Justice League #1 Review

Written By: Scott Snyder

Art By: Jim Cheung

Published By: DC Comics

While reading the first issue of Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung’s Justice League, I experienced a realization: It’s been seven years since Snyder’s run on Batman in the New 52 began. Seven years ago I was 15 and nothing short of elated there was about to be a whole line of accessible starting points for DC, as I was always more of a Marvel guy (not that you ever have to be one or the other). I tried lots of books, dropped some, tried some more, discovered new favorite creators, watched books I loved end, etc. But I always stuck with Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman.

Now here we are, seven years later, at the next accessible starting point. And while this definitely does feel like the book I fell in love with back then stylistically, it’s as different as it is similar. The stakes are bigger, it’s an ensemble cast, and the interpersonal material is now interwoven with galactic scale anomalies. We’re dealing with grander, more concrete stuff here rather than with the souls of a city and a broken man. Justice League is decidedly more sci-fi, but Snyder hasn’t lost the qualities that cemented his meteoric rise. This is the natural extension of everything he has written, but with a wondrous quality that harkens back to Bruce Timm’s Justice League animated series.

It’s the perfect combination for a young person coming up in this era.

Scott Snyder is a purveyor and explorer of ideas. He somehow manages to write and deconstruct a story at the same time. It’s almost like you, the character, and Snyder all sit down to have a Socratic seminar. But on a spaceship. While being shot at. With a big, imposing clock counting down to the next surprise. In this issue, the focus is on the League’s new Chairman, Martian Manhunter. The issue feels like an answer to every single person who ever asked the question “Isn’t Manhunter like totally a Superman level character…?” Snyder is well aware of the potential for the Oreo-loving alien. Through him, we see parallels drawn between the families we were born into and the families we make and find. For Martian Manhunter, that parallel has a haunting layer of tragedy. He constantly anticipates potential loss, and suffers from self-doubt. I thought it was a brilliant way to begin exploring his headspace.

Snyder pulls this issue together with an excellent command of these iconic voices. Not everyone gets a lot as it’s an introductory issue, but the dialogue between the characters is lively and believable. And I love that this version of the League is beyond taking Batman seriously. It’s almost like Snyder is saying: “Yeah, I did some disturbing stuff with this character. But also, GROWLY VOICE!” I do appreciate some growly voice. Snyder’s ability to inject personality and gravitas into iconic settings is also evident in this issue, but it’s applied in a totally different way. The Hall of Justice gets the Gotham treatment here, and with just one two page spread I came to appreciate the structure more than I ever have before. This is, again, a natural extension of his previous work, but it also feels like the opening of a DC lore celebration.

I imagine that it’ll appeal to veteran fans and new readers alike, though new readers might take pause at one detail. Basically, without spoiling, one character’s inclusion threw me for a loop in a couple moments. The problem isn’t really anything the character does, just something about the way his motivations are conveyed. I’m not sure about that, though I haven’t read much DC as of late. Also, I feel like some explanations did need more time to breathe. Like maybe one or two more pages of the League’s meeting in the middle of the issue. But it’s hardly an issue when everything else works so well, including Jim Cheung’s top tier artwork.

Full disclosure: I got really used to Snyder and Capullo. I love the way they worked together. So I was a little worried how things would gel as we took a turn toward a very different style. Not that Snyder hasn’t worked with other artists extremely well, like Rafael Albuquerque, but there’s usually been an air of moodiness. With that said, Snyder kicks the writing here into such a big, fun gear, and Cheung is able to fuse their sensibilities spectacularly well. He’s one of those artists who unifies all of the character’s he’s working with under his particular vision. Like many greats, he draws faces and costumes in a way uniquely his own, and I think it ties in beautifully with the sci-fi tone of this opening chapter. The line work is wonderful, and the inks and colors provided by Mark Morales and Tomeu Morey respectively bring it all together. It’s a clean and epic looking book. There are some wonderful new designs here and some interpretations of classic looks that’ll have you going back to admire the pages when you’re done.

Overall, Cheung’s veteran skills are evident throughout the entire issue. I was excited to turn the page each and every time. 

Justice League #1 is what you want out of superhero comics. It feels like a combination of some of my favorite comic book writing from the past few years, some of the best memories I have of childhood TV, and the film adaptation we all want to see. It’s big and bold, but with a personal lens. Fun and accessible, but with a sense of importance. I feel like this comic is a wonderful place to introduce someone to this team, and an issue that’ll give you more appreciation for the League, mainly Martian Manhunter. I instantly wanted more of him when I was done. And I instantly wanted more of this run. Snyder and Cheung deliver the goods here, and like my 15 year old self in 2011, I’m in for the long haul on this one.