SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Justice League International #1

A comic review article by: The Firing Squad
It's Justice League International, but with less BWA-HA-HA! and more, um... hey, remember Justice League International? Well, they're back... in pog form!

Nick Boisson:
Jason Sacks:
Ray Tate:

Nick Boisson:

The world is in peril. People do not trust their governments or law enforcement agencies and the people's governments are both without a means or capability to handle most crises that arise. How can said governments win over the dwindling support of their citizens? One should ask themselves who the people do trust and admire. Of course! The Justice League! So, what should the civilized world do to win their citizens over? Create their own Justice League, sanctioned and controlled by the United Nations. This is the setup to the new Justice League International series in the new DC Universe. But the better question to ask: Does this new series work?

Unlike the Justice League -- or even earlier iterations of the Justice League International -- the team members here were chosen for both their international standing and lack of secret identities. The team consists of some from the Justice League International of old -- Booster Gold for his PR sensibilities, Fire to represent South America, Ice for her Scandinavian background, Rocket Red from Mother Russia, in a newly-designed, sleeker mechanical suit and Guy Gardner, because he is a Green Lantern -- some new -- Vixen, representing Africa, Great Britain's Godiva and August General in Iron for China -- and, one unsanctioned by the UN -- Batman, who is there to keep a tie between Justice League-prime and this team, as well as try to learn what the UN is trying to accomplish with this new super-group. It is a pretty eclectic group of DC's B-list -- with the exception of Batman -- which would make a DC geek like myself blush just a bit.

Writer Dan Jurgens made a few good choices with this comic. While I loved the choices made for the team, it was the inclusion of August General in Iron that both surprised and excited me. Being a fairly new character to the DC Universe, he could have easily been discarded with the new relaunch. I do not know if they are going to still have him be a member (or former member) of The Great Ten -- which was introduced in 52 as a Chinese Justice League of sorts -- or give him a new background/origin, but having him in the new post-Flashpoint DC Universe is a welcome addition. Jurgens also brings back the Hall of Justice to the DC Universe as the headquarters of the Justice League International. Fans of the Super Friends animated series will get a momentary kick out of seeing it. They just need to be sure not to get too attached to it...

Jurgens also does a fairly good job of involving politics and bureaucracy without burdening the reader. There are many a comic that fail to do so miserably. And he very well balanced the politics and minor serious tones with humor. The JLI books were never serious in tone, always trying to be the mirror reflection of the normal Justice League title. Jurgens keeps that spirit alive in his iteration, most notably in the interactions between Rocket Red and August General in Iron.

But, what has to be the best part of this new series is Booster Gold -- media whore extraordinaire -- as the team leader. He was chosen by the team UN liaison, Andre Briggs, because he would be "". I have always been a fan of Booster Gold mainly because he comes off far more inept than he really is. When Guy Gardner hears that Booster was chosen as team leader, he begins to make a big fuss over Booster's inability to lead and his attention grabbing. After storming out, Batman shares his faith in Booster Gold with Gardner to no avail. In short bits and pieces throughout the issue, Booster Gold makes a number of successful attempts at leading this group of heroes as a team. And who better to get Booster Gold to his height of team leader than the man who created the character, Mr. Dan Jurgens. I only hope that Skeets does make an appearance. He was noticeably absent from the issue.

However, while there are many aspects of this issue that I liked, it had quite a few apparent flaws. Most noticeably is that the book seems to have come out at the wrong time. Less not right in the post-Flashpoint Universe and more should have come out in 1987. Both the dialogue and Aaron Lopresti's art are from a different era of comics altogether. Jurgens almost seems to be calling back to the days of Claremont, having the characters names said throughout the comic on numerous occasions. This is not a good method to use with a comic that is supposed to be designed to capture new readers. Another problem is Godiva. Other than flirt with Booster Gold, there really was no point to her character whatsoever. It is later addressed by Batman that she is not contributing to the group dynamic, which hopefully means that she will do something in the next issue, but, as it stands, her character was there for show or to even out the number of men and women on the team (if you don't include Batman).

There is also no mention of what each character brings to the table outside of a diverse background. Despite its flaws, Justice League #1 lets you know what each character's abilities are right off the bat.

All in all, this is neither a bad nor good first issue. But, in a relaunch consisting of 52 #1 issues, the team needs to do something to keep readers hanging on. If my week isn't too heavy, I will pick up issue #2. I do want to see the upcoming adventures from the JLI. I just hope something is done to bring me back to issues #3, #4, #5 and so forth.

Nick Boisson grew up on television, Woody Allen, video games, Hardy Boys mysteries and DC comic books, with the occasional Spider-Man issue thrown in for good measure. He currently roams the rainy streets of Miami, Florida, looking for a nice tie, a woman that gets him, and the windbreaker he lost when he was eight. He sometimes writes things down on Twitter as @nitroslick.

Jason Sacks:

Hmm, well, I hate to say it, but I'm at a bit of a loss figuring out what to say about Justice League International #1. It's a thoroughly professionally done comic by a set of thoroughly professional creators. The writing is clear, the characters have unique voices and the supporting characters seem to be well thought out. There are physical threats to the heroes and existential threats to the heroes and it's all told in a thoroughly professional manner.

I'm sure the heroes gathered together will be perfectly enjoyable together. Batman is kind of secretly leading the team over the objections of Booster Gold. I'm sure that subplot will be fun. The British heroine Godiva seems a bit difficult, the Russian and Chinese heroes don’t like each other, and that mix should be pretty fun.

In other words, Dan Jurgens does his usual thoroughly professional job on this comic. So does the art team of Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan.

