With DC Comics having wrapped it first year with the New 52, it is now releasing the second hardcover volume of its flagship title, Justice League. If you don’t read the monthly series, now is the time to catch up on the full first year with Volumes 1 and 2 now on the shelves. Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin reprinted Issues 1-6, and now Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey reprints Issues 7-12, both volumes including variant covers and cover sketch art by the popular artist Jim Lee.
Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin, now available in both hardcover and trade paperback, began the entire New 52, a new DC Universe unveiled first 5 years ago, a reality which may or may not have been manipulated from the universe we’ve known all along by the red-hooded Pandora, who has managed to flit in and out of nearly every DC Comics series since the reboot in September 2011. In Volume 1 we met the new original seven members of the League–first a comical run-in of Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who then have their own run-in with Superman (run-in meaning lots of bruises and destruction of property). Then Barry Allen’s Flash entered the picture as probably the most interesting character in the new League. He formed a relationship with buddy Hal Jordan which provided many of the most entertaining scenes of the series so far. Then we met Wonder Woman, who in this incarnation of the DCU is far more Valkyrie than Amazon, and this plays nicely off of Aquaman’s entrance, whose Atlantis origins are here very much influenced by the world of Thor. This is all tied together by a new League entrant, the young Vic Stone, transformed by happenstance into a cyborg, now known as the League member Cyborg. And they all must come together to protect the world from being devastated by none other than classic villain Darkseid. We reviewed the monthly series at borg.com least year here.
Geoff Johns writes the characters of the new Justice League not as static god-like beings but slightly off their A-game humans (except Superman) trying to understand how and why they have come together in this way. Hal is a bit more gung-ho than prior incarnations, Batman actually laughs in this world (when Hal inadvertently admits his motivations by touching Wonder Woman’s lasso-of-truth), Superman seems to prefer flying solo, Wonder Woman has a childlike fascination with everyday oddities of our world, and Aquaman is on a power trip, leaving Barry Allen’s Flash to come off as the greatest hero in the bunch. And all of this is good–the way Johns has pieced it altogether. For fans of Jim Lee’s artistic jam-packed page style, he offers up several interior pages that could easily have made it to the cover. It can’t be easy writing and drawing seven characters into one title and if there is one negative to the series it is not getting enough of your favorite characters interacting in each issue. That’s another benefit of waiting for these trade edition compilations–there’s no waiting for next month’s resolution of this month’s cliffhanger.
The Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey storyline transports us from the origin story–five years ago–to the present. We’ve skipped over the first five years of Justice League stories so now in conversation between the seven we get to pick up tidbits of what has transpired. The reboot Battlestar Galactica TV series used this trick and Johns manages to make this work here, too. So we learn some big news–Martian Manhunter was brought into the team as an eighth member but it all ended badly and he has since left. We don’t get much more than that, but we’re left wanting to know the entire story. So it is about time that Oliver Queen/Green Arrow is allowed to join, as he joined seven issues into the original Justice League of America series. And he makes a good go of it here, arguing left and right why his trick arrows and resources are reason to bring him aboard. But alas, they don’t want him–for no good reason–and ultimately leave him stranded out on a highway. The entire first year of Justice League feels a lot like the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven construct. This is even more obvious with Green Arrow’s attempts at entry, looking younger than he has looked since the 1960s he seems to be the that trailing young guy from the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven that the team never lets join, yet he keeps following and trying to be included.
As a fan of Manhunter and Green Arrow, this just makes me that more anxious to get my hands on the new companion series Justice League of America #1, also written by Johns, coming later this month. This new team (with the America added) is a separate team that seems to be spurred on by Colonel Steve Trevor, who takes Green Arrow aside in Volume 2 after his rejection to tell him about another opportunity to do good. Trevor is an interesting character throughout Justice League–he has many traits in common with Agent Coulson in Marvel’s The Avengers, especially with Trevor introducing Oliver Queen to this other S.H.I.E.L.D.-type league as we saw Coulson do with so many Marvel superheroes on-screen.
Where each chapter of Volume 1 is held together by the story of the creation of Cyborg, Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey follows a man whose family is both saved and destroyed by the Justice League, or at least the League’s response to the various world threats. Johns adds a nice element with this character, who is a writer named David Graves who writes a book promoting the exploits of the Justice League, and we get to see stacked copies of the book with their own cover art by Lee–Jim Lee doing Jim Lee. Fun bits and pieces like this, like Johns’ references to the Superfriends, are what makes Justice League the popular series it is in the New 52.
Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey was released this past Wednesday and is available at comic book shops and other bookstores, including discount copies at Amazon.com. You can catch up on either the hardcover or trade paperback edition of Volume 1, too.