In Review: Justice League #1

An excellent debut issue that has all the heroes and all the epic action that one could want from this series.

The covers: Ten covers for manic Justice League fans to find if they have to collect them all. The Regular cover is by Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey. It’s the image chosen to accompany this review because it’s of movie poster quality. Superman is the dominant character on the page, with Jessica Cruz behind him to his right and Simon Baz behind him to his left. Before him are Aquaman on his right and Wonder Woman to his left. Both characters have their backs to the reader, but are turned to look upon him or her. A bust shot of Cyborg is just below Diana, while a small Flash begins to speed off below Arthur. Batman is shown rising from the ground in an Iron Man pose. Around all are several different cities in ruins. This is great. The Variant cover is by Yanick Prouette and Nathan Fairbairn, with assists by Amedeo Turturro. This has, going clockwise, Jessica, Cyborg, Simon, Flash, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman. All are posed well, but it’s the background and colors that make this really stand out. It’s got a stylized 1930’s background with bright yellows and whites. It’s cool. The Fried Pied Variant by Gary Frank has Wonder Woman front and center, surrounded by (from left to right), Jessica, Superman, Simon, Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and Cyborg. They’re all standing atop a mountain with a gorgeous blue sky and clouds for a background. Very cool, and definitely the right character to have in the forefront. There’s also a Fried Pied Variant Sketch cover by Frank that’s the same image, just minus all the colors. Good luck tracking that one down! The Dynamic Forces cover is by Tyler Kirkham and it’s a dramatic image of the Justice League, with the Lanterns and Aquaman in the background, with Batman and Supes a little closer to the reader, and ultimately Cyborg and Wonder Woman the closest. The Flash barely squeaks in the bottom right. Cyborg looks absolutely menacing on this cover. The Bulletproof Comics and Games Variant is by Gabriele Dell’Otto and it’s like looking a fine painting. The big three of this book has the men looking to the right with Wonder Woman looking at something in front of them. Again, excellent choice with her in the front. There’s also an Aspen Comics Variant done by the late Michael Turner. This has a bust shot of a miffed Superman in the front, with Batman turning towards the reader behind him, and the Amazon crossing her wrists, ready to deflect bullets. All are on a tile-like background. Also very cool, but sold out from the publisher! There are three San Diego Comic-Con Variant covers. The first is by Darick Robertson. This has all the Justice League on a blue cover, running forward: the Kryptonian flying at the top with the Lanterns, while the others running below. Pretty nice, though a familiar layout and posing. The Ed Benes San Diego Comic-Con Variant has all the characters under a dark sky, with two blue lightning bolts coming down behind. They’re all rushing to the right and they look good. The final Variant is a sketch version of the Benes cover, minus the colors. Overall grades: Regular A, Variant Prouette, Fried Pie A, Fried Pie Sketch B, Dynamic Forces A-, Bulletproof Comics and Games Variant A, Aspen Variant A, SDCC Robertson B, SDCC Benes A-, and SDCC Benes Sketch B-

The story: Wonder Woman is diving downwards, holding a blue lighting bolt, as flak goes off around her. She lands in a war zone, her impact causing soldiers and tanks to go flying. A soldier yells in Russian, “Fire! Fire everything. Kill the witch! Kill her!” His words only inflame the Amazon, who deflects their bullets with her bracelets and then throws her shield saying, “I’m here to show you what war really is.” She runs at a tank, forcing it backward, and then throwing the vehicle at others. When the dust settles, no soldier is standing, but Diana is and she states, “Now I am angry.” Then something really big occurs that shocks Wonder Woman and the conscious soldiers. This surprise isn’t just happening in Russia, but worldwide. The first part of “The Extinction Agenda” by Bryan Hitch has several of the world’s major cities in peril. Justice League members are in different locations trying to help: the Green Lanterns in Beijing, Cyborg in New York, the Flash in San Francisco, Aquaman in Atlantis, Batman and Gotham, and Superman is everywhere. I was happy to see that Atlantis was shown, because I’ve really been enjoying how this underwater kingdom has been shown in the Aquaman series, and another reason to show it and its inhabitants is something I look forward to. This issue is a smart way to introduce all the characters of the team to the reader and to demonstrate what their abilities are. Thankfully, Hitch isn’t making this a natural disaster, instead making it an extraterrestrial menace who rear their heads on Page 16. Who this menace first appears before is a terrific choice, as it seems that those heroes have triggered a specific response in the villains. From this page on, the threat dominoes, appearing before each lead. I liked the response from the protagonist on 17, the surprise on 18, and the attack on 21. The damage that occurs on 22 echoes what was shown on 6 and 7. This premiere issue with Wonder Woman, who closes the book with an excellent warning. This fired me up for more! Overall grade: A

The art: The pencils on this book are by Tony S. Daniel with inks by Sandu Florea, and this looks great. The Justice League is a book that demands epic looking visuals and Daniel and Florea deliver. The opening splash page has Wonder Woman diving into battle with bullets flying past her and explosions around her: this is an excellent image to give the reader a “Wow” moment. Both artists up the ante with the double-page splash of 2 and 3 that has the Amazon landing in the battle zone with her lighting bolt, energy rippling off it at both ends, and soldiers and vehicles flying backwards. I grew up with comics having speed lines to show motion occurring, but none are necessary in this image because the visuals convey every elements’ path. The close up on Wonder Woman on 4 is incredible — showing her to be strong and an able fighter. The surprise shown on 5 and 6 has the top half of the book as a double-paged splash and it’s epic. The reveal of each hero is beautiful: Page 9 is great; 10 has a strong bust shot, 12 and 13 shows a hero in an iconic pose, 15 has a hero moving forward in a terrific motion, while two heroes only have fleeting images on 19, and they look great. In fact, I was glad to see the final hero on 19 seen from a distance — this made the reader view the hero as the civilians do, which is like a god. The villains are very terrifying, bordering on zombies in their responses and attacks. When their true selves are shown on 20 they were very creepy; I liked how they would make Robert Heinlein fans happy, because I certainly was. A bonus on this page is the final panel, showing how one hero responds to the threat physically. One hero is overwhelmed by the villains, and it’s, again, an epic moment. This book is filled with all the intense visuals a reader could want from this team. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Perfect coloring can be found by Tomeu Morey on every page of this book. The opening tans make it appear that the reader is about to read a story set in WWII, with these colors often used to denote the past. With the turn of a page the whites and violets explode across both pages, showing the reader that this tale is set in the present. Morey smartly colors Wonder Woman’s thought balloons in an orange to make them stand out on the pages. The Amazon’s bracelets and shield stand out against the rust colored Russian setting. The pages involving the Lanterns are gorgeous with their otherworldly greens. The yellow lighting bolts following the Flash are also scene stealers, and the orange-yellow top on Aquaman is an instant eye catcher. There’s terrific work on every page. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft provide narration, dialogue, an editorial note, story’s title, book’s credits, scene settings, and the tease for next issue. Everything looks great, but, sadly, nary a sound is to be found. Sounds are a key component in comic books and their absence detracts from a book. Their placement is not based on the letterers’ notes, but the writer’s. I wish there were some in this book. Overall grade: B+

The final line: An excellent debut issue for the Justice League that has all the heroes and all the epic action that one could want from this series. I’m down for more! Overall grade: A

To find out more about this book or other titles with characters from the Justice League go to http://www.dccomics.com/

To order the Dynamic Forces cover go to http://www.dynamicforces.com/htmlfiles/p-C125286.html

To order the Bulletproof Comics and Games cover go to http://www.bulletproofcomix.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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