The art is professional and clear. It doesn't break any new ground, contains no special effects or panel work, but it's solid and nice and does the job. There are professionally created backgrounds, characters are expressive, the coloring is professional and everything is studiously professional.

In other words, this is a nice little mid-range super-hero comic. It's fine. Umm, can I stop the review now?

Jason Sacks has been obsessed with comics for longer than he'd like to remember. He considers himself a student of comics history and loves delving into obscure corners of this crazy artform. Jason has been writing for this site for about seven years and has also been published in a number of fan publications, including the late, lamented Amazing Heroes and The Flash Companion. He lives in north Seattle with his wife and three kids.

Ray Tate:

Under public scrutiny, the United Nations decide they want a Justice League that they can control. So they form Justice League International led by who they hope to be the perfect tool, Booster Gold. The presence of Godiva is the strangest and most surprising thing about Justice League International. Another E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon creation, Godiva debuted in Super-Friends #7. Ice-Maiden (Ice) premiered in issue nine, and The Green Fury (Fire) first ignited in issue 25. Godiva is the British Medusa, and Dan Jurgens should really rent Doctor Who in order to find out what a real Brit sounds like. Godiva's Britishisms are isolated to a not excruciatingly horrible "mate" and an acutely painful "Sod off."

I expected to see Fire, Ice and another Rocket Red, since they're the core of the old Justice League International. Booster Gold as a serious super-hero is a little difficult for me to accept, but he matured on the Cartoon Network's Justice League, and that's the source of his characterization here. So, he's better than I thought he'd turn out to be. Jurgens handles Batman masterfully. Batman in the new DCU plays well with others. He's a consummate detective and a multi-faceted figure, neither moody or depressive.

Justice League International occurs some time in the future with respect to the new Justice League. So, everybody knows of Batman and have already formed their own opinions. Most find him intimidating, but not the dominating egomaniac from the old universe. This is much better. By this time, Batman's also no longer wanted by the law, as he is in Justice League. However, he's still not trustworthy in the eyes of the U.N. because he's too honest and therefore untamable.

The Dark Knight's on board JLI to spy on the U.N. a fact that he makes known to Booster, which is a good move since it alleviates any misinterpretations. Green Arrow appears in an off panel bow as Oliver Queen, who donated a jet. That's tres Smallville, and with the exception of the cartoon, that's the only time I've liked the Green Arrow in the 21st century. Vixen was a wild card, but I've always appreciated Vixen, and she's been in numerous variations of the Justice League. Then we get to the crusty Chinese hero on the cover. He's pretty much worthless. Most likely to die if this book becomes serious. Most likely to be traded for a hot Chinese chick if the book stays lighter. Oh, and Guy Gardner might be on the team, but he has gone off in a huff.

Whereas the old Justice League International was based upon character dynamics, this opening issue is more plot-oriented. A U.N. research team gets waylaid by seismic activity, which mysteriously appears elsewhere simultaneously. The League are sent to investigate, and that's when Batman makes his presence known. He's piloting the ship. When the team land, they discover at first Lava Men, whoops, this isn't Marvel. Um....they discover, No. Sorry. Those are Lava Men. Fortunately, they're the precursors to something bigger, perhaps an old Justice League of America and Justice League International foe.

Most of the character interaction in Justice League International is pretty mellow, on the whole, with most teammates slipping off into roles as opposed to persona. Godiva, I suppose because her namesake allegedly went on horseback naked, is the sexy, flirting one. Vixen doesn't actually register this issue. Neither does Fire or Ice. Batman butts heads with Gardner, but it's not as funny as "One-punch!" To be fair, Guy Gardner's less of sphincter in the new DCU than the original. He has been mitigated to a little hot-headed. Sort of like Johnny Storm circa the 1970s.

Ironically, the best tête-à-tête comes from Booster and Batman, who has the best line, which would seem out of character in the old nasty, dyspeptic universe. Jurgens attempts to generate the greatest character repartee from the natural animosity between Rocket Red and the Chinese crusty guy, but these attempts are mostly awful. Rocket Red's broken English is quite annoying. I'd suggest Jurgens rent Goldeneye to see how Georgian accents can enhance a story.

Justice League International is a little better than a bog-standard Justice League book. Superior to Justice League Detroit and Robinson's League. Lesser to JLA and the original JLI. Jurgens owes a debt to the streamlining of continuity, but the costumes haven't been redesigned to any vast extent--just Batman's uniform. Godiva's new outfit is boring, and the Booster Gold recut is far sharper looking than his old goofball yellow pants uniform, light years from his robot gear.

Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan and colorist Hi-Fi are Justice League International's most valuable players. This is the best a Justice League book has looked since -- crap, that's long. Lopresti crafts a lively visual narrative that's rich and textured with strong backgrounds and newly created extras adding uniqueness and ethnicity to the proceedings. His turn at the heroes is a welcome one. Lopresti began as a babe artist, and his women are easy on the eyes but more importantly healthy and sinewy. He was also a copier of Adam Hughes, and while his influences can be seen in the panels, Lopresti has really come into his own as an artist, distinguishing himself from Hughes.

I believe this is Lopresti's first crack at Batman, and with Ryan and Hi-Fi as his able partners, Lopresti displays the honor he has been given in the panels. the dark, leathery, organic Batman acts as the perfect contrast to the gleaming gilt, bright blue, sci-fi Booster Gold, but at the same time, Lopresti enjoys showing the man behind the mask, giving him maturity in the jawline and lean facial muscles. Batman is the respected veteran hero. Booster the young, earnest champion.

It may be too early to judge Justice League International, but there have been more exciting debuts from the new DCU. Still, I'm intrigued enough to continue reading, and the art's more than enough to warrant interest.

Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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