new
archives
comments
faq
links
contact
X

XRobby Reed Reviews
"New 52" Justice League of America #1-7
(2011-2012)

Story by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Jim Lee, inks by Scott Williams


As we discussed in a previous issue, when Gardner Fox first wrote the JLA's origin story, there was no blueprint for him to copy, because the grand-daddy of all super-teams, 1940's Justice Society of America, never had an origin story!

After the JSA formed, scores of copycat super-teams were created, and each had its own origin. Actually, they each had SEVERAL origins. First came the "origin," then came the "real" origin, then came the "secret true" origin, then, after the story had been retconned and re-retconned so hopelessly no one could understand it anymore -- the "rebooted" origin.

That's ONE reason DC rebooted their entire line last year. But the "real" reason for the big reboot was alarmingly low sales -- line-wide. Even Superman and Batman were topping out at as low as 60,000 copies per issue. The rest of the line was dying on the vine. They had to do something, so they rebooted, coming up with 52 "new" #1 issues. But the big "true, secret" of the reboot is that it actually rebooted nothing. It introduced no new characters of concepts. Every single thing had been seen before, mostly in books that had previously failed. More than anything else, the reboot was about MARKETING.

The flagship title of DC's "New 52" is a JLA reboot titled simply "Justice League." Why did DC drop the "of America" part? Probably for the same reason the last Superman movie had Supes fighting for, in the words of Perry (Frank Langella) White, "Truth, justice, and all that stuff." What Xabout "the American Way"? We were given the ridiculous explanation that "American Way" was not part of the original phrase, so it was OK to leave it out. Of course, the real truth is that the writers are liberals putting their political beliefs in the mouths of the heroes, in an attempt to influence people. Leaving out the "of America" part suits them just fine, whatever the reason. Nuff said.

Anyway, how did the "New 52" Justice League (of Nowhere) come together? As Stan Lee wrote, "The tough part is figuring out how to get them all together. As you can imagine, it wouldn't make a terribly interesting story merely to have someone send the others a note inviting them to join a group of superheroes."

In DIAL B #591, we showed how the original JLA formed when DC's heroes all ran up to a meteor "simultaneously." Trade the word "Darkseid" for "meteor" and you have the plot of the NEW Justice League origin story. I've always thought scripter Geoff Johns was wildly over-rated, and reading his work on this series has done nothing to change my mind. This very long story (six issues) has a few fun chara ctering moments, but that's about it, story wise. The rest is boring and predictable pap -- still, I loved the series because of Jim Lee's excellent art, highlighted by lots of beautiful, poster-style shots of the team members.

THE PLOT: Darkseid and his minions menace earth for "the first time." One by one, our heroes turn up to battle them. The heroes are supposedly meeting for the first time, and writer Geoff Johns presents their interactions in a series of amusing vignettes. Every hero gets his own beautiful full-page entrance shot, courtesy of Jim Lee and inker Scott Williams, who does a brilliant job here (as always). First off, Batman meets Green Lantern...

X
GL can't believe Batman doesn't have any powers...
X
But then (off panel), Batman snatches the power ring from GL's finger! Would this really be possible? Maybe. Who cares? It's a fun sequence!
X
NEW 52 SUPERMAN

Next up , the Man of Steel himself, "New 52" Superman, who has less-curly hair, a new belt, and a collar on his uniform. He no longer wears his red underwear outside his pants. Now his uniform is supposed to be Kryptonian battle armor. Is it just me, or does Superman look like he's put on some weight? He's got all the same powers, but he doesn't do much in this story... except fight Batman!
X
Instant fight scene! Superman vs. Batman! Cool double-page spread!
X
BELOW: Original art for the spread above! Click to super-size it!
X
Next, GL calls Flash, who immediately gets into it with Superman.
X
NEW 52 WONDER WOMAN

Cue the team's only woman (but what a woman!) especially as drawn by Jim Lee! WW has gone through so many reboots in her own title that she's a one-woman identity crisis. In her original origin, she was fashioned out of a lump of clay! But this isn't THAT WW, or the white pantsuit WW, or the George Perez WW. It's "New 52" Wonder Woman, who is now a savage warrior-type Amazon who carries a sword and poses like Red Sonja. In the midst of a frantic battle for their lives, the boys still take time to stop and gawk...
X
NEW 52 AQUAMAN

