A new era for the Justice League begins with – dare I say it – a bang! Major Spoilers reviews Justice League #1 from DC Comics.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: 6/6/2018
Previously in Justice League: Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe, here in this great Hall of Justice, are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled: SUPERMAN! BATMAN AND ROBIN! WONDER WOMAN! AQUAMAN! Dedicated to truth, justice and peace for all mankind!
THREE THREAT MONTE
I have not read Justice League for a while, but Justice League #1 is new and I figured it would be a good jumping on point. It sets up quickly. Something powerful is headed toward Earth. Also, the Hall of Justice is back. Those are just a couple touch points, but it orients readers just enough for when we drop in on the action – a multi-pronged engagement against highly-advanced Neanderthals in various ecosystems around the world.
I like that Martian Manhunter is Chairman of the Justice League, and uses his telepathy to connect the team. Despite being scattered, they can all communicate with each other (and poke a little fun at Batman). J’onn can also process their combined knowledge and figure out that these simultaneous actions by the Neanderthals have Vandal Savage’s fingerprints all over them. And then the Earth’s surface starts breaking up. This is where the story almost lost me. The problem with stories of very powerful teams is that the threats have to escalate accordingly, and it is hard to do that without getting ridiculous. J’onn quickly realizes they have to destroy the moon to stop this.
The issue shifts once again, and readers find out that Vandal Savage has indeed been plotting this (including the moon), and it is the first stage of his plan. He knows a secret, which is about what lies behind the Source Wall, and has been playing the long game with this knowledge. But someone else has figured out that he has this secret, and that someone is Lex Luthor. And this pulled me right back. We now have multiple intelligent major threats, which makes things interesting again. We don’t have much time to dwell on that reveal though, because J’onn pulls the team together to tell them that a “Totality”, something containing all the energy of the Source Wall, will reach Earth in three minutes. Will it bring on the next evolution for a multiverse on the brink of dying, or will it simply destroy everything?
While the Justice League takes a minute to ponder, Savage offers to throw in with Lex Luthor. He just didn’t realize Luthor had acquired the construction contract for his secret base and made some…secret additions. Luthor – with his cohorts, the Legion of Doom – is willing to kill Savage for his secrets of what lies behind the Source Wall. The Justice League votes to let the Totality in. Luthor kills Savage. And in that moment, we get a psychic link between Martian Manhunter and I believe Vandal Savage, his mind casting out his secrets as he dies. J’onn then wonders if he has led the League to making the wrong decision.
Now that is a powerful point in Justice League #1, and it feels plausible, and really connects with readers. Making a momentous decision in three minutes means you have to risk making a mistake. And that, my friends, is the kind of plot point that makes stories of the super-powerful interesting.
KEEPING IT ALL TOGETHER
We literally span the globe in Justice League #1, as well as spending a fair amount of time in space. As a consequence, a lot of the scenes in this book have a dark color palette. The inks do a lot of heavy lifting, which I particularly like for the space scenes. There is no atmosphere to diffuse the colors, so the shadows should be sharper and deeper, and they are. In order to meet with the whole Justice League, Martian Manhunter uses a psychic boardroom which is also set in space. This gives a lot of the hero scenes a sort of bluish cast, and I think it emphasizes how they are trying to be analytical and dispassionate in the face of imminent crisis. It is an interesting contrast with the warm tones used in
Vandal Savage’s, Lex Luthor’s lair. It has such a cozy tone that when the villains show up, it makes them feel all the creepier. I do feel kind of sorry for the Neanderthals, who feel like the MacGuffin of the issue. I like the idea of them, and I want to read stories involving them, but that could just be me. As the story progresses, we get faster cuts between the heroes and the villains, which increases the sense of urgency right up to the end.
BOTTOM LINE: NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT TO JUMP ON
A lot happens in Justice League #1. I like that we start with a well-coordinated team who are plainly comfortable together. We touch on J’onn’s backstory a little, as that sets up his doubt at the end. We get a lot of plot threads thrown at us, which is to be expected. There is plenty of room for upcoming conflict, but the writing is deft enough that we don’t know exactly where or what the biggest threat will be, or what will happen next. And that makes for a solid first issue.