First Impressions – JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1

JLA-1-cover

After roughly a year and a half, DC returns to its roots with a proper JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, instead of those non-nation specific ones. Yes, America once again has a Justice League all its own. The only problem is that it’s filled with killers, thieves, and suspected terrorists. Can these wild cards be made to work together as cronies of the US government? Or will this plan fall apart like a cardboard pile in the rain?

Months ago, I wrote my thoughts on the subject of a new Justice League of America ongoing. I predicted that the team would be formed by the United States government as a counter to the largely independent Justice League. After all, at any time Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest could just up and decide that the US government isn’t capable of serving the best interests of its people and take control. And no one would be able to stop them. Hence why the government would need their own superpowered team to represent itself, and tackle superpowered threats (including the JL, if necessary).

Turns out my predictions were 100% on the money, because that’s exactly what’s happening in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1.

Relieved of his duty as liaison between the US gov and the Justice League, Steve Trevor meets with newly appointed liaison Amanda Waller about the formation of an American Justice League. Steve has his doubts about whether such a thing can work, owing in large part to having worked with the JL for a long time, and because of his personal unrequited feelings towards Wonder Woman.

And yes, I know Wonder Woman and Superman are an item now. Thank you DC for validating all those bad Elseworlds stories that paired the two. Lovely.

The thing that bothered me about this issue was how aware it is of how flawed and arbitrary the selection of characters is for this team. Sure, Steve Trevor spends much of the issue saying how each person is a bad or a non-optimal addition, but he’s more there to lampshade how for all Amanda Waller says about them being totally liveable choices, they make no sense.

For example, two of the characters, Hawkman and Katana, are killers. They go around murdering people, and would rather go out and pursue their own objectives. The only way they’ve been rangled into this team is because the government is giving them the ability to keep killing people with impunity. On the one hand, it plays to the stereotype of the covert government black ops, and it wouldn’t be all that out of place had it been some variant on the Suicide Squad (the team of supervillains contracted by Waller herself for dangerous missions in return for pardons). But on the other hand, one of the sticking points of this whole setup is that the Justice League of America is going to be the superpowered face of the US. As in, it’s not a covert operation, but a largely public one.

There in lies much of the problem. The two aforementioned members blatantly kill their enemies, and another member, Catwoman, is a thief and longtime on-again/off-again enemy/lover of Batman. And the lover bit isn’t widely known, so the team has a known supervillain in its ranks. And the public is meant to root for these people? Waller just writes that little detail off like it’s no big deal, despite the fact that it would totally be a big deal. Oh, and did I mention Simon Baz, the new Green Lantern, is also on the team? The one who the public thinks is a terrorist who blew up a factory and escaped from prison? Sure he didn’t actually do it, but who is going to buy that? Especially since the proof that would clear his name blew up during the events of Rise of the Third Army?

I don’t hate Simon Baz, really I don’t. I like the guy, and would love to see him on a team. In fact, I know that half the fun of a mismatched team like this is watching them grow into a cohesive unit. The problem is that is makes no sense for a government agency to select an entire hand of wild cards for such a team, especially when they’re meant to be public.

Okay, let’s take a step back and address these team members one at a time. Not that it matters a whole lot, given that they haven’t even come together as a team yet. When I described the plot as being Steve Trevor talking to Amanda Waller about the new formation of the team, I meant that as being basically the entire plot of the issue.

I never read Hawkman’s ongoing series, so I can only comment on what I’ve read here. And what I’ve read is that he dispenses lethal justice to the streets. Also for some reason Trevor and Waller fixate on his use of maces and such, as if it’s that shocking. Such a thing stops being shocking when Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and even fellow JLA recruit Katana use melee weapons. Green Arrow uses, what else, a bow! In an unrelated note, the book makes a reference to some stories having Hawkman be an alien from another planet. I my humble opinion, the reboot was probably the best thing to happen to Hawkman. Finally distance him from the continuity snarl that is his history.

HAWKS FOR THE HAWK GOD! …sorry, I have to say that every time I talk about Hawkman’s continuity.

Don’t have much to say about Katana, except she has a personal revenge plot going on. It’s for her dead husband (who lives in her sword, ‘natch), making her a gender swap of basically every action hero ever. Katana has her own ongoing series out now, as does another member, Vibe. He’s a character so obscure, I made the understandable mistake some months ago of thinking he was an original character. In fact he originated in the Detroit era of the Justice League, and wasn’t all that great a superhero given that they played him up as a Latino hero instead of making him a rounded character that just happened to be Latino. I’m pretty sure they killed him off because of how awful he and the rest of the Detroit era was.

