Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Justice League of America #1 (April, 2013)

Five years ago in London, Professor Ivo met with a mysterious figure to discuss all the "super-heroes;" the Justice League, Green Arrow, Zatanna, Hawkman; that were turning up with increasing routine. "Well, then. I guess they'll call us super-villains..."

In the present, Amanda Waller feared the Justice League itself, especially the implications of a burgeoning romance between Superman and Wonder Woman. Her antidote was a government controlled super-team designed to be capable of taking down the individual members of the six hero League. Cue a credit sequence page of seven skinny "widescreen" panels referencing Catwoman, Green Lantern Simon Baz, Hawkman, Stargirl, Vibe, Katana and Green Arrow (curiously excluding Martian Manhunter, even though Selina and Ollie aren't officially part of the group.)

Waller needed a veteran to guide the team, and former Justice League liaison (and ex-Wonder Woman boyfriend) Colonel Steve Trevor was the obvious choice. Trevor had his own reasons for becoming involved with a public heroic line-up that doubled as a covert couterpoint to his former allies, as well as some strong opinions that affected the line-up, including reservations about Waller's measure against the Man of Steel...

"Martian Manhunter? You really have lost your mind... He left the League after a drag-out fight. If I know anything about the Manhunter, it's that he's impossible to predict. Or trust." Regardless, Waller found "His power levels are unmatched and you've worked with him before." Trevor wasn't confident that he could turn these disparate individuals into a team, but he did know how to get ahold of the Manhunter if she wanted to debut in time to take advantage of the Justice League's "Throne of Atlantis" P.R. troubles. After Waller left the briefing room, Steve simply said "You can come out, J'Onn." The heretofore invisible Alien Atlas manifested.

"How did you know I was here?"
"Because you always show up when people start talking about you. I assume you heard everything."
"Yes. You can count me in. If your job is getting these people to work together, you're going to need all the help you can get."
"I don't need help, J'Onn."
"Don't lie to me, Steve. We've known each other too long-- and the telepathic inhibitors A.R.G.U.S. has equipped you and its agents with don't block out someone like me... I know why you're really doing this. But if Waller or one of these government lackeys even thinks about making a move against me, I will erase their mind. And then I will erase the mind of every person in this building, including yours. They'll give me no other option. Do we have an understanding?"
They did, J'Onn was glad, and Steve grinned, "Yeah. You look it."

Meanwhile, those five year old nefarious plans appeared to be progressing, as Green Arrow, disguised as a criminal "Dark Hunter," nearly died trying to infiltrate the European camp of "The Secret Society..."

"World's Most Dangerous, Chapter One" was by Geoff Johns & David Finch. I'm not sure if the line-up or the rationale of the group was conceived first, but it's hard to imagine someone setting out to build a true anti-Justice League and deciding these second stringers had the mettle. There's some evidence supporting the New 52 Alien Atlas being able to tackle Superman, long the dream of posters on versus threads who fixate on all his powers, but nobody is buying the legitimacy of most of the other match-ups. They're playing J'Onn J'Onzz as awfully heavy-handed, seemingly no longer a private detective, but certainly a dick at large. If he went to the bother of mindwiping Stormwatch on his way out that door, why did A.R.G.U.S. get a pass when he bailed on the Justice League? The artist has an interesting take on the Martian Manhunter, having nothing to do with the more alien skull seen recently and favoring the classic look. His costume is rendered so heavily in shadow that the sometimes loud purples are agreeably muted, but Finch inexplicably draws a crude flower shape as the Manhunter's chest emblem. His threats just don't hold the same gravitas when he seems to be promoting no-skid shower stickers like a NASCAR driver in need of better sponsorship. Also worth noting is that Despero was name-dropped as a League foe who once "physically shattered" Steve Trevor (so his upcoming two-parter in Justice League will not be a debut encounter.) I hope J'Onn was on the team for that.

New 52's Day


Anonymous said...


Sorry if I sound rude, but I was just dying to hear your review.

will_in_chicago said...

DC has decided to make J'Onn a bit of a heavy, perhaps giving him something of Batman's personality. However, I suspect that he is showing only a few aspects of his personality -- the tougher ones. However, we have seen him act compassion towards his teammates on Stormwatch. J'Onn regretted that he had to mindwipe his former teammates in order to protect them. (Mind you, I would like to know the nature of the threat that made him leave Stormwatch.) He also acted as a mentor to Jenny Quantum.

