2016 has definitely been a very busy year for DC. Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were released, both of which to mixed-to-negative reaction from both fans and critics, Young Justice Season 3 was finally being greenlit and a lot of behind the scenes drama from the DC Extended Universe was being shown to the public. But the most anticipated announcement was their new relaunch for the comics: DC Rebirth. The relaunch proved to be successful, with many praising it for restoring it’s legacy that was considered lost with their previous relaunch, The New 52. Since we’re well settled into 2017, and with the release of Wonder Woman and Justice League this year, I figured this would be good time to look back at The New 52 and revisit some of their stories. Today, we’re going to start strong with one of the first titles released; Justice League.
Justice League: Origin is the first story arc of Justice League series for the New 52. Written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee, it is an origin story for how the Justice League came into existence in the new universe. This review will contain some minor spoilers, read at your own risk.
The story takes place five years into the new timeline. In this reality, superheroes are only a recent discovery and, as such, are viewed with suspicion and even hostility from both the general public and the law. Meanwhile, strange creatures, called Parademons, have arrived on Earth, with devices known as Mother Boxes. These are used to prepare for the invasion of Darkseid, a powerful alien from the planet Apokolips. By a string of chance, seven vigilantes (Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman Aquaman and a young Cyborg) band together to stop the invasion before Earth is engulfed with chaos and destruction.
This story flows quite nicely and the beginning does a good job of establishing the new world of DC through various bits and pieces of information shown through the narration of various characters. There are many breaks here and there but they don’t feel out of place and actually build the world even more, showing all the different cities of the characters and how dire the invasion really is. Throughout the middle, we are introduced to more of the team and, while this is a reboot, it is able to entice new audiences with tidbits about the characters’ history without needing to go into unnecessary detail that could otherwise break the flow of the story. The final act of the story is definitely a game changer though. Once Darkseid makes his appearance, it is a huge game changer and the tone shifts from fun and exciting to dark and almost horrific. This tone shift is shocking but actually works as it connotes sense of dread and fear, showing us how powerful Darkseid really is. This makes the payoff of the characters finally working together that much more rewarding, when they learn how intense the situation is and that they should set aside their egos and band together against the enemy and protect the world they care about. I always love to see the hero fight to protect what they hold dear, even if the odds may never be in their favour.
The main members of the Justice League are all present here and, I have to say, they’re all awesome. Each of the characters exhibit their trademark look, with a more modern twist, and their personalities are all unique from one another. What’s even more impressive is that none of them feel like one-note personality traits and are actually presented as if they were real humans. For this section, I am going to look at each character individually and show you what makes them tick:
- Batman- Bruce Wayne in this universe remains unchanged from previous incarnations. He is still headstrong, fearless and kicks ass just like the classic Batman we all know and love. Being one of the few without superpowers, he is the voice of reason and generally tries to solve problems with his mind rather than his muscle. Definitely another perfect depiction of our favourite Caped Crusader!
- Green Lantern- Hal Jordan’s depiction in this comes across as kind of odd. He is fearless, just like his previous incarnation, but he’s also very reckless and cocky, going into the fights head on, which often result in more harm than good. Despite this, he does evolve as the story progresses, becoming more like the classic Green Lantern by the very end.
- Superman-Clark Kent comes across more brash compared to previous incarnations. While this might deter some longtime Superman fans, I happened to like this depiction of him. He comes across as being very confident in his power but only using it when absolutely necessary. And when he isn’t punching bad guys, left, right and center, he is calm and compassionate. In my opinion, this is a very enjoyable depiction of the Man of Steel.
- Flash- Barry Allen is the typical wisecracking jokester and his comedy works so well. He is resourceful, smart and optimistic, never failing to put a smile on my face as I was reading. However, when the situation calls for it, he can become serious and focused. He is a very balanced and loveable character, trying to help out as much as he can, not just with fighting the supervillains or helping out the team but actually trying to fix any damage that occurs during the battle. Honestly, this depiction of the Flash might just be the best so far.
- Wonder Woman- Diana Prince is depicted more naive compared to other incarnations. I found that this gave her a lot of depth, adding to her mystique as the ‘Ancient, Amazonian Warrior’, learning about the human world, its inhabitants and its customs along the way. She’s also tough, independent and headstrong, never backing down from a challenge. Wonder Woman is definitely one of the highlights of this book, bringing a sense of thrill and badassery!
- Cyborg- Victor Stone is new guy on the team and, as such, really doesn’t want anything to do with the superhero game. He is definitely the most sympathetic character of the story as unlike Batman or Superman, Victor is a kid. As such, seeing go through hell with his ‘enhancements’ is very gut-wrenching and almost sent a chill down my spine. He gets his moment to shine when he finally puts his new found abilities to good use against the Parademons and comes to accept his new life. Cyborg is the perfect example of a reluctant hero but he manages to push past his disgust and insecurity to become a saviour.
- Aquaman- Arthur Curry’s reputation among comic book fans and, to an extent, the general public has always been that of ridicule. However, this is all swept away and not only is he a downright badass, he’s a pretty funny guy. Like Barry, Aquaman has some pretty comedic lines and they work just as well. Everything about him in this book is nothing short of fantastic. He’s powerful, intelligent and gets his big moment when taking on Darkseid in the final battle. Aquaman haters, you are wrong about him!
- Darkseid- The main antagonist of the story. To put it simply, Darkseid is scary. His prescence alone was enough to make my jaw drop. Everything about him screamed dread and misery; he is definitely not one to be messed with. His character in this is somewhat lacking, as we know next to nothing about why he is invading Earth. However, given that this is an introduction to an ongoing series, it’s entirely possible that he develops and his motivations become more clear as time passes on. Bottom line is, I loved him in this and I don’t think anyone can give the Justice League a run for their money quite like him.
Jim Lee’s artwork is as stunning as ever! His action scenes are drawn spectacularly, from the punches and kicks, to the explosions, heat vision, speedster lighting and much more! Every one of the characters’ redesigns were perfect. I love Batman and Superman’s more armoured look while Aquaman looked less flamboyant and more like a proper warrior. Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern generally look similar to their previous selves but they have a more modern twist that makes their uniform feel more serious and appealing than I have ever seen (apart from their Rebirth designs, but that’d for another time). What gets the most credit though is the look of Darkseid and the Parademons. They look absolutely frightening and can definitely send you on edge. The backgrounds were very realistic, to the point where it almost felt like it was taking place in a real world. Definitely one of the most beautiful looking comics from the New 52
Overall, this story was great. I highly recommend this if you want to get started reading the Justice League. The run is considered to be one of the New 52’s best and I have to say, the people are right. This is definitely a strong start to a good team-up series and if the future Justice League movie takes any inspiration from this, I’d be more than happy. This book is for anyone, from longtime fans to newcomers. Pick it up and read it as soon as possible.
Total score: 8.5/10