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Justice League International #1

(DC; US: Sep 2011)

Rarely does a #1 issue feel like a worthless investment for the reader. The possibilities are endless and, more often than not, a good first impression can go a long way in the comic medium.  That’s the beauty of new beginnings. However, Justice League International needed no reboot. There was no confusing continuity that needed a clean state since the book hasn’t been published for several years.  After reading the new lackluster first issue, you can only wonder why DC Comics scraped the bottom of the barrel to include the title, and then did nothing creatively to elevate its status. Justice League International represents almost everything that’s wrong with DC’s “New 52” initiative.


In the issue, the United Nations forms a Justice League of its own that it can send out and control, with no heroes with secret identifies in its roster. The head of U.N. intelligence Andre Briggs recruits a variety of heroes from different countries to handle international emergencies and, somehow, also help restore people’s faith in their own governments. Booster Gold, the egoistical hero from the distant future, surprisingly has been chosen as the group’s leader and the title’s central character.


It should be noted that Batman tags along as a non-sanctioned member, as he’s done in the book in decades past, to serve as a connection between the Justice League and JLI. Though, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that The Dark Knight’s really there to increase sales.


Like the average reality television show, the team members seem to be chosen for a diverse appeal across the demographics, with August General in Iron, Godiva, Fire, Ice, Vixen, and Rocket Red on the team. Perhaps by adding international heroes from locations like China, Great Britain, Brazil, Scandinavia, Africa, and Russia, the book is being mistakenly aiming for greater success overseas. The characters also seem to be chosen for conflict with the infamous Booster Gold as leader and the annoying Green Lantern Guy Gardner whining about falling under his leadership. Batman is there as a wildcard who provides correction for everyone.


Early in the issue Briggs says, “I like you, Booster. You realize we have to sell this to make it work.” Andre Briggs isn’t trying to break the fourth wall with the statement, but perhaps DC executives were thinking the same thing. Booster Gold is a captivating character, but he works better when he has a character or two bounce his arrogant, glory-seeking thoughts off of.  DC would be much better off with Booster Gold having his own book as a part of the companywide reboot, but perhaps they thought including the words “Justice League” in the title would sell a few more copies. Yet, any hopes for success, both in the title’s storyline and for finding readership, lie with him.


Speaking of which, there are several references to the iconic Justice League team in Justice League International, which is both appropriate and foolish. While it’s important to explain that the stories occur in the same universe, especially with Batman appearing in both titles, it accidentally reminds you that you’d probably rather be reading about Superman and Wonder Woman instead of Rocket Red and Fire. Heck, in one panel even Booster Gold whines, “A different Justice League?”


Aaron Lopresti’s art is at its best when the characters are in close-ups. The detailed, emotive facial expressions are vital to the dialogue-heavy storyline that’s filled with bickering.  Seeing a team of heroes learn to work with one another on the fly could have been intriguing but writer Dan Jurgens presents a storyline without heart or wonder. You’d expect this part of a companywide relaunch to do something special with its cast of mostly D-list heroes. What you get is a shred of potential and a lot of disappointment. Unfortunate stereotypes abound with non-Americans speaking broken English and lots of ethnocentrism.


The story starts slow with over five pages of dialogue from U.N. committee members, which is, unfortunately, as thrilling as you’d imagine. In opening pages suggest that familiar heroes like Green Arrow, Blue Beetle and the whacko Plastic Man were considered for the team, but then quickly disqualifies them. The issue squashes any hopes readers have of seeming those unique characters in the near future. Why devote panels to an instant letdown? The pacing of Dan Jurgen’s story suffers from the slow exposition and the decision to hastily throw the team into battle in the book’s final pages.


Plus, when the antagonists do show up at the end for a fight, they’re as generic as comic book enemies come.  Couldn’t they have at least attached a memorable villain to the tale?


There’s also a pointless B-story that involves average citizens protesting JLI’s takeover of the Justice League’s Hall of Justice. While angry men shout “This is a public building,” readers will be confused as to how the Hall is supposed to fit in with the continuity of the “New 52.” Then, readers will proceed quickly without investing at all in the narrative.


While Guy Gardner and Batman work as adequate foils for Booster Gold, the rest of the heroic cast seems bland next to the trio, making most of the JLI neither particularly likable nor expressly unlikeable. Several characters fail to get their moment in the spotlight and new readers will be forced to look elsewhere to find out exactly what special abilities Vixen has or whether August General in Iron is wearing a costume or if he has a bizarre skin condition. (It’s the skin condition.)


Ironically, it seems like the Justice League International reboot was created by some marketing wizards that were worried about reaching the right demographics and playing it safe, instead of by daring artists interested in creating a meaningful, enthralling storyline. It’ll sell plenty of copies but in a few years, no one will remember it.


While Booster Gold is rather excited about, as he calls it, “A whole new launch here, from the Hall of Justice,” no one should be excited about this new title launch.


Justice League International is an insipid comic with filled with uninspiring heroes with nothing worthwhile to offer, except assurance that its many forgettable superheroes are certain to remain forgettable. Like a U.N. representative says in the issue, “I remain skeptical.”

Rating:

Jeremiah Massengale is an assistant professor of communication arts at the University of the Cumberlands where he also advises the award-winning college newspaper.


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