Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 Review and Recap

Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oclair Albert
Colours by Marcelo Maiolo
Published by DC Comics
Cover price $2.99 USD

Review and Recap is where I give a quick review of a comic, usually less in-depth than my regular reviews, before recapping it and adding some commentary here and there. Obviously spoilers abound in the commentary section. Anyway, here’s my Review and Recap of Justice League of America: Rebirth #1.

The Review:

The name ‘Justice League of America’ hasn’t had much luck in the last few years. Geoff Johns’ series seemed to exist solely to tie-in to his Trinity War and Forever Evil events, and Bryan Hitch’s version was so unremarkable that I’ve heard nobody speak of it outside of maybe one scene and bemoaning its numerous delays. But third time’s the charm, right? Surely Steve Orlando can take a team of B-list, Arrowverse-friendly characters (and Lobo) and finally give the name something worth a damn, right? Apparently, yes. Thanks to a clear mission statement for the team and motives for its cast of interesting characters, Justice League of America is off to a promising start.

The story is fairly straightforward — Batman recruits his Justice League. But Orlando does a good job clearly giving reasons for the characters (well, most of them) to join, while also setting up the various team dynamics. It’s nothing remarkable, but there’s a lot of potential for future stories set up, and the various relationships are interesting and set up well. The team’s mission statement, according to Batman, is to be a team that people can know and be inspired by, as opposed to the gods of the Justice League. It’s a good idea, and would mostly work if it weren’t for the presence of Batman himself, who has a secret identity, a mythic quality to him and is a Leaguer. That aside, the set-up is very well done while maintaining a good pace.

Something that helps the issue is that its characters, none of whom could be considered A-list aside from Batman, are fair game for whatever Orlando wants to do with them. Unlike the cast of Justice League, most of the cast of Justice League of America don’t have any other ongoing comic that their development is reserved for. Steve Orlando is free to develop his characters how he sees fit, so it’s much easier to get emotionally invested in the characters, rather than just the plot. It might be my cynicism, but as it is, it’s far more likely that I’ll be invested in whatever happens to Lobo in this series than Barry Allen and Jessica Cruz dating in Justice League, since I know there’s no Lobo ongoing that’s more important and already has a love interest for him.

Ivan Reis’ art is mostly good, with his usual flair for lighting and expressive faces for the most part. However, it feels a bit rushed, whether that be some more ill-defined faces or just rushed inking from Joe Prado and/or Oclair Albert. While it’s by no means weak — Reis, Prado and Maiolo are still a treat — the art is just not quite up to the standards I have for this art team.

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 is a superhero comic with an interesting cast with interesting relationships and a great art team. While its B-list cast could’ve been a hindrance, Steve Orlando knows how to get readers invested. If this issue and the previous one-shots are any indicator, Justice League of America is shaping up to be the Justice League comic worth reading.

4/5 – Very Good

Join me after the jump for the commentary!

The Commentary:

We open in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, which a lot of you, thanks to Young Justice, probably know as one of the headquarters of the Justice League, and later Young Justice. I kind of love when shows translate superhero history so accurately like that, since it just helps readers if they do decide to start reading comics.

Anyway, Batman and Killer frost are dusting off the old Justice League headquarters — another thing they apparently did during the five year gap in Geoff Johns’ run that we never saw — and Batman tells Frost that she’s what inspired him to start this team and use this base, because she said “everyone deserves a second chance”. Not sure why Batman thinks he needs one, since he was a pretty important part of the victory in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, but hey, at least Orlando isn’t writing him as a grim asshole.

Oh, and this page’s inking is just… off!

1
Wait, what happened when Frost grabbed the Bat-glow stick?

The issue doesn’t say who inked what pages, but given Joe Prado’s extensive history of collaboration with Ivan Reis, until told otherwise, I’m assuming it’s Oclair Albert’s influence. That or maybe Reis and Prado just can’t keep up with the double-shipping. Or a combination of both? Whatever the reason, it’s distracting, and I’m someone who usually loves Reis’ work. I don’t know, it might be the prominence of the softer shadows and less of Prado’s usually thicker inks, but, again, it’s distracting.

Frost asks who else is joining the team, and we cut to her and Black Canary fighting, because obviously Black Canary hits first and asks questions later for… reasons. She even shuts Frost up when she says Black Canary doesn’t know what she’s talking about! Did… no one publicise that Killer Frost kind of helped save the world? Was her release some under the table thing? How was that going to work exactly? Or did Batman just not tell anyone, because he’s an idiot? Or is Black Canary just out of the loop, too busy starring in a mediocre-at-best series (take your pick on which of the other two series she’s in that I’m referring to)?

