Justice League of America #1 - Stumbling out of the Gates

The kind folks at DC sent me a copy of their current big release, Justice League of America #1, written by Brad Meltzer with art by Ed Benes and Sandra Hope. The comic seemed ready to be a fun book, and it had quite a few nice character bits, but ultimately, for the debut issue of a major title, with thirty-eight pages to work with, the book had far too much sitting around and talking, and not nearly enough action. I think that there is some promise here, for future issues will presumably increase the action while keeping writer Meltzer's trademark character work, but for this issue, there was far too little going on - especially when coupled with a number of character bits that simply fell flat. This could be a fun series in the future, but this first issue was not all that good.

I really enjoyed Sandra Hope's inks on Jim Lee, as I thought she brought a real nice vitality to his pencils that I haven't seen in quite some time (and I don't blame Scott Williams, I think it is just a matter of bringing a fresh perspective). However, on Ed Benes - I do not think she helped Ed Benes at ALL. She seemed to be trying to make Benes look as much like Jim Lee as possible, and it ended up just looking creepy. I've never been an Ed Benes fan, but I enjoy his cleaner art, as inked by Alex Lei, a heckuva lot better than this faux-Lee thing that is going on in this issue, due mostly to Hope's inks, or more specifically, the rendering portion of her inking, as she renders the art so that it looks like it was done by Jim Lee/Scott Williams. That being said, to say that Hope made me dislike Benes' art more than normal isn't saying much, as I'm not a fan normally. So the art wasn't winning me over anyways.

The story, though, was a key point. Which Meltzer would we see? The decently plotted, well-characterized Meltzer of Archer's Quest (except the butchering of Catman's character - which I know no one else cared about, but it annoyed me, consarnit!)? Or the poory plotted, well-characterized in parts (mostly the villain pieces, where he really shined) Meltzer of Identity Crisis?

I think it was probably somewhere in the middle (and what a cop-out by me THAT is, eh?), but leaning more towards Identity Crisis, if only because I didn't like Identity Crisis and I liked Archer's Quest and, well, I didn't like this issue.

First off, I'll admit - I was one of those folks who were irked that, when Grant Morrison relaunched JLA, he didn't account for why the new "Big Seven" team were just kicking the other League out of the space station and taking it over. It just seemed kinda dickish. Even Morrison's later attempt (in JLA: Secret Files) of explaining it seemed kinda silly, but it at least was an explanation. However, at the time, I fully realized that Grant Morrison didn't CARE about fitting the reason for the team in. He just wanted the Big Seven, so he got the Big Seven. Morrison was good about following continuity once he was ON the book, but in picking those seven? He didn't care if it didn't make sense.

Compare that with Meltzer, though, and it makes Meltzer's way of choosing the team much odder. Because this issue is specifically ABOUT picking the team, and he still manages to botch it. Forget for a moment the sheer absurdity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman sitting around and picking the team by themselves. Forget the oddness of their choices (Roy over Ollie? Roy over ANYone?). Just remember that, for a writer who prides himself on character work, he chooses to blindly gloss over a major flaw in the characterization of the book, which is namely that Hal and Dinah would just say, "Oh, wow - Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman say we're on the Justice League! Oh, sorry, Ollie, they didn't pick you. They picked Roy. Too bad, so sad." Meltzer is the same fellow who practically writes epic poems to the Satellite Justice League, and he's having Hal and Dinah exclude Ollie - because Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman tell them to?

It just doesn't make sense, and if you're coming from, "Yeah, I don't care, I just want it to happen," then I can at least see it. But when you're coming from, "I know these characters' souls" - it doesn't work.

Who came up with the bald head for Black Lightning? It looks AWFUL. Just AWFUL. His plot was interesting enough, though. So was Vixen's, if it weren't for Meltzer attempting to pull off one of the lamest writing devices ever - namely Vixen using animals to describe her feelings. "The owl in me says to stay away, but the panther in me...is already curling its tail." I have to say, the chipmunk in me wanted to vomit after reading those lines. "The dog in me was happy to see Superman, but the lizard in me didn't like Batman. Then the turkey in me made me cautious of Wonder Woman, but the catfish in me made me question my previous decisions." SO LAME.

Dr. Impossible was very cool. He looked like he was drawn by Todd Nauck. Am I the only one who thought that?

The Red Tornado stuff was fine (I really liked the "flashback" art - very clever), except for the terrible Metal Men stuff, particularly their design, and the way that cutting their heads off apparently killed them (for now).

So, all in all, some bad art, mixed with some good characterization, mixed with some bad characterization, mixed with some horrible dialogue and silly captions - the end result is a comic with some promise - just not realized with this first issue. Not recommended.

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