JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 by Scott Snyder, Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, and Tomeu Morey
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 sees a lot of big changes to the classic formula. Scott Snyder takes the team on a fantastic, action-packed adventure while also focusing in-depth on the characters that make this story work. While some elements need more explanation, this is definitely a book to keep an eye on.
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Grand New Direction
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Since Scott Snyder’s run on BATMAN in 2011, fans have been clamoring for more of his work. His narrative style has such a deep reverence for the source material and, most importantly of all, he isn’t afraid to tread new ground. He thrives in the weirdest aspects of the DC Universe. No series of his speaks to this more than DARK NIGHTS: METAL and its many spin-offs. Snyder has changed the game by (literally) blowing up the boundaries of the known universe. Now, it’s time for him to turn his attention to DC’s greatest heroes. That’s right folks. JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 has finally arrived, with Snyder calling the shots. So does it live up to the hype?


JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 opens exactly where it should. The world is in peril, and the Justice League has to save it. Today, that threat comes in the form of Neoanderthals, a group of evolutionary vagrants experimented on by Vandal Savage. With the team stretched thin, they barely notice the appearance of an unknown celestial body hurtling toward Earth. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor approaches Vandal with plans of his own. He’s gathered the planet’s most despicable villains together, all so they might finally defeat the League.

In the Driver’s Seat

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 feels like textbook Scott Snyder. From the very first page, Snyder throws intricate twists and powerful character moments at the reader. This book feels highly unpredictable in the best possible way. Snyder has an immense repertoire of DC history to work with and, as he’s shown in the past, is unafraid to work with it. I had no idea what each page would bring me and, as a reader, this feels incredibly exciting. This story doesn’t initially seem like just a team “beat-em-up” plot. This is an incredibly action-packed book, but it feels so much bigger than the action. This is a cosmic level JUSTICE LEAGUE story; and with the Source Wall destroyed, literally anything can happen.

I absolutely enjoyed the narrative flow of JUSTICE LEAGUE #1. However, Snyder’s extensive bag of tricks does come with its own issues. He has access to so many unique elements, but he throws so much into this story. It feels like a little too much, at times. The grand scope of the narrative doesn’t take any time away to explain some of the more obscure elements. Vandal Savage, for example, is mentioned and seen but very little is said about his appearance. So much happens in this story, but only about three-quarters of it felt truly accessible. I have read DARK NIGHTS: METAL and JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE, meaning I caught on to the many references. Yet for a new fan just jumping into comics? This, unfortunately, isn’t the story for you.

Justice League Pilot: Unaired and Forgotten

Against the Neoanderthals

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 pages 2 & 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Surprisingly, JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 works really well as a team book. It doesn’t run into the same problems that a lot of other similar stories do. While each individual member doesn’t receive the same level of characterization, the book’s main focus isn’t any one character either. It’s the whole Justice League. Snyder makes it clear from the very first page that the team, not its members, would be the focus. This may push some readers away, of course. However, it works really well in my opinion. The way they banter amongst themselves feels wholly natural, especially when they all make fun of Batman together. This team seems like a family immediately. Also, Snyder takes this opportunity to expertly explore what the team represents, which gives way to some incredible exposition.

With all of that said, though, one character does step into the spotlight. Martian Manhunter takes center-stage in this story, with both internal commentary and in his role as the League’s chairman. His telepathic abilities put him at a truly interesting place in the story. On the one hand, he’s integral to the plot. Being able to reach into minds around the world gives Snyder’s Manhunter a lot of opportunities for cool storytelling. However, he also acts to center the team. The loss of his family comes to the forefront in JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, and the way it affects his views of unity and loneliness truly helps inform the theme. This book couldn’t work without Martian Manhunter, and Snyder plays him beautifully.

Splashing into the Stratosphere

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 page 4 & 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Artist Jim Cheung, penciler for JUSTICE LEAGUE #1, is a master of the splash page. Big, explosive images almost come naturally to him. Luckily, most of the story calls for these grand images, and they never disappoint. Cheung’s eye for fine detail is absolutely amazing, giving the action sequences a much more chaotic and energetic appearance. This is only aided by Mark Morales’ subtle inking style and Tomeu Morey’s vibrant color palette. These three artists together give way to an absolutely beautiful and other-worldly book that very few other artists can match.

I Fed on AMERICAN VAMPIRE, and Now I’m Thirsty for More

I did feel, though, that the art lost a little something in the slower sections. The mid-issue team meeting, for example, felt a bit rushed. I can understand this completely, of course. I can’t imagine how long it took for Cheung to draw Martian Manhunter’s dragon form or Green Lantern’s mega-gun. However, I could still notice the slight drop in quality. This isn’t a grievous issue or anything. Cheung’s pencils are still gorgeous to look at. I just noticed the difference and thought it important to bring up.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1: Final Thoughts

Scott Snyder absolutely nailed it with JUSTICE LEAGUE #1. This story ticks all of the right boxes. It’s weird and full of obscure elements from DC’s long history. While certain instances of this could use a bit more explanation, I loved the way they paid homage to the source material. It’s action-packed without focusing on the superficial fight scenes. This is a character-driven narrative through-and-through, with the team taking center stage. While the casual reader may find this book hard to get through at times, the devoted DC fan will absolutely fall in love with it.

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