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aaron_bourque ([personal profile] aaron_bourque) wrote in [community profile] scans_daily2011-09-02 12:49 am

How To Put The Whole Team In The Book

Note to self, Batman, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's new Justice League of America #1 was just . . . not very good.

Here's a good intro to the JLA: from JLA Secret Files & Origins #1, Star Seed!

Something is going on in Blue Valley, Nebraska (home of once and future Flash Wally West). A weird alien thing has glomped onto a tower in the small city, and Wally tells a nervous cop that they were right to call him in. "UFOs materializing inside office blocks just happen to be my specialty." So Wally runs inside to investigate, but is accosted by a bunch of one-eyed flying starfish!
Hmm. It's almost like a reference to something in the Justice League's history!
Superman: Super Obvious Statements!
No, really, Superman?

Diana agrees with me that Clark can be mightily daft sometimes, and says they shouldn't be wasting time when Blue Valley's in so much danger, but Batman points out that without a proper strategy, nothing will stop the alien from taking over the rest of them just as easily as it just did Wally. Superman says that's why he gathered them to the satellite, though he's uneasy about just taking charge without consulting the Justice League. J'onn points out that there isn't a Justice League at the moment. Aquaman and Batman commiserate about that, and then the Spectre shows up and advises they ignore Blue Valley and let the populace die.

Superman's having none of that, but the Spectre reminds him and everyone present just who it is he answers to. J'onn says that leaves the Earth open to the threat of conquest by the alien starfish, but the Spectre says that the government is already preparing a nuclear strike that will successfully eradicate the infestation, once the normal population of Blue Valley is evacuated. Kyle chimes in, asking about Wally and all the other people that have been taken, and the Spectre answers calmly, "They will die." . . . "Unless you choose to complicate matters."

Superman says they do so choose, and the Spectre invites the heroes to step within his cloak and witness what will occur if they intervene.

They're seemingly transported to Blue Valley, just outside of the office tower. Kyle is creeped out, but Superman is confident that if they work together, they'll have an edge against the alien. Diana suggests a "divide and conquer" approach, on the grounds that the alien shouldn't be able to respond effectively from too many attacks. However, alien-starfishface Wally reveals that they're ready . . .
Batman is flying. Your argument is invalid.
Well, THAT's no good.
So then they pop out of the Spectre's cloak, presumably having never left the Justice League satellite. Kyle is freaked out, demanding to know why they had to go through that, and Diana points out that it is an effective warning. Spectre reiterates his advice to the team, let the military obliterate Blue Valley and it's alien invasion, or the entire universe might suffer.

Superman points out there are lives at stake, but the Spectre replies, "The losses will be acceptable. A few thousand at most."

But Batman says no loss is acceptable, and that he's willing to go down there alone.
I will sacrifice anything for my greatest love, Batman!
So the Spectre sends the team back to Blue Valley again, this time, though, without powers. Batman tries coaching them along a little, "You're in my territory now." Unfortunately--
Way to screw he pooch, Clark.
Superman gets shot, starfishface Flash (try saying that five times fast!) speeds down to the entrance to deal with the heroes, whacking the hell out of Kyle as he arrives. He taunts them that they should have arrived with their powers, that they could have joined up with starfishfaces and conquered the galaxy, the universe TOGETHER! Then Flash counts up the heroes he's taken out, but one's missing: BATMAN!

Yep, Batman's busy infiltrating the upper levels of the building through an elevator shaft. All by himself. Because he's Batman.
The Justice League of Batman.
With the alien influence weakened by the temperature change, Batman socks Wally once to disorient the starfishface, and psyches Wally up. With Batman's aid, Wally is able to remove the starfish from his face, and smash up the alien whatever-it-is from the inside at superspeed, which removes the influence from the populace of Blue Valley. "They don't call me Flash for nothing."

But Kyle is moping that Wally's the only one present left with superpowers. J'onn points out that they gave their powers up willingly. There really weren't any other options.

"Indeed," says the mysteriously arriving Spectre, "no more an option than removing your powers permanently." After all, they weren't taken as a punishment. So the Spectre gives everybody back their powers, and walks off, noting that the future "shall be safe in the hands of the Justice League."

This wasn't actually the first appearance of this iteration of the Justice League, it had shown up first a year before in Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare as well as the JLA monthly title by Morrison and Porter. But this was an excellent jumping on point for readers. It introduces the whole league, pits them against a world- and even universe-spanning threat, dire straits, epic stakes, break-neck pace . . . everyone (except Aquaman, sorry) has at least something to do, even if it's only contributing an idea (yeah, okay, Batman steals the show, but hey, it's Batman! I'm totally fine with that.) And all in 21 pages! No decompression! The whole league pretty much working together, plus special guest star the Spectre!

Note to self, Geoff Johns, that's how you do a good team book introduction.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; no, I'm not gonna let that little grammar slip-up go, not without a fight.
icon_uk: (Default)

[personal profile] icon_uk 2011-09-02 07:22 am (UTC)(link)
That's not an entirely fair comparison though. The members in Morrison's JLA were all known quantities, we know who they were, what they could do, and to a greater or lesser extent how they would react to a situation and to each other. They are also experienced, mature heroes.

Johns isn't building a team out of characters we know, he's building a team out of heavily modified or completely new characters. Their personalities won't click the way they assume they will (I hope, for the sake of variety), so shorthand scenes like the ones above won't work.