2
Well, she’s not wrong

Whatever the case, Batman shows up and explains that he’s starting a team of mortals and not gods, and says that he trusts Frost and that’s all Canary needs to know. Yeah… maybe bring up her entire history and why she kills, Bats. Might help.

Batman says he once Black Canary on the team because she works hard, voices her opinions and doesn’t care who disagrees (what, and Batman doesn’t?) and she can keep them honest. Basically she’s to the JLA what Green Arrow was to the DCAU Justice League.

Next up, we’re in Mammoth City, New Jersey, and Lobo just got literally kicked out of a biker skyscraper. When I think bikers, I don’t think of skyscrapers, but hey, I guess everyone’s modernising a bit. We get some nice fourth wall jokes about Lobo being pissed people were saying he was getting stale — no doubt a jab at pretty boy Lobo who also got a bit of a “fuck you” in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps (fuck, that series’ name is long!) — before Black Canary shows up and Lobo wants to tap that. She says Batman’s calling him in, and Lobo says Bats can come talk to Lobo himself. Which I think is fairly reasonable, since Batman is apparently doing fuck all right now. But Black Canary instead insults Lobo and scoffs that he really has any honour like he said he did, and Lobo says she doesn’t know him and says they aren’t that different. I guess because… they both have a biker fetish? Whatever, I’m sure Orlando will come up with something regarding being loud and not giving a fuck, I’m just joking (which is most of what these commentaries are; don’t take them that seriously).

We cut to Ivy University in New England, where Ryan Choi is apparently still getting crap from the dean to find Ray Palmer. Man, how long ago was The Atom: Rebirth? That must be the most empty threat ever by this point, seeing as I’m pretty sure next issue will feature Ryan in his powered armour Atom suit, which couldn’t have been quick to build. Also, I have no clue what Ryan’s doing here:

3
Did he ride the rain? Is he flying? What?

Lobo and Batman are here to recruit the Atom. And Batman really wants the Atom. As in Ray Palmer. Wow, nice Silver Age bias there, Batman! I didn’t realise Geoff Johns was secretly Batman!

But yeah, Batman is looking for Ray Palmer, and when he’s told Ray’s missing, Batman is super dismissive and wants to leave, like a child not getting his action figure. Ryan says he can help, and Lobo likes his random work on a nearby chalkboard that Ryan says he’s using to try and update his shrinking belt. Because a lesser known thing about Lobo is his various degrees; he’s a firm believer in tertiary education, ya bastiches! Or he’s just an alien and knows this stuff (he mentions it’s good work “for a human”), since we do see him building something out of spare parts on this page (it’s kind of cute to see him tinkering, actually). Lobo tells Batman that they should take Ryan, and Batman says he doesn’t want to put Ryan in danger, probably because of the recent death of Tim Drake. Lobo, surprisingly, has the most level-headed response to all of this:

4
And in this moment, Batman began brainstorming codenames for his new adult sidekick.

I actually like this. Lobo may be an abrasive jerk, but he knows that adults can make their own choices, and he sees potential in Ryan. I’m interested in how this relationship works out, what with Ryan’s awkwardness and Lobo’s machismo. I guess he might make Ryan more self-confident, along with Ryan’s roommate, Adam.

Oh, and Lobo says he’s not asking for Bats’ opinion, so despite working for Bats, he’s not his bitch.

Next up is Vanity, Oregon, where we see that some of the locals are dismissive of the Ray because he’s a kid and his powers could be dangerous. What, and all the other superheroes don’t get this? I guess it might just be because Vanity (which I keep typing as Varsity) has a decent amount of assholes. But the teens thing? Yeah… I know about the New 52 Teen Titans. They’re right to be worried there.

Ray’s boyfriend says “they need space”, so basically they’re on a break. And he did this over the phone. In a voice message… Ray, you’re not losing much. What a dick. Oh, and we get a better look at the Ray’s outfit when he’s not radiating black energy, and it looks… yeah.

5
It really, really isn’t.

Where are the freakin’ sides of that thing?! Is it meant to mimic his undercut? What if you get hit on the side of the head? Plus it just looks really awkward. Just… Ray, it’d cost you nothing to remake that helmet — you make it out of light energy. Just fix it, and nobody will say a word. It’s not a matter of pride, it’s a matter of not looking like a dumbass.

