Geoff Johns and David Finch launch their “Justice League of America” with a typical team-building issue, but make the choice for government agents Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor to argue over the candidates in order to bring readers up to speed on the large cast, rather than heavily featuring the cast as they’re recruited.
There are some very enjoyable aspects of Johns and Finch’s first issue, most notably the chemistry between Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller as they refuse to see eye to eye on the team or the reasoning for the its creation. To Johns’ credit, the writing is enjoyable enough to make this largely talking-heads issue work as well as it does. However, once deconstructed, readers learn very little about the actual characters and more about their perception by Waller and Trevor. It doesn’t make for a bad story, but it also doesn’t feel like the strongest approach.
Part of the setup is the idea that the Justice League of America can act as a failsafe to take down the Justice League should things go badly. While it’s a fun concept in and of itself, it’s rife with unexplored problems (who will take down the Justice League of America should they go rogue?). Additionally, one has to question Amanda Waller’s sanity since she thinks Green Arrow is a hero that can potentially be a match up to take down Batman if worse comes to worse. I’ve got nothing against Green Arrow, but c’mon. Steve Trevor’s idea of Catwoman to take down Batman isn’t much better, but at least it makes some sense.
A lot of time is spent discussing the Wonder Woman/Superman romance, and Johns has found a good angle for it — that it is a national concern to see two major superpowers paired up in this way. It’s certainly the most interesting aspect of the relationship I’ve seen yet. Additionally, Johns does some solid work in setting up the plotting beyond the team development, so that right out of the gate, there’s a new and potentially controversial team, and the series’ mysterious “big bad” is introduced.
Finch’s style is a bit overworked and fussy for my tastes, but in this issue I was struck by how often it really worked well contrasted with how often it failed for a painfully inconsistent book. At times, moments like the personality and expression in Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor’s faces and the intricate detail in a seemingly unimportant side character in a crowd scene blew me away. But at the same time — and frequently in the same scene — some anatomy would be wildly off or posing would be stiff and awkward. In general the book was also far too dark, likely a combination of Finch’s inking and Sonia Oback and Jeomy Cox’s colors, and the end result was repeatedly difficult-to-follow storytelling. At one point, Vibe stops a robbery, but it’s only through Johns dialogue can a reader be sure of what really happened. Most of the action is too weak for a book this high profile. Catwoman, Hawkman, and Katana’s scenes all have the same problem: a large bold panel, intended to impress, surrounded by a series of smaller confusing action driven panels that make little sense. Strangely enough, Finch is much better when he takes his time in quieter scenes. The panels leading up to Catwoman’s fight with Steve Trevor are quite beautiful and well considered.
More nit-picky art complaints are Catwoman’s silly costume — and it’s bizarre that Finch should borrow Catwoman’s stiletto blade heels from the “The Dark Knight Rises” film, but not bother with any of the more practical elements of that costume. Also, the continued decision in the New 52 to make Amanda Waller a literal sliver of her former self is disappointing. However, it was nice to see her rendered as a more specific black woman with identifiable features and natural hair, rather than the generic non-specific “hottie” in some of her other “New 52” appearances. This Waller at least feels like a real and unique person, which is nice.
Johns takes pains repeatedly in this issue to make clear that this is not a new “Suicide Squad” — and for good reason, since that’s exactly how it feels. But why distance themselves from it? A vintage “Suicide Squad” knock-off would not be so bad, but their desperate attempt to stay away from it only spotlights the similarity of the concepts. At 34 pages of story, I guess the $3.99 price tag makes sense, but it’s ultimately a very high price to pay for a comic that is, at this point, only mediocre.