Justice League of America #1: A Great Start

The U.S. government puts together their own team of superheroes, and it's darkly compelling.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Finally, the much-ballyhooed Justice League of America #1 has hit the stands, and at least from the start, it's looking like it might be worth all the hype.

This is not to be confused with Justice League proper, so you know. Geoff Johns may be writing both titles, but the JLA is a different animal – in fact, it's a team designed by the United States government to act as the natural predator for the Justice League. There's a one-to-one ratio, with an ace in the hole, and that's very much as planned.

The bulk of this first issue is Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor discussing the membership and needs of this new venture. Waller has recently replaced Trevor as the government's liaison with the Justice League, and now she's putting him in charge of a superteam where he hasn't fallen in love with one of the members (that would be Wonder Woman). Trevor hates the whole plan, but apparently, the paranoia surrounding the relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman has people concerned about the potential ramifications of that – namely, if Superman comes around to Wonder Woman's way of thinking about changing the world instead of just preserving it (although Superman probably wouldn't agree with that assessment of his work). It's enough to get Trevor reluctantly on board, although that reluctance keeps growing once he gets the dossiers on his team members.

There's Hawkman, chosen as a counter to Aquaman, who apparently is not only an alien cop who kills people, he's a corrupt alien cop who lies about the identities of the criminals he's killing just so he can justify killing them. Now, I haven't been reading a lot of The Savage Hawkman, but I didn't quite get that vibe from what I have read. Then again, I'm pretty sure DC will let Johns trump anything that came from Rob Liefeld or anyone else who was writing that now-cancelled book.

There's Katana, whose swordsmanship is expected to rival Wonder Woman's for some reason. A killer who talks to her dead husband's soul in the sword that killed him. Maybe the magic of that blade will have something to counter the magic of Diana.

There's Vibe, whose funky other-dimensional vibration powers are seen as a way to take down the Flash. He's also an 18-year-old kid with no experience, spending his time stopping kids from stealing candy bars.

There's Stargirl, a superstar hero from Los Angeles who is treated like a pop star by the public, and who is set up as some sort of counter to Cyborg. She's got the cosmic staff, and it's implied that Starman may remain in continuity, as it's had a previous owner (and there was The Shade miniseries that referenced stuff, too). She's apparently also got some biological father issues that leave her open to blackmail.

The new Green Lantern Simon Baz is naturally seen as a weapon against Hal Jordan, although Baz has Jordan's ring at the momnt, and Jordan is dead and has quit the Justice League, but who knows how all that "Wrath of the First Lantern" business will shake out.

Green Arrow is chosen as the Batman contingency, but Trevor puts the kibosh on that (keeping Oliver Queen as his own secret operative), instead recruiting Catwoman to the cause – figuring that if there's any way to get to the Bat, it's through his groin.

Then there's Martian Manhunter is the counter for Superman, and this isn't the J'onn J'onzz you remember from the before-time, the long long ago. This is a guy with power enough to know when anyone anywhere is talking about him, the speed to show up and eavesdrop invisibly, and who accepts the job on the condition that if they cross him, he will erase the minds of everybody in the A.R.G.U.S. building.

The whole issue has this ominous vibe that's really brought home by David Finch's dark and brooding artwork, that Manhunter scene and the looming threat of the Secret Society. These aren't inspirational heroes, no matter how Waller is going to pitch them to the public. This is cold, calculated precision specifically countering the actual good guys. The folks on this squad may occasionally have their hearts in the right place, but they're going to be ruthlessly beholden to federal whims – and they have only Trevor to soften that ruthlessness.

The dialogue between Waller and Trevor has a lot of great back and forth, highlighting the differences and similarities between their approaches to their duties, and Johns manages to give the standard 'choose a roster for a superteam' issue a certain amount of life and vitality. He establishes that making a successful team out of these rookies and malcontents is a virtually impossible task, making us feel as though there's a ticking clock counting down to the inevitable implosion… and that the power levels involved here will make that event catastrophic. It's like we're rubbernecking at the train wreck of the future.

This is a very strong first issue for Justice League of America #1, even though there's virtually no action in it beyond the vignettes for each hero. I'm hooked, and I want to see how this plays out.