Ever since I was a kid, I was a fan of the Justice League, a collection of the mightiest heroes of all, coming together to face threats no single hero could stand.  This is the book that very nearly brought that enjoyment to an end…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Justice League Of America #1 awaits!


Writer: Brad Meltzer
Penciler: Ed Benes
Inker: Sandra Hope
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor:Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00

Previously in Justice League Of America: Originally consisting of DC Comics’ most powerful and high-profile heroes (and the Martian Manhunter), the Justice League Of America had a difficult balance to maintain.  A team with the highest profile heroes couldn’t make giant, sweeping changes or threaten mortal jeopardy, but teams without those characters would be dismissed as wannabes, has-beens and losers.  (Witness the treatment of the Justice League Detroit by snarky fans.)  After the events of Infinite Crisis, the League was no more, dissolved in a three-way tiff by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.  In order to form a new Justice League, the egos and attitudes of “The Trinity” (a term that I loathe because of its constant misuse) would have to be set aside and teamwork would need to be key.

So, naturally, the exact opposite is what happens…

This issue establishes once and for all the idea of “A League Within A League”, wherein Clark, Bruce and Diana comprise a star chamber with a hidden office where they and they alone decide how to form a new League.  It’s a serious mistake (one that the story actually agrees with me on, with a later issue finally addressing this as the terrible idea it is.)  Of course, they’re not the only ones about to be drawn into the orbit of a new JLA: The Red Tornado, recently reassembled after being destroyed in the pages of 52…

Unlike previous restorations, though, the spirit known as John Smith and/or The Tornado Champion doesn’t immediately restore himself in his android body, which leads to great distress for his lady friend Kathy.  Being grilled by Platinum of The Metal Men about how Red Tornado got her to fall in love with him doesn’t help, but it turns out her beloved is closer than she knows.  He’s just immaterial…

This page exemplifies the problematic visual component of this issue, as Ed Benes delivers ridiculously long and bloopy anatomy, as well as inexpressive frozen faces.  Red Tornado’s presumably longing look is indistinguishable from Boston Brand’s worried expression, and nobody seems to actually have a skeleton.  Add in a garish, overly rendered computer coloring job, and this is a very hard comic to look at.  Still, issues of art tend to be subjective, so I can’t harp too hard on Benes’ work.  It’s actually stronger than Meltzer’s clumsy dialogue…

The use of colored caption boxes (red/yellow for Wonder Woman, blue/yellow for Superman, grey/black for Batman) is key to understanding the story, as the voices of the characters are indistinguishable.  While three heroes inappropriately discuss their colleagues as though they’re the CEOs of the League, we get a brief glimpse of Black Lightning, using his position as Luthor’s former Secretary of Education (remember when Lex was President?) to get inside information on the activities of villains, while Hal Jordan hangs out with Roy Harper, who has recently decided to upgrade his look and call himself (UGH) Red Arrow.  Meanwhile, Deadman and The Red Tornado have taken Reddy’s quest to its natural end: The local morgue.

There is a glimpse of some character, however unpleasant, when Batman and Superman almost come to words over the idea of inducting Hawkman, but it’s quickly put down, followed by the Trinity agreeing that they don’t need Vixen.  Of course, fate has other ideas, as someone has left Vixen a note that seems to be leading her to Hub City for a romantic tryst with The Question…

Not only is it a trap, it’s kind of insulting to Vixen.  In defense of Ed Benes, that final panel is actually pretty awesome in terms of facial expression, as well.  In any case, before we see who it is that has engaged her, we cut to the home of Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen, where an amazing moment is about to occur…

Aside from the sketchy Dull Surprise facial expressions, this is an enjoyable moment undermined by the fact that we, the readers, are supposed to laugh that Oliver Queen isn’t being asked to be on the team.  He gets a quiet moment that seems to imply that he’s happy for his former sidekick getting the nod (but the art can’t pull it off), but it’s a mean moment that makes me feel bad for smirking a bit.  Elsewhere, Red Tornado’s android body is stolen by the Secret Society, while Tornado himself is able to inhabit the form of the recently deceased green-eyed man.  Kathy and their adoptive daughter, Traya, are home alone when a creepy knock comes at their door…

In the issue’s sole successful emotional moment,  the newly-human John/Red Tornado is reunited with his family, finally human again, while the other members than will (briefly) become the New Justice League start to come together thanks to the uniting force of incipient swift and blinding violence…

The final page features John Smith hugging his family, which is a nice ending, with elements of doom waiting in the wings.  (Somewhere along the line, somebody also murders the Metal Men, which is played as a complete throwaway moment, once again underlining this book’s premise: There are some heroes who are good, and then there are the other guys, who we’re going to torture and kill.)  The first arc of this series takes SEVEN ISSUES to resolve, and I’ll be honest: I still don’t know what it was all about.  Solomon Grundy is in it, and a new Amazo and somebody called Doctor Impossible who has never had so much as a shred of actual characterization…  It’s a very frustrating read on all levels, leading Justice League Of America #1 a misguided, underwritten, awkwardly drawn revamp that was never able to overcome the problem of how to balance the big stars with the other guys, earning an admittedly retroactively-aware-that-there’s-no-payoff-or-even-improvement-coming 1 out of 5 stars overall.  At least this book brought Vixen, Black Lightning and (UGH) Red Arrow up to the big table, however briefly…



A book that fails to connect on any level, featuring a fundamental misuse of the most popular DC characters, unclear art and a meandering story with too many moving parts...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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