The New 52 Collections Review – Justice League and Batman

The New 52 Collections Review – Justice League and Batman

5 By Michael Uy

Sometime ago, a little over a year, I had a very healthy comic book pull at my local comic book store. Every Wednesday was spectacular as my box was filled automagically with titles from DC Comics. Any and all Batman book were placed in there as well as any book remotely associated with Batman. Green Lantern, Teen Titans, and a smattering of other runs would also show up. Monetarily, it was as bad as a drug habit. One couldn’t skip a week of emptying out the comic book reserve box without being overwhelmed by the next week by the sheer amount of reading that needs to be done. It was bad. Glorious, but bad…and good.


And then, Flashpoint happened. My world ended. What do you mean you’re changing my drug?! I was furious. I was sad. I felt betrayed. I stopped buying single-issue comic books entirely. How was I supposed to trust the comic book industry? My beloved stories, the unchanging soap operas, have been reset. In my mind, this was done all in the name of acquiring new readers. Great. Good for them. But where were they all these years? They don’t want to start reading comics because of the intimidating backlog of back issues? Boo hoo. Cry me a river.


Stupid Flash.

In hindsight, this was a good thing. Stopping the pull put more money into my disposable income wallet. This allowed me to do things like go on dates, buy food, or take a vacation maybe. I’d still purchase the occasional trade, but it was never like before. No longer do I have to wonder about how Bruce Wayne and his extended family are doing, or how Hal Jordan is holding up. Superman’s probably doing okay. It isn’t to say that I don’t miss these stories, but I cannot bring myself to re-invest in the DC Universe reset. More specifically, I cannot invest in single-issue comic books anymore. I was, however, curious as to how these new stories went. I greatly anticipated the collections The New 52 books were eventually going to be released as.In the first two weeks of May, we saw the release of Justice League Volume 1: Origin, which consisted of Justice League issues 1-6, and Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls, which takes place in issues of Batman 1-7.
Justice League: Origin Vol. 1Written by Geoff Johns of Green Lantern fame with the artwork done by the legendary Jim Lee, this book was the first of The New 52 collections to hit the shelves. The cover art is gorgeous, as can be expected from an artist of Mr Lee’s talents. That, along with the handsome raised black hardcover, makes this an aesthetically worthy addition to anyone’s graphic novel hardcover bookshelf. Go ahead. Remove the dust cover for a bit and run your fingers over the book’s hardcover. Right? My heart skips a beat in anticipation of what I’m about to read. At this point, nobody would think any less of you for judging a book by its cover.
Jim’s artwork has always compelled me to purchase anything he’s involved with. A quick glance through the pages promised that this was going to be full of eye candy. To me, this is what comic books need to look like to be all-consumingly appealing. Jim Lee has the formula down for opening my wallet and this time around was no different. If I hadn’t been waiting for this to come out and I didn’t know of its existence, this would’ve been an impulse buy with no remorse.The disappointment happened when the reading started. For the last two or so years, Geoff Johns has delivered nothing but let-downs. I wonder why they allow him to keep writing these stories. One can write a dissertation based on the heartbreaking body of his work. You can add this one to the list.The storyline in this collection is absurdly unoriginal. I get it: the writer is trying to pull in and appeal to new readers. These panels were more than likely chosen because they are classic exchanges between the world’s greatest superheroes. However, it is of my opinion that when you do that, you have to allow for something new as well. Give the readers who have seen in countless retellings Batman steal Green Lantern’s ring something else. Be unafraid, Geoff Johns. DC Comics has given you the reigns to write some of the potentially most memorable stories to add to the canon of the DC Universe. So far, you haven’t delivered. The story and characterization utilized in this book are uninspired, regurgitated, and sadly unsurprising because of the past work the author has produced.


That said, let’s get back to gushing about Jim Lee’s beautiful and squandered art…


Batman: The Court of Owls Vol. 1


This collection was released a week after the Justice League hardcover edition. The story is done by Scott Snyder and pencils by Greg Capullo. Snyder has written Batman stories before and Capullo did the artwork for a few Image Comics titles in the past. Both of them combine to create this delightfully true-to-form Batman story.


The book’s hardcover is encased in the same binding as the Justice League book, with the Dark Knight’s emblem sunken into the front cover. The dust jacket sports a great drawing of our hero fighting some crooks. Good enough for desktop wallpaper. I am a big fan of the look and feel of hardcover books and this is a good indication that The New 52 series of hardcovers will create a handsome row on my bookshelf if I’m ever inclined to own the entire collection.


This is a story that could belong in the Batman storyline before the reboot happened and the fact that it is the story that kicks off this new DC Universe for the Bat-family makes for a promising line of Batman and Batman-related title runs. It starts as any Batman story would: a mystery to be solved, a detective story to be told. Snyder captures the grit of the character and of Gotham City early on. It centers strongly around the Wayne family, Gotham City, the Batman, and his charges’ relation to it all. The plot takes the reader through enough twists and turns, and when you’re finally ready to turn the last page, you’re left wishing the second volume was already out. And then you read it again. Snyder pays his true respects to this most iconic of superheroes while leaving his own mark on the character. Not just to Batman and Bruce Wayne, but to the city and characters to which the Dark Knight’s legend owes his existence.


As for the art, it was a pleasure to flip through these pages and linger on the panels to truly appreciate the various elements of the drawings. It really is highly recommended to read this a second or maybe a third time as I’ve found there were things I missed the first time around. Study the panels, as I did. The level of detail is astounding and it really coincides nicely with the storytelling. The combination of Capullo’s pencils and Jonathan Glapion’s inks made the rendering of this book feel like I was watching a movie. Very nicely done, and again, truly a delight.


To summarize, both of these books are worth the cover price both for avid collectors and casual comic book readers. Even with the lack of good storytelling from the Justice League book, they were both a pleasure to hold in one’s hand and turn the pages. There’s certainly no buyer’s remorse here. I would even read both books again and again just to take in the mesmerizing artwork. While Justice League wouldn’t entice me to schedule another reserve box at the store, Batman actually might, though possibly not because I enjoy going on dates and eating and maybe going on vacations. Priorities….