Tuesday, January 10, 2012

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Associate Editor: Rex Ogle
Editor: Eddie Berganza

Synopsis

Five years ago, Green Lantern and Batman battle a strange creature in Gotham City that seems to be alien in origin.  They assume that it might have something to do with the mysterious Superman in Metropolis and travel there to ask him some questions.  However, Green Lantern’s cockiness gets the better of him, and the Man of Steel flings the Emerald Avenger through a building, leaving Batman to face Superman alone…

Notes

Page 1:  “Five Years Ago.”  This is important – this story doesn’t take place in the present day.  Rather, it’s set at the dawn of this current age of heroes. 

Correction – in this new DC Universe, this is the first and only age of heroes.  As the narrative caption explains, “There was a time when the world didn’t know what a super-hero was.”  So there wasn’t any Justice Society of America to fight in World War II, no Challengers of the Unknown to battle weird monsters in the 1950s and ‘60s, and no Justice Experience that captured evildoers in the nebulous “twenty years ago.”  These masked and costumed adventurers are emerging in a world unaccustomed to them, and the response is a natural one – fear and mistrust. 

I mean, let’s face it, if you woke up one morning and all of the sudden there was an influx of people flying around, lifting cars over their heads and fighting off alien invaders, you’d be a little freaked out.  Maybe, over time, you’d come to trust these people, or, perhaps, you’d feel the opposite way and hate them.  But, at first, you really wouldn’t know what to make of them, and that is what we are seeing here.

First appearance of Batman.  Historical first appearance in Detective Comics #27.  Real name Bruce Wayne.  The world’s greatest detective, master tactician and strategist who is an expert acrobat and one of the greatest martial artists in the world.  Has access to high tech weaponry and equipment and vast wealth. 

Technically, this post-Flashpoint/New 52 version of Batman made his first appearance in Flashpoint #5, but this issue chronologically takes place before that one, which is why I have named this his “First Appearance.”

Also, DC has said that Batman has been active for several years by this time, but is regarded as an urban legend for the most part.  Whether or not his pre-Justice League #1 adventures will be recorded remains to be seen; apparently, after the events of this story, Batman is no longer just an urban legends but is seen as a “super-hero.”

“Is it one of them?”  “Them,” meaning a “superhuman.”

Pages 2-3:  Even in the “present day” New 52, Batman’s relationship with the Gotham City Police Department is a bit, oh, how shall we put it?  Adversarial?  It’s fairly reminiscent of Batman: Year One, for those of you old enough to remember that little yarn. 

Page 4:  

Note how Batman has more weaponry and equipment stored within the gauntlets of his new costume as opposed to just his utility belt.  For example, the smoke grenades he uses to blind the helicopter pilots, as seen here.

That mystery “superhuman” kinda resembles Killer Croc.  It is not, however, Killer Croc, so don’t get all excited.

Page 5:  Batman’s a bit ruthless here.  I mean, he shoots a grappling hook into the big guy’s leg.  Granted he probably assumed that a guy that big, with scaly skin and flaming eyes, wouldn’t be all that bothered by a silly grappling hook through his leg, but it’s still a bit extreme…

Page 6:  See?  That guy was pretty pissed off.  How can I tell?  Well, fire erupted from his face, that’s how I can tell.

Yeah, that’s definitely not Killer Croc. 

Bet you've never seen Batman's cowl knocked off his nose like that before, have you?

Page 7:  A ring-generated fire engine takes out a fire-breathing beast.  Cute touch. 

Page 8:  First Appearance of Green Lantern.  Historical first appearance in Showcase #22.  Real name Harold “Hal” Jordan.  Wields a Green Lantern power ring that generates solid light constructs, allows the user to fly and is only limited by the user’s willpower. 

“You’re real?”  Again, Batman is regarded as an urban legend by pretty much everyone.  Even though Hal has a ring given to him by an alien race so that he can police an entire space sector, he is still surprised that the Batman actually exists.

Page 9:  “I’ve read about your ‘conflicts’ with the Air Force out west so I know you know the drill.”  It seems that Batman isn’t the only costumed vigilante who has had problems with authority figures. 

Page 10:  “The world’s afraid of us.”  This, then, is the important distinction between Batman and Green Lantern something that Geoff Johns has been playing with ever since Green Lantern: Rebirth

Batman is all about fear, as in making others fear him.  He may be highly skilled, accomplished and brilliant, with all the fun gadgets and tools he can lay his billionaire hands on, but he is, at his core, only a man.  His “power,” if you will, is to get others to fear him, to believe that he is more than a man.  Once you shine alight on Batman and reveal his humanity, you take away a certain amount of his power over others.

