September 5th, 2011 | Murfreesboro, Tennessee
As comic readers, we are sometimes asked to play along.
Just pretend that the fact that there are infinite universes and an inter-dimensional wars taking place makes perfect sense. Just pretend that a person can literally punch a hole in reality. Just pretend that when someone dies, they stay dead. Every time we are asked to play this game, resistance explodes across the collective community. We are typically displeased in some fashion. Either we find the game to be poorly thought out or we get the distinct feeling we’ve played this game before, and we are sick of it. With this in mind, it only makes sense that when DC announced they were going to relaunch the entire line with brand new number ones and change the history of some of our icons, people stopped playing along. Lines were drawn, curses were pressed upon the souls of these game masters, and the internet blew up. Amidst the tidal wave of internet fury, an important question got lost. Is the story going to be any good?
Well, with the kick off of DC’s New 52 and Justice League #1, I’m here to tell you that this might be a game worth playing.
Long time readers might notice something lacking from the opening pages of this Johns-scripted story– exposition. That’s right, we’re thrown right into the mix with all of two word bubbles to bring us up to speed. Honestly, it’s a great change of pace for a Johns book. Sometimes Geoff gets so preoccupied with explaining a story that he leaves little room to actually tell it. That is not the case here. The moment the readers open the book they are greeted with a barrel of a gun and Batman chasing down the bad guy.
Johns’ pacing is superb in this book. Many readers will and have argued that the deliberate pacing of this issue is too slow– too decompressed. To put it simply, it’s not. Johns manages to balance content and length in issue one and the story is all the better for it. Additionally, instead of telling us a story, he lets the very talented Jim Lee show us a story. The sometimes wordy writer is almost silent for more than 15 panels. When he does decide to bring words back into the mix, he makes something perfectly clear– Batman and Green Lantern don’t get along. Half of the fun of this book is the product of the antagonistic banter between Batman and Green Lantern. As a theme Johns has explored before, it is well-executed here with the conflict nearly coming to blows. For new readers, it establishes something they need to know– this isn’t The Super Friends. The heavy tension between the two characters is also well illustrated in Lee’s work.
Lee is back to his old tricks in his return to comics. His lines explode off the page (thanks in no small part to Alex Sinclair’s blindingly beautiful use of light). His Batman is grim, gritty, and…sweaty? Lee’s Batman is a very human portrayal. When I say human, I don’t mean in a Christopher Nolan super realistic way. I mean it in a way that reminds the audience that, despite the training, gadgets and money, Batman is still a human with human characteristics. Lee’s Batman is dynamic. He constantly seems to be moving between panels and pages with a grimace stretched across his face. Lee’s Batman works and works hard. In perfect contrast to this is Green Lantern. While Batman seems to be constantly moving and working, Green Lantern makes everything look incredibly easy. When he arrives on the scene, slinging green power across the pages, he does so statically. He doesn’t move, he doesn’t struggle. Johns and Lee show us our first real “superhuman” and how he stacks up to the very human Batman. The juxtaposition of these two characters and the ways they are portrayed create a fun struggle with verbal and visual cues for new and old readers alike to understand. While it is unclear who to credit with this overall idea, the execution is fantastic.
Despite the overwhelming praise I’ve lavished upon this book, it has its faults and they can’t be ignored. One of the largest problems is the introduction of Vic Stone. Johns utilizes Stone and his exploits as a transition between the beginning and end of the book. The problem is, these scenes feel plopped in with no real importance. The scenes are relatively well written (with some obvious hiccups) but suffer from placement. Instead of being something interesting or a second story to follow, the scene with Stone feels more like a commercial break before the audiences is taken back to the Batman/Green Lantern conflict.
Of course, all of this information is useless without knowing something very important– how does it stack up as the beginning of a new, fresh universe. Unfortunately, that is a mixed bag. This first issue is incredibly new reader friendly. Just enough is spelled out that a new reader can easily pick this up and not be lost in what’s going on. Readers often complain that events don’t make for good jumping on points like companies claim. Well, this one is. Where the controversy will come into play is regarding how new reader friendly the book is. Longtime readers might not be blown away remembering the previous stories of this kind that come to mind such as the beginning of The Ultimate line at Marvel or the first issue of Morrison’s JLA story. This issue is great. It’s a fantastic, fun read. It just doesn’t have the feel that it is as epic of a showcase as DC would have us believe. In fact, it feels more like a reader can skip this title all together and not feel overwhelmed or lost in the upcoming books.
As a single issue and as a story, this book is great — nine out of ten territory. As the lynchpin, the rebirth of the DCnU, it feels a little bit weak. Is it worth a read? That depends on whether or not you find fun, well-paced, and gorgeous books to be worth your money or not. If you open this book up with any previous baggage, any preconceived notions of what it should be, you will be let down. DC is asking us to play this game again. This time, they’ve laid the rules out for us, they’ve tried to make it as entertaining as possible, and they’ve told us we can bring our friends along.
Maybe, if you play along, you might just find that you are having a little fun.
Tom Cruz is a long-time member of the OLB community, and is more than a little savvy on what makes a comic good, great, or gosh-awful. He’ll be dropping more reviews on us as the DCnU relaunch progresses and we look forward to hearing from him.
In the meantime, if anyone else wants to weigh in with opinions or brickbats — whether about the DCnU, Marvel, comics in general, movies, television, or other subjects (let’s stay away from politics, gang — we run a family operation around here) send them along using the email@example.com email address. We’ll print the most thought provoking, edited only for clarity.
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