By Jonathan Edwards
I'm disappointed. After all the buildup (which I've already talked about at length in my reviews of all five JLA: Rebirth one-shots), I was at least expecting a more intricately build plot from the main book. Instead, we got this. I really have to wonder what point there is in having full issues devoted to setting up characters, when very little of what was in them carries over. I guess one would have slightly more context for the clumsy exposition when it's still thrown in, but that's negligible and inapplicable to those already familiar with the characters. Honestly, I'm amazed how lackluster this turned out to be. I went from "hopeful of the possibilities presented by this team up" to "might not even keep reading" in one issue.
My issues with Justice League of America #1 begin pretty much immediately. The first few pages do little more than reiterate information previously given in the one-shots. The story proper begins on page 5, and from that point on, the whole issue can be summed up in three sentence: Supervillains from an alternate universe want to take over the world. The JLA shows up to stop them. They all fight. That's it. The supervillains in question are The Extremists, all of which were originally created as homages to Marvel villains. However, that doesn't mean that anything actually interesting is done with them here. Their motivations begin and end with "the only way to save the world is to oppress it." Perhaps there's some social commentary meant to be somewhere in there, but that doesn't stop it from being weak, boring, and cliché. Furthermore, other than one or two lines, Lord Havok (the leader) is the only member of the team to talk or do anything other than attack random civilians and the JSA. Why even use a team of antagonists if only one of them is going to have any semblance of characterization?
The biggest problems crops up right near the end of the issue, when Ryan Choi freaks out a bit over this being his first outing as The Atom since obtaining a new suit. Or in other words, Batman brought a complete rookie with him into the fray of a fight against an interdimensional threat. Seriously? How many partners and colleagues has Batman helped train? And somehow it didn't occur to him that Ryan might not be ready for this kind of fight? I think the comic is trying to treat this like a trial by fire of sorts, but that doesn't really work when the person has no combat experience to pull from and be tested on. Not to mention, it's in complete contradiction of the Batman we saw in the Night of the Monster Men crossover (co-written by Orlando) who was intentionally sending his comrades away from dangerous situations. And, they were immensely skilled fighters. Because of this, the ending of the issue feels completely contrived.
Same as with Justice League of America: Rebirth #1, Ivan Reis handles the pencils, and I don't any big complaints in terms of the art. Although, in the couple of panels depicting The Ray "setting a perimeter," it's not entirely clear what he's doing to accomplish that. I think he's supposed to be distorting light to hide the battle from civilians or containing it with hard light or both. Or, maybe he's teleporting the civilians away? (even though that's not really a perimeter). Either way, that was the only noticeable flaw, and it was a pretty minor one.
In conclusion, I have a question. What the hell, Steve Orlando? Was there some standing order at DC demanding that, because Bryan Hitch's Justice League and Justice League/Power Rangers both sucked, this had to suck too? Otherwise, this is a dropped ball if I've ever seen one. I don't even know who to recommend this too. It's not like it's sinfully bad, and I'm sure someone out there would get some sort of enjoyment out of it. I just don't know who.
Justice League of America #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artists: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado
Publisher: DC Comics