Green Lantern, by his very nature, is all about overcoming fear, about being fearless.  He is the one guy, as Johns has said, who doesn’t buy what Batman is selling.  Whereas Batman draws power from the fear of others, Green Lantern is only powerful when he overcomes that fear.  Green Lantern believes in rising above the fear, while fostering the fear is a necessity for Batman. 

Note that the guy who isn’t Killer Croc but looks a heck of a lot like him has yellow wing that are capable of injuring Green Lantern. 

Page 11:  

Green Lantern creates a few ring-generated bats to rescue the helicopter pilots, almost as a snub to Batman.

Page 12:  So the big, scaly guy is tough, can breath fire, has yellow wings…and can transform into a robotic dog?  Man, that guy most definitely isn’t Killer Croc…

“Take your flashlight and go home.  Gotham’s mine.  Coast City’s yours.”  Good to see that, in the New 52, Batman is still as arrogant and territorial as ever…

Page 13:  That shot of the Gotham City skyline, with the train station in the foreground, is a modern-day depiction of the first page of All-Star Western #1.

Justice League #1
All-Star Western #1



























“You’re not just some guy in a bat costume, are you?”  Batman’s reputation is such that he must be a superhuman.  He can’t possibly just be a normal man and do all of the things that he has been reported to have done. 

Page 14:  More of the pissing contest between Batman and Green Lantern…

When this issue debuted, much was made of the fact that the Justice League doesn’t even appear in this issue.  It was compared to The Brave and Bold, DC’s classic series that would feature Batman teaming up with other heroes.  Where was Superman?  Why isn’t Wonder Woman showing up?  What about the Flash?

Here’s my take on things…

First of all, as I mentioned before, Batman and Green Lantern are about as opposite as you can get within this group of heroes.  One deals with light, the other dark.  One overcomes fear, the other draws power from it.  One’s outgoing and brash, the other reserved and moody.  One wields the most powerful weapon in the universe, the other is simply the pinnacle of human achievement. 

However, both are human.  Neither have any power of their own.  So what we have in this story are two humans, with two diametrically opposed points of view, dealing with the same situation in two different ways.  It makes for interesting storytelling; far more interesting than if Hero A and Hero B who were old pals and friends were dealing with a crisis.  Batman and Green Lantern are barely on speaking terms, much less teammates, and it is fun to see the friction between the two. 

Secondly, as of August of 2011 (when this issue saw print), who were the two DC heroes most recognizable to the public at large?  Arguably, I would say Batman and Green Lantern.  Green Lantern had a major motion picture in theatres in the summer of 2011 and, although it wasn’t a huge success, it got his name out there to the public at large.  And Batman?  Well, 2008’s The Dark Knight was the tenth highest grossing movie of all time, so people probably have some idea as to who Batman is. 

So what’s the point?  The point is that if DC is going to relaunch not only its biggest super-hero team but also its entire comic book universe, which two heroes have a higher profile than Batman and Green Lantern?  Would anyone have been doing cartwheels if this issue focused on Aquaman and the Flash?

What’s that?  Superman, you say?  Well, that brings me to my third point…

After the events of Flashpoint #5, the DC Universe is a different place.  Not as much history, characters have been changed, and a great many classic and recent stories are probably no longer in continuity.  Superman’s origin has been tweaked, Ma and Pa Kent are dead, he’s no longer married to Lois Lane, and he’s wearing battle armor.  Wonder Woman is now the daughter of Zeus and Steve Trevor is something of her liaison.  The Flash is Barry Allen again, but he’s not married to Iris, and Wally West is nowhere to be seen.  As for Batman and Green Lantern…

Well, Batman and Green Lantern are pretty much the same.  A few details here and there have been changed, and their timelines have been compressed to fit within the current five year DC Universe timeline, but other than that, most of their past and recent adventures still apply.  So, for a meta-textual reason, who better to introduce us to the New 52 than these two heroes?  By having them as the main characters of this first story of the New 52, it’s kinda like DC is saying to the reader, “welcome to the new 52, it’s exciting and different, but still the place you’ve always know, and to reassure you of that, here are two old friends to take you there.” 

We are introduced to this new universe by Batman and Green Lantern; as they explore it and meet the rest of the heroes, so do we.  So when we’re introduced to the new armor-wearing Superman at the end of this issue, or the Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman in the following issues, we’re being reintroduced to old friends who may have changed their hairstyles of fashion sense, but we know that they’re still the same people.  It’s almost comforting, in a way, and we grow to accept the New 52 versions of these heroes.

I am almost positive that I over thought this a little bit too much, but I also think that’s it’s a valid point and food for thought…

Page 15:  


Hey, what’s the box that’s “PING”ing?