Part of DC's "New 52" is a major effort to rehabilitate Aquaman, and elevate him from third-rank hero to the top tier. He's no longer the meek and quite guy who talks to fish, he's the savage and egotistical King of Atlantis who COMMANDS fish. Dude! He's, like, "awesome" -- and so far his sales are too! Good for Arthur -- in all these years, he's never been in a top ten book before!
X
X
WE GOT THIS

Besides the heroes all meeting, much (way TOO much) of this story is devoted to the origin of Cyborg, which has already been told around a million times in his early Teen Titans stories, and his own mini-series.

Cyborg's never had his own on-going title. Why should he suddenly be a member of the JLA, a group of DC's top-tier superstars? Could this have anything to do with Marvel's new Hispanic/ Black/ Gay Ultimate Spider-Man? Has Jesse Jackson been threatening the JLA with a diversity lawsuit? Will Superman soon discover his gay/ black/ Hispanic roots? Will the absence of Martian Manhunter lead to an Interplanetary Diversity Crisis? Will STEEL sue for equal time?

Anyway, by Justice League #6, the leaguers are finally all together, and ready to tackle big bad Darkseid -- the evil ruler of the planet Apokolips, created by Jack Kirby -- with their own horrible and highly embarrassing imitation of the classic "Avenger s Assemble!" battle cry. The JLA never did have a decent battle cry that stuck, and this sad utterance is NOT going to change that fact.

"WE GOT THIS?" Lettered in big orange letters with a green border? Like it's bad-ass, and means something? Ugh. Terrible. So awful.
X
If you don't mind my asking, how exactly does the team "get" Darkseid? Well, you're not going to believe this, but... THEY POKE HIS EYES OUT! Swear to God! Like the Three Stooges used do, but a whole lot messier.

And when you poke someone's eyes out, what do you say at the moment of the poking? "We got this" is taken, so you'll have to think of something else. I have a suggestion. Say "HA!" But don't say it like it was a joke, scream it like it's a victory cry. Scream it in big orange letters with a red balloon. "HA!" Like this...
X

YOU ARE GOING TO DO THIS

In the thick of battle, Cyborg's built-in iPad crashes or something. He's ready to give up, but Batman tells him,
"It's not the computer ... YOU are going to do this." (See below.)

XI wasn't sure of what that meant, but the world was on the verge of ending, and thank God Batman said it or we'd all be dead. Because for whatever reason, it made Cyborg find his inner strength or some such nonsense, and he managed to make Team Darkseid's Mother Boxes explode.

Mother Boxes, for the uninitiated, are semi-sentient computers that can, among other things, open a "Boom Tube" leading to another world. (Namely Jack Kirby's Fourth World, from whence the Big D hails.)

So, with the Mother Boxes out of action, Darkseid and his minions are swept from Earth. It will take time to rebuild all those Mother Boxes! And when they are fixed, Darkseid will return. With new eyeballs? This time, Big D should expose himself to radioactive waste and get a "radar-sense" to see with -- or, at the very least, wear protective goggles so the Leaguers can't poke his eyes out again.

Hey! Doesn't Doc Ock have this same problem with Spidey shooting webbing over his glasses all the time? Don't these super villains ever exchange tips for fighting the heroes? Isn't there a Facebook page for things like that? A bad guy Twitter network of some kind?

FORMING THE TEAM/NAMING THE TEAM

After the big "eye-poking" battle, the heroes want to disband their "team." Why? It's a bizarre three-way retcon! The original JLAers couldn't WAIT to get together as a team, and once they did, they all got along flawlessly for decades. Then The Avengers (following in the footsteps of the FF) appeared, and made constant bickering among team members the norm.

So much so, that the rebooted JL never even CONSIDERS teaming up -- until the President pressures them to form a permanent team. This story is set "five years ago," so the Prez is depicted as a generic white guy, sort of modeled after Bush. Flash suggests a name for the new team...

