By now, the internet has been flooded with reviews for the book that launches a whole new status quo for the DC Universe. And, as many reviewers have commented, this is not your dad’s DCU and you’ve never seen this Justice League before.
So what could I possibly add to the digital cacophony, especially since I had to wait a few extra days for my comics to travel halfway around the world to Australia?
Instead of offering yet another review of Justice League #1, I have decided to focus on what is, for me, the most important part of any story – the characters.
Sure, some of the most iconic characters in popular culture LOOK different courtesy of artist superstar Jim Lee’s redesigns … but what’s really different about these characters? In Character Study, I’m going to take a look at how writer Geoff Johns portrays the key characters in this historic comic and see what it all might mean for the brave new world that is DCnU. In Part 1, I will be looking at Batman and Vic Stone.
PLEASE NOTE: I assume most people who want to read Justice League #1 have done so by now. If you haven’t read it and want to avoid any risk of spoilers, it might be best to stop reading here.
Along with Green Lantern, Batman gets the most airtime in this issue. It opens on him and he’s rarely absent from a panel.
Most of what we see in Justice League #1 is in line with the modern characterisation of Batman, seen in the previous continuity. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? He’s still a detective, a strategist, somewhat surly, a bit paranoid, and very territorial when it comes to Gotham.
Upon their first meeting in the DCnU, Green Lantern exclaims, “You’re real?” so at this point in time the Batman is still a figure of urban myth and mystery. The one thing in this scene that stands out for me is that Batman is very open about not having powers when quizzed by Green Lantern. “You’re not just a guy in a bat costume, are you? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!” Personally, I would have liked for Bats to be more coy … maybe not directly answering Hal’s questions and saying something like, “You don’t know what I’m capable of.” Perhaps the Dark Knight is just downplaying his strengths for a strategic advantage. Am I giving Johns too much credit?
A possible small departure from what we all think we know about Batman is that, to me, the character seems a bit more sarcastic. He is still surly, but perhaps a bit playful in his grumpiness. Johns gives Batman more zingers than I can remember the character ever uttering. For example, when GL says, “You really want to pick a fight with someone who can create anything he can think of?” Batman quips, “I’d be worried if I thought you could think.”
Following on from that point, Justice League #1 continues the long-held belief that Bats and Hal don’t get along particularly well. Given Johns’ history writing Green Lantern, I thought Hal might have held his own a bit better in this issue, but Batman definitely wins the verbal jousting contest and is consistently derisive and critical of GL – “Take your flashlight and go home.”
Not yet Cyborg, Vic Stone has four pages in this inaugural edition pretty much all to himself.
I’m not overly familiar with Vic from the previous continuity, having only read some of the Johns written Teen Titans issues in which he appears. As such, I can’t comment too much on how Vic might differ in the DCnU, but as others commentators have observed and Flashpoint foreshadowed, he’s being set up as the new heart and soul of DC’s premiere hero team. And he does get a big, ol’ dollop of character development in this issue.
Playing football for Ford High (known as the Titans, naturally), we see Vic is a superstar and every college scout wants a slice of what he’s serving. I liked how one scout says, “He’s a tank.” Nice touch.
Off the field, we are shown a big piece of the Cyborg puzzle – Vic has some serious daddy issues. A seat obviously reserved for his father is vacant. Johns drills the point into the reader, showing scouts promising the moon in an effort to recruit Vic, but the coach won’t let them talk to his star player unless his father is present. There is obviously a big disconnect in this father-son relationship, as the father is apparently too busy to take an interest in what’s going on in his son’s life. Vic, however, is clinging to hope, promising his coach that his dad will make the next game.
Finally, we learn that what is keeping Vic’s father so busy is studying superhumans, presumably setting up Vic’s future transformation into Cyborg.
What did you notice about these iconic characters in Justice League #1? Leave a comment.