JL Bait

Justice League #1 cover © 2011 and elements TM/® DC Comics.
Pencils: Jim Lee. Inks: Scott Williams. Colors: Alex Sinclair. Logo: Unknown.

Justice League #1 came out last Wednesday.

It's the opening salvo in DC Comics' relaunch of its main superhero line, hyped as "The New 52!" You may have heard tell — if only from reading this blog, although there's been coverage in mass media from Entertainment Weekly to USA Today (one hopes, just to continue the trend, even World News Now) — that DC has taken the radical step of more-or-less clearing the decks of the primary so-called DC Universe, rewriting and compressing its history in hopes of making it more accessible while restarting all of its series at #1. Over the next four weeks, 52 extant, revived, and/or flat-out new monthly titles will release their first issues, with further limited-run and ongoing series on the way.

The move is something of a Hail Mary pass on DC's part in reaction to consumers' transition away from what have long been the twin pillars of the American comic-book industry. One of those pillars is the direct market of comics shops, which by necessity and natural growth are now comics / gaming / collectibles shops; I talked a bit about the 1970s establishment of the DM at the preceding link. And the other pillar is the American comic book itself, in the form of a saddle-stitched periodical — a form once also known as "funnybooks" or comic magazines (a more apt descriptor than "comic books"), now often distinguished from actual hardcover and softcover books of comics material (popularly called "graphic novels") by faintly damning if not outright derisive terms like "floppies" and "pamphlets".

You can look to many conflicts as cause for the wane in the industry's reigning paradigm of recent decades: periodicals vs. collected editions (or new material going straight to "bookshelf" release); independent comics shops vs. mass-market stores and online booksellers; of late, paper vs. digital. They all involve debates about cost, accessibility, and to a certain extent presentation — essentially bundled up in the larger tension of finding the most affordable, convenient, artistically satisfying delivery system(s) for the consumer that is still profitable enough to be worth the while of the creator, publisher, and distributor (who especially in the case of digital works may be the creator or publisher, depending on the platform, with app stores or payment-system services supplanting the middleman retailers and distributors of yore). I've written about this at length in my big-picture post on DC's "New 52" initiative, which thanks to various obstacles here kept getting rendered stale before I could publish it, but I hope to have it up at the end of the month with thoughts on how the rollout in September actually seems to have gone.

For the purposes of review, though, as much as the stuff noted above can't be waved away, it's also somewhat beside the point in that DC is continuing to craft American singles [What? Too cheesy?] and indeed doubling down by revamping that old DC Universe yet again, counting on gaining (or regaining) more readers than it loses in the process. Justice League #1 does deserve to be judged on its own merits as a comic book.

My review of the actual issue is forthcoming, as soon as Blogger stops making all the typography go haywire.

Update: Six months later, I started extending the review of the first issue to the entire opening storyline. At this writing I'm just hoping to have something up by the relaunch's first anniversary, which of course I'll publish with the current date since this post ain't getting much traffic anymore.

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