Can’t say much for Vibe as he is now, as I haven’t read the first issue of his ongoing, but I can say he’s at least noble and stuff. That’s all you need, really; a character who isn’t annoying, isn’t an offensive stereotype, and is noble. He’s kind of like The Ray, except mercifully deficient in angst. My one gripe is that he, like basically every other character in comics ever, is touted as potentially the most powerful hero ever because of his vaguely defined vibration powers. Amanda Waller, I know you brought Vibe in because of how powerful he can be and because he could potentially unsync from reality or something. I don’t doubt that he could.

My question is: how the hell do you know what he’s capable of if he’s not manifested the full extent of his powers? What led you to believe he has that kind of power in him?

Next is the character that we’re led to believe is supposed to take the public’s attention off of the more kill/theft/alleged terrorist parts of the group: Stargirl. Who is Stargirl? In the short, she in previous continuity a legacy character who assumed the mantle of a Golden Age superhero, the Star Spangled Kid. She wields a power staff (which in the past she obtained from Starman) and she’s a teenager. She’s best well known for her membership in the Justice Society of America back before Flashpoint. So if she’s so connected to the JSA, and indeed she starts to not make sense given the reboot, why is she in the Justice LEAGUE of America?

Because Stargirl was also created by Geoff Johns, who wrote this series.

Not trying to say I don’t like Stargirl well enough. But it’s obvious that, just like how previous JLA writer James Robinson shoehorned in The Shade because he was that man’s baby, so too is Stargirl in this JLA title because Geoff Johns wanted to save her from the scrap heap. Also in this series she’s been re-imagined as a kind of superhero celebrity. Like if Taylor Swift took to saving peoples’ lives instead of doing faux country music.

This is a development I had not foreseen, but it makes perfect sense given the world of the New 52. Of course superheroes would be treated as celebrities, and only some of them would remain aloof or indifferent to the media attention. Stargirl is basically becoming a less exploitative version of Booster Gold (which is good since the comic states that man disappeared to parts unknown). Here’s hoping Stargirl doesn’t get as bad a reputation amongst comic readers as Booster did. Although she is being saddled with teammates that will garner negative attention, so she might not be able to maintain her image amongst the people of the DC universe.

Then there’s the Martian Manhunter, who remains inscrutable as ever. He’s certainly a shade darker than in his previous incarnations. Catwoman is, as I said, here to be a counterpart to Batman – as well as because she’s both attractive and popular amongst casual fans of the Batman franchise, he as always donning her Arkham City inspired costume.

Also there’s Green Arrow. I would comment on what we learn about Green Arrow in this issue, except that’s a spoiler believe it or not. What I can say is that Steve Trevor doesn’t think Green Arrow can handle the spot of Batman counterpart, hence the above inclusion of Catwoman. Despite the fact that Steve was the one who recruited Green Arrow. What’s with the sudden shift here? I’d think DC would want to present this character in the best light possible, given they’ve got an entire live-action TV show revolved around him.

So let’s get to the bottom line: how was JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1? It…was okay? This series has the mark of a team assembled for their powers or for convenience or to fill quotas, before any hint was put to how they’d work together. Heck, Steve Trevor lampshades the fact that, from an in-universe perspective, the team’s selection by Amanda Waller is arbitrary at best. This wouldn’t be so bad if any of the characters had spent even a single panel in the same room, but they didn’t. We won’t even see these characters interact with each other until at earliest next issue, possibly even longer. Then again, had their been an actual thing they were all doing together, we might not have had enough time to learn about them all. As it stands, we’re introduced to the entire team, more or less, so at least we know what we’re getting into.

I really don’t know about this series. There’s the slightest glimpse of reason to keep reading, but I already have enough stuff on my plate. And I especially find the idea of jumping on as the book moves towards yet another book-spanning crossover event, Trinity War, to be far too daunting. I’ve had enough to crossover events in the last six months to last me. As such, I probably won’t be going further.

However, if you’re currently reading Justice League and/or Justice League Dark, you’ll eventually have to start reading for Trinity War, so you might as well jump on now. And JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 isn’t terrible. It’s good in some places, and has some promise. Just know what you’re walking into before you start reading.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Columns, First Impressions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Tell Us What You Think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s