Anyway, Ryan pops out of Ray’s phone… somehow! I get that Ray Palmer did this a few times by travelling across landlines or something, but this is a mobile phone! How did Ryan even do this? Like, he very clearly jumped out of Ray’s phone. Y’know what, whatever. Ray quickly puts his full costume back on then tells Ryan his full name. Because why not? I guess Ryan said he was a superhero, but you don’t know if he’s telling the truth!

Ryan tells Ray that Batman’s offering him membership in the League, and Ray questions as to why, since he’s new to this. Ryan says that’s exactly why: Batman wants a team of people. Ray says he’s never been part of anything, which is probably why he joins — the guy, outside of his now “on a break” boyfriend and the mayor who he doesn’t seem to see often, has zero friends or colleagues.

Next up is Vix–oh my god. It’s Roxy Rocket! Y’know, that daredevil chick who rides a giant rocket around? I think she debuted in the DCAU, but I’ve always liked the idea of her.  Just a fun, mostly harmless villain with a gimmick. I hope she and Kite Man start dating or something one day! Pulling off stupid, improbable, probably-not-worth-it heists!

rocketkite
My new OTP.

Ahem, so Vixen stops Roxy Rocket and is asked by reporters, in a condescending manner, if she’s still “trying” this superhero thing. Which would be especially insulting if Justice League International was still canon. Mari somehow knows to smell out for Batman and says she didn’t know he came out during the day, as if he were just starting out or something. Batman says he’s asking, again, for her to join the Justice League. She says she can’t because she’s got too much stuff to do and it’ll fall apart if she joins. Batman says the team needs someone hard-working, who won’t stop no matter what, and that their’s no team without Mari… so he’s lying. Because he recruited everyone else first, and probably wasn’t gonna send them home if Vixen of all people said no. And it’s not like he’s exactly known for being a chill guy.

But apparently flattery will get you everywhere, because Vixen says it’s about time Bruce asked the right way and they’re off! Apparently Bruce has teleport tokens, somehow — I’m assuming Cyborg? Wait… does the main JL even know about this team? The teleporter tokens kind of look like JLA-branded dental floss too.

6
There’s no evil greater than plaque!

I wasn’t sure if I was spelling plaque right or using it correctly, so I Googled it and had to resort to ‘dental plaque’… don’t Google that. Seriously.

Oh, and cute purple gloves, Bruce.

I’m a bit iffy on the teleporters, since it kinda makes stuff a bit too easy. I like the idea of superteams having jets. But this feels like a very Warren Ellis-y idea, and Steve Orlando, to me anyway, is basically Warren Ellis but with more focus on characterisation. So I guess he’ll make it work.

Vixen is teleported into the base — which I think is called the Sanctuary — and meets the team, and we get some more of the dynamics. Lobo doesn’t have a high opinion of the team’s line-up, Ryan is the chill one who doesn’t wanna fight with Lobo (probably because Lobo’s the reason he even made it onto the team), Lobo knows about Frost’s hunger, Frost is hiding her hunger (because Batman did nothing to help her with that, the asshole) and is eyeing the Ray, and Lobo treats the ray like a kid. I forgot his age, if I’m being honest, so he might actually be a kid; it’d be weird if Lobo was treating him like one after what he did for Ryan, but maybe he just liked Ryan more. Oh, and we get it cemented that Lobo isn’t afraid to disobey Batman, since Black Canary brings it up and we also get this awesome scene:

7
I kind of love Lobo so far.

Batman says everyone should shut up about Frost, because she redefined herself and saved the world and the Justice League. He says the Sanctuary will be open to everyone, because the world needs heroes they can know, not gods, who can show them how to be heroes too. He says heroism is a community, and it starts with the Justice League of America… then I guess they’ll get to the rest of the world and rename themselves the Justice League International? Oh, and a big splash page that really seems like it could’ve been a cover.

And finally we get one of those “things to come” pages that tease some future storylines:

8
I kind of love these kind of pages. Especially when they actually payoff in the end.

And that’s Justice League of America: Rebirth #1! Despite my snark, I really did enjoy this issue. The characters are established well, their reasons for joining make sense, and the team’s purpose is a good one. The conflicting personalities will be fun to see, but so far don’t seem forced for the sake of conflict. The line-up, despite obvious ties to the Arrowverse, has real potential. It’s already off to a stronger start than Bryan Hitch’s Justice League, and I really look forward to the next (well, first) issue, which I will be recapping once it releases next week.

 

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