Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Justice League International #1 - A Review

When Justice League #1 came out, many fans (including your humble author) were somewhat disappointed to find that the first issue focused upon Batman and Green Lantern. The issue was good – few disputed that. It was a simple matter of expectations. We saw seven of the World’s Finest heroes on the cover and we wanted to see all of those heroes on the cover in the book! By contrast, Justice League International #1 is quick to introduce us to its’ whole line-up and equally quick to establish the book’s concept.

Fearful of independent superhero groups like The Justice League, The United Nations Security Council vote to form an international superhero team made up of proven heroes from their various member nations. Nominations are made, rejected and eventually a team of eight is formed, with superheroic spokesman Booster Gold being appointed team leader. But Booster has little time to start forming the other heroes into a true team, as the group is almost immediately dispatched to investigate the disappearance of a UN research team in Peru.

The artwork in this book is top-notch. I loved Aaron Lopresti work on Wonder Woman and he proved to be the perfect choice for this book. Lopresti’s characters always seem active, even when they are standing still – which is fortunate as much of this issue depicts people standing around talking. Lopresti also has a great eye for detail, with little things like the tread of Batman’s boot as he kicks out toward the reader getting special attention. Inker Matt Ryan is thankfully wise enough to leave most of Lopresti’s pencils untouched, save for a thin outline. This, coupled with Hi-Fi’s palette, leaves the entire book looking vibrant and vitalic– everything a superhero comic should be.

Ensemble pieces are difficult beasts for a writer to manage. There is always a danger that the writer will extensively focus on certain characters while pushing others into the background. I fear that is the case here, with writer Dan Jurgens – Booster Gold’s creator - focusing heavily upon Booster Gold. Booster is even the focus of scenes where he isn’t present, with Guy Gardner and Batman discussing Booster as Guy explains his reasons for quitting the JLI team and Batman explaining his reasons for joining it without UN approval.

With so much of the focus on Booster, the rest of the cast is confined to the background and the book suffers for it. Oddly, Guy Gardner gets the most development despite barely being in the book at all! Rocket Red and August General in Iron are given little characterization beyond being proud, jingoistic warriors for their respective nations. Yet even they are given more characterization than the female members of the team. You can count the number of lines Fire has on one hand and none of them show off the “fiery spirit” we are informed she has. Ice doesn’t do much better, save that her dialogue hints at the team-mom personality she had in the previous JLI book. Vixen has a limited number of lines and doesn’t even get a sentence describing her powers for new readers. And newcomer Lady Godiva doesn’t display any powers, save the ability to single-handedly push the Women's Rights movement back thirty years.

Justice League International is a different book from Justice League. And variety being the spice of life, that is a good thing. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the lack of development most of the cast has received so far, but I think Dan Jurgens was playing to his strengths with this first issue and hope he will showcase the rest of the cast in future issues. As it is, with the amazing artwork by Lopresti and company, this is still a book to keep an eye on and I plan to give it some more time to impress me.

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