Dark Nights Metal and Justice League: No Justice were just the first steps in Scott Snyder’s quest to tell a DC multiverse spanning story starring some of its most underrated characters, and in Justice League #1, some of its heaviest hitters. And in his love of bonkers concepts at the expense of clear storytelling, he’s becoming a lot like Grant Morrison, for better or worse. However, he and artists Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, and Tomeu Morey find a way to a bring back the Timmverse era Justice League lineup as well as assemble the Legion of Doom for the first time in comics and successfully please two generations of JL fans. But can nostalgia overcome a loud, sometimes disjointed plot that spends most of its time talking about a big threat? Justice League falls somewhere in the middle of maybe it can, maybe it can’t.
After a cameo filled opening page, Snyder and Cheung jump right into some double page spreads, wide screen heroics as each Justice League “member” leads a small task force to fight different types of “Neoanderthals” as Vandal Savage tries to take over the universe again. Cheung’s figures are dynamic and powerful with the help of superstar inker Morales, but his fights are cluttered and not blocked well. In fact, scenes where characters are talking around a table or are drawn in heroic poses by themselves (i.e. John Stewart packing construct heat.) have more of an impact than the group fight scenes, which is a definite weakness for an artist on a book where readers expect a big pitched, superhero fight every issue or so.
However, Snyder saves these underwhelming sequences that kick off Justice League #1 with a sense of humor and nigh perfect use of Martian Manhunter as team leader, POV character, and comedic straight man riding off his excellent work with the character in No Justice. The Justice League spends the opening battle basically roasting Batman while J’onn dryly riffs off their dialogue and keeps them on task while remaining aware of the big picture because his home planet Mars was destroyed because his people decided to shut off their literal connection with each other. Even if he’s been away for a while and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, the Martian Manhunter has the temperament and power set to unite the world’s greatest heroes to stop some quite otherworldly threats. He’s also not afraid to get his hands dirty and take some small setbacks if it keeps his adopted home world safe and contributes to a greater plan. Also, Jim Cheung does a great job showing J’onn’s steady, yet sad demeanor and even gets to cut loose a little bit and show him shapeshift into a dragon.
Through the aforementioned cold open and a pretty nifty sequence where they meet a table like the one in the old Silver Age Justice League of America comics, Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung do a decent job establishing the the heroes of Justice League #1. They drop the ball with the villains and the introduction of the Legion of Doom, especially Lex Luthor, who has gone from a complex figure in Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics run and even No Justice to a mustache twirling, “for the evulz” baddie. When he makes his first play for the Legion, Snyder and Cheung throw any kind of interesting characterization out the window other than making Lex do cool and “badass” things like dropping a bunch of Neanderthals through a trap door, for example. These things do have consequences, and hopefully, Snyder gets a handle on these villains’ voices and motivations so they don’t play second fiddle to symbols and MacGuffins. Obviously, he has the Joker down.
Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung are talented creators, and they have their pick of the litter cast-wise: both heroes and villains. Justice League #1 works when the multiverse shattering stakes have a personal dimension too aka every time Martian Manhunter is involved, but mostly, it seems like it might collapse under the weight of these stakes and its forgettable action scenes.
Story: Scott Snyder Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: Mark Morales Colors: Tomeu Morey Letters: Tom Napolitano
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review