Justice League: No Justice #1
By Scott Snyder, Joshua Williamson, James Tynion IV, Francis Manapul & Hi-Fi
Spinning out of DC’s blockbuster Dark Nights: Metal event, No Justice continues honoring tradition, but going in new, fresh directions. In part, those sentiments are fulfilled in this comic, but there are without a doubt issues with the material. In this first issue, of a four-part story, the Justice League face off against a classic foe, Brainiac. Yet, Brainiac has other intentions that don’t exactly involve taking control of Earth. He seeks to save his homeworld from an impending cosmic threat on massive scale that is a direct consequence of the events in Metal.
The trio of writers, Scott Snyder, Joshua Williamson and James Tynion IV, seem to have become DC Comics’ current braintrust for their flagship titles and events, which has produced mixed results. They try to brand the narrative as fresh, but it feels extremely derivative, at least in terms of the primary antagonists. It seems people still think that to up the stakes in a League storyline, it has to be a cosmic level threat or nothing can really be a worthy conflict for the all-star ensemble. The creative team tries to drive home this new threat as the most dangerous, unlike any the characters or readers have seen, but, in truth, adversaries like this have been seen before. Frankly, it’s a bit of a let-down. There’s a ceiling narratively-speaking and these writers are about to hit it if these new characters are as powerful as they’re made out to be. Storylines will feel cheap or anti-climactic if this continues down this path.
They seem to be attempting to emulate Grant Morrison, but that a fool’s errand because no one can write or execute like Morrison, except himself. It just starts to come off as a hollow imitation. Yet, the writers were able to effectively tap into a bit of nostalgia, which will make readers comfortable with the story and its direction. Although, due to the “fate” of a particular character, the cliffhanger is a letdown and fails to raise the stakes of the circumstances. If it had been someone else, then perhaps it could have worked.
What does work is the dialog and interpersonal dynamics that play out in the issue. Brainiac’s role is fascinating and feels spot-on and he’s integral to the plot, so, if he wasn’t written well, the whole would just crumble. The core of this comic hinges on new teams being formed with unlikely allies, which also is an element pulled from Metal, so those conversations feel natural. In comparison to the previous event storyline, this is playing out far better. The dialog in the prologue with the Green Lanterns was a little too purple for this reviewer’s taste, but it was trying to set the tone and magnitude of what was taking place and it was effective from that perspective.
What completely captures the intended spirit of No Justice is the artwork. Francis Manapul and Hi-Fi deliver absolutely stunning work and make every page hum with vibrancy and energy. The highly saturated colors give Manapul’s pencils and inks a pulse and allow the art to pop right off the page and engage the readers. There really hasn’t been a Justice League comic in recent memory that taps into an ethereal vibe like this duo has. Francis Manapul has always had a talent for innovative and captivating page layouts and he is able to elevate the writing and dialog. Each page turn brings a visceral reading experience that readers will instantly become engrossed by. From how characters are depicted having conversations with little gestures, looks, or mannerisms to capturing the epic scope, this story is aiming for, Hi-Fi and Manapul will leave readers in awe.
The writing team balances the new and old fairly well. The new being the team dynamics and the conflict, and the old being familiar characters and plot. Some will absolutely love and embrace this tone and story, but readers should be aware that it isn’t as groundbreaking as marketing is making this series out to be. What really makes this comic worth purchasing is the art team’s work. It’s such an attractive comic from its cover to its last page. Their art delivers not only beauty, but depth.