Robot 6

How many Justice Leaguers can fit in the first issue of a Justice League comic?

I found Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott Williams’ Justice League #1, the inaugural effort in DC’s “New 52″ effort, to be thunderously disappointing. Listening to three months of sustained, daily hype has a way of raising expectations, I guess, and as cynical as I remained about so many aspects of DC’s relaunch, and despite the fact that I took each new tidbit of information with a grain of salt, that much exposure to positive PR still managed to raise my expectations rather high. Particularly for this book, since it was the flagship one, and the one being written by the publisher’s chief creative officer and drawn by its co-publisher.

But the quality of the comic book just didn’t really meet those high expectations.

There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of the most obvious, and one I saw cited most often in the slew of reviews and reactions I’ve since seen online, is that it fails to meet even the most basic, vague promise of its own cover: It’s not a Justice League comic, as the logo says, and it doesn’t features the characters pictured on the front. Two of them star in the book, and two more cameo, but it read more like The Brave and The Bold featuring Batman and Green Lantern…albeit a theoretical version of The Brave and The Bold, perhaps written by Brian Michael Bendis for an eventual trade collection of the first six-issue arc, as DC’s various Brave and the Bold books almost always tell a complete story with a beginning, middle and end in each and every single issue.

While waiting a month or so for DC to dole out the next dollop of their Justice League comic, I thought I’d revisit some previous attempts at introducing a new Justice League to the world in a new Justice League comic. A pattern quickly emerged.

This volume of Justice League is quite different from all previous ones in terms of its slow start. The one it seems to bear the closest resemblance to is the Brad Meltzer Justice League of America #1 from 2006, which spent almost a year finalizing its line-up, but it did feature much of the initial line-up (and the characters pictured on the cover) in its first issue.

How did those other creative teams manage?

The Justice League first appeared in 1960’s Brave and the Bold #28, in a story written by Gardner Fox and penciled by Mike Sekowsky.

Sekowsky’s now iconic cover featured the five lesser members of the League engaged in a pitched battle with “Starro The Conqueror!”,  whose size and big staring eye helped disquise the fact that he was basically just a big starfish (Perhaps if the League had a bigger line-up, he would have been a squid).

It is perhaps unfair to judge Geoff Johns script for this year’s Justice League #1 against a script for a 1960 comic, given how much has changed. From the industry to the audience, from storytelling conventions to product distribution, very little about comics today is analogous to the comics of 1960.

That said, in some ways, Fox’s job seemed even more difficult than Johns’ job.

As his was the very first Justice League story ever, Fox had to introduce the whole concept of the superhero team to his young readers, few of whom would have been familiar with League pre-cursors Justice Society of America. He then had to introduce all seven members, characters the readers would have had some familiarity with, but wouldn’t have grown up with as near-constant pop culture presences the way today’s readers have. And he had to explain why these seven would form a team (it’s not like Silver Age Superman needed a running crew), and wrap it up in about 25 pages. (Where Fox had it a bit easier than Johns was that, as the first, readers didn’t really have anything to compare it against; there weren’t any previous incarnations fans could say they prefer, or rival publishers doing the same thing better).

Fox does it. Not only are all five of the characters on the cover, and the villain they’re facing, in the book, but so too are Superman, Batman and new character Snapper Carr.

The book opens with a splash page featuring all seven characters, a “roll call” that would become a staple for JLA comics, and a paragraph of text announcing the League and it’s goals of stamping out all wrong-doing:

Foes of evil! Enemies of Injusitce! To the heroes of The Justice League of America all wrong-doing is a menace to be tamped out–whether it comes from outer space–from the watery depths of the seven seas–or springs full-blown from the minds of men!

Banded together to fight all foes of humanity, the mightiest heroes of our time battle the menace of…STARRO THE CONQUEROR!

Fox employs the text-heavy scripting of the era as much-needed shortcuts, introducing the characters in narration boxes, having them thought-balloon information to themselves and announce what powers they’re using when they do so, and it gets the job done: If this was the first time you had ever encountered any of these heroes, you’d have a pretty good idea of who they were and what their various deals were by the time Snapper Carr is made an honorary member on the 25th page.

It’s perhaps worth noting too that Fox begins the story with the League already formed. By the end of the  veryfirst page, Aquaman is signaling the Justice League of America to warn them of Starro.

The origin of the Justice League wouldn’t be told until 1962’s Justice League of America #9, in a story entitled “The Origin of the Justice League!”

That version of the Justice League stuck around more or less until 1985-86′s Crisis On Infinite Earths. Sure, there were some big changes, with characters coming and going, and, the biggest change, the relocation of the team to Detroit and the replacement of some of the original seven with brand-new characters, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Justice League #1 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire and Terry Austin that the direction changed radically enough to justify a new #1 issue (something obviously employed much more rarely back then).

Maguire’s cover, like Sekowsky’s first League cover, would become an iconic one, something he himself riffed on more or less constantly since. It featured the entire team striking a pose, and looking up at the reader.

