Graphic Novel Review: Justice League Volume One: Origins
Collecting: Justice League (New 52) #1-6
Original Release Date: 2011-2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Characters: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, Darkseid
Writer: Geoff Johns (Blackest Night & Brightest Day, Flashpoint)
Artist: Jim Lee (Batman: Hush, X-Men: Mutant Genesis, Superman: For Tomorrow)
SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):
Storyline – 8
Art – 10
Captivity and Length – 9
Identity – 7
Use of Medium – 9
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 9
Intrigue/Originality – 8
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 8
With the way that DC Comics is rolling out exciting stories with strong, developed characters, it’s easy to forget that less than three years ago, DC relaunched its entire catalog in a brazen attempt to gain more readers. The New 52 term was named after the fifty-two (no, seriously) new series that were launched in September of 2011. The first released and most heavily promoted book in the relaunch was Justice League, and it had a creative team comprised of the two biggest ballers in the entire corporation: Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Co-Publisher Jim Lee. DC really rolled out the red carpet for our flagship characters in this first volume, Origins.
Have they got a name? Of course they do, you can call them the SUPER SEVEN!!! This is still very early in the Justice League’s career, so early in fact, that only Flash and Green Lantern have actually met before and people actually believe Batman is still a myth. While the story starts off with a bang, it is very mild compared to the type of major events one would think would have to take place to bring seven of the DC Universe’s greatest heroes together. That is actually a point of contention with me because I would have really liked to see Green Arrow in the league to begin with. While he was at least mentioned by the very end along with Zatanna, one of the most important initial members is completely left out of the picture. Martian Manhunter is nowhere to be seen or heard from in these first six issues, although he does make his debut in Justice League of America as a weaponized response to Superman. I get that they try to have one of each hero archetype involved from the start is more than enough, ignoring an original is a bit ridiculous, especially considering they included Shazam! in the animated adaptation.
Where the book does get it right, however, is in the way they slowly yet awesomely introduce characters one at a time. Each character feels like they were treated fairly with equal time which is no small task considering how few issues they had to work with and the ambitiousness of this particular story. The art by Jim Lee – which really needs no further explanation, but just in case you didn’t already know – is absolutely stunning in every detail. Every page is drawn and colored beautifully; many pages left me staring well after I had read the dialogue. The attention to detail is that immaculate. My only complaint about the art is that Aquaman seems to be the only character that doesn’t match his New 52 reboot design. If people wonder why Aquaman is always getting made fun of, they only need to look at the costume he was given here. It is very hard to take him serious when he has mutton chops and a pearl necklace (like Gangstalicious said, “it’s all about pearl necklaces”) with his trident chained to him with a ridiculously long chain. He basically looks like a frat-boy looking for an S&M party at Red Lobster.
Its not only the art that got this kind of detail either, there are little nods throughout that make it something special for longtime fans of these characters. A little girl calling them the Super Friends or the ever so slight nod towards the Legion of Doom, along with the humor that almost comes effortlessly between the characters. Even though they are meeting for the first time in this book, it feels like they have been fighting evil together for a lifetime.
All this isn’t to say that the book didn’t have its faults, though. While there was an overall cohesiveness that worked really well for the story, it felt at times like there was almost too much going on at once. Since this story was self-contained and didn’t bleed over into any of the main characters solo stories, it felt like a missed opportunity to further explore pieces of the story that were otherwise left out. My main gripe with the story was how we as readers were just thrown directly into the middle of a story with the first panel and never really given much explanation other than Darkseid was coming. Leading up to and even after his arrival, more time is spent on introducing the characters and making sure they get their just due, when it would have been nice to extend the story a few more books and give a more fleshed out story to the reader. The end makes it seem like this is something that may be revisited, but not anytime soon.
Outside of the initial reveals for the characters, there wasn’t very much in the way of character progression. This can be forgiven in this particular instance because it goes along with the major reboot of all the series (which is where most of the character development should go), it just felt like the writers could have used the opportunity as more of a bonding experience then they actually did. I expect from this point forward for the series to build these relationships further and make them a more cohesive unit (We already know Wonder Woman and Supes get busy 😉 ). One of the biggest changes in the characters’ personality is Superman’s disregard for authority. Blue Boy Scout no more, Superman has readily embodied the ethos of the current generation, and a nice touch that has defined his character in the New 52.
Overall, this is an experience that can’t be missed. Even with the minor story and character hiccups, the potential this book has going forward is amazing. With the hint at the Legion of Doom being on the horizon there is the potential to have all sorts of encounters, because not only is this a fresh start for the Justice League, it is also a reboot of their greatest foes. There is also a great opportunity to cultivate relationships that can also be worked into the characters main books as well (Superman/Wonder Woman and Batman/Superman being prime examples but let’s branch out!!). Going forward, I would suggest grabbing Volume Two: The Villain’s Journey, if not for the story, at least for the amazing Jim Lee art. Any fan, casual or long-time will be able to appreciate Origin.
General Reception: It may not have been the reinvention that the Justice League merited, but fans definitely bought into it. While the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee arcs only spanned two volumes, it gave readers like us a whole new universe to go off of. Jim Lee’s art and Alex Sinclair’s coloring are top notch, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who didn’t have nice things to say about this book. It’s a great representation of what the relaunch was supposed to be.
Related Books: Flashpoint offers the same familiar feelings with a new origin twist, albeit much more drastic alterations are made. The new Justice League series is still going strong, as well. The current Forever Evil storyline shows the Justice League putting up with the Crime Syndicate. Final Crisis, also written by Geoff Johns, is a great DC epic with Darkseid as the main villain.
More by the writer: Geoff Johns has had quite the run in the past ten years. Notably, his work on Green Lantern books, everything from The Sinestro Wars leading up to Blackest Night and going all the way to Trinity War, Johns has had the rare pleasure of creating a saga. Before the New 52 reboot, Johns also wrote The Flash’s Rebirth (the return of Barry Allen) and Flashpoint. Recently, he had just left the New 52 Aquaman series after building up some credibility for the character. He is also still writing Justice League as it enters the thick of the Forever Evil arc.
More by the artist: Wanna know more about Jim Lee? Check out our new “Respect My Craft!” article, spotlighting the iconic artist, debuting tomorrow!
*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to DC Comics for the images.