Justice League #1 — Johns/Lee — Oct. ’11/DC Comics

I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times the news has reported on the world of comics. It’s usually because one of the two big houses, DC or Marvel, was killing someone off. Of course, in comics, no one ever stays dead. You hear me talkin’, Human Torch?

The first instance I can remember was the death of Robin at the hands of the Joker, then when Bane broke Batman’s back, and then, of course, when Superman died … notice a pattern? From the other side, there was the ill-fated Marvel Universe reboot after the Onslaught mess, but that turned out to be a separate bubble universe … or something.

Marvel threw the last bomb big enough to rattle the mass media with the death of Johnny Storm, which no comic fan really took seriously as Fantastic Four is edging closer to #600, and they ain’t gonna get there with Spider-Man fleshing out the team. Imagine my surprise when DC decided to press the reset button on … well, everything.

Starting with this week’s Justice League #1, the entire 52-book DC line is starting from scratch, which is kind of a weird read at first. In this opening salvo, we see Batman chasing down some freaky creature at the same time being chased by authorities that don’t really see a difference in the two. Suddenly, Green Lantern appears, having been alerted by his ring to the presence of an extra-terrestrial. Shocked that Batman is real, and “just some guy in a bat suit,” Lantern comes off cocky and self-important until Batman puts him in his place, powers or no.

The unlikely pair head off to Metropolis to seek out Superman, who they’ve never met, because … well, he’s an alien and all, so he’s supposed to know everything about extra-terrestrials … or something. All in all, it’s strange trying to take this universe at face value, having to set aside decades of back-story and established relationships. How well this ultimately comes off will probably depend on how quickly we see the Justice League coalesce and start wailing on somebody.

Jim Lee’s artwork is as cinematic as ever, with special kudos going to colorist Alex Sinclair. The intricate constructs that Green Lantern assembles on the fly really pop.

DC’s reasoning for the re-framing of their house is that it’s too hard to attract new readers while lugging around 70 years of accumulated history. We’ll have to wait and see if the gamble pays off; with such a tentative opening shot, it’s anybody’s guess.

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