The line-up was a pretty radical departure from either the original concept (“The World’s Greatest Heroes”) or the previous iteration (leftovers from the Satellite Era training new kids), mixing old hands like Batman, Martian Manhuter and Black Canary with characters plucked from the corners of DC’s character catalog, but it was the tone more than anything else that set this iteration of the League apart—it was character driven, it was fun, and it was funny, while (at this early point) still being an action-packed superhero narrative.

This issue also featured everyone on the cover inside its pages (although Dr. Light didn’t appear in costume), and Giffen didn’t resort to a roll call, text page or any shortcuts in doing so. He  simply begins the story at the point where all the Leaguers are in the same room at the same time, and then he and DeMatteis introduce them through their dialogue and actions. In fact, by the twelfth page the initial line-up has been introduced, and the team manages to complete their first mission before the end of the book.

How did Giffen and company accomplish so much in so little space, especially since the storytelling conventions of 1987 are that different from those of 2011? (That is, pages weren’t split equally between text and art, and in neither year were there long paragraphs of narration hectoring the reader with information).

Well, I imagine it might have something to do with the fact that Justice League #1 had plenty of pages with eight-to-ten panels on them, and only a single full-page splash, whereas Johns and Lee have a single seven-panel page, with the bulk of the book consisting of three-to-five-panel grids, and four full pages devoted to splashes (a one-page splash devoted to the first appearances of Green Lantern and Superman, a two-page splash devoted to the first appearance of Batman).

Once Giffen and DeMatteis ended their run in 1992, the two Leagues they created would further splinter into more Leagues, and various Justice League books would start, end and rebrand with almost delirious frequency.

It wasn’t until 1997 that someone would come along and say, “Hey, remember in the 1960s how the Justice League was DC’s A-List heroes in a single book? We should do that again!”

And so Grant Morrison was teamed with artists Howard Porter and John Dell for JLA #1, which reunited the original League line-up, only with Flash II Wally West and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner in for their late predecessors.

Morrison managed to get six of the seven characters on Porter’s first cover into the book (Aquaman was mentioned in the first issue, but wouldn’t appear on-panel until the next issue), and he introduced all six of them rather thoroughly, in terms of who’s who, who can do what, how they interact with one another and even provides a few hints about what their lives outside of costume are like (Here I’m going to point you to Brendan Wright’s post “JLA #1 vs. Justice League #1″ on his blog The Wright Opinion, where he breaks down the first issue of Morrison and company’s first issue, page by page, highlighting all of the new information revealed in each page for new readers).

More importantly, Morrison doesn’t waste time on that introduction, but does it on the fly, with the issue being devoted to a threat. A spaceship lands on the White House lawn, a team of superheroes pour out of it and announce they are here to save the world, and they immediately begin transforming Earth for the better in myriad ways, turning Earth against the old heroes of the Justice League in the process—but something’s up with them, and the League realizes that Earth is actually in the process of being bloodlessly conquered by villains disguised as heroes.

How did Morrison and company get so much done in so little time? They waste far less space on panels and pages than Johns and Lee did, that’s for sure, but there are still a few splashes—a full-page splash introduces the bad guys, and the space ship landing appears on an almost-splash (a small, in-set panel acts as a second panel in what would otherwise be a splash).

They do employ a lot more panels per page than Johns and Lee, but the book is hardly jam-packed with nine-panel grids, with most pages sporting around five panels.  The main shortcut Morrison takes is by telling chunks of the story through news reports, a la The Dark Knight Returns. In a sense, the villains’ conquering of Earth is fast-forwarded through via these reports, while the action involving our heroes coming together and interacting with the villains is all dramatized.

And, again, Morrison opens with the League already more-or-less formed (they’re in the process of taking over from the old League in this issue, and won’t get their new headquarters until the end of the first story arc) and already enaged in a serious conflict.

Looking back at Johns and Lee’s opening, then, the main obstacles keeping the issue from being a real Justice League comic seem to be the amount of panels per page, and Johns’ strategy of telling the origin story in a more movie-like fashion, in which everything happens on the “screen” in more or less real-time for the viewer/reader.

The panels-per-page problem isn’t necessarily a problem-problem; Lee’s art is certainly more action-packed than Sekowsky’s, Maguire’s or Porter’s, and the few panels per page is something a generation that grew up on manga can appreciate, maybe even expect—it’s more of an economic problem than anything else. And I mean economic both as having-to-do-with money (Theirs was, after all, a $4 comic book that read like 1/3 of the $2 JLA #1 or 1/10 of the ten-cent Brave and the Bold #28) and story economy; one-issue in, readers have only seen two-and-a-half scenes).

