Justice League International #1

Justice League International #1

B-

Guest post by: Tom Tomorrow

I was optimistic about the JLI relaunch for a number of reasons. I’ve always enjoyed the Giffen/DeMatteis “Bwa-ha-ha”-era League of misfits, and this version of the team largely carries over from Justice League: Generation Lost, which I liked a lot. There’s also Dan Jurgens’ return as writer, which I note mainly because he wrote the first Justice League comics I ever read, way back in 1992. Jurgens might not be Grant Morrison, but he’s always turned in solid superhero stories, especially with Booster Gold. On top of all that, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the core Justice League premiere, and hoped that this would be different.

It was. In fact, Justice League International #1 is almost the anti-Justice League #1, for all the good and bad that entails. The good is that this brings the whole team together (as the cover art might suggest) and introduces clear conflicts and threats right from the very beginning — no decompression in sight. Jurgens quickly establishes characters’ roles within the team, tensions between them, and conflicts with authority and the public that are sure to be ongoing. The art is clean and crisp, with the sort of clear action and expressive faces that Aaron Lopresti always brings to the table.

What Lopresti has to work with is less stellar. I’m all for decompression, but there are some pages that feel cramped, as the story moves at perhaps too brisk a pace. There’s also the problem of unnecessary costume redesigns, most obviously on the first page, where Lopresti’s clear, classic renderings of the new Captain Atom and Booster Gold costumes make them look utterly ridiculous. Booster’s original costume was well-balanced; now he can join Superman in the “too much blue” club — except that Booster is mostly teal. It doesn’t help that the awkward piping on his collarbone looks inexplicably like a “W.”

The decompression also means there’s not much subtlety or nuance to the character development. The Russian UN delegate ticks every box on the ‘80s movie Soviet stereotype card, the crowd of rioters outside the Hall of Justice improbably shout plot points, and the nationalistic rivalry between Rocket Red and August General in Iron makes them both look like petulant children. It’s not all bad; Booster Gold and Guy Gardner are both exactly what you’d expect, and Batman gets some good moments as well, but most of the rest of the cast is left as broadly-defined stereotypes or blank slates. Jurgens does a good job developing relationships and tensions between the Leaguers, but skimps on their individual personalities and motivations.

The plot is pretty straightforward — people go missing, heroes investigate, battle scene — and that much makes for a good, classically action-oriented comic. The Hall of Justice subplot is confusing, leading me to wonder if it’s a holdover from the pre-Flashpoint era, or if the brief treatment just left out too much detail. Either way, it’s hard to get worked up about losing a building that only appeared in full on-panel once it was already on fire.

Overall, I think the book suffers from trying to do too much. Not only is it meant to bring the JLI together and introduce the members to new audiences, but it also kicks off several short- and long-term conflicts, explores some of the New 52 DCU’s politics, and tries to recapture some of the humor and character drama that people remember so fondly from the Giffen/DeMatteis era. It all adds up to a decent, old-school superhero book, which sounds like an insult in this “bold new era,” but I’m glad that there’s still a place for such material in the New 52. And as long as future issues provide a little more room to breathe and add a couple more dimensions onto the characters, I’ll continue reading. Just incase there isn’t, I’m putting it ON PROBATION.

tags: aaron lopresti, dan jurgens, justice league international, the new 52

  • Anonymous

    You were just a bit more generous with this book than I would’ve been (I had it in C+ territory). I agree with you about its problems with character development; there are just a few too many shortcuts here. I can’t help but feeling, though, the retro elements really hurt this book. While I loved Aaron Lopresti on Generation Lost, I think his style’s too simplistic to really fit with the New 52. Similarly, as I feared Jurgens is stuck in old-school mode. I was really hoping for books to try new things, and I think that if you want to do a political superhero thriller you need someone with a sharp eye on the modern world, not someone whose artistic sensibility is grounded in 1989. 

  • Creeper70

    I just read it myself a few minutes ago and I have to admit I really liked it better than the JLA 1 from last week, for all the same reasons you had stated in your review: It reads like an OLd Skool Comic. And the reason why I am even more surprised that I like it is that im not really a big Dan Jurgens fan: His Art and Stories, while not bad are a bit too vanilla for my tastes. But with JLI i think he did an alright job. It may not be the legendary Giffen/DeMatties run of JLI that I loved, but it aint too shabby either. Ill be a return buyer on this one!

  • Thomas Foss

    I definitely wonder what the overall theme/tone of this book is going to be, because it’s currently all over the place. But as far as people whose artistic sensibilities are grounded in 1989, please remember that Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and Scott Lobdell are all on major titles. Even moves like bringing Animal Man and Swamp Thing and their horror flavor back to the DCU proper is restoring things to the ’86 pre-Vertigo era. As much as I’m enjoying the New 52 so far, I really don’t see much that I can actually call “new.”

  • Anonymous

    Well, I’m certainly not a fan of Liefeld or Lobdell, and though Jim Lee’s been around that long his art doesn’t look dated in the way Lopresti’s does. Also, though you’re technically right about Swamp Thing and Animal Man, have you READ Animal Man? There’s nothing retro about it; it’s definitely the freshest book I’ve seen so far. 

  • Giganukeoid

    This review hits pretty much every major point worth saying, however the way i personally read comics likely differs. I was confused by the inclusion of the Hall of Justice, they didn’t explain its significance, if the Justice League is brand new, why would the Hall matter? There is also an allusion to a previously standing relationship between batman and guy gardener, which seemed odd since batman and hal jordan just met. Obviously this is just nit picking since these issues will likely come to fruition, just seemd like they could have hammered all this out before such a huge and massively publicized relaunch

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