When Justice League #1 was released (over six weeks ago), it was met by many comics fans with a resounding ‘meh’. Awkwardly paced and somewhat lacking in any sort of ‘league’, some particularly pessimistic fans were predicting failure for the relaunch based on its opening issue. And then the issue sold an insane number of copies, and the story became “this is a wildly successful start to the relaunch, sales-wise” rather than “this was a mildly successful start to the relaunch, creatively-speaking.” But still, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee has perhaps the biggest soap box in comicdom right now to prove that superheroes are viable in the mainstream, so how does their sophomore issue fare?
Much, much better. Like, a lot. It’s too early, I think, for Stockholm Syndrome to have set in with the book – I just legitimately enjoyed it. Yes, the “heroes meet and have to fight” trope was done to death well over a decade ago, and yes, Vic Stone’s daddy-issues are still trite (at least on Vic’s end – his dad has one of the book’s only strong showings from the non-League cast), but you know what: the issue is pretty darn fun regardless.
Picking up in Central City, we meet Barry Allen briefly before jumping back to Metropolis, where Superman has knocked Green Lantern out completely and shrugged off the entire contents of Batman’s utility belt. Drastically overpowered, they call the Flash in for assistance, and together the trio manages to at least slow Superman down enough to talk to him – and to discover that he was attacked by a creature similar to the one Batman and Green Lantern fought last issue shortly before they arrived, which is why he was so testy. Meanwhile, Vic Stone’s dad doesn’t pay enough attention to him, because he’s busy studying… another one of those mysterious boxes left behind by the alien’s in major American cities. Before they can resolve their issues, however, the boxes suddenly explode, opening up a portal to another world – and angry creatures pour out and begin their assault!
It’s a simple set-up (it’s harder to picture it any simpler), but Johns and Lee sell it. A weird first-page glitch that leaves Barry with a single eye aside, Lee’s art is a little more vibrant than normal, the action-scene well-paced and the characters distinctive. Inker Scott Williams and colorist Alex Sinclair contribute to that, keeping panels that might have become cluttered crisp, ordered and elaborate instead. And Johns’ character work (Vic aside) is surprisingly engaging. He isn’t afraid to make Hal seem like an arrogant dolt, and there’s a genuine spark between Hal and Barry that suggests why he enjoys the pairing so much, while his Superman hews a little closer to Morrison’s rough-and-tumble one-of-us protector than to Perez’s more traditional Man of Steel.
Of course, none of this justifies the 3.99$ price tag, particularly for a normal-sized issue that includes not one, not two, but THREE two-page splashes, as well as another full-page one to conclude – fully a third of the book. And for all that the issue was fairly fun, it was also quite forgettable: this is not the kind of issue that makes converts. Fans of big superhero brawls will probably enjoy the hell out of Johns and Lee’s bombastic action series, and I can’t imagine how this series wouldn’t prove popular, but it’s comfort food comics. And that’s not a bad thing.