In Review: Justice League of America #1

The story hits all its marks and the visuals are superb in this opening issue.

The covers: A trio of covers to track down if one really enjoys this new series. Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Marcelo Maiolo provide the visuals for the Regular cover. This is the typical group shot of a team for a first issue and it works well. With a massive image of Batman in the background, atop a red, orange, and yellow explosion, the other team members rush forward into action: Vixen, Ray, Black Canary, Lobo, Atom, and Frost. Every character looks good, with the personalities captured strongly by Reis and Prado. The coloring by Maiolo is a little dark, with Lobo, Atom, and Frost’s side much darker than the left, but the artwork can still be seen. The Variant cover is by Mark Brooks and features the most well know threesome of the team: Batman, Lobo, and Black Canary. All three are flying toward the right side of the image, with Lobo in the middle, Batman to his right, and Canary on his left. The characters look great, but it’s the coloring that really sells this; a fantastic series of reds as a background and explosion that sets off the heroes fantastically. There’s also a Blank Sketch Variant cover to pick up if one would like to take it to a convention to get the signatures of those who contributed to this issue or to have an artist create a one of a kind original frontpiece. I like the idea of this, but on its own, it’s just a blank cover. Overall grades: Regular B+, Variant A-, Blank Sketch Variant C

The story: Steve Orlando has crafted a good introductory issue to this team, establishing who they are and what they can do, then introducing the villains. The issue opens with Batman and Vixen on patrol in Gotham City. Vixen questions why Batman created this newest version of the JLA and he responds with “People need to see heroes are human, Vixen. Like them. That they can be heroes. The JLA will show them that.” This is a nice sentiment, and inspiring for people, but it does open the door to future conflicts: 1, Lobo is anything but human, as given from his appearance and strength, and 2, This could make Batman seem anti-alien. Just throwing this out there. In the city of Vanity, Black Canary and the Ray help evacuate a building during a fire; in the Pacific Ocean, Lobo is fighting flame spewing monsters that are “botherin’ the local sea life”, and Atom and Frost are in the Sanctuary (the new headquarters of the JLA) working on fixing the Troublealert. Orlando gets major points for giving the warning system of the JLA this moniker. In just four pages, Orlando neatly establishes the team, so it’s on Page 5 that the villains make a dramatic entrance into Saratoga, New York. The actions of the Lord Havok in the fifth and sixth panels on that page are something that everyone can relate to at one time or another. His dialogue on 6 sums up his character and motive succinctly. In fact, its brevity makes his words extra chilling. He and the Extremists have come to Earth with a mission and it’s going to take the JLA to stop them. The villains start their rampage, the JLA arrives to battle them, and the conflict takes a turn when a hero is captured. I was glad that Orlando chose this hero, as this individual would be the one that has the most trouble during the battle. It’s on the last page, with the cliffhanger, that a nice jolt is given to the reader with one hero’s closing words and actions. This would have left me screaming as a youngster, saying it’s not so, but as a veteran reader, I know this character will have something up his sleeve. A typical superhero story, but enjoyable. Overall grade: B+

The art: The visuals on this book are incredible. Ivan Reis is an exceptional penciller and he’s joined by three exemplary inkers, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Julio Ferreira. The first panel is a beautiful shot of Batman swinging over some buildings accompanied by Vixen, who’s flying using the abilities of a bat. When they land on a building, Batman’s cape billows forward, creating a striking, classic image of the iconic hero. When Vixen stands upright, she shows herself to be a strong woman, capable of going fist to fist with any foe. The final panel shows Batman looking ominous, which is the opposite of his words. The fire that Black Canary and Ray are fighting against is epic; from the building engulfed in flame, Canary’s dramatic exit, to the Ray’s incredible use of his powers. The final shot of the pair at the bottom of Page 2 is gorgeous. Lobo looks cool fighting the fire monsters from his bike, and Ryan and Frost look good in the Sanctuary. When the Extremists appear that’s when the visuals really take off, with them looking incredibly fearsome and their actions marvelously heinous; take a look at 10 to see them in action! The arrival of the JLA is a double-paged spread and it’s outstanding. Just on the visual alone, a reader will know that the fight is about to commence. There’s partial double-paged spread on 16 and 17 which is sensational for where each character is and what they are doing. One hero gets the spotlight on 18 and it’s interesting to see this perspective on the battle. The layout on the page is good and the sense of motion that’s accomplished by the visuals is really good. The last panel of the book is a terrific cliffhanger, showing this character in a position that’s not common. I’m looking forward to where this quartet of artists takes this series. Overall grade: A

The colors: Working just as strongly as the line art, and punching it up considerably, are the colors of Marcelo Maiolo. Vixen’s animal abilities are brought to life with a beautiful pale violet. The fire on Page 2 is enormous due in no small part to the tremendous yellows, oranges, and reds; I especially like the work done withe highlights in Canary’s hair at the bottom of the page. The fire is equally impressive on the third page as the creatures try to immolate Lobo. The water is also wonderful. The Sanctuary gets a neat orange texture with Ryan and Frost, making the surroundings seem rusted. The bottom panel on 7 has some exceptional blending done on one of the Extremists’ faces. 10 really shows Maiolo to be at the top of his game. A reader should really take notice on how he directs the eye through the carnage occurring. The arrival of the JLA is poster and print worthy with its colors. The battle scenes are beautiful for the colors involved, but they exude enough heat to show a reader how deadly they are. Exceptional work throughout. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, transmissions, sounds, screams, yells, the story’s title, and the book’s credits are created by Clayton Cowles. I really like the scene settings of this book, which stand out from all other fonts in this and other DC titles; it’s simple, yet very effective. The sounds are incredibly fun. I’m glad to read a superhero title where the sounds are stated, as they provide much visual punch to an action scene. I do wish that Lord Havok had his own unique dialogue font, rather than having a uniquely designed dialogue balloon. This was a missed opportunity, but it was not Cowles’s call to make. Still, everything else he contributes is aces. Overall grade: A-

The final line: The story hits all its marks and the visuals are superb in this opening issue. This JLA is one to follow. Overall grade: A-

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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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