Since I have never been a big fan of Suicide Squad fan, which he movie did not help turn my opinions on the series around, I decided to skip on all the related “Justice League vs Suicide Squad” material. That included the ongoing Justice League title as it had several tie-in issues during the crossover with the Suicide Squad. Now that Bryan Hitch is back to worrying about his own stories hopefully Justice League can get back on track since this series has yet to find it’s groove. While the series has had its bright spots, overall Justice League has been a very by the numbers team book since the DC Rebirth relaunch. Hopefully now that the crossover with Suicide Squad is over the Justice League can reach the heights it deserves. Let’s see if Justice League #14 can do just that for this series.
Writer and Artist: Bryan Hitch
Inkers: Bryan Hitch and Daniel Henriques
Artist: Alex Sinclair
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Somewhere underground Wonder Woman asks her Justice League teammates if they are okay. Green Lantern Jessica Cruz is the only one to answer as the rest of the team is unconscious while struggling to keep up her shield. Jessica thinks they are beaten but Wonder Woman vehemently disagrees.
Earlier that day a massive space ship appears over Metropolis. As the citizens of Metropolis flood the streets to see what is going on the news is reporting that the Justice League are on the scene to figure out what is going on.
As the Justice League gets close to it the ship opens fire on Earth. The laser beam takes out the Justice League and leaves a massive crater in Metropolis. (Similar to what we saw in the Man of Steel movie.)
Back in the present Cyborg finally regains consciousness and he helps Wonder Woman search for the others while Jessica keeps her shields up so the rubble doesn’t crush them.
They eventually dig everyone out, though Green Lantern Simon Baz is heavily injured.
Cyborg reveals that they are twelve miles under Canada and it will take a few minutes before he can Boom Tube them out of the rubble. In the meantime Cyborg has been able to disrupt the alien’s ship system to buy them some time to figure out how to stop them.
Batman asks Cyborg if he has been able to find anything out about the aliens that attacked them. Cyborg says he discovered that they are a mining colony of hundreds of millions of residents who go system to system destroying every planet and moon to obtain material to survive. He goes on to state the weapon they used was a gravity drill which is why they were able to take Superman and Flash down so quickly when they fired it.
The entire Justice League are left without a clue on how to stop this latest threat, especially as Superman has lost all of his energy following the blast. Batman mentions that they are supposed to be Earth’s first responders in these type of situations and that the military doesn’t have the fire power to deal with this threat, which Cyborg confirms is going on right now.
Jessica asks the others to check on Simon, who is just regaining consciousness. Jessica blames herself for Simon’s injuries but Wonder Woman and Flash remind her that they are all alive because of her power ring.
Simon also starts beating himself up for not being as strong as his predecessors. Superman tells Simon that like Hal, Kyle, John and Guy before them, Simon and Jessica have their own unique strengths that make them valuable to the team as Green Lanterns.
Jessica and Simon still doubt their own powers being suitable for the Justice League. Cyborg shuts both of them up. He then reminds them that Hal trusted them enough to fill his position as the Green Lanterns of the Justice League which is more than enough for the entire team to trust in Jessica and Simon’s abilities.
Aquaman brings up that none of them really belong together right now, bringing up how Batman only wanted the current Superman on the team to monitor him.
Superman is not surprised since Batman once told him to find the truth you have to question everything. Batman says he only told that to his Superman. Superman fires back by saying it must’ve been his Batman that told him that.
Superman goes on to state that when he first teamed up with Batman they didn’t trust each other for a long time. He then reveals that because of that Batman had files on how to beat everyone on the Justice League.
Aquaman and Wonder Woman ask Batman if he has similar files. Batman says he does much to everyone but Superman’s shock. They all wonder why Batman would do that.
Batman runs down how powerful each member of the Justice League are and that no one stands a chance against them if they ever turned to the other side. Flash says that they would never turn evil. Batman then brings up all the villains with mind control powers, dark Gods and magicians who could easily manipulate anyone of them to turn against the Earth. He goes on to say his files allow everyone to be prepared if that ever happens.
Wonder Woman asks Superman if he is okay with what Batman is saying. Superman says when he first learned about the files he was angry but he now finds it reassuring that there is someone who is able to stop him if the need arises.
Wonder Woman and Aquaman question Batman on the security of his files. Batman assures the team that his files are secure. Aquaman still questions if Batman should have the files. Batman responds by saying that by being the only one with access to the files he can make sure the plans stay viable enough if something ever happens.
Superman then question Batman about who everyone trust now. This leaves the team silent for a moment.
