Thursday, November 28, 2013

Graphic Novels - Justice League: Origin

Ughhh... Stomach bug... I'm just lucky I write these things way in advance now.

I have finally made it to the present… or at least 2011. I was working at UPS and about to start Grad school. I also remember stressing out about that $250 thing called the GMAT. What else happened… oh yeah, the New 52 happened and fans threw a fit! It was mass hysteria! Dogs and cats flocked to Massachusetts! Grass started growing on Mars! Men started to treat women with respect… wait. Grass can’t grow on Mars!

In September of 2011, DC did another reboot which changed a lot of continuity and peeved off a lot of fans. DC was (and still are) trying to gain new readers by updating a lot of concepts and characters. The only properties that really remained untouched by this were the Batman books and the Green Lantern books. At the beginning, I was pretty interested. I added only 5 books to a pull list… hey, I got a budget!  The list itself has changed a lot because of funds and interest, but one of the books that I still want is Justice League. It’s also a book I need to add back to that list because I took it off for “Villains Month” which was something I nor my wallet wanted to participate in.

Justice League started the whole line by being the first book to come out in the new continuity. The team is made up of a lot of the popular DC heroes. It’s really a new take on the original team. The only difference and my main complaint about this team is the replacement of the Martian Manhunter for Cyborg (Victor Stone). Now, I like Cyborg as a character and he’s one of my favorite Titans. I do believe he belongs on the Justice League but not at the beginning of the whole thing especially since everything’s rebooted. Other than that, the team is fine.

Today, I’m looking at the first arc of this run, Justice League #1-#6.  The writer is the man known as Geoff Johns. You might have heard of him. If you haven’t, you should know that he’s one of the premier writers with DC. He’s also the main crossover writer and you might have seen at lot of his work on this blog. The penciller is Jim Lee who is a bit of a big name himself. He’s done work for Marvel, DC, and Image. Scott Williams is the inker and he has inked a lot of Lee’s pencils over the years. With names like these, you’d think this would be the most awesome thing EVAR (yes, I meant to spell it that way). Let’s find out, shall we?

Justice League: Origin
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams

The story takes place about five years in the past. Superheroes have just jumped on the scene and there is a lot of mistrust of them from the public. In Gotham City, Batman being chased by the police while he is chasing some hooded figure on the rooftops. Things are going bad for Batman when the overly cocky Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) shows up to help out. His ring sensed an extraterrestrial presence on Earth, so he came here. The hooded figure is revealed to be some sort of cyborg. It escapes from the two heroes. Bats and GL are able to get away from the cops and chase the cyborg into the sewers.

In Detroit, Victor Stone is playing football and waiting for his dad to show up at the game. Unfortunately, he doesn’t show and Vic is upset. In Gotham’s sewers, the heroes find the cyborg trying to activate a cube-like device. The robot self-destructs but the two heroes are able to protect themselves. They find the device and decide to check out Superman since he’s really the only alien they know about. They head to Metropolis where they track Superman down. That first meeting goes to hell fast. Apparently, the same thing happened in Metropolis and Superman’s trying to get down to the bottom of it. Because of Hal, the overly cocky hothead, a fight erupts and Hal goes down.

While this panel really didn't need two pages, it still looks awesome!

Superman and Batman fight and it goes like we all know it would go.  Superman even takes on both guys. It gets so bad that Hal has to call Barry Allen (Flash) over in Central City for help. Flash races over to Metropolis to help them out. He and Batman are able to calm the situation down when the authorities show up to arrest the warring idiots. The heroes take their leave and head to Superman’s lair. In Detroit, Victor heads to STAR Labs to see why his dad, Silas, didn’t come to his game. They get into an argument and it’s revealed that the lab is working on one of the devices that the heroes found. In Metropolis, the heroes try to study their cube. Suddenly, their cube and Star Labs’ cube start to activate and portals (I’ll just call them Boom Tubes) open up all around the world and more cyborgs (Parademons) fly out. The energy from the portal seriously injures Victor.

