Justice League has always been set apart from other superhero teams by its scale and promise. There is no greater collection of superheroes than the League, a team that has collected the Golden Age icons of DC Comics and continually added the best new creations and acquisitions across decades. Looking at the cover of Justice League #1, it is difficult to imagine a more iconic arrangement of characters from a single publisher, especially given that the children who were raised on Justice League Unlimited are now adults buying comics. That promise also creates incredible pressure, as fans looking at the best superheroes expect the best stories. It has resulted in a series of lackluster and disappointing runs over the past decade, but that trend is over. Justice League #1 is everything that the best superheroes confronting the biggest challenges ought to be.
The first issue stands out purely in format. It is as much a story as a series. There is no need to get the team together; that work was done in "No Justice", and a handful of new characters are introduced naturally within the narrative. By the time readers turn the final page, the immediate threat and its difficult choices have been handled. There will be consequences, but they will be explored within future stories. Everything that a reader of any stripe might need is here. If Snyder, Cheung, and their collaborators were thinking of the maxim that every comic is someone's first comic, then this issue is a sublime success.
This concise, introductory adventure establishes the level of imagination to expect from future installments of Justice League. While the plot hinges on a classic Justice League villain, his plot is entirely original. A new chapter of history and six distinct threats are designed for a single issue, something readers have come to expect to be stretched across six or more issues to fill a complete trade paperback. The entire Earth is threatened and all of Cheung's new designs are dispatched in just a few dozen pages. It makes for a thrilling story, but also serves as a moment of braggadocious writing. The pure confidence exhibited by unveiling and disposing of so many new ideas in a single issues sets a high bar for what is to come next. This follows a trend in Snyder's work on Justice League-related titles. From Dark Night: Metal to Justice League: No Justice and now on Justice League, he has pushed for big stories with new ideas. Each step has been an improvement, and in Justice League #1 he seems to have reached a near-perfect balance between ambition and pacing.
What comes next isn't a mystery either. The initiating adventure is designed to foreshadow multiple events to come. It embraces the entirety of DC Comics as well, referencing a history that dates forward to stories like Kamandi and DC One Million. In addition to the obvious references and connections, Cheung scatters plenty of familiar faces in the backgrounds of action sequences and montages. A love for DC Comics history is displayed in each new page, but never overwhelms the story or diminishes the adventure for readers who may not recognize each element.
There is an obvious comparison to be made between this incarnation of Justice League and the iconic JLA series created by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter. Both feature the essential heroes of DC Comics. Both focus on truly cataclysmic threats. Both are driven by new ideas. It is that final element which makes the comparison a disservice to Justice League. While it captures the tone of JLA, it does so by forging its own story and ideas. This is not a greatest hits collection like so many recent Justice League narratives. Justice League #1 is a comic that evangelizes about the greatness of the superhero genre and has faith in its own images and words. That's what makes this a thrilling debut, one defined by imagination and confidence. It very well could be the start of a new era for the Justice League and DC Comics.
Published by DC Comics
On June 6, 2018
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jim Cheung and Mark Morales
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Cover by Jim Cheung and Laura Martin