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Justice League of America is the greatly hyped new release that has been proclaimed to be one of the greatest things since sliced bread, at least in relation to the "New 52". There has been a lot of media attention given to this, which DC Comics has only been happy to engender. The most glaringly obvious has been the hugely criticized gimmick of having over 50 variant covers – most of which come off as quickly put together photoshopped images. The question remained, however, whether or not the title was worth all of the build up that it was being subject to and the point blank answer is that it was not.
This is not to say that the book was a bad title, nothing that harsh – but it’s silly how far the Big Two (and some of the indies) will go to sell. Now I’m not a fan of Geoff Johns’ work on Justice League, far from it – I think that it’s been horrendous for much of its run and is only now just starting to make its way to being mediocre. So on that basis I have to say that Justice League of America already has a leg or two up on its predecessor. Where Justice League over-exaggerated it’s cinematic “action blockbuster” style it is exactly that quality that leaves the first lasting impression of Justice League of America. JLA feels more compatible with Johns’ movie-esque set pieces and dialogue and so comes off as being told on a more even and solid footing than his previous work.
The characters also play off better than in regular Justice League, both in story and in character. This, of course, comes off as no surprise since the entire book is staffed with some of Johns’ more infamous pet characters such as Hawkman, Star Girl, and the more recently utilized Steve Trevor (aka the only character Johns wrote halfway decently in the second story arc of Justice League). He knows the characters and is willing to write them in a way that plays them off well. The only character that still leaves a bad mark is the rendition of Martian Manhunter, but given that it is consistent with his character base from the "New 52" it’s an understandable take and is the least offensive thing about the book.
Another feather in this book’s cap is the momentum (for the most part). The opening pages serve great use in kicking the reader straight into the story. It definitely seems like the book would waste no time in getting started, and oddly while this was one of the bigger problems with Justice League, being too quickly paced, as stated above Justice League of America is a better fit for that type of storytelling. The “Dark Hunter” segments that begin and frame parts of the book are also the ones that provide the most tension and action, and do a heck of a job at it, only compounded by the use of a tasteful credits page that is used to good effect.
This also exemplified, in part, through the use of character introduction where – such as in movies like Ocean’s 11 – small character bits are used to get the audience interested in said characters and to establish personality traits. A few of these are exceptionally good, such as the one for the newly minted Vibe who received that definitely gave him some new fans. Well, that might have been helped in part by his solo title, but more on that in another place.
The bad of this issue came off as surprisingly easy to categorize as going in I was under assumption that this would be akin to a "Justice League Redux" and have a myriad of similar problems to JL. Not so – in fact the only majorly offensive thing about the issue was the art. Artist David Finch, while somewhat subdued here than he has been in his more infamous works, is not a good fit for this series and his work shown is not really up to par. There is a distinct lack of good draftsmanship and a lack of understanding of visual storytelling – which showed itself a bit too much in some parts. Things jump incongruously from page to page and from panel to panel way too often.
This was not helped by the somewhat shaky sense of pacing that Justice League of America had under the writing, and the only stain on that end. While I said that the opening pages serve great use in kicking off the story it is the rest of the issue that bogs it down. The remainder of much of the story is unending exposition, only some of which (as stated above), was entertaining. Other parts, however, came off as though they had no rhyme or reason. Dialogue and characters segueing continuously even though nothing would warn the reader of such. It comes off as very stilted and unorganized which is unfortunately a thing I need to detract from the debut issue. So while JLA would have benefited from getting the ball rolling quick this issue seems like a necessary evil and now that it is out of the way we can get to business.
So, even with the entire media circus surrounding it the hype only hurt Justice League of America a little. The story has the potential to go in very entertaining paths and the writing shows decency enough to grow past the birthing pains of this issue, which I’m favorably rating at average. The art is something that we’ll have to live with, and while I’m keeping myself from being completely sold on this series – for caution of course – I am getting settled in for the rest of this story arc. Let’s see what Geoff Johns can shell out and if he can create a Justice League worth reading.