It’s all out war as the Parademons start to attack the world. One wonders how China, Russia, and ‘ole Africa is handling the shock, but don’t worry about them. In Washington D.C., Wonder Woman is getting used to not being on an island with a multitude of warrior women when the Parademons start to attack. In Detroit, Silas, Dr. Morrow, and an intern go to the Red Room where a lot of advanced technology is being kept. Silas decides that he will save Victor with what’s there. When Victor is reactivated, he has visions of some menacing figure.

Superman: I have an idea. Let's hook up in five years and tick off those Superman/Lois shippers!
Wonder Woman: Deal!

In Metropolis, the heroes take on the invading army. Wonder Woman (wasn’t Washington being attacked?) eventually shows up to join them. As they continue to fight, a spire (?) comes out of the ocean and Parademons fly around it. Suddenly, another hero shows up: Aquaman. Not only is he sporting bling, he has some cool sideburns!!!
You know, it's weird that Aquaman is the only Leaguer that's allowed to look different from his present counterpart.

Back in Detroit, Victor wakes up and finds out that he’s now a cyborg. After he saves the scientists and his dad from Parademons, he can’t handle it and leaves the lab. When he runs across another woman being accosted by Parademons, he helps her out. He ends up teleporting after the fight. In Metropolis, Everyone except for the overly-cocky Green Lantern welcome Aquaman into the group. “Loudmouth Hal” eventually accepts Aquaman as part of the group after Aquaman does some cool things. Suddenly, the military shows up and attacks the Parademons and the heroes. Col. Steve Trevor (Diana’s liaison) tries to stop the military from opening fire on the heroes, but it does him no good.

Superman and Flash deal with taking out the military without hurting them since they’re only doing their jobs. Suddenly, Victor pops out of nowhere. He almost gets attacked by Badmouth Hal, but everyone else stops him. Victor tells the heroes that he knows what’s going on. The Parademons are trying to prepare this world for Darkseid. Suddenly, a big Boom Tube opens up. Out comes Darkseid, the Great and Powerful! After he proclaims his mighty name, he takes out all of the heroes in one mighty blow.

Darkseid is the only person who can make "CHOOOOM" sound threatening.

Superman and Flash are the first to recover from Darkseid’s blow. Darkseid then shoots his Omega Beams at both of them. The beams follow them even when the two heroes split up. Flash is able to escape the beams, but Superman does not. Superman is then taken through a Boom Tube by Parademons. The League tries to regroup and fight Darkseid but they pretty much fail at that. Hal even gets his arm broken by the New God. Batman then decides to do the weirdest thing in this comic: he pulls Hal over to the side and basically gives him an inspirational speech. He then reveals his identity to Hal (which gets the funniest reaction from him), takes off his mask, cape, and bat emblem (?????), and allows himself to get taken by a Parademon in order to save Superman.
Who the hell’s Bruce Wayne? I’d be asking him why he is deciding to strip in front of me!

Hal heads back to the team and tries to give them that same inspirational speech. It comes out pretty wrong, but the fact is that they need to work as a team in order to defeat Darkseid. Meanwhile, the parademon that picked up Bruce has taken him through the portal and to the “jolly” place known as Apokalips.

The heroes of justice (nice name) take on Darkseid again. This time, they work as a team and look for any weak spots that Darkseid has. Of course, Darkseid generally has no weak spots, but let’s say this New 52 version does. Wonder Woman jabs her sword into one eye and Aquaman throws his trident into the other eye… OW! Cyborg has been able to figure out his new teleporting powers. He realizes that he can teleport all of the invading forces away. Meanwhile, Batman has finally found Superman. It looks like he is being experimented on by the New Gods Dessad and Steppenwolf.

