The first issue of the Justice League was in a tough position. Being the flagship title of the relaunch and being released before all the other books made into the symbol of the relaunch, and all the fears and expectations that come along with it. To avoid heavy criticism, it needed to be an absolutely fantastic comic.
And instead, we got a pretty good comic. Nothing particularly new, nothing special, but a fun enough read with lots of potential for the future. It won't convert anyone who isn't a fan of Johns, and it definitely won't quell the rage of fanboys still furious about the relaunch, but it's an accessible book that many readers will be entertained by.
There are spoilers beyond this point, so read ahead at your own risk.
The opening chase scene was, for me, the dullest part of the book. Maybe it's because these pages had already been previewed, but there wasn't much tension or much reason behind why the characters were on the run, and I would've preferred that fewer pages were spent on it. The one thing I did appreciate was the amount of variety and creativity Hal showed in his constructs. It effectively showcased Green Lantern powers for new readers, and showed older readers what we can expect from Hal in this new universe.
In fact, Hal Jordan in general is largely improved. Hal's frequently criticized for being being bland, but I don't think anyone can say he lacks a personality in this issue. He may not be the most likable guy in the world, but it's a great setup for Hal losing his ring, and for character development in the future.
The back and forth between Batman and Hal was fun, and is where the issue really picked up for me. Some elements may be a bit of a retread for older readers- the above panel made me think of ASBAR- but it's still entertaining and flows well. It was a good way to work in the set-up for this arc's villain without things feeling clunky.
The absolute highlight of the issue for me, and, probably many other readers, is the introduction of Cyborg. This is the one scene where Johns may have proved some naysayers wrong. His Vic is instantly likable and sympathetic, and I have a feeling his transformation into Cyborg will be absolutely heart wrenching. I think he's going to bring a lot to the Justice League, and I'm excited to see him develop as a hero.
Hal being absolutely blindsided by Superman after describing his constructs as indestructible earlier in the issue worked well for me. However, the ending of the issue fell a little flat for me. I'm sure the promise of a Batman/Superman throwdown will attract many readers, but I was hoping for something a little more intriguing to look forward to in the next issue. I'll still keep reading the title, but it's a bit of a disappointment.
I will say that the closing image of Superman was a nice one. I'm not sold on his new costume yet, but Lee's rendition of it here is probably the best it's looked. A little yellow on the belt would be a huge improvement, but Lee seems to get how to make the costume as is work. Here's hoping the other artists drawing Superman do too.
I've seen several complaints about the characters missing from this issue, but that's actually something I'm okay with. I think showing the formation of the League rather than dropping readers into the middle of the story was the right choice, and will make it easier to introduce the more obscure characters in the league's line-up once the story jumps back to the present. I'm really interested to see who Hal is replaced by and how that plays in the story. And, while Darkseid may seem like too formidable a foe for an introductory Justice League villain, my hope is that Johns is merely sowing the seed for more epic tales later down the line.
I'd recommend Justice League to fans of Johns and Lee, new readers looking to get into the DCU, and those looking for a mainline, basic superhero team book. If you're on the fence about this title, I'd recommend sticking to the relaunch books that have captured your interest and waiting until the first arc's conclusion to check this title out.