Justice League #6
Justice League #6
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Jim Lee

I hate to say it, but I remain underwhelmed. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on DC's flagship team book with the most iconic (some would argue, personally I miss J'onn and Wally) incarnations of their most popular characters should have been a slam dunk month in, month out. And while the creative team does manage to stick the landing on the conclusion of this inaugural story/origin arc better than I thought they could given how much story had to wrap up in one issue, the execution is not far from flawless.

Darkseid and his Parademons are ravaging Metropolis as a prelude to ravaging the entire globe, as Green Lantern leads most of the newly formed League on a suicide run to try and slow down the rampaging force of evil incarnate. Meanwhile on Apokalips, Batman locates Superman and attempts to rescue and return him to Earth to give the League, at least a fighting chance.

I don't think it will surprise/spoil anyone if I say that by issue's end, the team comes together, manages to defeat Darkseid, and save the world. And while the way in which the forces of Apokolips are defeated feels very (close to literally) deus ex machina, I did like the fact that it was not a clean or decisive win, given that realistically there was no way this fledgling team could hold their own against a threat on the level of Darkseid.

I think what disappointed me most about the first arc of the title was Geoff Johns' approach to characterization and dialogue. While Johns' dialogue has always been a bit on-the-nose, it used to feel more natural than it has in his recent work. Here characters spout off sound-byte esque buzz phrases that are indicative of what Johns has identified as each character's core trait. The effect is that the dialogue becomes disjointed when these snippets are woven together as conversation.

While Johns' dialogue never flowed quite as naturally as say Fraction or Bendis for instance, he always had a knack for figuring out what made characters unique and why they resonated with the fans, and bringing that out in their voices in a more nuanced fashion than he is displaying here. Perhaps he will find his footing again once the stresses of the origin story as well as the demands of his position at DC during a time as hectic as the relaunch die down a bit, because as it is, this is not the high caliber of work I look forward to when I crack open a Geoff Johns comic.

I admire Jim Lee's dedication to producing a monthly book, and to his credit he has stuck to the deadlines far closer than I thought he would be able to. However the unfortunate truth is, that while his art, at it's best, is detailed, cinematic, and gorgeous, it suffers when he is rushing to meet a monthly deadline.

The unevenness in the art can be attributed to multiple inkers tag teaming the book to hit the deadline, but there are recognizable instances where you can tell the pencils were rushed. While Darkseid does look suitably menacing and Aquaman and Wonder Woman's assault is particularly kinetic and brutal, certain scenes lack clarity or are presented in a way that undercuts their impact, most noticeably Superman facing off with Darkseid, and Cyborg's big moment. I'm a big fan of Jim Lee, I think the scope of this book demands an artist of his caliber, but the reality is that the book would be better served if he switched off story arcs with another artist.

This book is off to a bit of a shaky start, which is unfortunate. However the last couple pages, as well as the backup material, were already a marked improvement over the story that came before. As I have said in previous reviews, Johns strength as a writer comes from having a storied history from which to draw on. I fully believe that once the story moves into the present, he will be much more in his comfort zone.

Grade: C-

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