X
Thankfully, this name was INTENDED to be a sort of joke. I say "sort of' because I found it completely unfunny. It would have been funnier if he said "The Super Friends." Anyway, Flash's name is rejected in favor of the JUSTICE LEAGUE. The suddenly there's a reporter who puts out a book abut them. You know, like the reporter in "Marvels," by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Yeah, it's basically a copy of that, except squished into like three pages for no particular reason. Or I guess the reason is an excuse to show the book's cover, seen below...
X
Hey! That book cover seems strangely familiar. Yes! It's the 800th redo of the first-ever JLA cover, with the Leaguers battling Starro, the gigantic alien starfish. Hey DC, when you do the NEXT Justice League reboot, don't forget to do yet ANOTHER version of this cover! Don't worry, it will still be cool the 801st time.
X
ALL TIME BEST-SELLER

And there you have it! The "New 52" Justice League. In tone and character, it's more like a Marvel Comic. And, to DC's great happiness, it also SELLS like a Marvel comic! At least so far. If sales figures are any indication, the whole "New 52" reboot thing was a tremendous success. Sales are slowly returning to pre-reboot levels, and some books have already been cancelled. Still, overall, sales are higher than they were before the reboot. In some cases nearly double.

But because Jim Lee drew it, the new JL origin would have been a huge seller in any case, reboot or no reboot. But probably thanks to the hype surrounding the big reboot, JL #1 has become one of the best selling comics of the modern era. It probably doesn't deserve this honor, but then again, neither did Jim Lee's X-Men, or Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man, the previous best sellers.
X
POST-ORIGIN: JUSTICE LEAGUE #7

The Justice League's six-issue origin was followed by a REALLY awful filler story. Every one of Jim Lee's origin issues had SOME type of filler material, like character sketches, etc. -- but this time, it's the whole book! A filler lead story, by a fill-in artist. I found the art by Gene Ha to be dark, ugly, and hard to follow.

For me, this completely awful art exposed how totally dependent Geoff Johns is on Jim Lee's great artwork. If you don't believe me, take a look below. Wonder Woman looks not only NOT beautiful, but actually almost INHUMAN, Green Lantern is grinning like a zany cartoon character, and Batman has a VERY severe overbite, and only one of his eyes is open. Naturally, every almost scene takes place in a dark rainstorm, and the bad guys are hideous demon-monsters. Awful. Ugly to look at. Depressingly colored. Ugh. Dislike.
X
In short, JUSTICE LEAGUE #7 was so ugly I skipped half the pages. Hey wait! If I skipped half the pages, how can I review the book fairly? Simple! I paid CASH MONEY for that book. Now, I own it. So I can do anything I want with it. I read comics for enjoyment, and if I am not enjoying a comic page, I simply skip it. If reading the whole issue feels like I am doing homework, I don't read it. Almost EVERY page of JL #7 was like that for me.

HOW TO RUIN CAPTAIN MARVEL aka "SHAZAM"

The new 52 "Shazam" back-up feature was no better, and actually worse than the lead story. DC is now trying to reboot the sunniest, most kid-friendly strip ever published -- Captain Marvel -- as a dark, mystical horror series. Naive and innocent Billy Batson is a super-obnoxious brat, and Cap pulled his cape over his head and made it into a hood. I'm serious. And he is surrounded by blue electricity. And he grimaces a lot. See below.
X

I'd drop Justice League immediately if Jim Lee wasn't coming back soon. It's obvious HE is the real star here. Once he leaves the book, I'll go with him, and so will thousands of other fans. Then the book will probably limp long until its next reboot, or just be cancelled altogether.

Fans want the Justice League to feature the superstars, drawn by the top talent. Every decade or so, DC gives them what they want, and produces a gigantic hit. Then they begin the slow, painful procuress of getting rid of the superstars, and replacing them with the likes of Red Tornado, by writers such as Gerry Conway and artist like Don Heck. Then fans flee the book, forcing another reboot with the superstars, and the process begins again. This happened with Giffen/Maguire, Morrison/Porter, and Meltzer/Benes. Since they never seem to learn, will Johns/Lee be next? Probably.

NEW 52 - THE NEW LOGOS

Of all the "New 52" titles, Justice League was the only one I bought. None of the others interested me in the least. Except Flash, which I make get the TPB of. So I can't comment on the other books, except to say one thing: By and large, the new LOGOS for the books are horrifying. Supes and Swampy got to keep their own classic logos, thank God, but everyone else got a new logo. Sadly, most, if not all of them, are awful. They are alarmingly generic.

