Thursday, 21 February 2013

New Beginnings - Justice League Of America #1

So in the span of a week we have found out that Geoff Johns is leaving the Green Lantern series (boo!) and at the same time he is starting a new line with the (late) arrival of Justice League of America.

Over the years, the JLA has had various incarnations, quite often incorporating at least one of the Justice League main members. On this occasion it is for very different reasons and flows from the reimagining of the New 52 Justice League. For this team is there as a failsafe. A potentially redundant safeguard against the original Justice League in case anything ever went wrong. The original member included in this line up is the Martian Manhunter who rather unceremoniously left (before a brief stint in Stormwatch) after a dispute. This also fuels his inclusion with Waller’s line up and her agenda too.

Although this team member is one of the latter to be approached, the remainder of the comic is dedicated to the other associates that he will have. The line up is unconventional to say the least as it contains Hawkman, Katana, Vibe, Star Girl, Green Arrow, Catwoman and the new Green Lantern, Simon Baz. All of which are carefully selected - not because of who they are - but what they can do. Each of them possesses a skill, strength or power that can neutralise a specific member of the League. This is also something that Colonel Steve Trevor can also see through, which is why he is prime to mould the group.

Considering that some of the characters are either relatively unknown - or have not been in the DCU for very long - Johns does a good job of introducing everyone and respecting their relative character flaws and foibles, without dumbing down their character traits. He has also created a huge air of unease, which will no doubt be a plot vehicle around this dysfunctional team.  This mix is one that will also not be widely well received in the public eye. And the large personalities within the group will cause a certain amount of friction.

Simon Baz epitomises this fantastically as he is the new Green Lantern recently added to the Corps only a few issues ago in the Green Lantern title, currently perceived by many as a terrorist. Johns is not afraid to bring existing history over for any of these individuals.

Whilst reading it as well it’s very easy to forget that there are actually three different storylines being explored here. In addition to the team's formation, we have the Dark Hunter (later revealed as Green Arrow in disguise) on the run, plus a flashback depicting Professor Ivo some years in the past taking on the mantel - along with others - as would-be super-villains. All things to come in no doubt which shows the forethought and planning that is already afoot.

David Finch, who most recently gave us the artwork on Batman: The Dark Knight, has joined Johns to create this title. Having loved his work on B:TDK I was keen to see what he provided here too. It’s not what I expected though, as it is different in certain ways. Working with so many characters who have a reputable image has meant that he couldn’t really change them too much but there are small differences that set them apart with his own little twist. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the huge volume of information that the reader is visually provided with as every inch of every frame has been considered and used appropriately. He has also obviously enjoyed providing his take on an iconic image such as the cover which many will recognise, albeit not in bronze.

As a new beginning I didn’t feel that it was the strongest of stories, as it was more scene setting and by that the style also became a little clichéd. However, once you looked beyond the obvious you can see that there is a lot more going on. I also have a lot of time for Geoff Johns as a writer and have come to expect that there is most likely a lot more than meets the eye here, a literary iceberg in the making.

I may not necessarily follow this title straight away, but I will be keeping watch on it to see how it progresses.

Matt Puddy is pondering what to say about Jeph Loeb's new take on Nova...

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