Review by C.J. Bunce
Justice League is the biggest enigma of the main DC Comics New 52 storylines, now readying for its fourth issue to be published next week (Dec. 21). On the one hand the story is a typical “Avengers Assemble” type story—Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are giving us a new origin story of the main characters in the DCU—Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman. It is both incredibly simple—we have a major common foe, the superheroes are being confused by the public as somehow the cause of the problem, and the characters are meeting for the first time, even though they have heard of each other–and requires a good deal of coordination, as each character’s personality must come through with first meetings and first impressions laying the groundwork for months of new stories.
As with his work on Aquaman, reviewed here yesterday, Geoff Johns continues his universe building in a literal sense, and at the micro level his characters’ interactions are funny and entertaining. What is not obvious to the casual reader is where all this plays into the individual issues of Batman (or the several related Batman titles), Superman (or the related Superman family titles), or Green Lantern (or the several Green Lantern titles), or Flash, Wonder Woman or Aquaman. With a Green Lantern title focused on Sinestro…from where did Hal Jordan emerge in the new reboot cycle? The reader is left to ask: how do these stories tie together?
In Justice League issue #2, Batman and Green Lantern are fending off Superman in Metropolis, who believes a “Pandora’s Box” of sorts that Batman possesses links the two superheroes to the evil plaguing the world via flying, large-toothed aliens, who keep uttering the name Darkseid. Green Lantern gets the great idea to invite an ally, Barry Gordon aka The Flash, to come and whip around and ultimately wear down Superman. Barry is a cop, and Barry and Hal know each other’s secret identities. They finally all calm down enough to discuss what is happening when the Pandora’s Box turns into more of a Trojan Horse, wreaking further havoc by letting into the world even more alien beasties.
In Justice League issue #3, Wonder Woman enters the fold, taken in by the Pentagon in Washington, DC, she wanders out into the street searching for harpies, and instead stumbles upon the wonders of…street vendor ice cream. (Johns is a quirky fellow). The same aliens that are attacking Superman and Batman and Company in Metropolis are now attacking DC. We flash to Metropolis again and Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash are still under attack. Then Wonder Woman enters the picture, sword slicing, speaking in a stilted manner like Xena, Warrior Princess (Don’t you think DC needs to license some rights to the other famous Amazon for this new DCU?). It’s a strange transition. Did Wonder Woman walk from DC to Metropolis? How close are these cities? Maybe I am having too many thoughts here.
They pursue the alien menace to seaside, to Aquaman, coming out of the water. “They were in the water, too,” he says, and we see a creature strikingly like the ones he is fighting in the Aquaman series. This brings up the obvious question: Are these the same alien beings Aquaman and Mera are pursuing into the oceanic place called The Trench, as told in the Aquaman series?
I’ve no complaints with the story or art in Justice League issues #1-3–Justice League is simply a fun ride, as it has always been (although with the “of America” in the title). As the cornerstone of the DCU going forward, I do wish there was some continuity explanation in these books, in a way that you don’t have to seek out explanations via interviews with writers and other reviews. From that we learn the Justice League story is five years in the past, so presumably none of this inter-relates, at least yet.
I did leave a big piece out of my review above of issues #2 and #3. It’s what I think of as the Will Robinson/Wesley Crusher character—the kid in a major sci-fi franchise that becomes the access point for kids to the adult real world in stories like Justice League—the excuse to explain the techno-babble of what is happening for the viewing audience despite the fact that everyone on-screen should be savvy enough to know what is happening. Presumably this is a potential narrator, or at least a vantage point for kids, in future stories. I usually found this role in stories irritating when I was a kid. For whatever reason, as a storytelling device, writers still employ this. That said, in the context of the traditionally kid focused comic book medium, it may at least be an appropriate place for it.
In Detroit there is a kid named Victor Stone. He’s a football player. A teenager. His father is a doctor doing super-human research at S.T.A.R. Labs in Detroit. In the study of the Pandora’s Box mentioned above, Victor is nearly killed in an explosion. Panicking (or quick thinking?) Dr. Stone takes all of the nano-technology currently within his reach, even if untested, and applies it to his son, to create a new character to be fleshed out in future issues… this is the beginning, the origin story of the character seen in past DCU stories called Cyborg.
Of course, even with a Will Robinson/Wesley Crusher-role of the DCU, we like cyborgs at borg.com, so we’ll be watching his growth as a character closely. This cyborg has cybernetic implants, including an eye piece similar to Seven of Nine’s in Star Trek Voyager. DCU’s cyborg was created in 1980, so he’s a recent hero and a strange choice for a newly-founded Justice League team. Geoff Johns has been quoted as saying of the new Cyborg, “He represents all of us in a lot of ways. If we have a cellphone and we’re texting on it, we are a cyborg — that’s what a cyborg is, using technology as an extension of ourselves.” I think that is a bit of a stretch, but I like the spirit of that philosophy.