“Justice League of America #1” Hits All the Right Notes in Debut

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At long last, it’s finally here.

After months of anticipation and much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the plethora of variant covers being offered, comic books fans arrived in shops today to purchase the much-heralded first issue of Justice League of America.

This is very much an introductory issue, showing how Steve Trevor goes about assembling the team that will, if the need arises, bring down the heaviest hitters in the DCU. Very few of these characters have seen much “screen time” since the New 52 reboot, so ensuring that readers are familiar with the cast is important, though it did make the issue seem a bit lacking where plot is concerned.

A key facet to this issue seems to be motivation. Johns looks at what each of these characters wants which, as any actor will tell you, is the key to understanding how a given character speaks and behaves. This is also something that will be a crucial point of distinction between the two Justice League titles. We’ve yet to see much in the way of personal reasons for why the members of the Justice League do what they do. If this first issue is any indication, that will be starkly contrasted in the pages of JLA, where everyone seems to have a vendetta or secret drive behind their decision to join the team.

Trevor uses these differing motivations with great skill, taking advantage of the desires of these players in order to bring them into the bigger game.

Stargirl is very obviously the characters Johns connects most with, and is likely to the avatar through which the audience connects with this shawdowy side of the super-heroic coin.

One of the more interesting aspects of this book is that the overall driving force appears to be fear. That fear manifests itself in different ways, whether its the government’s fear of the Justice League and the implications of a Superman/Wonder Woman coupling, or Stargirl’s night terrors. Fear is a concept that Johns is intimately familiar with, having spent the better part of the last decade chronicling Green Lantern’s continual quest to overcome his own fears of inadequacy.

Series artist David Finch plays very heavily with the use of shadow in his panels for this book. Stylistically, this makes perfect sense, as this team is a sort of mirror image of the un-affiliated Justice League. The opening sequence, featuring a masked figure whose identity is revealed at the end of the issue, along with the inclusion of Professor Ivo, hint at the nature of the first threat this collection of B-listers will face. With that scene in mind, this collection of characters and their intended purpose seem well in line with each other.

There are some consistency issues within the book, as characters’ faces are not proportioned consistently. Steve Trevor, in particular, seems to regularly morph between something approaching normal human anatomy and a figure that seems almost Liefeldian in its proportions. Finch is a solid artist, so I’m sure his work will round into shape as he gets comfortable with the cast he’s been given to work with.

All in all, “JLA #1” is a solid first issue. It gives us an idea as to the composition of the cast, the motivations of its characters, and a clear indication of where the series will go in the future. If it can deliver on this early promise, it should be an entertaining title to follow.

Josh Epstein

Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville.

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