Well, there’s really one big news story dominating comics at the moment. At somepoint I’ll come back to talk about Flashpoint, but it has long been overshadowed by the reboot that’s finally arrived after several months of hype. And relaunching the DC Universe falls to the obvious title, with the new volume of Justice League introducing the new timeline, and more suspicious DCU.
The premise is pretty straight-forward. For the first few story lines, Justice League is set some 5 years behind the rest of the new books (barring Action Comics, which is set earlier than Justice League), and will chart the emergence of the superheroes from myth into public life. Focusing on Green Lantern and Batman for this first issue, we see how the authorities are suspicious, if not outright hostile, in a manner all too familiar to fans of Batman. However, this time rather than just Batman, its all superheroes that they’re gunning for. However, over the course of the next few story arcs, as Justice League catches up to the present day, we’ll see the League forming, and the public acceptance to superheroes growing, until we reach a more familiar DCU. Presumably.
Choosing to focus this initial issue on Green Lantern and Batman made a lot of sense to me, and while its a decision that, along with the slow burn approach, has garnered some complaints online, for me it worked. Green Lantern and Batman are two of DC’s hottest properties at the moment (at least within comics) however, ironically it means the two heroes ushering in this new universe are the two whose continuity seems to be most intact from what we can tell. But while the slow burn approach may be getting criticised, its one that’s proven effective in the past where you’re reintroducing characters readers will already have some degree of familiarity with (most notably in Ultimate Spider-Man).
Geoff Johns also has a lot of fun here, playing off these two characters, building on the idea of Hal being the light to Batman’s darkness that he introduced back as far as Rebirth. Here its magnified though, along with the difference in the two personalities. Where Bruce is shown as driven and controlled, Hal’s cockiness is played up to the Nth degree. Hal’s got the most powerful weapon in the universe on his finger, and he’s not been afraid to let that power go to his head. Seeing himself as that powerful, he’s arrogant in the extreme, and I found it a fun take on the character, especially with the way it played up the ring’s strength in a way that we’ve not seen in the main Green Lantern title for a while now. I suspect Geoff’s also planning for the way he’s going to take the character in the ongoing title, having now been stripped of the ring. We see here a Hal that’s pretty much defining himself by his power, and even pre-reboot there was a character point about how long he’d had the ring on and had cut himself off from Earth. This characterisation just seems to reinforce the idea that Hal’s going to struggle to reinvent himself stripped of his powers.
About the only thing that didn’t really work for me, was the introduction of Vic Stone, the soon-to-be Cyborg. His scenes stuck out an awful lot amongst all the super heroics, and while established readers have the benefit of knowing what’s going to happen to him, I still found they slowed things down a bit too much. However, that said, I’m also still unconvinced by the big push Cyborg is getting both here and in Flashpoint. He’s very much a B-list character, and tying him into the formation of the Justice League in this way to me stinks of something similar to how Black Canary replaced Wonder Woman in an earlier iteration of the League’s foundation. Its a change that stuck out and niggled fans for years, and I can’t see Cyborg being crowbarred in fairing an awful lot better. That said, he’s not replacing any of the A-listers like Dinah did.
So all in all, I have to say I found this a strong first issue. While not flawless, the Batman and Green Lantern pairing was a strong one to launch things with, and I enjoyed Jim Lee’s art (apart from the weird redesign of Hal’s shoulders, which changed from panel-to-panel – but then I could rant about the over-designed new costumes quite a lot more, and some weird story-telling issues with a Parademon where some panels didn’t quite work). The promise of Superman versus Batman does leave me, as an established reader, a bit cold for next issue, as its a conflict that’s pretty much cliché, however from the perspective of enticing new readers, I think its a strong cliffhanger to leave the book on.