The other problem could have easily been solved by an in medias res set-up, with Johns beginning the story with the League already formed (Most of the other “New 52” books seem to be doing just that, intent on filling readers in on the new origins and/or what has changed and what hasn’t later on). Choosing to begin “Five Years Ago,” and telling the story of How The Justice League Came To Be isn’t a bad choice, or the wrong choice, but it is one that differs greatly from past first appearances of the Justice League, and did contribute to the somewhat unsatisfactory read.

The trade, however, might turn out to be killer. I guess we’ll find out in six-months.

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Comments

46 Comments

With the exception of the 60′s comic (go give THAT to a non comic reading individual), none of those comics had to deal with the very FIRST introduction of all these major characters to one another though. Asking them to begin in media res is to ask that we NEVER learn how, in this new universe, these characters met. Only two of 52 comics in the DCU have any desire to let us know anything about the beginning of this universe, and it’s kinda weird that so many fans are asking DC to skip it in one of them.

It’s even weirder when, at least with CBR’s attempt to give these comics to new readers, the attempt to begin in media res throws off people, and they all want origin stories.

I don’t feel strongly about this issue one way or another, just pointing stuff out.

to be fair to what dc are trying to do with justice league i think it would be better to compare it to something like the first issue of the ultimates rather than previous incarnations of the league. one of the reasons that other books in the new 52 are able to skip introductions is that, presumably, the first arc of justice league and the first arc of action comics will set the stage for how super-heroes are viewed by the world in this post-flashpoint dc continuity.

yeah, it would have been nice to have all the characters in the first issue but i’d rather it was done well than nice. johns has said that he is playing to lee’s strengths so it was always going to be full of splash pages. it’s supposed to be big and epic and personally i prefer lee’s more comic book-like approach to big, widescreen storytelling than hitch’s static, photo-realistic approach in issue one of the ultimates.

There’s a review on this site that points out how Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 is the same decompressed storytelling made popular by the first issue in that volume ten years ago, yet makes no strong attempt to criticize it (not that it needed to).

Yet here, the idea of a decompressed story is a bad one. I personally don’t mind waiting six issues to see all of the League together. Why? It’s all been illustrated in this article. If I wanted a first Justice League issue that had all of the characters, I could always go back and read them.

And when I return, I’ll be happy to watch Green Lantern lie unconscious in front of action figure superheroes on every one of those pretty Jim Lee covers.

At the same time, I’m not going to pretend the first issues of the 1987 and 1997 series weren’t way better.

When reading this article, I also remember that the (re)formation of “JLA’s” league was handled in a 3-issue lead-in miniseries by Mark Waid. This allowed Morrison to hit it hard right off the bat, rather than show the process of heroes coming together or deciding to work together.

I do agree, that it might have been better to have a few issues with the League doing their thing, then going back and telling an origin story. Eh, whatever, I would buy it either way…..

@SageShini: “Asking them to begin in media res is to ask that we NEVER learn how, in this new universe, these characters met.”

So flashbacks aren’t allowed anymore?

How about the approach that the Legion of Super-Heroes is taking: Launching the main series in media res to demonstrate the team as it is now, and establish the series tone, followed by the LSH secret origin mini revealing the detailed origin?

This would have been a good first issue of Justice League: Secret Origin. As an introduction to the team, though, it’s lacking.

Nice column, Caleb.

Without intending, you make a good case for why older comics are better than modern comics. Despite all the flaws of Silver Age comics, back then comics writers could tell an entire story in one or two issues. Today’s comics industry has been seduced by “writing for the trade”.

Today’s comics stories take six issues to tell. That makes a *Grand Assumption* that new readers are willing to plunk down their dollars and wait six months for fulfillment. And then the comics industry asks why they aren’t attracting a younger audience. Everybody knows teenagers have no patience. What they want, they want NOW. Not five issues from now. And most of these six issue “arcs” really contain about two issues of story.

And it’s not just the writer’s fault. The artist’s job of storytelling is also failing in modern comics. Jim Lee and many of his contemporaries are not interested in drawing the little, quiet panels that move a story along. Lee and his clones suffer from their single-minded desire to draw bombastic full-page posters — or at most, four panels per page. They would do well to study Kirby, Ditko, and Swan — artists who stuck with grids of 6 or even 9 panels per page. Those artists were more interested in telling a story than filling up a page with huge panels of superfluous detail.

I can’t bear reading a Jim Lee comic, because it’s so hard to tell what is happening. He doesn’t always choose the right moments to illustrate, and what he does choose to draw seldom clearly tells the story. The story doesn’t move well through his panels. And the man only knows how to draw two facial expressions, so the reader isn’t going to be able to learn much about what’s going on in a character’s head.

In fact, all Jim Lee characters look the same, identifiable only by the colors of their costumes. I do wish Mr. Lee would take a few life drawing classes. And after that maybe somebody can teach him about storytelling. But perhaps Mr. Lee has found his true calling — being a publisher — and he can retire his pencil. Even his ardent supporters don’t expect him to last more than six issues on this new Justice League (and that is a conclusive indication of how much interest he has in telling comics stories).

