Thanks to the fact that someone at the Chester County Library System is definitely more of a DC guy than a Marvel guy, I’ve been able to read a lot of the collected editions of DC’s New 52 reboot.
So far, it looks like our initial impressions of Justice League were spot-on, unfortunately. It is big, loud and dumb: six issues of superhumans sniping at each other until monsters show up for them to punch, and then there are more explosions, and then the invasion stops and everyone on Earth loves these brightly colored people they’d been perfectly content to see hunted down by the military mere hours earlier.
With that in mind, I want to focus on the most notable thing about the story, which is that (with two notable exceptions), everyone is an asshole to each other:
Green Lantern’s an asshole to Batman because GL thinks he is hot shit (because to Geoff Johns, Hal Jordan’s manifestation of “no fear” is simply “not really understanding the gravity of a situation”) – I swear to god, his catch phrase is, “Green Lantern’s Got This!”
Batman is an asshole to GL because despite having the most powerful weapon in the world on his finger, Hal Jordan is an utter moron whose constant glowing is going to get Batman shot and damned if that doesn’t chap his ass.
Aquaman’s an asshole to everyone because he thinks that as king of Atlantis, he is automatically in charge of any situation he wanders into (which is kind of insane if you think about it, but this is not a comic that wants you to think very hard about anything).
Wonder Woman’s not so much an asshole so much as she is Ridiculously Excited about fighting things (so really, Wonder Woman is the Brave & The Bold Aquaman I was hoping Aquaman would be).
The two exceptions are The Flash (who is not an asshole because that’s his only character trait in the book: the one who’s not trying to get into a pissing contest) and Cyborg (who’s too busy being turned into a half-alien-robot-thing to get in on all the snarking action).
And then there’s Superman. Superman is an asshole because he thinks he’s better than everyone else.
That’s fucking terrifying. Especially since his ass gets punked in the end, which means Superman isn’t just a dick, he’s an overconfident dick.
Let me go down the list of things Superman says and does in this inaugural story:
#1: Throttles Green Lantern unprovoked; smirks to Batman, “So…what can YOU do?”
#2: Chokes Batman for information: “Talk, Batman. Before I won’t LET you.”; after being attacked by Flash, says, “I don’t LIKE being attacked.” Oh, no shit?; Tells Flash, “NO ONE’S like me.”
#3: Rams a dump truck at a Parademon, says, “That’s it. SMILE for me.”
#4: Superman: “We have to shut them down.” Flash: “Shut them DOWN? They’re U.S. Soldiers!” Superman: “They’re MEN who are shooting at US.” Niiiiice.
#5: Is immediately taken down by Darkseid.
#6: Is tortured by Desaad; Is nearly bearhugged to death by Darkseid before a last-minute rescue; when Green Lantern asks Flash, “Can YOU fly into space?” Superman, unbidden, smirks, “I can.”
Seriously. This guy is a tool.
That DC believes this is a valid interpretation of the character – even moreso that the Sad Lonely Alien trope they occasionally fall back on when they don’t know what to do with him – is downright baffling. Superman ONLY WORKS if everyone looks up to him and is comfortable around him. If he uses his powers to defend, not to destroy. And it’s usually a given that he isn’t a smirking asshole about any of it.*
The moment the nigh-invulnerable alien with laser eyes starts looking like the only part of the job he’s really enjoying is beating the shit out of things? That’s not the moment some random in the cheering audience awkwardly shouts, “You’re the world’s greatest superhumans!”
It’s the moment the whole world collectively craps itself.
And yeah, this is “five years ago,” but there’s no evidence in the current issues that this attitude of his has changed. It’s like Geoff Johns is so committed to this Superman being “edgy” and bad-ass that he’s completely lost track of the iconic traits of the character he’s writing.
So there you go. The flagship title of the new DC line: A bunch of assholes yelling and punching in front of explosions.
NEXT UP: The first volumes of Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Arrow, Demon Knights and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
*OK, this interpretation is acceptable if it’s the 1960’s and he’s terrorizing Jimmy Olsen out of boredom, but otherwise, NO.