Cyborg works his technological magic and is able to open Boom Tubes that suck the invading forces away. This also works on Apokalips which distracts Des and Stepp. Batman is able to free Superman and the two are able to use a Tube to get back to Earth and join the fight against Darkseid. Cyborg is able to turn up the juice on the Tubes and the invading forces (including Somewhat Mighty Darkseid) are teleported off Earth. After this, the public hail the team as heroes and they are awarded with the highest honors. At the White House, they try to go their separate ways… well, it’s mostly Loudmouth Hal and Aquaman. When word of another threat gets out, the Super Seven (TM Barry Allen) sets off to kick evil’s butt. The story ends as David Graves (a man who saw the League's fight with Darkseid) writes a book about them.

Worst names they could go by: Cyborg and the White Folk, Team Hal, Those Weirdos, "The Greatest Superhumans Ever!", and Bob.


Well, I guess I have to say it…

This was a good read. It’s not even close to being perfect, but it is still a nice story arc and serves as a good origin for the Justice League in this new continuity. I see why this arc was chosen to be another direct-to-DVD movie for Warner Bros. It literally plays like a straight-up action movie. The team comes together slowly (maybe too slowly) over the six issues. While some of the characterizations are a little off-putting at times, I did like the banter between the Leaguers. There were some really funny moments in the story. Cyborg’s new origin was okay. While it doesn’t hold a candle to his original origin which I have read, it’s still good.

Having Darkseid as your main villain in a story is always a good thing to me. His fight with the League was pretty awesome. Still, something just feels off with this version. I think it’s the fact that we don’t really see much of him or learn much about him. When he comes, he only proclaims his name and fights for three issues. We also really don’t know why he’s here though he stated that he was looking for his daughter which is weird. We also don’t get to see his minions like Granny Goodness and others. We only get glimpses of Dessad and Steppenwolf. Still, Darkseid’s a good villain to have in a story. I also thought the story was kind of a remake of the crossover Legends. Read it and you’ll see the similarities.

Now there were some things that are jarring. It mostly has to do with the characterizations of the some of the League. The ones I’m talking about are Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. Clark came off as a brute, Wonder Woman was a little too bloodthirsty, and Green Lantern… do I have to say anything? Now I can understand Clark’s and Diana’s personalities. Clark does fit in line with what Grant Morrison was doing over in Action Comics at this time. Diana was raised as a warrior her whole life, so it makes sense that she’s more war-like. Plus the Amazons in this new continuity are… well, pretty screwed up.

On the other hand, Hal Jordan is pretty obnoxious. He’s like five shots away from being another Guy Gardner! Now, he holds no candle to the a-hole known as Guy, but he does get a little grating especially when he’s in a lot of the story. Another complaint I have is that some Leaguers are featured more than others. The one this really applies to is Aquaman who gets little screen time. He just shows up and we get no development with him whatsoever. My last complaint on the story is that some of the dialogue is a little bad. “You’re the world’s greatest superhumans!” is one example.

On the whole, the artwork is pretty good. Lee redesigned all of their looks and costumes, so he knows what the League should look like. The only one who may look off is Flash with his extra lightning lines on his costume. Also, Cyborg looks weird at times. Everyone else looks fine in their new looks. The action is good but overblown at times. It especially gets tiring since there are a lot of splash pages and double splashes in the overall story. If the artwork wasn’t so overblown, this story would have definitely fit in three to four issues. Also, the quality does slip from time to time.

Johns has been on the series since the beginning of the New 52. It has had its share of artists though. The book has seen artists like Jim Lee, Gene Ha, Tony Daniel, Ivan Reis, and Jesus Saiz. It’s dipped up and down in quality during its duration. I do have to say that I’ve enjoyed the book more after Lee left. I like Lee’s artwork, but I felt that his work took more precedence over the story. A high point of mine post-Lee is the crossover with Aquaman. My favorite penciller on the book has been Ivan Reis and he is pretty awesome.

Overall, I do like the first arc to this series. It is jarring at times but I believe some of that has to do with the fact that this is a new continuity. It’s also being catered to newer fans, so that could turn older fans like me off. Still, it’s a good read overall. Well, I'm outta here. Peace, God Bless, and Happy Thanksgiving.

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