The newest incarnation of the Justice League had tons of bombast, tons or unnecessary ornate detail, and only a teensy weensy fragment of story. It reminds me of a gaudy whore that has no substance beneath all the makeup and false boobs.

P.S. I’m not a DC basher. I’ve enjoyed five of the nu52 comics so far. And I’m sure Jim Lee is a nice guy.

I loved this issue. Gave it 5/5 in my books.

The problem is Johns is writing for the trade and no one else was.

@Jake Earlewine
I agree with you on that subject. I really think that shorter stories should be the approach if they want to appeal to the kids and teenagers (separate people, mind you, disregard Dan DiDio’s comment on that subject) of Generation M, who’re too distracted by multiple electronic devices, videogames, and bad television to keep up with a book.

To the author of this article: Crisis came out in 1985, and the year before that is when the Detroit League was formed. FYI.

A) Despite the jab at Bendis, New Avengers #1 (the first one, not last year’s) puts almost all the main cast into play (except Iron Man and Wolverine, and with bonus Daredevil), and gets the actual conflict-that-requires-a-team started.

B) With regards to something like Ultimate Spider-Man, which was undoubtedly decompressed, however meaningless that term has become, (six issues to get Peter into costume, if I remember correctly…), the critical distinction may be between solo and team books. That is, a slow-rolling Spider-Man book is still a Spider-Man book – he’s in every issue. A slow-rolling Justice League book, like this one, risks, as Caleb notes, not reading like a League book at all.

C) A decompressed, slow-burning team book need not receive such critical scorn. Hell, Ultimates #1 took place during WWII, before 99% of the book’s actual cast *was even born*. I suspect the context of Justice League #1 as the figurehead of this massive relauch-cum-media blitz is driving expectations in this regard.

Sphinxton, my guess is that the reviewer didn’t complain about UCSM being decompressed because a) that’s the style the comic is written in, b) the comic introduced the character on the cover, c) did a good job introducing the supporting cast and a villain, and d) read like what an UCSM comic should be like (unlike JL, which the writer here thinks read more like TB&TB).

Here we go again. This attitude that Justice League #1 was disappointing because not all the members of the team appeared in the comic is becoming so pervasive it’s almost as if it’s now en vogue to contribute to the vitriol of Geoff Johns. Sweet. Let’s write an article about how the narrative pacing of the new Justice League formation compares to the previous volumes. It all makes sense now. The negativity surrounding Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s new Justice League is predicated on how many members appear in the issue, not on the actual plot, narrative, or character work. Guess what? It’s a different time. We’re so quick to judge a comic that is “decompressed” when that’s how the industry has evolved. You’re already disappointed? Why? Geoff Johns and Jim Lee have laid the foundation for an intriguing first arc that has vestiges of the old world for long time readers,and a new landscape for the unacquainted, He setup Darkseid as the villain behind the scenes, a massive fight between Batman and Superman, and the transformation of Vic Stone into Cyborg-as well as Vic’s troubled relationship with his father. The efficacy of this issue lies in the glimpse it provides readers of the disdain and unease the heroes face. IT’S DECOMPRESSED THOUGH. ON NO, THE WHOLE TEAM WASN’T IN THE ISSUE, READERS WILL BE CONFUSED. I’ve had more than enough of these articles, acerbic in nature, but veiled in objectivity and relativity.

The argument that Silver Age comics may well have been better because they finished in one or two issues makes me scratch my head. Yeah, they finished in one or two issues, but the end result is a deeply compressed comic with blocks and blocks of text paired with static panels with no flow. There were good points, for sure – I liked reading the Black Casebook collection if only for the sheer insanity of the older stuff – but it was far from roses.

I’ve long felt three or four issues per storyline should be the norm, with higher numbers reserved for the deserving “epics”; thankfully, it seems like the industry has been slowly moving in this direction.

I’m starting to get the impression that Robot 6 is written by whinny fanboys. “New stuff isn’t as good as old stuff!” Sheesh, it’s like a 70 yr old Comic Book Guy is writting this.

Nik, dl316bh, Herewego…
I think the problem you guys have is that Wizard magazine isn’t around to automatically heap praise on Lee and Johns or hype Justice League #1 to high heavens. Until Wizard gets back on its feet, you’ll just have to make do with actual criticism by writers whose experience and knowledge of the industry predates the 90′s. Sorry for the inconvenience.

You’re right,man. We should take their word as God because their knowledge of the industry predates the 90′s. Of course the whole point of my response flew over your head, but that’s okay, I’ll explain. You see it’s about objectivity, it’s about recognizing how stories are written in this era. We don’t judge movies today by the standards we held in the 1950′s. No, we critique films differently now because the art-form evolved. Apparently, comics haven’t evolved-better yet shouldn’t evolve-because everything predating the 90′s was literary treasure, meant to be the template for how all other stories are constructed. Yeah, sorry for making you look like a troglodyte. It happens.

