Best Shots Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 Bombastic & Striking, But 'Lacking A Strong Team Dynamic'

"Justice League #1" page by Tony S. Daniel
Credit: Tony S. Daniel (DC Comics)
Credit: DC Comics

Justice League #1
Written by Bryan Hitch
Art by Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Credit: Tony S. Daniel (DC Comics)

Though jam-packed with tight visuals and epic in scope, Justice League #1 never truly gels. Written by Bryan Hitch and drawn by Tony S. Daniel, this new #1 finds the team spread out across the world, dealing with catastrophic earthquakes that are a symptom of a larger threat to Earth. While visually dynamic throughout, Hitch’s separation of the team keeps the issue from feeling like a team book and instead makes it feel like a series of power-displaying vignettes that only happen to become connected at the very end. Hitch’s Justice League of America may have hit the ground running, but his Justice League opens with a sizable stumble.

Justice League #1 may not stand as the week’s best read, but visually, it is solid gold. Tony S. Daniel’s pencils have rarely looked better than they have here, thanks in large part to his deploying of splash pages throughout and the bold inks of Sandu Florea who really makes the details of Daniel’s dense pages pop.

Though the spreading out of the team hinders the overall enjoyment of the title, Daniel is allowed time with each hero and provides them all, with the exception of Batman and Superman, huge set pieces all their own.

Credit: Tony S. Daniel (DC Comics)

Opening with an explosive display of Wonder Woman’s powers, Daniel sells the epic scope of Hitch’s globetrotting script with dynamic showings of superpowers or harrowing vistas of destruction throughout, usually in the form of double-page splashes. The best and most innovative of which is a scene of the Flash rescuing a little girl from the rubble of a collapsing building. With smaller detailed panels of the mother dropping a water bottle to illustrate the timing while Barry Allen and his movements dominate the center of the page, Daniel showcases his knack for blocking and layouts throughout, but this Flash page is worth the price of admission alone. Adding to the dynamism are the rich colors of Tomeu Morey who makes each costume pop amid the dusty grays and browns of the destruction that surround them and complete the artistic circuit started by Daniel and Florea to make Justice League #1 a knockout visual experience.

Credit: Tony S. Daniel (DC Comics)

But while the visuals of this debut wow throughout, Bryan Hitch’s script is lacking a strong team dynamic. The worldwide stakes of the debut and the near apocalyptic level of destruction gives the team a nice and big problem to tackle right out of the gate, but his weird separation of the team proves to be a narrative misstep for this debut. The best parts of his critically acclaimed JLA book where when he had the team bouncing off one another, workshopping solutions on the fly, or even pairing members off with one another to tackle side objectives. Unfortunately, none of that is on display here, as each member is handling a global city separately, linked only by communicators. In fact, the only two heroes that even share a panel together are Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, and while their dynamic is still intact here, it isn’t enough to make me believe that these characters are working as a cohesive unit. Though the issue’s cliffhanger sets the team up for a united front in future issues, it would be been nice to see even a sliver of that in the opening installment.

While bombastic and filled with striking visuals throughout Justice League #1 still comes up short narratively. Bryan Hitch, while capable of delivering rousing stories, sells his debut short by not taking full advantage of the team dynamics that made his previous series such an enjoyable experience. Though the script could use some more team-ups, Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey sell the story hard by rendering the solo vignettes as dynamically as possible with slick pencils, heavy inks, and eye-catching colors. That said, no issue can survive on great art alone, and as a result, DC’s premier super-team has a uphill battle ahead of itself going into its second issue.

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