‘Justice League’ #1 Review: Where did everybody go?

Once again, nothing will ever be the same in the DC Universe—at least until another company-wide crossover event comes along and throws gasoline on already-problematic fires once again. That’s the cynical way to read DC’s hero-redefining refresh that begins in Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League #1. I’m actually more hopeful, though. If “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and “Infinite Crisis” were visits to the emergency room for DC continuity, the “New 52” initiative is a full-fledged dive into the fires of Mount Doom followed by a visit to a Lazarus Pit.

Think J.J. Abrams’ sledgehammer to the Star Trek franchise, only without all of the narrative grace tying previous cannon together with the new order of things. Therein lies the post-Flashpoint #5 mystery as Johns and Lee open up with Batman fleeing Gotham’s helicopter police across the city’s rooftops. The status quo for the Justice League’s members is all up in the air as far as we’re concerned as readers now. Batman is at odds with the police again (he clarifies as much in a conversation with Green Lantern), and he has definitely not established ties with Hal Jordan and Superman yet.

Batman is the bridge, though, between “Flashpoint” and Justice League. Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Cyborg get left in Johns’ toy chest for this issue—even though they all appear on the cover. What we do get to see, however, is a younger Superman and a quick series of scuffles showcasing Jim Lee at his best.

Green Lantern repeatedly refers to himself in the third person, and this gets absolutely obnoxious as things progress. His green constructs, particularly the surprise fire engine, are gorgeous and fitting, though. The story flows well, and it’s an effective opening act, teasing Darkseid and laying the groundwork for the title team to drift together.

Alex Sinclair’s colors remain the gold standard for superhero action stories. These panels blaze and fade with the story like the Fourth of July, and the script is serviceable and tagged with nuances such as Green Lantern’s ignorance of what “Dark Side” is and Superman’s gentle words to accompany his pink-and-blue Jordan silencing punch—or is that heat vision? (I’ve looked at it a few times, and I’m still not sure.)

Justice League #1 is a fine start. Much like Abrams’ “Star Trek,” this issue is also a work that is going to need some future context to define exactly how good it is, but as a gateway to a new era, it feels strong. It’s funny to think that Marvel turned to Lee to define the look for their spit-shined X-Men title 20 years ago, and he’s being called upon once more to do the same and more for the Justice League. The entire “New 52” strategy is laced with old approaches drawn up in a plan to reach new readers while keeping the old and faithful interested, though. The final recipe looks a lot like the ’90s with a rationed dose of Marvel’s Ultimate flavor.

So what does the post-Flashpoint DCU taste like? It’s difficult to say one issue into the new frontier, but they’re certainly starting out with mostly familiar ingredients.

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