Justice League of America #1 proves that writer Steve Orlando has seized with both hands his place among the signature writers of the post-Rebirth era of DC Comics, and paired with Ivan Reis, the team delivers a sharp and effective premiere issue that justifies its existence as an additional Justice League title with room to spare.
Here’s the problem with having both a Justice League book filled with the A-listers and a JLA title with a more eclectic roster; the main title has all the glitz while the group dynamics of the “B-title” immediately feels more compelling due to the clash of personalities involved. Indeed, Orlando and Reis immediately play off of that, with their roster holding more interest to me than the all-star line-up of the main Justice League title, whose relationships and personalities feel so familiar.
Batman has assembled a roster of outcasts and grounded heroes with an aim to creating a team that feels more relatable to regular people. Frankly that idea is kind of silly as this team features a roster easily as powerful as those in the more iconic title, but it does benefit from the fact that this team doesn’t know that they are that powerful, giving them somewhere to go. Whether it’s the Atom’s lack of confidence, the Ray’s shaky sense of self, or Lobo’s homicidal tendencies, this Justice League feels more interesting and unpredictable. And that’s what you want in a team. Frankly, this title wouldn’t be necessary if the main Justice League book were more open to investigating team dynamics over spectacle and having their roster reflect that. But this “Batman and the Outsiders” version of the Justice League succeeds because the creative team has obviously thought about the personalities and flaws that will pay off each other in interesting ways rather than mandating that the team just include a set of powers and costumes.
Ivan Reis is a superstar, and I’m not quite sure what a writer of my admittedly limited calibre can contribute to opinion of his work. All of the team members look great, with particular personality being given to the perpetually interesting Black Canary. His Batman manages to look resolutely human and still almost supernaturally powerful. And even Lobo, a character who I’ve grown to kind of hate due to his original satirical point becoming co-opted, feels interesting and well constructed in a funny way. But the stars of this series are clearly going tone the Atom and Killer Frost, who immediately feel well-drawn and interesting.
The threat of the Justice League of America #1, and likely the first arc, are 1990’s relics the Extremists. While they have always been kind of lame, at least Orlando mines them for every scrap of political relevancy they have in today’s climate, and that’s actually quite a bit of relevancy. They might wind up being more interesting right now than they’ve ever been.
With a solid threat, a compelling cast, and a creative team clearly firing on all cylinders, I’d go so far as to say that this might be the Justice League to follow, if you could only choose one. I’m looking forward to seeing what Orlando and Reis come up with in the months ahead. 8.5/10