprise, Stargirl is perhaps the least changed character of any to resurface in the New 52, still a bright, heroic figure who may only shine brighter against the darkness of her surroundings. The mystery behind her past is one which I am most intrigued by, and opens up a world of possibilities for resuming what in my opinion was the greatest legacy of the DC Universe pre-Flashpoint. And yes, she still has her braces.

Finch’s art is exceptional throughout, able to balance dynamic action with talking heads so fluidly they carry equal visual excitement. His Hawkman is simply breathtaking, a threatening giant Centurion, and Martian Manhunter creepy and aloof, without losing an air of regality to his appearance. There are a few moments of stiffness of pose in both Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller as the camera moves back and forth between them in the closed space of her office, but those are far outweighed by some of the exceptional facial renderings Finch provides in other panels of the very same scenes. The book is paced to feel quickened with a sense of urgency without sacrificing detail or attention span. I daresay this first issue outshines the previous Justice League #1 for getting not just what you paid for, but maybe even a little bit more.

As a counterbalance to the more traditional League also under Johns’ control, Justice League of America promises to provide a very different take on the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, and one that could potentially provide even more drama than its predecessor. It’s not even just the interactions between heroes who seem to have no business sharing a room with each other, but layers of government shadow work and motivations behind motivations, that I am most eager to see begin to unravel.  This series is a definitive one not to miss, in my opinion. Story, art, characters, importance to the greater universe — no book is delivering all four of those (in such high doses) as this one does in only its first issue.

Verdict: 9.5/10



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