Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flashpoint Leads Into Justice League #1

Warning, this post has Spoilers!

Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 came out today! While the ups and downs, and mixed reaction to Flashpoint are to be expected, given the feeling of importance the series had to deliver on - I was very pleased with the end result. Despite the alteration to the DCU, Flashpoint worked as a self-contained story, and the final issue delivered on some emotional reveals - with the re-imagining of the DC Universe being more window-dressing at the end.

Yet there was a tangible tie-in to the new DCU to be found. When Barry Allen worked to repair the shattered DCU history, it was foreshadowed that the universes where split apart before for a reason - to weaken the world for "their" impending arrival.

Who or what is this mystery person talking about?

Well, right off hand Justice League #1 doesn't have the immediate connection to that mystery. Rather we are treated to a fun first meeting between Batman and Green Lantern.

Some people are voicing disappointment that we're not seeing the entire Justice League together in the first issue, saying that while this is a good issue, it is more akin to a Brave and the Bold story than a Justice League issue. I agree with the counter argument to that, though: while this is the first issue - similar to other books like Ultimate Spider-Man - this first issue is laying the ground work, and having the team all together isn't as vital as some think it needs to be. Heck, this issue is laying the ground work for more than just the Justice League, but for the new DCU as a whole. So not rushing it seems to be a valid strategy.

I have to say, even if some people might be disappointed with the "laying ground work" approach, then they should buy this book for the art alone. This is probably some of Jim Lee's best work ever! His pencils are rough and sketchy, giving the art a kinetic and fun feel. Even single panels, simply showing a shot of Green Lantern's face, seems to have an energy to it, with sketchy details adorning his mask. It just look incredible, and is only heightened to perfection by inker Scott Williams, and colorist Alex Sinclair.

This beginning issue, to some, felt like it's setting a familiar tone Geoff Johns has developed over the years in Green Lantern - that of fear, and over coming fear, being a central theme. Yet I don't think that's the direction this book is going for. Yes, there's a feeling of initial alienation, like with anything extraterrestrial being immediately associated with "that guy in Metropolis". Yet this is the debut of the Super Heroes to the general public - and it makes a certain amount of sense that this new group of Super Heroes will have to prove themselves to the masses. Plus, this story primarily takes place in Gotham - an always fear and paranoia inducing city, if ever there was one.

While the more grown up sensibilities of modern comics might be the initial mechanics for this series - I felt like underneath it all was a return to the fun classic Superhero comics. Green Lantern is shocked to find out Batman is a hero without powers; and GL quickly finds out the kind of powers Superman, being immediately knocked down. The issue ends with Superman asking Batman "So... What can you do?" It just all feels fresh, but not dismissive of the old "lets match up our favorite heroes" mentality.

As for the connection between Flashpoint and Justice League #1? The enemy Green Lantern and Batman contend with is covered up in concealing clothing, but as it rips away during battle you get more of a closer look at the guy. He might be displaying a whole new set of powers, but it quickly becomes apparent that this villain is a Parademon - one of the minor minions of Darkseid, ruler of the Hell Planet Apokolips!

For anyone new to comics, trying out this issue for the first time, who don't know who Darkseid is -- that's ok! Everything in these opening issues is starting from scratch - and doesn't require any previous comic knowledge. For older comic fans, though, the inclusion of Darkseid is exciting...

The New Gods, and subsequently the Dark Gods, where defeated during Grant Morrison's Final Crisis mini series several years ago. I don't know how much the concept of the Fourth World is going to be changed, when reimagined by Jim Lee and Geoff Johns - but I'm genuinely impressed that they are tackling these characters right from the get-go, instead of having us wait around a year, building up to it. That could still happen - but I get the feeling the impending arrival mentioned in Flashpoint is going to be Darkseid, trying to enslave humanity; an auspicious, yet appropriately epic first job for this new incarnation of the Justice League!

I really am surprised by how excited and pleased I am about this first issue! I wasn't expecting Darkseid as the villain - so that certainly made things more exciting for me; but I think this is going to prove to be a very entertaining book - and a perfect jumping on point for people new to comics.

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