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This review is from: Justice League - Origins (Vol. 1) (Hardcover)
How would you reboot the entire DC Universe? Where would you start? Perhaps with a lone character gently guiding us into a new and different world. Alternatively you can cram all your best known heroes into one book and get them to have a massive alien punch-up.
This premise doesn't sound particularly sophisticated but it sure works. Although there is a lot to setup and explain exposition happens naturally against the backdrop of unfolding action. Super-beings are just emerging into the world and have not yet become super-heroes. They are mistrusted by the public and each other.
Characters are introduced slowly. Only when the latest hero is fully fleshed out and you have a grip on their unique personality will another member arrive - often at an unexpected moment. Some know each other and some know of each other but their awkward meetings make the perfect vehicle for us to latch onto and learn (or re-learn) who they are. This is a reboot and even though you are probably familiar with at least some of these people they do have a fresh new feel to them, a little edgier and stranger than you are used to.
Comedy is an important part of superhero comics but it can easily become forced. The humour here is abundant and sophisticated. From Hal Jordan's rash bravado through Batman's dour stoicism to Wonder Woman's naïve curiosity, everything feels appropriate and respectful.
The title is `Origin' and we get to see how the League comes together. We also get some information on the member's back-stories. We see the cyborg transformed before our eyes, hear Bruce Wayne (not Batman) relate the death of his parents and have Aquaman assert his noble lineage. Other members are more subtle with no mention of Clark Kent or the idyllic farm he grew up on.
The art is traditional pencils and ink that captures the dramatic poses and bold colours from the golden age of comics. But there is a digital touch so you see some great motion blur, lightning strikes and wonderful graduated colour. The Green Lantern effects are particularly striking. It can feel a little rushed and sketchy in places but there are some fantastic single and double page vistas that really bring a grand scale to the piece.
There aren't any weighty issues or signs of rampant flag waving on display. The plot is embarrassingly simple, but deliberately, so as not to trip up the characterisation or introduction. It is just one straight timeline from A to B. This lack of narrative trickery keeps the overall feel pure. It is the kind of spectacle and excitement that you experienced when you first started reading comics and is the perfect tone for a reboot.
The hardcover edition has a sturdy matt black cover under the dust jacket with plain embossing on the front and spine. There is the original concept art for many of the characters with extensive notation and all the covers, both variant and reprints, as well as various stages of the cover creation. Each of the issue covers also features the original pencil sketch too. There is a Star Laboratories employee dossier, an interview transcript with Captain Steve Trevor, and an introduction to a book titled The Secret History of Atlantis. All of this extra material sheds a little more light onto the JLA universe.
There is also an epilogue concerning a bunch of unknown people that will presumably set up future storylines. It feels both unnecessary and inappropriate after the grand finale finish. It really detracts from the smooth flow of an otherwise perfect book.