Justice League of America
Script: Brad Meltzer
Art: Ed Benes & Sandra Hope
The first three issues of this revamp outsold every other book on the market except CIVIL WAR. That’s not completely unexpected given the title’s relatively high profile, Meltzer’s current star status and, I think, the hopeful promise of something that will embody a sunnier, more upbeat DC Universe. I don’t think the irony is lost on anyone that Meltzer’s IDENTITY CRISIS may be the gold standard for the darker, uglier aspect of DC story telling in the last few years. Redemption is working on a lot of levels here.
Way back in February I wrote one of the most popular (as judged by continuing Google traffic, anyway) posts in the illustrious history of this blog, surrounding the notion of who Brad Meltzer would include in the latest JLA incarnation. (If you’ve got nothing better to do you can go back and see who I predicted. I had about a 60% hit rate, although I don’t think the line-up is entirely set.) My general sense of the pre-release hype was the Meltzer was going to channel the 70’s JLA nostalgia with just enough variation to avoid the type of complaints constantly levied on Alex Ross for his never-ending homage to all things Silver Age. So how does the zero issue kick things off? With an homage to the silver age – or at least a montage. More importantly, the first few issues anchor the JLA firmly to the shoulders of DC’s holy trinity.
From the formal invitations to join the League, to splitting up into teams (if even before the actual team is finalized) with the various heroes logos kicking off each section, to the masthead of the book, these first four issues are heavily influenced by the JLA of the Me Decade. And I like the use of Red Tornado as the foundation for the story – he was crux of so many noteworthy League moments in those days. Meltzer's characterizations are solid, but they should be as most of these characters have been well-defined elsewhere. The dialog is the solid stuff you would expect from a best-selling author.
The art and storytelling has been solid so far. I’m especially thankful no one felt compelled to riff on the now iconic first issue cover of the original JLA. But many of the background sets are indistinguishable. The panels involving Vixen and Black Lightning look like they all took place in the same backwater bar, even after BL changed locales. A small quibble, but when you’re jumping around a lot it does impact the storytelling.
I’m enjoying much of this, which probably isn’t too surprising considering the era Meltzer most heavily references dovetails with when I first started reading comic books. In fact, the JLA was by far my favorite and I still have many of the early issues including a complete run from about issue 70 to 200. I’m curious if this influence resonates with everyone the way it does with me, but that will be Meltzer’s tightrope to walk. And I find it interesting this book has posted the early returns we’re seeing, sales-wise. Yes, it’s been heavily hyped; yes, Meltzer’s on the New York Times bestseller list; yes, there’s some direct carryover from the very successful Infinite Crisis miniseries. But the previous JLA run was lucky to crack 80,000 units in any given month and was rarely a top 10 book. And the lineup during the last year or so of that title more closely mimicked the 70’s era than any in recent memory. (Although I’ll admit the thing was completely addled during the pre-IC run-up.) Will this title fall back to those levels once the dust settles? Well, NEW AVENGERS has managed to maintain some semblance of momentum two years in, so I guess there’s hope. But only if DC continues to treat this title like the flagship it should be.