If you head to your local comic-book store to pick up the latest issue of DC Comics’ Justice League of America, you won’t be blamed for doing a double take. The cover for the first issue features a group of B-list superheroes and villains hoisting the Utah flag over a pile of rubble, à la the Marines at Iwo Jima. Presumably, they’re putting things back together in the wake of the most recent state legislative session and the destruction wrought by the Utah GOP.
Don’t worry: Nothing in the issue actually has anything to do with our fair state. The cover was personalized for each of the 50 states, plus Puerto Rico, and one edition bears the flag of our nation. I’m not sure why (aside from the connection between DC’s “New 52” and having 52 covers), but it happened, and now we all have to live with the consequences of having the mark of the Beehive State on our comics.
The issue itself is a new beginning for a brand-new Justice League, with none of the familiar heavy hitters in the DC Universe. This team is actually a government response to the real Justice League, in case they go rogue. The team consists of Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Catwoman, the assassin Katana and a few others. The book, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by David Finch, seems to be setting itself up as the comic-book equivalent of The Dirty Dozen. A group of misfits, criminals and kids—led by Wonder Woman’s ex-boyfriend, Colonel Steve Trevor—are assembled to stand watch over the increasing threats of superpowered bad guys in the world.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical about this book, and hesitant to read it. Johns sometimes gets deep into DC Comics Universe lore that can be over even my head, but in this series, he was able to give just a taste of that for those in the know.
Trevor is assigned to be the liaison for this new team, yet to be assembled in the first issue. Though there is a disembodied chase going on through the issue that we don’t learn the meaning of until the end, it is largely an introduction to the dossiers of each new character of the team. As Trevor argues about each member’s place on the team, we’re given a perfect framework to learn about characters we might have never heard of before.
It’s a clever device—and perfect for new readers. This shining of the spotlight on characters who aren’t on the “A” list works great in Justice League comics. They’ve done it to stunning effect over the years, particularly in Keith Giffen’s Justice League International, which is a must-read for any serious comic fan and perfect for someone just getting into the medium.
But it’s absolutely the wrong direction they should be heading for the live-action movies. With the overwhelming success of Marvel’s The Avengers franchise, Warner Brothers is scrambling to find a way to bring the Justice League to the big screen. I doubt they’re tempted to give B-listers like these superheroes the limelight for their first big-screen outing—but this comic is good enough that it might tempt them. Frenzied rumors about the film project point to Dark Knight writer/director Christopher Nolan’s involvement, but I don’t think audiences would be particularly thrilled by his hyper-realistic take on the franchise. In his Batman films, it was as though he was apologizing that his story was about superheroes.
I’m not sure what direction they’ll ultimately take a Justice League film, but in the meantime, I’m glad we have comics like this one to fill in the gaps. Even if it does have a Utah flag inexplicably pasted onto the cover.
Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.