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Justice League International Vol.1: The Signal Masters (The New 52) Review

5 min read

The world has so many threats that even the United Nations needs its own PR oriented team.

What They Say:
As a part of the acclaimed DC Comics—The New 52 event of September 2011, the United Nations brings together Batman, Booster Gold, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, August General in Iron, Fire, Ice, Vixen and Rocket Red–a new group called Justice League International!

With the growing presence of super beings around the world, the JLI are charged with promoting unity and trust–but if they’re going to discover the mystery behind the giant alien Signalmen who are appearing all over the globe can they reach that goal without killing each other first?

The Review:
Team books have always been a double edged sword, particularly those that utilize characters that appear in their own books as there’s rarely and real synergy between them for a wide variety of reasons. I was never a fan of the Justice League books in general, though I’ve enjoyed some stories here and there over the years. The only time I actively looked forward to them was during the whole Giffen style run where it had a lot of humor that eventually made its way into it, which also bled into the Justice League International book. While I picked up a lot of first issues from the New 52, I didn’t check out the singles for this and in reading the first six issues here, I feel fairly justified in skipping it. But that’s not to condemn the series but rather to say that it’s something I’ll enjoy in trade form like this, where for a decent price I can sit down and read an arc and treat it as fairly self contained.

While the main Justice League book did the whole five years prior gig, JLI kicks off in the present and introduces us to Andre Briggs, a man that works for the UN and is coming up with an initiative with his associate Emerson Esposito in order to restore some confidence in world governments by creating their own version of the Justice League. Just one that would be a bit beholden to the governments, representative of them to varying degrees and completely public in their identities. There aren’t a lot of heroes like that but there are some. As we’ve seen in the New 52 world, there’s plenty of concern among a lot of the general citizenry about heroes in general, and rightly so with the way the world has turned since they started cropping up, and Briggs is hoping to run what’s essentially a PR campaign here with some real results that lets him orchestrate a return to power and confidence to the UN and its member states. There’s some very basic political material here that makes the world subtle feel insulted a bit, but it gets things done.

What Briggs wants to do is to get a decent group together, under the easily controlled Booster Gold, and then take up residence in the Hall of Justice, which the UN has now managed to purchase. Briggs definitely has a plan but it’s not one well thought out as he’s brought together a disparate group of heroes under some mildly false pretenses, such as Booster thinking he’s getting accepted into the “real” League. To make matters worse, they all come together at the same time and the confusion just gets worse, especially when Briggs sends them off on a mission and nobody really has any sense of teamwork for a whole host of reasons. As if that’s not bad enough, Guy Gardner storms off before anything actually comes together and then Batman forces his way into the situation in order to try and direct it. Curiously, he’s very pro-Booster at this stage and is using him for his own purposes and eventually wrangles Guy into it once things settle a bit.

Of course, the first mission happens within minutes of getting together, a simple one to find some missing scientists that are on an expedition, but they’re shipped off so quickly that even Booster comments later that as a leader he didn’t even have time to get some people’s names, never mind their abilities. It’s the obvious kind of forced situation that explodes into a bigger form when there are suddenly multiple massive metal robots that pop up around the world that are hugely powerful, have been buried under the Earth since before man existed, and now is calling out to the stars. The whole event forces them to work together to stop the machines, deal with the sudden impending doom of the world and try to win over public opinion all while not annoying the crap out of each other. Over the span of the first five issues, they cover all of this well and predictably while leading into the sixth issue that deals with the push to keep it all together as a team and make it official.

In Summary:
And that’s both a positive and a negative for the series at this point. Everything here has a by the numbers feel but is well done overall, in a classic sort of superhero sense. This kind of book is one that has a staple of the superhero universe and series writer Dan Jurgens has worked it before and shows that he can still do it. With his work on Booster Gold, it’s good to see him on it again as I know it’s a special character for him, but I still find him as a writer far better suited to Superman stories, at least from my experience. Justice League International hits all the expected points here and does it in self contained for but it doesn’t leap off the page. It’s the kind of book that I had hoped for a bit more out of but didn’t really expect anything outstanding from. The humor is a part of it here, which is definitely a plus, but it’s going to take some time to really find a comfort level and camaraderie that really will make it click. I can definitely see sticking with the book in trade form though to see if it picks up but it’s one that really needs a lot of tightening up to be something more than standard fare.

Grade: B-