The acknowledgement that the audience and narrative techniques in comics have changed is pretty much built into the article. The point was to critically examine why some found the issue unsatisfying by comparing it to historic examples of other creators solving the first issue problem and their results. I don’t believe that old super hero comics necessarily exemplify good comics craft but I also don’t think prevailing trends automatically trump whatever past works can teach us as if what is current is somehow an “objective” value. It’s silly to get all bent out of shape over such a mild critical essay.

“This attitude that Justice League #1 was disappointing because not all the members of the team appeared in the comic is becoming so pervasive…”

…that it makes all those butt-hurt Johns and Lee brown-nosers cry in their cereal milk, and complain that the critical reviews are just being too picky and hard on those DC corporate suits still resting on their lazy, populist laurels of long ago.

You apparently didn’t understand what the point of my response. I clearly laid out the reasons why Johns and Lee did succeed and argued that their first issue shouldn’t be judged as disappointing simply due to a lack of appearances. Their was nothing inherently wrong with the their first issue. The narrative is structured so the teams builds gradually over the course of six issues, but it’s being criticized for something it is not. The negative reviews are predicated on preconceived notions that the whole team has to show up in the first issue. The first issue is not the entire story. It’s one part. That’s Johns approach and he usually does well with it. This article just seemed like a veiled shot a Geoff Johns. Like I said, it’s en vogue to hate on Geoff Johns now. The man can write. I can respect people who don’t enjoy his work, but he has produced a multitude of stories that have been exemplary of transcendent comics. Black Reign, Green Lantern, his first Flash run, JSA, Justice Society of America, and his Action Comics run with Gary Frank have all been excellent. I’ve just had enough the hate for Johns. Especially on this website on this website. Where, in the preface of numerous articles, I have to read, I’ll never read a Geoff Johns comics or X has tried to convince me to read a Geoff Johns comic, but I NEVER WILL. The virulent pretentiousness around this place is sad. I didn’t know contributors to a comic website would need to hail so many insults from their ivory tower.

Honestly, comparisons between the new book and the first issues of Justice League #1 and JLA #1 are really unfair to the new Justice League. Both of those books didn’t have to set up a new Justice League, as they both had intro mini-series that did it: Legends And Justice League: Midsummer’s Nightmare. Of course, let’s not ignore the fact that Legends took 6 issues to bring the new league together and MN took 3.

Hell, if anything, Caleb is one of the biggest Geoff Johns apologists I’ve seen on the net. So if he was disappointed in JL #1, then it really does have reason to be less than good.

I have rarely, if ever, seen Caleb pile on the bandwagon of GJ hate. He seems to have a man-crush on the guy for crissakes.

This is more than “the origin of the Justice League”; this is the characters meeting for the first time. Something none of the above comics can claim to depict.

Justice League 1 is setting up the new DCU and the dynamic of the characters for new readers, so the slower pace makes perfect sense to me. For people well versed it might have come off a bit slow, but I got what they are doing, if I knew nothing about comics or DC, this would have been a fine introduction to the characters and the universe while still delivering the action and setting up the tale. It’s not being written for the 35 year old fan boy with an encyclopaedic knowledge of these characters. It’s trying to be new reader friendly, which a lot of comics, frankly are not. If reviewers kept this in mind, perhaps their reviews would be less biased.

And I’m coming from a position where I am NOT a fan of Johns or Lee. I preferred Kyle Rayner over Hal Jordan, I think Lee fails when it comes to expressiveness of facial features, and is overly reminiscent of the 90′s. I think Johns relies overly much on shock value/gore at times for inpact in his stories. But, JL 1 did it’s job, and did it well.

I did feel I got more out of Demon Knights and Stormwatch as far as story and team intros go. The art may not have been as pretty or the dialogue as witty, however the story in both books are well underway and I’m looking forward to the next part.

I enjoyed the new Justice League #1. The experience resembled when you see Transformers 2 in theaters, leave exclaiming that it was awesome, then arrive at home only to find you have just watched a movie with no substance. The big screen, the blockbuster appeal kept you thoroughly entertained. That’s Justice League #1 to me. It was very fun, yet nothing really happened. It reminded me of an episode of Lost when it was in its slump. I have more faith in Johns as a storyteller and I know he’ll concoct a great story, but it’ll be better in trade for sure.

I liked the first issue. It read as a bit short, (I’d have liked a good 10 more pages to really round it out), but it was interesting, gave hints as to the new status quo, had pretty art, and will keep me coming back for the next issue. Not a great comic, but most assuredly ‘good enough.’

I do think it’s getting undue criticism as a result of being the first issue of the DCnU… when looked at simply as a comic, it seems totally fine.

20 pages means every comic reads a bit short these days. Nothing worse then realizing you’ve reached the end of an issue and what you thought was more pages of story is just the same preview of another series (based on a video game, if you’re lucky) that you’ve encountered in every DC comic that month. In the case of this comparison, four pages less of story is HUGE, especially if your criticism is there wasn’t enough action, wasn’t any Aquaman, Flash or WW, etc.

