Justice League International was my favorite book as a kid back in the 80s. There was an eclectic and unusual group of heroes and things were played for laughs. After being in the spotlight following Justice League Generation Lost , the JLI is now back in a new book, Justice League International #1, with Dan Jurgens writing, Aaron Lopresti on pencils, and Matt Ryan on inks. Justice League International shows promise with the first issue, but is very much thrown together quickly—which is intentional—but it still suffers a bit for it.
The JLI is basically a team that is just thrown together at the United Nation’s whim in response to the Justice League and increasing threats (if the UN is forming a Justice League International, it makes me wonder if/how DC’s other UN team, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents, fits into this plan). Heroes are selected by an international panel, and then literally assembled almost immediately (as they were apparently already assembled prior to the team being green lit). Everything seems like it comes together hastily at the expense of too many “hows” and “whys.” True, this keeps the story moving. But there are things like veteran JLIers acting like no JLI team has existed before, as some characters are thrilled to be on the team or act like they haven’t worked together in the past. For example, Booster claims not to be familiar with his teammates and Guy Gardner writes off Booster as a loser, saying he’s worked with him “a couple times.” While I understand a need to keep things fresh for the relaunch, it seems a little sad that the characters barely know each ¬other and their shared history is gone.
As the team comes together there are understandably tensions among this International ensemble. Most prominently, the Russian Rocket Red verbally spars back and forth with the Chinese August General in Iron. But there is hardly any time for much more than quibbles as the team heads out to their first mission only to get it handed to them. Things happen so quickly I have virtually no reasons to care about the characters other than my previous attachment to them from my childhood onward. As for Lady Godiva, I have no idea who she is or what her powers are. I know she can’t fly and that she was in Flashpoint…That’s about it.
Sure it’s a first issue, and pretty much the gang’s all there from the start (Jurgens has said the team lineup changes after #1, presumably with additions) leaving little time for character development. But here again, the rapid pace seems to take its toll on the book. At the same time, after reading the issue a couple more times, the team actually suffers from heading out on a mission practically minutes after getting together. They come to realize they don’t know each others’ powers or have any group tactics, and it’s easily one of the reasons things get so hectic at the end of #1. It’s a rough start for this Justice League, and it shows. I think that’s actually kind of neat.
The art by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan does a good job depicting our heroes and rendering the various places where the action takes place. Each hero looks very distinct and many have new costumes though nothing that different than what came before. While the art is pretty good, it is nothing to write home about when there are titles such as Batwing #1 and Swamp Thing #1 that came out the same week with stellar art. JLI’s art doesn’t look bad, it’s just nothing extraordinary, which suits the first issue well.
The lineup is pretty cool (though I kinda resent Plastic Man being teased in the issue, but he does not get to join), and there are a couple chuckle evoking lines. But it’s a totally different ballgame than the JLI of the late 80s/early 90s. Things are more serious, and the stakes get pretty high pretty quickly. I was not overly impressed with #1, but I liked it enough to check out #2 to see how this new JLI survives. So if you’re a fan or you’re new to JLI, the book does a fair job of introducing the premise (not so much the characters) and overall seems to be a decent team book in the making. I thought the start was a little weak, but it seems that Jurgens intended this JLI to have lots of troubles starting out. They certainly do, and while it makes for a scattered team book, it is entertaining.