Justice League: Volume 1: Origin, by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams — a comic book review (the new 52!)

JusticeLeagueVol1

Okay, you had me at Jim Lee and Scott Williams.

Justice League: Volume 1: Origin collects Justice League 1-6, originally published in 2011-2012 as part of The New 52 relaunch of DC Comics following the conclusion of the “Flashpoint” crossover storyline. Since then, beginning in 2016, DC has gone through a Rebirth, which I believe is yet another relaunch (although I’m not really qualified to comment on it yet). The cynical voice in my head suggests that all of this revamping may be an excuse to publish new #1 issues to boost comic book sales. Surely, that can’t be true.

Whatever the motivation behind this retooled Justice League book, I’m glad it exists. I’m also glad I finally got around to experiencing it (you can’t just “read” a comic book). This is a modern origin story for that famous superhero team featuring six of the biggest DC names we expect . . . and Cyborg. I mean no disrespect to Cyborg. I’ve liked him since I first saw him in the pages of The New Teen Titans years ago. I liked him as a Titan, and I’ve liked him as a member of the Doom Patrol on that television program. This team origin story also doubles as Cyborg’s origin story. The accident that turns Vic Stone into a man-machine hybrid is one of the events in the pages of this trade paperback.

We don’t get the origin stories for the other six in this book. We already know all about them: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman. They all appeared on t-shirts, lunch boxes and cartoons many years before Cyborg was created. Geoff Johns seems to like Cyborg a lot, too, however. Cyborg filled pretty much the same role as Superman would have in the Flashpoint universe that Johns wrote about.

These first six issues of the series are all about how the Justice League is formed. A superhero is only as good as the villain they are fighting, and this TPB features a doozy—Darkseid. You can’t go wrong with a Jack Kirby creation, in any book. That means these pages are filled with Mother Boxes, parademons and, of course, the imposing Darkseid himself.

Geoff Johns earned my respect before I read this book. I’ve enjoyed his work both on the page and on the television screen, with his involvement in the Greg Berlanti DC shows. But, I have to tell you that the writing in this volume is pretty thin. What we get is essentially one long fight scene from cover to cover, not a lot in the way of story or character development. Seven heroes who don’t know one another band together to overcome a villain that none of them could probably defeat alone. And this is how a superhero team is born. Throw in the Cyborg origin story and there’s your synopsis.

In the hands of lesser talents, this would have fallen flat. The artwork is the star of the show here. The art would have to be special in something that was this reliant on spectacle over plot.

My first exposure to the artwork of Jim Lee and Scott Williams was in the pages of X-Men #1 (which was sort of a Marvel relaunch, now that I think of it), and I was immediately bowled over. My opinion of their work didn’t waver once they were producing WildC.A.T.s for Image Comics a little later. Since the 1990s, the careers of both men have continued to soar, with Jim Lee eventually selling his WildStorm Productions studio to DC and becoming Co-Publisher and Chief Creative Officer for all of DC Comics. It’s safe to say that Jim Lee has been successful in the comic book biz.

Lee’s handiwork is visible in all DC properties. His character designs formed the basis of The New 52 relaunch in the first place. It’s no surprise that he would be the penciller on this big team book. That’s right in his wheelhouse.

This is visually stunning work. Big, loud and dynamic. Long on action and short on words. When the action is this big and cinematic, lengthy exposition is unnecessary. Lee and Williams tell the tale in these pages as if they were storyboarding the motion picture. Come to think of it, the Justice League movie wasn’t that different from this, lacking only Green Lantern, if memory serves.

After Darkseid is defeated, however temporarily—sorry, spoilers—we get a brief afterword featuring the Phantom Stranger that I’m sure will feature more heavily in the next volume, then some bonus add-ons in the form of alternate book covers, character design style sheets, and some character dossiers written by Johns.

I plan to continue reading this iteration of Justice League, along with the Snyder/Capullo run on Batman. Although I’m late coming to the party, I recommend it to any other, perhaps lapsed, comic book fans who haven’t read it yet.

Firewater’s Let’s-Hear-It-for-the-Super-Seven Report Card: A

A

Sure, this is the comic book equivalent of a popcorn movie, but it’s great fun!

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