@ Yo Adrian: yup, that’s it. you got me. good call.

Anyways….

My first comment might be a little harsh (thought it’s secretly what I’m thinking). There’s nothing wrong with disliking a comic. Opinions are valid. But it’s the air of “it was better made in old days” that, for me, discredits this article. I don’t care how they did JLA in the ’60′s. Like or dislike this comic based on it’s merits today, not decades ago.

I thought it had its moments, but agree with others it felt lacking/sparse, especially for what it cost ($4) and, yes, not having the entire (or even *most*) of the actual League in it. If the above previous “first issues” could squeeze in the JLAers, so could this one… especially given my other concern: what new readers thought of this issue—including ones who weren’t comics readers before. Since attracting new readers is supposed to be the goal of this whole reboot in the first place, I’d like to know if they felt they got their money’s worth and are excited enough to come back for the second (and third, fourth, etc. issues), or if they’ll just go spend the $4 on a new smartphone app/half the price of a month of streaming-only Netflix/etc. instead…

Justice League #1 was a great issue… just not a great issue 1. Had this been a retroactive story that appeared as an issue 7, where we had already had two, three issues story arcs it would have been tolerable: But it wasn’t.

DC spent 3 months daily telling us how awesome this issue was going to be & what did we get: No story, no set up, two characters, an alien with a box & no JUSTICE LEAGUE.

As far as an issue 1 goes, this sucked big time.

I think the big question is this; Can a new reader pick up a comic that covers all its bases in one issue or two and fully understand the characters right off the bat (I.E. Morrison’s JLA #1) OR does he/she need a decompressed storyline that spans for about 5-6 issues in order to get a better handle on a book like John’s Justice League? Personally, I would like to believe in the former cause I believe the average reader is a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

I’m not knocking anyone’s storytelling skills. I loved the “total package” deal of JLA #1, which gave us a full explanation of the series and got us ready to dive right into the action in issue #2. On the other side of the coin, I loved Ultimate Spider-Man #1-6 because Bendis gave us a deeper development of Peter Parker, his friends, family, and his evolution to becoming Spider-Man. It depends on who is going to pick these books up. I knew all about the Justice League and Spider-Man from watching Super Friends and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (care to guess my age bracket) long before I picked up their comics. But what of those who have never heard of any of these heroes? What about someone who’s never read a comic book? Would they prefer Morrison’s JLA or Johns’ Justice League? Can a newcomer get into the series just from one issue or do they need to take in the series through small doses per issue?

Mr. Q

While I loved the first issue and will happily be buying rest that Lee draws, I will point out two rather large mistakes that kind have already been touched on but not fully explained.

1/ Geoff and Jim do the exact opposite of what every other creator has been told and is doing on the New 52 and they do it on the very first series launched. I loved the reasoning behind why the creators were being told to tell a story in one issue and make the singles relevant again.

2/ Related to the above, if DC are going after the mass market audience they should have launched on a single issue story, even if it was one where Batman and Green Lantern realize they should team up more often and think about the good a whole team of heroes could do, setting out to form the JLA.

The newsstand audience does not like continued stories. Threads and love interests are fine, but big no-no to multi-part stories.

If DC were going to do this the first four issues of JLA should have been the origin and released weekly.

Norrin

For me, the issue was not the absent heroes we will see, it was the absence of the hero we won’t see in this origin: the Martian Manhunter.

One other thing: There was a really good done in one JLA Origin. The Post Crisis “All Together Now” by Keith Giffen.

My favorite New 52 team book was Demon Knights. Introduced the entire hero team – only one of which I was familiar with – plus the villains and the ongoing plot, and did it in a way that made the issue enjoyable, with clever dialogue, flashbacks, and interesting relationships.

For other good recent non-decompressed story telling in a team book featuring more than
two characters: Secret Avengers 16 (Ellis/McKelvie). Told the entire story in one episode and basically served as a new intro to the team as well.

Bottom line, though: I will no longer buy decompressed books. I am not paying $3-4 for maybe 3-4 minutes of entertainment. That’s $1 a minute. Forget it! I want a comic book with enough meat in it to take several minutes to go through, and which is also worth re-reading again.

On Bendis: at least he includes enough dialogue that I’m not through the comic in two minutes. I think it’s sheer arrogance on the part of the artist if they think I’m going to spend minutes admiring each splash page. If the story is fast-paced, I’m through it fast. Don’t expect treat people paying $0.18 a page to stories paced for black and white-semi disposable newsprint formats. Respect the medium for the monthly comic.

Was Meltzer’s first issue left out because it didn’t prove the point decided on before examining number one issues?

Brian from Canada

September 18, 2011 at 3:18 am

Objectively speaking, Johns and Lee deserve every ounce of criticism they got because they failed to understand one key factor to the Justice League: characters we know.

