DC’s new 52 is off to a great start. Justice League #1 was a well written and illustrated introduction to a fresh DC Universe that isn’t used to the superheroes that have become so familiar to us. While this issue does have some exposition to reveal the situation post-reboot, it’s action packed from the first page, and it doesn’t slow down for the sake of explaining the new continuity. This debut issue of the new 52 was written to flow quickly and smoothly like an entertaining action movie, and the pencils and colors are stunningly good.
The issue opens on police helicopters chasing Batman across Gotham rooftops. Not only is this scene thrilling but it also seems like it could be right at home in a Christopher Nolan Batman film. Batman is hunting what appears to be a redesign of a Parademon, one of Darkseid’s freakish stormtroopers, and he’s interrupted by the arrival of Green Lantern. The idea to mix Green Lantern’s iridescent colors with Batman’s dark tones is visually interesting, and it’s a stark contrast that works very well.
Jim Lee proves here that he’s not just a master of drawing Batman in action; he can also pencil Green Lantern constructs like nobody’s business. Lee draws Green Lantern crashing a firetruck construct into the Parademon, and the detail on the vehicle is impressive. His pencils are enhanced by Alex Sinclair’s colors which lend this ultra detailed firetruck a vibrant glow. This issue’s depiction of ring constructs are some of the most beautiful displays of Green Lantern’s powers that I’ve ever seen.
We see in the first meeting of Batman and Green Lantern that Hal Jordan sticks out like a sore thumb in Gotham. Green Lantern is so bright that he’s like an emerald star, and he couldn’t be more out of place in Batman’s shadowy world. Sinclair’s colors serve to drive this point home, and the contrast is a clever conceit to introduce us to the new 52. We find out in this scene that Green Lantern is surprised that Batman is real. The idea of Batman as urban legend is a classic trope that makes sense for a DC Universe where superheroes have only been around for five years.
Batman and Green Lantern work together to pursue the fleeing Parademon and it’s something of a reluctant partnership. Green Lantern is arrogant and confident in the omnipotence of his power ring. Batman is cynical and unimpressed with Green Lantern’s gaudy “flashlight”. This personality clash is one that matches the stark color contrast, and it’s a smart move for Geoff Johns to open his new Justice League on this team up of polar opposite characters. The extreme opposition of attitudes highlights the core traits of each character and keeps the reader interested in conflict more emotional than the comparatively simple chasing of a supervillain.
We transition from the first team up between the Dark Knight and the Emerald Knight into a rather mundane introduction of Vic Stone. Vic Stone is not yet the Cyborg that’s on the cover of this issue, but we see that he’s a high school football star and he’s looking at a free ride to the university of his choice. Again, Johns hits an emotional cord by showing that Vic’s father doesn’t show up to watch his son’s game. When Green Lantern and Batman race above the football field in a green jet, we learn that Vic’s father studies the new superhero phenomenon. This seems to be setting up Vic’s inevitable transformation into Cyborg at his father’s scientist hand.
The issue culminates with Batman and Green Lantern arriving in Metropolis to confront the mysterious Superman. Batman assures Green Lantern that he’s done research on the Man of Steel, and he knows that he’s an alien. Green Lantern takes this as his cue to handle what he arrogantly assumes is an extraterrestrial threat, and he’s not lacking in confidence as he uses his ring to find the alien Superman. When Green Lantern confronts Superman, the issue concludes with the cocky Hal Jordan getting the red, yellow, and blue comeuppance that he deserves. Superman makes his entrance into the new 52 by knocking the over confidant Green Lantern into next week without even trying, and it’s a conclusion that has me excited for the next issue.
This first issue of the new 52 delivered on it’s promise of an exciting and fresh start for the DCU. Johns is at his best and this comic has a smooth, flowing pace that draws you in from the first page and leaves you wanting more at the last. Jim Lee’s pencils are stunningly good and they’re enhanced to great effect by Alex Sinclair’s colors. Overall, this comic fires on all cylinders and lives up to the hype. I’d highly recommend it to new fans that are uninitiated in the mythology of the DCU, and old fans that weren’t looking forward to this reboot.