COMIC RELIEF: The cover of the week. Justice League, No. 1.The reboot has arrived. Rather than retire my recent respect for what DC has accomplished in recent years (i.e., Blackest Night and Geoff John’s wildly brilliant take on Green Lantern’s space opera) and return to the embrace of Marvel, I have reluctantly resigned myself to picking up some of these Nos. 1. Some, not all, heaven’s forbid. That started today with the release of the Justice League relaunch. I found it interesting that this whole idea to crack open the steering column and illegally roll the DC Universe’s odometer back to 000,001 on 52 titles started with messing with and messing around in Superman’s marriage. The idea was to cast Superman and Lois Lane (those newlyweds, c. 1996) into a love triangle (Jimmy Olsen? You sly fox!) and create some of that focus group-approved Ross-Rachel tension. Out of that unholy brainstorm came this reboot, during a DC staff retreat described in this morning’s New York Times:
Once the team decided it did not have to be bound by this marital detail, “we started talking about a lot of crazy, what-if situations, and out of that openness came the idea of renumbering the entire line,” said Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Comics and an illustrator of the new Justice League series.
The mere idea of rolling back all 52 titles to No. 1 and relaunching a universe has already probably paid for itself in free advertising. So many column inches and blog pixels have been spent debating this idea that DC only had to sit back and watch the buzz build at its doorstep. What Green Lantern movie? Did we mention we’ve got Batman No. 1 coming out in September? Batman. Number. One. DC had some dazzle to deflect any razzle.
And so the first No. 1 dropped today — the headliner, the tent-pole title for the whole universe, Justice League. To spruce-up the old (hackneyed) idea of restarting a title, DC dusted off Lee’s pencils and paired him with the It writer, Johns. It’s not a coincidence that Lee will now be associated with two of the biggest-selling titles of all time, with Justice League No. 1 set to join his X-Men No. 1 from comic books’ salad days. Pardon the pun, but Lee is the draw. His clean, creative and dynamic lines never collapse into cartoon, and his treatment of well-known superheroes is always reverential, iconic. If they ever commission a Mount Rushmore of superheroes it will be Jim Lee’s pencils that serve as inspiration. He draws heroes carved in marble, but not made of stone. The cover doesn’t do justice, ahem, to the artwork inside. The exchange between Batman and Green Lantern — ostensibly a telling/retelling of their first meeting (this relaunch is confusing) — is worth the price, and the art keeps up with Johns’ Sorkinesque dialogue. This is the most rewarding passage, as Green Lantern quizzes Batman while they’re on the run after an alien hostile:
"What are your powers anyway? You can’t fly."
"Hold on a second … You’re not just some guy in a bat costume, are you? Are you freaking kidding me?!"
The book loses momentum from there, and it curls inevitably toward the cliche cliffhanger all reboots of the Batman/Superman love/hate relationship eventually go — and I quote, “Next: Batman vs. Superman.” (Now, if they were fighting over Lois Lane for her affection, that would be a twist …) There were more compelling covers on the racks today (see: the people of Broxton, Oklahoma line up to keep Galactus out of town in Mighty Thor No. 5, for example) and more novel storylines (see: Amazing Spider-Man's current “Spider Island” arc), but this gets the cover of the week because it is an event comic. There aren't many. Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man No. 1 was one, Lee’s X-Men and, yes, the Image line. Those event comics, like this one, all involved starting at No. 1. It’s not even the first time the main Justice League has started over at No. 1 in the past decade, but this is supposed be different, new, updated.
While I still believe when Detective Comics nears what would have been No. 1,000 or Justice League (whichever incarnation this is) nears its No. 500, DC will have a relaunch relapse and repackage those titles to reflect their true numbers. They will have, say it with me, reboot regret.
The best compliment I can give this title — and I hope this carries through the next month of new Nos. 1 — is once inside its pages the gimmick is forgotten. It’s never been about the number of the cover.
It’s the story between the covers.