I'm not a massive fan of JLA #1, but it's a different set up from the above.
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[personal profile] biznizzonpeyote 2011-09-02 08:02 am (UTC)(link)
Ultimate Spiderman had a decompressed origin, when compared to the original in Adult Fantasy #15. Didn't make it any less good than it was (before Ultimatum, it was really the only Ultimate Universe book I read). If I judged the series just by the first issue, I wouldn't have started reading it like I did. I'll give Geoff the benefit of the doubt & wait until the arc is over until I say whether the story was bad or not.
kamino_neko: Tedd from El Goonish Shive. Drawn by Dan Shive, coloured by Kamino Neko. (Default)

[personal profile] kamino_neko 2011-09-02 02:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Which would make your criticism MORE valid for Spider-Man than JL

USM had to set up one character and the universe.

JL has to set up seven characters, the universe, and the formation of the team.

They've gotten about half of the characters, and a strong feel of the universe in the first issue. And, as someone pointed out in the comments to Brian Cronin's review - Batman and Green Lantern are the two we know are getting almost no changes in the relaunch (and Cyborg isn't diverging much from what we see) - meaning that the rest of the team get to have their own revised status quo established in their own #1s, rather than having it exposited in JL - and slowing the story even further, going from 'ill-paced' to 'horrendous'.
mrstatham: (Default)

[personal profile] mrstatham 2011-09-02 09:46 pm (UTC)(link)
And yet, one of the things picked up on most in the current issue? The characterisation Johns is doing. I disagree that you can get away with skimping on characterisation when it comes to team books - more often than not, it's MORE necessary because you need to differentiate your characters. Otherwise you get Bendis' occasional problem of everyone's voices blurring into one.

Getting the group together in a single issue is just one option. Given Waid took what, twelve issues to.do Superman's origin and nearly the same for his JLA, I think you are being a little unfair.
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[personal profile] mrstatham 2011-09-02 09:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Also, as someone has already said, and you pointed out, Morrison's League was a known quantity to him, he'd been writing the book for a year, and we already knew the characters. The setup here is distinctly different.

[personal profile] runespoor 2011-09-02 11:37 pm (UTC)(link)
I wouldn't say you can get away with skimping on characterization, but you can go for simpler, basically pick one or two traits that will be associated with the character. Morrison didn't go into the details or the backstory, but it was a good team book that went for the epic rather than the interpersonal relationship. Morrison's run was good, but his characters were more icons than fully-developed personalities imo.

It looks like Johns is trying for something more along the lines of the more recent Leagues, with more emphasis on characterization and relationships. If so, then the criticisms about that aspect are entirely fair.
arbre_rieur: (Default)

[personal profile] arbre_rieur 2011-09-03 03:21 am (UTC)(link)
JLA YEAR ONE was 12-issues long, but the team got together within the very first one. It *might* have been an extra-sized issue, though. I'm not sure.
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[personal profile] icon_uk 2011-09-04 01:54 pm (UTC)(link)
It was 38 pages.

[personal profile] runespoor 2011-09-02 08:46 am (UTC)(link)
It was a really really good story.
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[personal profile] icon_uk 2011-09-02 09:58 am (UTC)(link)
I care about my minor fanboy rantings!

And more power to you, I'm hardly immune to that one myself, as you may have noticed over the years.

[personal profile] silicondream 2011-09-02 08:07 am (UTC)(link)
They are also experienced, mature heroes.

Yeah, Waid's JLA: Year One might be a better parallel there. Also because its Hal Jordan is cocky and arrogant and often obnoxious but not, generally speaking, a complete douche.
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[personal profile] arbre_rieur 2011-09-02 08:58 am (UTC)(link)
Plus, I might be misremembering because it's been so long, but as I recall, no one other than Batman and Flash did much of anything in this story, and the latter was mind-controlled for most of it. I don't think simply seeing the character contribute an idea would be enough to make a new reader decide, yeah, I want to keep up with Superman/Green Lantern/Aquaman, etc.

Like another commenter said, I think the excellent JLA Year One would be a much better comparison. It did a great job filling us in on the personalities and essences of each team member in just one issue. I doubt Johns' story will be the equal of that.
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[personal profile] nyadnar17 2011-09-02 03:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Completely agree with you. You can only introduce the whole team at once if they are known quantities or if you are going the anime route of starting the story in the middle and trusting that the audience will stick with you long enough to figure things out on their own.

I would also like to add that outside of Morrison's Big 7 JLA stories seem to work best when a small group of leaguers are focused on per issue. That is especially important when we don't yet really know these incarnations of the characters.

I enjoyed the first issue. I thought it was fun, everyone used their powers in a well defined iconic way and honestly I am having a lot of fun with the cocky "rookie" versions of the characters so far. I don't want them to stay that way, but its enjoyable watching young driven alpha males have their first real dick measuring contest.
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[personal profile] icon_uk 2011-09-02 03:22 pm (UTC)(link)
And we're assuming that bruce even HAS Dick by this point! :)

[personal profile] whitesycamore 2011-09-02 09:15 pm (UTC)(link)
its enjoyable watching young driven alpha males have their first real dick measuring contest.


I think I've seen that video. You're right; it was very enjoyable.
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[personal profile] fifthie 2011-09-02 10:33 pm (UTC)(link)
In unfairness, this kind of speaks to the problems with using your major team book as the centerpiece of pseudo-relaunching your universe.
fifthie: tastes the best (Default)

[personal profile] fifthie 2011-09-02 10:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Johns isn't building a team out of characters we know, he's building a team out of heavily modified or completely new characters.

Like, this doesn't so much make JLA #1 not a shitty comic as it makes it obvious that JLA#1 was sort of inevitably going to be a shitty comic. "Supergroup" teams like this (teams made up of already big-deal characters, as opposed to stuff like the Runaways or X-Men where the characters are all basically created within the team context) work because they can use the shorthand you mention, cutting them off from that because you're simultaneously relaunching the team that forms after they're established heroes AND relaunching the heroes themselves in a context you're still establishing elsewhere just doesn't work too good.