Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: Justice League International #1

When I found out that the Booster Gold book was coming to an end, a quick band-aid on the wound was the fact that I found out that Booster was going to have his own team. This had me plenty excited. Plus, in the weeks leading up, Jurgens released some dialogue free teaser images which made me even happier. Especially when he released this particular one on the right where, in the center square, one of my favorite DC characters, Plastic Man! I was so excited. So, when the book came out I knew I wanted to review it.

We start off with a very Maxwell Lord-esque man talking to representatives from different countries about how there's a need for a super hero team with members hailing from different parts of the globe. And one of the people that the idea of this team is being sold too is quite possibly the most over the top stereotype of Russian people I have ever seen since the 80's. For your convenience I've thrown together a best of.

There is no need for that. Honestly. It's so over the top it's distracting. Another massive disappointment is when they finally get to the Plastic Man page that Jurgens teased earlier. Our old friend captain stereotype chimes in to make one of the most disappointing moments (for me) in recent comic books.

That's right. No Plastic Man. Nyet. Likewise to several other characters I saw in teasers I was hoping to be in the book. It was almost as if DC had Jurgen release the pages with tons of characters in order to get people excited about all those characters in one team just for them to pull out curtain back at the last minute, reveal the roster and call us all suckers.

The final roster of the team ends up being pretty interesting. And still pretty big. But this opens up another can of worms in the fact that the whole point of the relaunch is to get new readers comfortably placed within the DCU. Out of all these characters, the two that you really get to see use their powers are Fire and Ice. Twenty bucks says you can guess what their powers are by name alone. You know who this book has that they never explain or really show the powers of? Godiva, Vixen and hell, the book even has August General in Iron. I read about every book DC puts out, have for the last few years. I could not begin to explain what August General in Iron's powers are beyond the ability to have a incomplete sentence for a name. They really dropped the ball here. Because there's a LOT of action in this book and plenty of moments where the characters could have really shown off what they can do. This is even addressed by Booster Gold when he says this to Not Max Lord:

I mean damn. Even Booster realizes something's weird about that. And the fact that Booster is self aware of a major problem in the book is almost on par with Hawk & Dove having Hawk fighting zombies while talking about zombies being played out and that no one likes them anymore. Being self aware does not absolve you.

Now, for the nuts and bolts of this review. Firstly, the art. The art actually isn't bad. It's definitely not for everyone though, because as much as I enjoyed it, my girlfriend, who was reading over my shoulders kept pointing out odd muscle structures and was slightly mortified by the chins. But, in my opinion, it's good. It's clean. It's crisp. You have no confusion as to what's going on. And some of the artistic choices, such as Ice flying around on an almost Terra looking glacier, were a very nice touch. There was usually a lot going on in each panel and, at no point, was I overwhelmed by the visuals.

There were some moments at the beginning where it was a little rocky though. There's a large group of protesters who seem to almost blend together into a Liefeld-esque blob.

Even more odd is there is a panel where I can't tell if it's the color crew botching it or if this is a character that will show up later and they're just foreshadowing now. But check it out. I can't think of anyone that glows red like that off the top of my head. I know there's a character in a cowl that shows up later who isn't supposed to be in the team's roster but that character is neither hooded nor cherry flavored.

Now, to the writting. It's not bad. Admittedly I was disappointed that Booster Gold, a man I've happily watched evolve into a capable hero with a lot of weight on his shoulders, turn back into a semi-egotistical pitch man. He's still very capable, and Batman stands up for him a lot for some reason, but it was still a reversal I didn't entirely welcome.

Jurgens has some good moments in this book but there's far too many things trying to happen and get done in the first issue to really sit back and enjoy them. It feels a lot like the Giant Size: X-Men #1 where they introduced a slew of international characters and sent them to a mysterious island that also happens to be alive. In JLI #1, we're introduced to a slew of international characters who are sent to Peru in an area with so many things tunneling beneath it that it may as well be alive. Sadly, Giant Size: X-Men #1 actually managed to do all this over 30 years ago while managing to show case each character. JLI falls flat on that.

I have a feeling the book can get better. It needs too. But only if the next few issues are spent ironing out the wrinkles and actually explaining these characters. Because, honestly, if I didn't know these characters any better, I would have walked away just assuming Godiva was merely a nymph who stands around and that Russians are raised racist. I know both aren't true. Jurgens knows that as well. But you wouldn't guess that from this book.

All in all, I thought the book was a bit of a disappointment. It was fun at times. But I think it can improve a lot. And, honestly, I WANT this book to work. So much. It has so much potential between the characters and the idea behind the team. It could work. But if it keeps going on like this, too busy and too much at once, well...too quote that last page of the book:

By Electric Nerd with 1 comment


Jurgens talked about ideas for Plastic Man (and Green Arrow) in one of his interviews, so I'm pretty sure he'll still be showing up.

I'm hopeful that the over the top stereotypes were sort of a first issue shortcut to help character's nationalities stick in new readers head. It'll take a few issues before I can really make a judgement here, one way or the others. I'd be reading issue #2 no matter what, considering that's when we'll see Skeets.

Hooded lady is in every issue. I was going to do a post with all the appearances, but Bleeding Cool beat us to the punch.

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