Welcome to #1 Comic of the Week, a series where our comics editor, Susana Polo, tips you off to a neat new story or series that kicked off in comics this week — just in time for some weekend reading.
Justice League #1 packs more sheer joy in to its first three pages than most comics do in their entirety. The art is beautifully intricate — but still clear to the eye. The story is superhero fantasy at its utmost, but its characters immediately inspire pathos and affection.
In a mainstream media environment where the DC Universe is widely associated with grim and gritty “modern” takes on superheroes, the issue’s introduction to the Justice League’s new headquarters overflows with hope, humor and even a little bit of magic:
It’s that miracle of a flagship superhero team story: A book that packs in references to delight long-time fans, but that is also digestible and compelling to first-time readers. If you are curious at all about superhero comics and the DC Universe, you should read it.
But I suppose I should tell you more about it than that. Justice League #1 is the first issue in the tenure of DC Comics mainstay Scott Snyder, who first solidified his DC Comics reputation by — in partnership with Greg Capullo — crafting the New 52 reboot’s most consistently successful series, Batman. From there, the writer vaulted to Dark Nights: Metal, the company’s best-selling and absolutely buckwild Batman-centric crossover event, which established him as a guy who could take DC’s most down to earth characters, merge them with the wildest forgotten corners of its universe, and still make a book that was accessible, fun and emotionally resonant.
That’s almost exactly the sort of resume you want in the writer for the Justice League itself, and if Justice League #1 — and the groundwork Snyder laid for it in Dark Nights: Metal — is any indication, Snyder is bringing that same combination of weird DC Universe ephemera grounded in the love and connection between the DC Universe’s characters.
Every new creative team on a Justice League or Avengers book says that, in their story, the team is going to face their biggest challenge yet. In this single issue alone, the Justice League defeat a millennium-old plan by Vandal Savage and get word of a space-time warping phenomena headed directly for Earth. In the meantime, Lex Luthor [spoilers] the freakin’ [spoiler].
But Snyder looks like he’s actually going to make you feel like the stakes are high by remembering to give his story a clear emotional core. For example, Justice League #1 starts us off right with one of the most important and oft-ignored characters on the team, the Martian Manhunter, who is used as the audience’s perspective character.
Snyder reestablishes his origin as the last remnant of a culture of total telepathic connection, and his core character hook as a man grappling with being stranger in a strange land for the rest of his days. Our introduction to his Justice League is an introduction to their affection for each other, from the perspective of a character who literally maintains the group’s constant telepathic link.
But the book isn’t just a bundle of good writing decisions. It’s a bundle of artistic decisions that quietly support the writing. Jim Cheung (pencils) and Mark Morales (inks) make clear and readable pages out of some really visually complicated stuff, like six members of the League in six different locations in a back-and-forth, eight-way conversation. Tomeu Morey’s colors glow, drawing the reader’s eye through dense images. Tom Napolitano’s lettering — and there is a lot of dialogue here — packs information in without obscuring the art behind it or confusing the visual flow of the panels.
No matter how you look at it, Justice League #1 is a fantastic comic book. You should read it.