First appearance of a Mother Box.  Historical first appearance in Forever People #1.  Mother Box is a sentient supercomputer used by the New Gods of New Genesis to summon Boom Tubes and generate energy.  Since it’s in the hands of a Parademon, it is probably a Father Box, which is what the forces of Darkseid generally use, but they usually say “Ting” in stead of “Ping.”  However, it’s a new universe, so it could be the “Crazy-Drunken Uncle Box” for all I know…

“For Darkseid!”  Oh, I get it now, the Killer Croc-alike is a Parademon.  How silly of me…

First appearance of a Parademon.  Historical first appearance in The New Gods (first series) #1.  They are a squad of shock troops that serve Darkseid and carry out his orders.  We’ll talk a little bit more about Darkseid in a few issues…



Page 16:  Wow.  Parademon go “BABWOOOOSHHH.”

“Dark Side?  What is that?  A band?”  Let’s see, a quick trip to Wikipedia tells me that “Dark Side” can refer to a U.K. horror film magazine, a 1988 video game, a 2008 book by Jane Meyer, a ship in the Transformers: Beast Wars television series, at least three separate albums, a pornographic film and, yes, a band.  A British indie rock band that split up in 1993.  I’m sure that’s what Green Lantern was referencing…

Page 17:  “Unable to identify.”  Green Lantern’s power ring is incapable of determining what the Mother Box is, so this must be one of the first forays of the New Gods and Darkseid to this end of the universe.

“They say he’s an alien.”  As seen in current issues of Action Comics, which is also set “Five Years Ago.”

“No.  But I’ve…researched his power levels.”  Being as paranoid and prepared as he is, Batman likes to research the strengths and weaknesses of any potential ally or enemy, so it’s not out of character for him to know the specifics of what Superman can do, even if he’s never met the man before.  This was first seen in JLA #43-46, the “Tower of Babel” storyline.

Page 18:  “Mumford” refers to Samuel C. Mumford High School, located on Detroit’s near-northwest side.  They seem to have quite the sports program, including a football championship title in 2005.  I assume that “Ford” refers to Henry Ford High School on the northwest side of Detroit.  Writer Geoff Johns grew up in Detroit, but went to Clarkston High School

Hey, look!  It’s that hooded chick from Flashpoint #5.  Funny, she doesn't seem like the high school fooball game type...

First appearance of Victor Stone.  Historical first appearance in DC Comics Presents #26.  As you may remember, poor Victor has a bad accident and his dad turns him into a metallic freak, but that still hasn’t happened yet, so we’ll worry about that at another time.  Like, next issue. 

Page 19:  “Get me Coach Carroll.”  The guy on his cell phone is probably a recruiter for the University of Southern California (note the Trojan emblem on his shirt).  Pete Carroll, a former NFL coach, was the head of USC’s football program from 2000-2009.

Page 21:  Traditionally, Gotham City has been depicted as being on the East Coast.  Same with Metropolis.  In fact, Amazing World of DC Comics #14 and Mayfair’s Atlas of the DC Universe role-playing game supplement both stated that Metropolis was located in Delaware and Gotham City was in New Jersey

Now, whether or not you believe the Delaware and New Jersey references, the fact the remains that Gotham City and Metropolis have always been somewhere in the vicinity of New York City.  So why do Green Lantern and Batman fly, via a ring-generated jet, from Gotham City, over Detroit, Michigan, on their trip to Metropolis?  Did Green Lantern, an Air Force pilot with an alien artificial intelligence and navigational computer on his ring finger, somehow get lost?

“Seems like there’s a new sighting every day.”  Once again, superhumans are a new phenomenon at this point; citizens of the DC Universe are probably more likely to have read about various sightings of Superman than to have actually seen him.

“He doesn’t talk about them.  Not to me.”  Victor and his father Silas have a pretty strained relationship.

Page 22:  “You can’t fly, so how else were we going to get here?  Talk in a deep voice?”  This is in reference to the idea that Bruce Wayne lowers his voice when appearing as Batman so that he can better hide his identity.  It’s hard to convey this in a comic book, so other characters will make reference to it, as seen here.  In other media, it is much more pronounced.  Christian Bale’s efforts in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight have been criticized, while Kevin Conroy’s vocal work on Batman: The Animated Series and subsequent shows has been praised. 

Lexcorp is a multinational corporation owned by Lex Luthor. 

“I can handle this.”  Yeah.  Right.  Sure you can…

Page 23:  

Yeah, it looks like you're handling things real well...

Page 24:  First appearance of Superman.  Historical first appearance in Action Comics #1.  First chronological appearance in Action Comics (New 52) #1.  Real name Kal-El/Clark Kent.  Possesses standard Kryptonian power set of superhuman strength, speed, reflexes, senses, invulnerability and flight derived from yellow solar radiation. 

The current issues of Action Comics take place at the start of Superman’s career, before the events of this issue.