I think that the caring, compassionate Martian Manhunter is out there, but he may be a bit buried for now. Sadly, we have not seen much characterization of him in the New 52 -- his role in Stormwatch was largely being an extra in the Apollo and Midnighter show.

As for A.R.G.U.S., my guess is that J'Onn would have needed to wipe both the Justice League and A.R.G.U.S. to hide his time with the League. Or he did not want his presence to be hidden, so that he could be contacted by ARGUS down the road. I am looking forward to learning more about J'Onn's time with the Justice League. I hope that he faced Despero and Starro with them.

I suspect that J'Onn left the JL to report back to Stormwatch. However, I suspect that he may care about the JL members as individuals. When the Engineer assumed leadership of Stormwatch, she still had to send people out to learn about the JL members, including Superman's identity. If J'Onn indeed knows all about the JL members, then logically he chose NOT to let the Engineer know that Superman is Clark Kent. I suspect J'Onn is working on his own agenda, but it is hard to figure out what it is.

Most of the new JLA is not in the same power level as their JL counterparts. Simon Baz is a Green Lantern, but many of the other members seem unequal to the challenge ahead of them. I think that J'Onn is equal to Superman and should be. (I think that there should be a few heroes and villains at Superman's level of power in the DCnU.) However, how much have we

LissBirds said...

Glad to see your writeup of this, Frank. will, you're much more optimistic than I am. I can't help but feeling that the compassionate Martian Manhunter has been completely written out of existence.

Maybe I'm just overreacting, but when I read this issue, it felt like it bordered on intentional character assassination. To me, J'onn, out of anyone on the League, was always the one who did the right thing and who stood on principle; he was the one who had the outsider's perspective and could see both sides to a situation. He had no hidden agenda. He wasn't sneaky or manipulative. He didn't eavesdrop on his teammates. While he may appear mysterious at times, he was never creepy. He wouldn't even read someone's mind (through a telepathic inhibitor, no less!) without an overwhelming reason to do so, let alone wipe a colleague's mind. I don't know who this character is, and I expected a lot more out of Geoff Johns. When I was done reading it, I felt like I had just been slapped in the face.

I guess he couldn't think of anything else to do with J'onn besides make him the suspicious one, to offset, I don't know, Superman, I guess. Maybe this is all groundwork for a twist ending to this storyline and Johns will redeem himself by having the real Martian Manhunter stand up, but I'm not holding out much hope for that. Even the plot was sophomoric and felt phoned-in--just a lot of talking and exposition, and all the characters sounded the same as they talked at each other and stood around trying to look important.

I'm sure there's a writer hiding in the DC offices somewhere who has a better handle on the character.

Diabolu Frank said...

Anonymous, I can't see how that would be anything but complimentary.

Will, I'll be curious to see if there are ever any references made to Stormwatch. That book seemed poised to be at the forefront of the New 52, and having failed that, it's been benched in a major way. I was initially offended when Martian Manhunter was pulled out of the team, thinking he was victim to some nebulous master plan and infringing on Midnighter's face time. In retrospect, I read the situation all wrong, as Manhunter's departure was the kiss of death for Wildstorm integration efforts as that book slipped further out of the mainstream.

Liss, I definitely see your points and sympathize, but I also see some validity to Johns' approach that I hope to address soon.

LissBirds said...

Frank, I'd love to hear your take on Johns's angle to all this. Your insights always make sense out of things like this.

Probably why I was upset was because my expectations were different from how the book turned out. I hear "Geoff Johns" and I think "back to basics," so I was expecting a story that harkened back to the traditional Martian Manhunter, not a new and improved one. Hopefully Johns is going somewhere with this and the pieces will fall into place. I haven't read issue #2, but I am going to continue reading, just in case it starts to improve.

Diabolu Frank said...

Wrote it up this afternoon. Likely goes online tonight. Johns used to be a great revivalist, but he's embraced change with the New 52, for better or worse. I think he's done some good things with the likes of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, but then there's the not-so-good with those very same characters and others.