We know who Batman is. We know who Superman is. We know who Wonder Woman is. And the reason we know that is that these characters are well entrenched into the public consciousness by other media. The one exception to that rule in all the history of the Justice League is the first incarnation — but even then, it comes shortly after the popular relaunch of Green Lantern and The Flash.

But Johns takes the approach that we don’t know who Batman is. He’s a new, unknown quantity, as much as Green Lantern is. And while, in the past, we would have simply got a recognition of mutual heroism and a quick recognition of power sets before testing IF they can be a team, here we have to have it stretched across half the issue in the middle of a fight. (That Batman knows about Superman is the one suggestion it might be skipped next issue, but Lantern needs the exposition so it won’t.)

Moreover, in the past, most of that happened off panel. And we accepted that every time. Heck, JLI doesn’t identify powers except where needed: it picks out the heroes and jumps them into action to see if they can work as a team.

But JL doesn’t. And that upsets me. It upsets me when The Batman animated series sets up in quick scenes the knowledge of who each is even if they’re meeting for the first time — and nobody complains. It upsets me when Smallville and the feature films have been explaining who these characters are for quite some time. It upsets me that when I sit down to read a team book, I have no team: I have the slow introduction of members to each other, which in the past really happened off panel. Because the team should be the star, not the stars together on a team.

JL isn’t a team book, it’s a complete introduction to the DC roster — whose six issues are placed directly beside the active universe already. This could have been done much faster as a compressed mini-series initiating the relaunch, or it could have been done in flashbacks, but either way the distancing between team and introduction repeating a lot of what we already know just underlines why this book deserves to be criticized as not living up to the hype.

No, no, no, and once more to be clear, NO! I think that the way Justice League is handled in these first issues by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, as far as the appearance of characters is concerned, in NOT wrong.

The basic premise behind the New 52 is to bring back older comic book readers that have given up on at least DC comics, as well as create new readers. And starting to waste the precious but so limited potential of the “super” part of “super-hero action” so soon would be for me, a wrong move.

I am one of the returning readers, and have made an effort to read everything from the New 52 for at least the first story-arc. So far I have neen intrigued and excited by some, as well as disappointed and even fed up by some others. One of the things I don’t like about some of the New 52 is the “casual” feel of the super-powered action in a lot of the titles. I am already starting to get bored, once more, by characters running and jumping their way through rooftops, having their inner monologues, as if they do nothing special, as if anyone can do that. That’s exactly one of the things that drove me away from mainstream comics in the first place. Taking all that potential of super-powers and wasting it by just giving the readers too much of it in an effort to amaze them. Handling super-powered action is a fine art, one that requires balance, to know when to have some heavy display of power, and when not to.

The other thing I don’t like is the routinely nature of it all. “Just another day, chasing another criminal, over another big city. I feel so excited, despite this being a case of doing the same thing over and over and over again”. How can things be exciting if everything is “business as usual” from the first issue even?

Super-powers are supposed to be something special. Their use in fights even more. However, just like food, if you take something that people like a lot, and use it excessively, people are going to get bored of it, even disgusted.

The journey to the past in the column was interesting. However it was also lacking, a lot in my opinion:
-First of all, this is 2011, not 1997, or 1987, or 1960 (!?). The audience of today is not the same as that of the past for the most part, aa far as our preferences in comicbook storytelling and art are concerned. There is a reason writers don’t write like Stan lee even though they admire him. There is a reason even someone like Alan Moore doesn’t write in the exact way he used to write two decades ago. Things change. And especially for some of the younger readers, all those “glory days” of old are only nice as a part of history, not as something that would be good today. I can enjoy the siliness of an X-Men run from the Claremont days for a bit, but I wouldn’t want to read that in the current X-Men run, for example.
-Secondly, this is not just about Justice League, or comics, it is about telling a story. In that respect, why not mention other comicbook titles’ first issues or first stories in other mediums. Remember Ultimate Spider-Man number 1? There was no Spider-Man in that issue! Yet, it is one of the very few solidly good comicbook series in existence. And, for new readers, for the most part, THE actual story of Spider-Man. What is more, it’s slower pace did not only not hinder the title, but gave all the characters some much needed space to “breathe” and develop in wonderful ways. Then there is the example of Batman Begins. The movie that saved the Batman movie franchise and was even hailed as, at the time, the best Batman movie ever. Yet Batman dosn’t exist for nearly half the movie. For the first hour or so, all we see is the built-up to the Batman appearance. And it worked wonders. Not only did it not hinder the movie but created swarms of new Batman fans. For the very simple reason that it showed the “birth” of the character, and didn’t just shove him in their faces from the beginning. Thus giving them a sense of familiarity with the character, since they were there when everything happened, and took it’s time doing it, offering a relaxed pace.

