By Kelly Gaines
It’s hard to explain how excited I am to see my favorite version of the Justice League launching in a new comic. The animated Justice League of the early 2000’s is the show responsible for sealing my interest in superheroes and giving me the push I needed to venture into the intimidating world of reading comics. In short- I’m in love with this team. It’s probably going to take me a few rereads to clear the tears out of my eyes and get harshly critical, but for now, I’m excited and throwing blind faith into these characters- more so than the creative team. And let’s be fair, they’ve got an all-star lineup, but in comics that doesn’t mean it’ll be any good.
This title clears away the clutter of Dark Knights Metal and takes readers back to a time before Rebirth and New 52. I can’t confirm that the events of New 52 won’t matter here, but as of this # 1, there’s a fresh and familiar wind blowing (and to be perfectly frank, I’m not positive what universe this title is set in yet as I am not caught up with the other current JL titles. I think it’s safe to assume we’re not connected to the Doomsday Clock nonsense, but who can be sure). Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage have already made their presence known, and the pages feel like they’re literally dripping with nostalgia (in a good way, for now). So what’s the mission? As is always the case with the Justice League, something big, alien, and evil is heading for earth and making waves through the lightyears. The classic villains are up to their old schemes as well, Savage going as far as to use the campy team name the “Injustice Gang”. I mean come on. You’re supposed to be terrifying, is that really the best you could do? It’s inverting the name of your rivals and slapping some Scooby Doo on the end. Can’t you just hear Shaggy saying it? Add a question mark after ‘gang’ and a ‘zoinks’ at the end and there you go. Luthor's Legion of Doom can't be helped- it's iconic. The Injustice Gang could definitely afford a rebrand. This is barely a complaint. I love Scooby Doo and I’m enjoying the campy. There’s a way to write these classic cliches and still keep the story interesting, and thus far Justice League is delivering. It’s all about the storytelling. If a writer can do that well, they deserve to throw in some silly. I need to stress the word ‘some’ though, as they are already taking a few too many liberties.
So far the story is villain-centric to a fault- a BIG fault. These are the DC heroes a lot of current readers (and those currently interested in becoming readers) are already connected to, motherfuckin USE THEM. I enjoyed spending time with Martian Manhunter as he broods and contemplates from a difference, but this is not the angle I would have chosen for starting the story. Before we meet the villains, before we know about the danger, let us know our heroes. We’re going to have to root for them, let’s spend some time with them first. They’re familiar characters, but this is a new story. Knowing what drives the individual will solidify what drives the team. I feel like some of the big name titles have lost that concept of developing empathy. I could watch the JL take on galactic bad guys all day, but the story doesn’t mean a thing if I can’t draw on what these versions of the characters mean to me. This isn’t a commercial for a monster truck rally. You can’t entice me by yelling cool names and promising action. Not again. This Justice League run has the raw material for greatness, and failure would mean dragging a team near and dear to the hearts of a lot of DC fans through the mud. For the love of the gods and the planets and the monster trucks, don’t let us down.
A few other thoughts: first, I’ve mentioned before how much I hate the self-censored curse words. I don’t care if it’s a cheeky screw to the audience, it’s annoying. If the Joker can’t say ‘fuck’ then what are we doing here? Luthor said ‘damn.’ Is the Joker the ruler-wielding nun of the Legion of Doom? Damn is not a bad word; it’s in the bible. I realize I’m taking that too far, and maybe it’s a personal dislike, but I hate it- and a majority of the Joker’s presence in the book so far. He teeters between not being funny enough for comic relief and being too campy to be a threat. He’s the limbo of Jokers, and someone needs to straighten him out. I could nitpick further, but I’ll bring it home to my point. This issue passes, not with flying colors but with colors maybe somewhat rustling in the breeze. Less exposition, less big ideas, more character. Please. I think I speak for a majority of the DC fans in the world when I say stop playing with our hearts.
Justice League #1