Review: Justice League of America Volume 1 – World’s Most Dangerous / Author: Geoff Johns / Artist: David Finch / Publisher: DC / Release Date: November 16th
In the past, the Justice League of America has been a superhero team book that usually contained some of DC’s A-List superheroes: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and The Flash. Since the DC52 reboot however, this team of headliners has simply been called the Justice League, with the JLA being a team of second0stringers sponsored by the American government. (Specifically, an organisation called ARGUS. Presumably SHIELD was already taken).
Justice League of America: World’s Most Dangerous is the origin story of this team of also-rans, with Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow and Catwoman thrown in to give the reader at least a handful of recognisable characters. The premise is problematic from the start; the early scenes involve a discussion as to who will be on the team, and they are directly compared to the more interesting heroes who happen to be in a different book. Though this is meant to make the reader compare Catwoman to Batman or Vibe to The Flash, what it actually does is make us wish we were reading another book. The focus is mostly on the characters we recognise, which is a bit of a shame; in a book that seems designed to bring the less well-known heroes further forward, it seems that no effort is made to make them interesting.
The story is also hampered by the needs of the comic book industry. The first half plods along nicely, the team starts getting together, they discover a secret society of villains that need hunting down and the internal conflict starts building up. Then suddenly we’re plunged into a huge showdown fight with the Justice League with no explanation or build up. This is because the actual backstory has happened in another book. Another B-team, this time the poorly titled Justice League Dark, also turn up to confuse matters further.
In effect, this means the reader is left with half a book. It is to the credit of writer Geoff Johns that the second half is at least coherent and consistent, but the fact that half the story is in another book utterly breaks the slight amount of narrative tension the earlier chapters managed to produce. Justice League of America: World’s Most Dangerous feels very much like a footnote in the history of JLA-themed books; it lacks the attention-grabbing power of Grant Morrison’s run or the character-driven slapstick fun of the Giffen/DeMatteis era, instead being a by-the-numbers exercise that shortchanges the characters and the reader.