The same can be applied to Justice League. Why start burning readers out on the team’s members, their powers, their enemies, and the way they unite to fight against them? Why not take the time to set things up. Little by little. Give space to every character to be properly introduced. For their group to start slowly gathering. For the cooperation and coordination to slowly evolve? Why just hammer all these things into place? To offer some cliched, seen-a-thousand-times and got-bored-of-it-a-thousand-more super-hero action?

I think that when looking at Justice League, we should all try to shake off the decades-old comicbook reader glasses, and try to see things with an unbiased perspective. Old readers that have given up on mainstream comics mostly did so because they were not fun anymore. They were riddled with too much continuity, different creative teams that changed the characters all the time offering no stability, bad art, that was praised only by editors as mind-bogling, and lots and lots of burn-outs because of the routine of things. New readers LIKE slow rythms, proper and lengthy introductions, and to feel that this is NOT business as usual, but something special. They like to feel that they are reading something like Mark Millar’s and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates, or Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary, in that they are reading a story that is of immense quality, with true inspiration, and a lot of thought and work put into it, with the result being a small diamond, rather than the monthly adventures of the dark and adventurous Batman, and his awesome Bat-family, and their wickedly superb Bat-grandchildren. Readers want to read something special, not just more of the same.

I think a good book to compare Justice League #1 to is Justice League International #1. Yes, that issue pretty much established the team and sent them on a mission in the first issue. And I didn’t necessarily dislike it, but I think questions like “why has this person decided to be on the team?” and “why was a team that was just founded sent on a mission before they have time to get to know each other?” aren’t unreasonable. It that book, it was almost “we’re going to team up because we’re superheroes and that’s what we do.”. Which might even be fine since it takes place in the “now” period where superheroes have been around for a few years. But in Justice League there’s a lot of ground to cover, especially if you want to give it any depth.

The origin of the JLA written by Peter David in SECRET ORIGINS #32, and was the first time the heroes met – done-in-one, 30 pages. Just sayin’…

It was my thoughts that the first issue did not introduce the entire Justice League, simply because DC needed to introduce these revamped characters in the pages of their own books first. We know from what is being told to us that Batman and GL will stay intact, with the others getting facelifts. Showing Wonder Woman before her appearance in Azzarello’s #1 would/could be very confusing besides being one hell of a spoiler. As shown, Superman did show up, but it did not give away the persona and more vulnerable aspects of the new character.

The issue introduced a lot more than a team-up, it sets up WHY the JL is in PROCESS of being formed, and in todays world of 6 issue arcs, what’s the real problem?

If I compare JL wit JLI, I have to admit, the pace of JL#1 is much more realistic and modern. Although I enjoyed them both, Justice League was incredibly entertaining, but not a masterpiece. Maybe when it’s over, we can see the if it worked or not. too early for me to make that call. I loved the way it flowed and the interactions.

@Chris

That’s just it, it was flawed because it is taking the decompressed route in storytelling and shouldnt be a 6 issue arc.

ROBOT SIX AND EVERY OTHEIR PERSON WHO TALKS THRASH ON THE NEW JUSTICE LEAGUE BOOK: The whole first arc is the origins of the league, Jim Lee even stated so on his interview with JOHNA. he said something along the lines of “In no way isit going to be heres the members of the justice league” And he even went on to say again “THIS IS THE ORIGINS of the League” so why are people moaning about “Oh its only Batman and green lanter” ..ugh no duh if u paid attention you would of already KNOW THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“The whole first arc is the origins of the league, Jim Lee even stated so on his interview with JOHNA”

The origin of the JLA written by Peter David in SECRET ORIGINS #32, and was the first time the heroes met – done-in-one, 30 pages.

“THIS IS THE ORIGINS of the League” so why are people moaning about “Oh its only Batman and green lanter” ..ugh no duh if u paid attention you would of already KNOW THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Because its not the origin of the league… Its a talking heads episode that only involves two characters, no justice leagure & no actual trheat. Add into that that half of the first issue was spoiled in the free DC reboot comic & you end up with a less then satisfactory comic.

Brian from Canada

September 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Don’t use Batman Begins as an example, Drithien. That movie you paid for the entire experience, and the expectation is that the movie will conclude satisfactorily in the allotted time.

Comicbooks no longer do that. That’s what the complaint is. I pay for a comic, it’s like going into a movie theatre, paying $10 or so, and watching the first 15 minutes before being asked to come back in 30 days to see the next 15, etc.

And that’s the problem with decompressed storytelling. Justice League #1 should have been a double-sized issue kicking off the New 52 that, at least, gave us a complete adventure. It didn’t. And so it fails, period. (Every new reader I’ve shown it to said “That’s it? Really??”)

Marvel and DC have both forgotten about what the producers of 24 realized quickly: the overall arc is great, but each individual part has to be great too or there will be no investment beyond the first few. If this is the style of Justice League, then I’m not going to get a full story for 3-5 months, and then 6 months more after that — which is too much to ask of today’s audience.

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