Justice League: Origin – Story Arc Review
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Yeesh. Talk about a tall order. Justice League: Origins tasks Geoff Johns and Jim Lee with setting up the post-Flashpoint DCU, introducing all seven members of the League plus Darkseid to new readers, telling a story that’s appealing to both new and longtime readers, and moving that story along at a pace that doesn’t allow it to get bogged down by all the introductions. They definitely accomplished the first two. Whether they got the last two is up for debate.
Justice League: Origin takes place five years in the past. Superhumans are a fairly recent development, and the public is largely afraid of them. But when demonic creatures (which regular DC readers know as parademons) start popping up around the world, Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman must come together to save the world. Meanwhile, a terrible accident turns high school football star Victor Stone into Cyborg, who may very well be the key to humanity’s survival. Because from the flames of Apocalypse, Darkseid is coming…
This book takes a very ground-floor approach to the Justice League concept, as it should. Unlike the previous continuity, the League is the first active superhero team. There has never been a Justice Society, an Infinity Inc., etc. Most of the characters have heard of one another, but have never met (Green Lantern and The Flash are the exception). The plot is also pretty simple: Bad stuff is happening in Metropolis, and these heroes are all drawn to it. As a longtime fan, the formula for most of this book is almost painfully simple. Character introduction and exposition, action mixed with character introduction, repeat. But you can’t necessarily fault Geoff Johns for that approach. Remember, this is supposed to be the first chapter in the Justice League’s history. And what does a first chapter do? It introduces the characters. That’s especially important when you consider that this book is designed to be a hook for new readers. For longtime fans it might be tedious, but it’s necessary.
They couldn’t have chosen a better artist for this book than Jim Lee. Let alone the fact that he’s a co-publisher at DC, and designed the many of the new looks for these characters, he’s just an amazing artist. His action scenes all have great weight and tension to them, which needless to say is a must when your book is so action-heavy. Fight scenes tend to be filled with epic splash pages. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Darkseid all get nice two-page spreads. The costume tweaks for the heroes are all acceptable, except for the fact that Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash all look like their armor was made by the same company. That’s a hell of a customer pool, isn’t it? Gotham City, Central and Keystone Cities, the planet Krypton, and the Guardians of the friggin’ universe! I’d like to shake that marketing coordinator’s hand…
However, I’m greatly concerned about how Superman is portrayed in this book. The fact that he’s so powerful makes him cocky and standoffish, and thus not necessarily likeable. He spends a good portion of his introductory time saying things like:
- “So, what can you do?”
- “Talk, Batman. Before I won’t let you.”
- “Chains? You’re funny Green Lantern.”
- “Why should I come with you?…No one’s like me.”
I get that this story takes place during Superman’s early years, so maybe he’s a little overconfident, and dare I say immature, than we’re used to seeing him. He’s feeling ostracized because he’s not from Earth, so he’s not very trusting. That’s fair enough. But that’s the only side of Superman we see in this story. If you’re a new reader, the only impression you have of Superman is that he behaves like the conceited star of a high school football team. That’s a pretty big misstep considering Superman is not only one of the poster boys for the Justice League, but one of the faces of the entire DC Entertainment brand. We see a similar problem with Aquaman. But he’s also got the most bad ass moment in the entire book (he tells a bunch of shark to leap out of the water and catch parademons in the air), so that buys him a bit of leniency from me.
Truth be told, Origin sees more than one of our heroes acting like jocks vying to be captain of the team. Green Lantern has the stones to trap Batman in a construct and says: “Here’s the plan: Green Lantern goes in there and restrains Superman for questioning. Batman waits here.” But the difference between what happens with Superman and what happens with Green Lantern is that Johns takes the time to redeem GL. Without getting too specific, as the intensity of the battle increases, we start to see cracks in Hal Jordan’s confidant, cocky exterior. We see that deep down he’s really a good person, and not the pretentious douchebag he is at the beginning of the story. Superman and Aquaman don’t have moments like that. Johns and Lee didn’t need to stop the story to address this issue. All we needed were a couple of little moments. A throwaway line for both characters might have even done the trick. But nope, pretentious douchebags.
Everybody else fares pretty well. Batman is the combat veteran, Wonder Woman is the honorable yet action-hungry warrior, The Flash is the straight-laced guy with the heart of gold, and Cyborg is the new kid on the block trying to find his way.
So is this a team new readers can root for? Yes, and I think that quality will only grow as the series progresses. But in this book, their origin story, I wish they spent a bit more time acting like heroes, as opposed to squabbling teenagers. Are disagreements bound to happen when seven people from seven different backgrounds come together? Of course. That’s one of the things that makes any team book interesting. But at the end of the day, these characters are here to fight for justice and virtue. I wish this book could have done more to show us the beginnings of a team, as opposed to characters who all happen to be fighting on the same side of a war.
Origin is a solid start. It’s not as good as it could have been, but it’s a start.
Front page image from comicartcommunity.com. Image 1 from ifanboy.com. Image 2 from toddnovaksblog.blogspot.com. Image 3 from dadsbigplan.com.