DC has apparently just given up on making interesting, memorable new logos. Most of these things are not even true logos, they are beginner-level typesetting in Photoshop. Ira Schnapp could easily outdo ANY of these things with just a ruler and a Bic pen. Gaspar could do it with a allfornowQ-Tip and some ink. Gone are the days. Thankfully, Schnapp's immortal SUPERMAN logosurvived, as did Gaspar's untopable SWAMP THING logo.

I'd say "All Star Western" is the best new logo of the bunch. With its sherrif's star and western lettering, at least it attempts to evoke the feel of the west.

The other logos are pretty bad. To single out a few especially awful ones: Grifter, I Vampire, Justice League Dark, Legion Lost, Savage Hawkman, and Brother Voodoo. Sticking the word "DARK" or "LOST" on a title is a joke at this point. They should try adding DARK to spin-offs of TV shows, like "Celebrity Apprentice: DARK" or "Big Bang Theory: LOST."

It almost goes without saying that the very WORST of the bunch is the new Justice League logo. Utterly characterless. Unevokative. Ignorant of its own history. Mere type. Futura Extra Bold at a perspective angle. So boring that if I go on any longer ... I'll ... fall... asleep.... ZZZzzzzz.... zzzzzzz....

BELOW: The new 52 logos. The red X's indicate titles that have been cancelled.

allfornow

THE NEW DC COMICS COMPANY LOGO

And what about DC's new COMPANY logo? Well, I guess the LAST new company logo wasn't awful enough, so they decided to make another one that's even worse. Apparently, somebody at DC stumbled across the term "branding," and then attempted to apply their rudimentary understanding of this over-used term to DC Comics.
allfornow
I can just see someone in a meeting saying "We should do branding!" like it's some kind of deep, new, heavy thought. If I had been in that meeting, I would have said, "YEAH! Great idea! Here's another great and NEW idea -- why don't we also try to make better, less depressing comic books? As part of 'branding,' I mean."

The new "branded" DC logo is a cheesy monstrosity so bad they literally had to write "DC Comics" underneath it to clarify what the damn thing is supposed to be. Ye gods! How is this hideous thing supposed to be animated? Will the "D" slowly peel off, like a striptease? What if it peels too far? Will we see a naked "C"?

Someone should tell DC that a "brand," aka "a logo," is supposed to be slavishly consistent and instantly recognizable. It is not supposed to need a footnote permanently attached to allfornowexplain itself. Reader, can you imagine if the flowing script of the Coca-Cola logo had to have the words "Coca-Cola" written out underneath it, so it could be understood? There it is, over to the left. How totally RIDICULOUS does that look?

Another crucial part of branding is COLOR. The Coke-Cola logo is RED and WHITE, and you will rarely if EVER see it in other colors. I'm guessing that at the Coke company, the penalty for even SUGGESTING such a thing is INSTANT DEATH. You simply do NOT change the color of your brand. That is your identity. That is who you are as a company. Once you've got a winner, you NEVER change that, for any reason. Google "Coke logo" and you'll get a sea of red and white. There's a reason for that.

So naturally, DC has already taken to running THEIR hideous new logo in several different colors. Not only that, but they have no less than SIX other versions ready to go -- versions that materially ALTER the logo by adding Photoshop "special effects" to it. Wow. Awesome.

allfornow
Great! It's like SIX logos in ONE! Which is to say that it is really like ZERO logos in SIX. DC wasn't sure all this was confusing enough, so to make double-sure their brand is diluted as much as possible, they're also running the logo with several different NallfornowAMES for sub-divisions of their line, such as "DC NATION" for the cartoon-based books (as seen on right). Perfect! Why not? If one logo can be at least SIX logos, why can't one company name be at least TEN company names? In a nutshell, someone at DC studied "branding" and got it all EXACTLY WRONG.

Bottom line: DC's logo should suggest the dynamic action of a comic book. Instead, DC decided to go with something that looks like melting Color Forms, and requires a whole series of footnotes attached to explain itself. Oh well, maybe it'll get better with the next reboot. It'll probably be upon us sooner than we think.
allfornow
Next Issue
Reader, you've been patient.
Now, here it is...

The MARVEL takeover of DIAL B begins!
X