Justice League of America #1 review

Five years ago, crooked scientist Professor Ivo and a shadowy figure plan a response to the appearance of ever more super-heroes.

Today, a hooded figure is hunted to ground by what appears to be the Justice League, before escaping into a forest.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, US government security wallah Amanda Waller summons former League liaison Steve Trevor and tries to persuade him to wrangle a new team, a Justice League of America. She wants ‘…a Justice League we can count on. A League that isn’t hiding 22,000 miles above us in a satellite. A League that can help other superhumans … or stop them if necessary.’ There’s the rub. Waller wants a pet League that can take down the original team should they ever grow too big for their super-boots.

Waller tells Trevor who she has in mind, and how she’ll persuade the more reluctant to sign up. There’s Hawkman, Stargirl, Vibe, new Green Lantern Simon Baz, Katana, Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter. Each is intended to match a particular Leaguer’s power set. Despite being uncomfortable with the mooted involvement of assassin Katana and the brutal Hawkman, Trevor suggests the criminal Catwoman as a necessary foil to Batman, and goes out to find her, giving us this issue’s most satisfying action sequence.

Writer Geoff Johns plays with time a little, shoehorning the Steve/Catwoman sequence into the middle of his talk with Amanda, but it’s clear that it comes a little later. And the vignettes of potential members work nicely too – Waller gives some background and we see what they’re up to. Most interesting is the Stargirl scene, as Courtney Whitmore makes her debut in DC’s recently revised continuity. Akin to a Hollywood starlet, she seems a suitably sunny sort, smiling for the public despite a couple of hinted-at difficult areas (I suspect the fearful murmering of the name ‘Pemberton’ and her night terrors are connected, though I hope not).

The heroes chasing the hooded guy in an English forest – I won’t reveal who he turns out to be, though you’ve likely guessed – are likely androids created by Professor Ivo, given the character’s background in previous JLA continuities and their reference to a ‘creator’. And that’s fine by me, because if it’s Ivo androids, can old favourite Amazo be far behind? And there’s definitely a super-villain team on the horizon.

Johns does an excellent job of referencing the wider DC Universe and setting up future plotlines, acknowledging Booster Gold’s disappearance, and letting us know that Silver Age JLA villains Starro, Despero and Chronos made it through the Flashpoint event.

One thing this comic lacks is humour; there a cute meta-moment as Waller tells Trevor stuff he patently knows, for the benefit of the readers, but a few witticisms wouldn’t go amiss. Perhaps once the team gets together …

I like this issue. The thinking behind the team structure is laid out in a straightforward manner, while spotlighting the difference between Waller’s manipulative ways and Trevor’s old school thinking. His discomfort with the suggested structure implies that this won’t be a book in which heroes get to kill without hard questions being asked.

Mind, there’s one key question that isn’t raised: if Waller doesn’t trust the regular League after five years of do-gooding on behalf of the planet, why is she willing to gamble national security on a bunch of harder-edged heroes, including newbie Vibe, loose cannon Hawkman and villain Catwoman? I hope this comes up for discussion; meanwhile, I’m looking forward to seeing the character dynamics between the team members. Johns has me on board with his most compelling script for a long while.

And then there’s the artwork. David Finch produces his best work yet for DC, with dramatic compositions filled with characters who look to have inner lives. Finch’s work with Hawkman and Trevor, for example, shows a real gift for body language – these aren’t cardboard cut-outs, they’re strong personalities living in a very dangerous world. I also appreciate that he doesn’t skimp on background detail, giving each scene a convincing setting and sticking with it beyond the establishing shot. Colourists Sonia Oback and Jeremy Cox only emphasise Finch’s strong performance, presenting a world that’s neither too bright nor too bleak. And Rob Leigh’s letters do their part, working with the artwork to sell the script.

The marketing-led cover is a bit rubbish. I get the historic reference, but it means we wind up with a composition in which the superheroes fail to dominate their own debut issue. And that dreary purplish background lends no visual ‘pop’ at all.

Nevertheless, this is an entertaining opener. If future issues are as good – and with a $3.99 price point they need to be – then DC’s New 52 line has another hit.  

22 thoughts on “Justice League of America #1 review

  1. okay but what do you think of the shaggy man showing up in issue 4, the cover is even o homage to the shaggy man's first appearance

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  2. Waller was clear why she was gambling on this team.. she felt they were controllable. She knows their weaknesses and what they want, so she can control them and make them do what she wants them to do (or rather “us”, being the government or the shadow government maybe).

    You mentioned in the Vibe review that this Waller always views the worst in people, well not exactly, she does see good in Trevor. But if you remember, it took a LONG TIME for Waller's back story to come out in Suicide Squad. Before that, she was a hard person who used people for own gain and she was pissed about Checkmate being a separate group that she couldn't control like she did with the Suicide Squad.

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  3. i wonder why katar is call that one criminal byth rok when keeps saying he isn't, all in all i hope he shows up i saw him in the green lantern cartoon and i loved how funny and backstabby he was

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  4. Reviewed and reacted to now, I must say I enjoyed this a bit. Very satisfied with this first issue and I think this is probably the best first issue for a team book I've read so far and not have bad pacing! Amazing.

    While I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where this goes, I thought Justice League #17 was better this week for my Justice League fix. Still, Johns was on fire this week, something I haven't seen in a long while from the guy. So happy to have my favorite writer back in form with this amount of quality material back to back.

    Anyhow, question for you! Johns is bringing an end to his Green Lantern run in May and new writers will be replacing him and everyone else on the other Green Lantern titles. Now that he is gone, think you'll be checking them out to see what these new writers can bring?

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  5. Waller mellowed after the Squad started falling apart on her and everything kinda went to shit. Then she got an origin where we found out her driving force was her dead husband and kid(s). Then she started PERSONALLY leading the Suicide Squad. T

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  6. Are you sure about that? They repeatedly say that they don't know what Hawkman wants or what he's really doing. Star Girl apparently wants to be, well, a star – but she already is. How does that help them control her? If she goes rogue and starts being evil somehow, she's clearly given up on that.

    Do they have any idea about the workings of the Martian Manhunters mind? And can you really coerce or otherwise second guess a telepath? In fact, the far more predictable ones who have much clearer aims, goals and morals are the existing Justice League.

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  7. I'd not heard that, Anon, cheers.

    Blimey Luke, your questions are making me more interested in the book. I wasn't absolutely convinced Stargirl was wanting the adulation, or whether she was just going along with it. If she does indeed have night terrors, perhaps she feels safer in the spotlight.

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  8. I enjoyed the story in JL #17, but the art was so packed, with so many colouring effects, that I had problems visually parsing the action.

    I'll certainly be checking out most of the GL books, to see if there's a change in direction I'll like. Except Red Lanterns, obviously!

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  9. maybe she has a connection to earth 2, we have yet to see or hear about sly pemberton of star spanbled kid, also do you think robinson will use ted knight as starman in earth 2

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  10. Deliberately didn't read your review until I'd read the book today – agree that humour was missing but on the whole it wasn't too bad. I'm not a fan of Finch's work, if I'm honest, but it was nice to see J'onn back in business.

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