Spoiler Warning: It should go without saying that there are spoilers in my reviews, so if you want to experience these stories and their surprises for yourself, maybe skip the rest of this article. Long story short: I’ll check out the next issue of Justice League, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be following it!
I’ve been known to follow various Justice League runs over the last twenty years, and I particularly enjoyed the Brad Meltzer/Ed Benes run on Justice League of America volume 2 that kicked off in 2006. I followed it for perhaps 15-20 issues, because I loved the art and the choice of League members that featured in the series. Now I’m returning to the League to see if their newest adventures under the DC Rebirth banner catch my interest in the same way as a series that debuted almost exactly 10 years ago!
In part 1 of “The Extinction Machines”, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and more leap back into action today with Justice League #1, written by Brian Hitch, with Tony S. Daniel on pencils, Sandu Florea on inks, and Tomey Morey on colors.
The artwork is impressive throughout this issue. Daniel and Florea put a lot of detail into every panel, and they effectively showcase events great and small with the same dedication. The sense of movement in many of the panels is impressive, as it gives the story a sense of urgency, keeping the pace high from start to finish. Perhaps my favorite moments are the ones of Atlantis sinking into an undersea chasm. I appreciate the underwater effects that give the destruction a different spin than similar scenes above water.
Similarly, Morey’s colors do a great job of changing for each scene and central character. The panels and pages featuring Cyborg feel different than those featuring the Green Lanterns or Wonder Woman. Beyond the general atmospheric tone that Morey sets, his use of color helps to keep chaotic scenes of destruction clear and easy to follow. Considering the nonstop pace of the issue’s action, between natural disasters and other threats, the combination of Daniel & Florea’s art with Morey’s colors drew me in and kept my rapt attention all the way to the last page.
That’s not to say that the art was without problems. My complaints mostly center on Wonder Woman in the first few pages. First off… a panty shot? Why is this a thing? I already gave my opinions on this in my recent article about Frank Cho’s Wonder Woman variant covers, so I won’t get into it at length here. Suffice it to say, I’m not impressed (also, like in Cho’s variant covers, WW’s skirt can’t seem to decide on a length).
Equally grating on my nerves is the anomalous way that Wonder Woman’s swords hover near her thighs throughout the fight with Russian soldiers. They aren’t sheathed at her hips. They aren’t strapped on in any way. They are literally just inexplicably attached to her legs. On a related note, on page one she has two swords, then on page two she has one sword before miraculously regaining her lost and unnoticed weapon on page four. When we rejoin WW later in the book, she has two swords when she gets accosted by the mysterious zombie entities, but the weapons again vanish shortly after. And she never even uses the things – she must spend a fortune on swords that just get lost during her super-heroics. That’s not even mentioning her famed lariat, which appears out of the blue somewhere around page twenty-two!
Anyway… Overall, I’m a big fan of the art. I think it’s one of the biggest strengths of Justice League’s first issue, in fact.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the writing is as strong. Wonder Woman’s initial tirade to the Russian soldiers in the first few pages borders on nonsensical, for one thing. Worse, in my opinion, is that Hitch seems to have confused the characters’ “voices”, making them too similar to each other. Batman’s remark that an alien critter is “Nasty” seems more like something that Cyborg would say, honestly. And speaking of Cyborg, him recounting a play from his football days when trying to intercept a speeding train was straight up clunky. I’m not asking for over-the-top stereotypes or anything. I just think that, in a comic series featuring an ensemble cast or super-team, I should be able to identify who is speaking purely by reading the dialogue bubbles – meaning that if a scene had zero art (or took place in a pitch-black panel), I should still be able to figure out who is participating in a conversation.
Another, perhaps bigger, complaint is about a matter of scale. Hitch’s arc starts off with a series of global natural disasters described as “extinction level”. This is the kind of emergency that every single hero on DC’s Earth should be responding to, putting their personal interests aside. I recognize that comic books have simultaneous story lines so that their characters can participate in team and solo books, but the whole idea of relaunch events like New 52 and DC Rebirth is supposed to be that they eliminate or minimize continuity confusion, to better draw in new readers and such, and I feel that stories like this just add confusion. Also, featuring “extinction level” events in Justice League that get ignored in other books, especially in issue #1 of a major relaunch, makes me roll my eyes because I know the Earth isn’t going to end – it’s false drama. Even the deaths of countless people will become a small footnote in the series, I’m sure.
Obviously, I could end up eating my words – maybe DC will be tying all their other titles in with these cataclysmic disasters over the next few months. It would be kind of interesting to see a relaunch start with such a world-shattering event and then show each hero’s side of the rebuilding efforts. However, I’m willing to bet that won’t be the case, and things will go back to normal at the end of the story arc.
Still, despite these complaints, the story is compelling. A large part of that, as I mentioned earlier, is the pacing – the visual elements support the frenetic pace that Hitch’s story establishes. Even better is the introduction of the Kindred, who seem capable of reanimating dead bodies and stealing powers from the Flash and the Green Lanterns! They even square off against Wonder Woman, but either they can’t steal her powers or she just didn’t give them the chance – it’s hard to tell, exactly.
And there are other unanswered questions. Are the Kindred responsible for the natural disasters? What is the alien thing that Batman encountered in Gotham? What happened to Aquaman and the rest of the Atlanteans? I for one love divergent storylines within the same series, especially for team-based titles. Having two or three unrelated events occur that somehow tie back to each other down the line is a great storytelling mechanism, and I have a lot of respect for writers who can pull it off.
Even if that’s not the case with Justice League, here’s hoping that Hitch can keep things going at a good pace, while also introducing unique villains, interesting plot hooks, and other tricks that keep me coming back.
Of course, the only way for me to be sure is to check out issue #2 of Justice League. I think the creative team have given me a good reason to follow along for now.
What about you? Will you be picking up Justice League #2? Let me know in the comments!