In Review: Justice League of America #1

Overinflated, overpriced, underwritten, and underdrawn. Disappointing.

The covers: Writer/artist Bryan Hitch has the whole team moving up and to the right on the Main cover. Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Superman are flying into the upper right, with the Amazon queen getting her lasso ready. Aquaman seems to have been leaping up, his spear ready to throw. On the ground are Cyborg, Batman, and Flash. The newest member to this classic team has raised his right arm to deliver a blast of energy, while Batman looks grim and the Flash is smiling as the runs forward. Good images of the team with good coloring. The Joker 75th Anniversary cover is by Howard Porter with colors by Hi-Fi. This team has been tearing up the visuals of Justice League 3000, soon to be Justice League 3001, and they do an outstanding job on this variant. A giant Joker has all the JL members in his hands, with only Batman escaping, though he doesn’t look thrilled with falling. Beautiful illustration with beautiful colors. There are also seven Variant covers drawn by Hitch that focus on each member of the team and combine into one gigantic panorama picture. Going from left to right, the covers are Batman, Flash, Aquaman, Superman, Green Lantern, Cyborg, and Wonder Woman. The heroes have landed atop a (seeming) alien spaceship, with similar ones in the background, fighting hordes of robotic foes. It’s decent, but I’m not about to plunk down $5.99 seven times to collect these. Overall grades: Main B, Joker 75th A+, and Panoramic variants B

The story: Superman is on his knees in a city that’s been destroyed. His costume is torn in several places and blood is coming out of a head wound. “Look at this. Look at all this. Look at what you’ve done,” he says to someone off camera. There’s an explosion in yellow and orange and he, and a lot of the ground and a nearby car, goes flying accompanied by a voice stating, “It’s too late. It’s all too late.” As the Man of Steel is thrown skyward, the city — and eventually the Earth — is destroyed. As his unconscious body tumbles through space, past the moon, two voices intrude. One is telling Superman not to overreact because what he’s about to see may be disturbing. The voice (Superman?) responds tersely, but the first voice says another one is coming “…and it looks like he’s alive…” There’s an odd arrangement of lights appear before the unconscious Kryptonian and he’s  transported away from the earth’s satellite. The first part of “Power and Glory” by Bryan Hitch begins in dramatic style, I’ll say that. The action then moves to Metropolis at the Daily Planet where Lois Lane has gone through Clark’s mail to see that he’s been invited to The Infinity Corporation in New York. Meanwhile at the Maw, Metropolis’ super max prison, a security guard is taking a coffin shaped container from the facility, bypassing guards by using the Jedi mind trick. This is a big premiere issue. 49 pages, in fact. However, not many specifics are given. Superman meets with the owner of the Infinity Corp, and finds something that is very disturbing, but nothing is explained. Hints are dropped at what’s going on, but it could be anything at this point. Aquaman gets three whole pages to establish that Atlantis has issues with the surface world and that there are problems in the kingdom under the sea. This is nothing new, as he’s done this countless times before, as has Prince Namor at the competition’s beat. Superman eventually joins the rest of the team to fight the villain of the book, but it went on for a really long time. This is not a new villain, so his weaknesses are known, and I can’t believe that it took so long for him to be defeated. It felt like major story padding. The final four pages introduce the big baddie for this saga and I was underwhelmed. Nothing about this seems like new storytelling. I was very disappointed. Overall grade: C 

The art: I’m not familiar with the work of artist Bryan Hitch. He’s been hyped in several full page advertisements in DC’s books that he was taking over this title as writer and artist, so I admit to feeling like this was going to be something that would be impressive. Lifting up this book and feeling its weight, I was expecting a lot. It did not come close to the hype. For an artist to get the first issue of DC’s flagship book and have it be triple sized, it’s really got to impress for the price. Looking at the first page, I knew this was going to be acceptable visuals, but not stunning ones. In the first panel, Superman looks fine, but the setting is not fully defined: lines suggest pieces and shapes of debris, with nothing in stone. Things improve in the bottom panel when the explosion occurs. Pages 2 and 3 is a two panel double-paged spread. The first panel has a sketch of a large city. It does not bode well when the artist is going sketchy on the second page’s background. Things improve in the larger panel when the Earth explodes. The sketchy settings return inside the Daily Planet at the top of Page 6. Take a look behind Lois or in the upper right corner. Even objects in the foreground, such as before the man on his computer, look hastily rendered. The character work on these pages are fine, but when Superman enters the Infinity Corp. the quality of the characters go down. What happened to Superman in that large panel on 10? He looks scratched up and haggard. He is not the same character shown at the bottom of Page 9. The character with him, Alexis, is suffering from major hair issues. Look at where the bulk of her hair is at the bottom of 9; it’s at the start of her ear. However, it begins to creep further back to the point it’s only in the back quarter of her head by 11. Aquaman looks terrible. In fact, I’m not liking most of the characters’ close-ups as Hitch is using a lot of cross hatching to provide depth and it’s coming off as scratches on their faces. This book looks rushed and incomplete. I think Hitch has bitten off more than he can chew. Overall grade: C-

The colors: It’s also a mixed bag from the usually consistent Alex Sinclair with Jeromy Cox. The opening page is nice, with things paled to suggest failure and when the world goes boom on the next page it’s pretty spectacular with the yellows and oranges spraying about. The bright colors used for transporting the unconscious hero look cool against the darkness of space. When the scene goes to the Daily Planet Lois looks as though she has white splotches on her body, rather than consistent coloring. The waterfall that soon appears is a gorgeous creation of colors. I don’t know what happened on the entrance to the Infinity Corps. building, as the walls are just randomly colored blue to offset the whiteness. There’s also a considerable drop in a settings colors between pages, 12 and 13. The power is still on at the top of 13, why did the scene go dull? The shine on Aquaman’s outfit makes no sense when he hits the water. Where’s the light source as he dives down that’s highlighting his chest? Colors don’t really stick out for most readers as they’re reading. These do, but for the wrong reasons. This is a dim, unfocused job. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Chris Eliopoulos, with assist by Amedeo Tuturro, has created dialogue, an unknown superbeing’s speech, scene settings, opening title and credits, invitation font, sounds, yells, screams of anguish, and computer screen messages. What Eliopoulos has done is good, but I wish the supervillain had a unique font that differentiated him from the heroes. Overall grade: A  

The final line: I’ve avoided purchasing Justice League books in the past because they’re a dollar more than other DC titles. Skimming them, their visuals haven’t been worth the extra buck. This one isn’t worth the extra length or price. I’ll go one more issue, but it’s really got to improve for me to continue to purchase. Overinflated, overpriced, underwritten, and underdrawn. Disappointing. Overall grade: C

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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