Flash asks Superman what his Justice League was like. Superman says they both have differences and similarities. He goes on to state he has seen all of the amazing thing the Justice League has done and that they are all outsiders in some way but one thing that doesn’t change is how they look out for each other.
Wonder Woman states that this is no time for them to be divided as they will only win by fighting together. Superman states that no matter what they think of him, he is there to help and will do anything in his power to protect those Earth and those he loves. Batman agrees and says they’ll continue fighting until their last breaths.
Reporters state that the military have been unable to damage the alien ship while everyone wonders where the Justice League is.
Back in the debris, Batman brings up the Death Star trench run from Star Wars, much to Flash’s shock from Batman’s show of geekness, as the basis for their counter attack. Batman explains that they will launch a coordinated attack with their heavy hitters taking out the big weapons, Flash providing a distraction and the others can teleport inside to take command of their systems.
Batman asks Superman how he is feeling. Superman states he is still in terrible shape. Batman says they will cover him while he absorbs sunlight. Superman he can also use the world-breaking sphere to help.
Simon checks on Jessica and they both agree to back each other up.
With the Justice League ready they return to the surface and successfully take down the alien ship together as a team. End of issue.
The Good: The intentions of Justice League #14 are clear as a team-building issue that suffers from being badly timed. At this point in the team’s life span this is the type of issue that Bryan Hitch should’ve followed his first arc with. The framing of developing the teams trust in one another and the two newbie Green Lanterns confidence also fails as there were plenty of other ways this could have been accomplished without trying to destroy Earth.
Justice League #14 does a good job bringing to light the files Batman has on the Justice League. This is something that Geoff Johns briefly touched on during his run but now Bryan Hitch is fully exploring with the entire team. Bringing to light these files for the first time in this DC Universe helps the team have an argument that does not descend into them fighting one another. Instead, Hitch is able to treat each member of the team as adults with Batman providing a clear reason why he created the files and why only he can see them.
Justice League #14 also provided Cyborg with possibly his best scene since DC Rebirth began with his speech to remind Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz why they are on the team. This speech helps reaffirm his own place on his team and how while some may have questioned his inclusion in the founding of the team Cyborg has proven that he belongs on the Justice League.
Now while Hitch’s artwork wasn’t at its strongest in this issue he did deliver on how big of scale the alien attack was. It’s in these wide shots of the alien ship that Hitch artwork shines. His interpretation of Batman is also strong and now I only can hope he gets a chance to draw a Batman solo comic book sometime in the future.
The Bad: As much as Justice League is all about large scale stories smaller one-shot style issues focusing on the team dynamic can be beneficial to the overall series. To make this type of issues successful the writers need to be able to find the right setting for more character-centric issues to be told in team titles. Justice League #14 is one of those instances where Bryan Hitch should’ve recognized this as a global disaster was not necessary to make a focus on the team dynamic to work.
If Hitch’s goal was to re-establish the team’s chemistry after Justice League vs. Suicide Squad this was not the way to go about things. Instead of placing the Justice League in yet another global disaster this character-focused story would’ve benefitted by the team having a meeting about everything that happened. This would’ve helped to keep the focus on this part of the story without having to worry about cutaways to a bigger story we will never actually see play out.
Since we actually never see the Justice League’s actual clash with the aliens invading Earth Hitch would’ve made a stronger story if the team just took off at the end of the issue after an alert went off after their team meeting. In structuring the story in this way Hitch would’ve avoided not making the alien threat a cheap reason to be trapped the team together. In doing so he only highlights how the Justice League only ever meet when they have to fight something together rather than actually having a place like the Watchtower or Hall of Justice where they can meet-up.
As I mentioned earlier, another big failure of Justice League #14 is that it is an issue that feels like it is a little late in the series life span. A story like this where Hitch addresses Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz’s feeling of inadequacy would’ve been much more effective after the opening arc of the series. At this point both characters have been in enough adventures with the Justice League that their confidence should be established. So in Hitch waiting this long to directly address this problem makes both Jessica and Simon look weak, especially Simon who has been a Green Lantern for a while now. This again speaks to the timing of this story not aligning with what has been going on, something Hitch needs to figure out if he is pulling double duty on this series.
Another thing Hitch needs to figure out is how to write Aquaman in this series. Far too often Hitch is treating Aquaman as the Hulk of the Justice League. There is a lot more to Aquaman’s character than enjoying a good fight and this lack of depth only hinders any growth the character may go through in this series. It also doesn’t help in the case to show fans only reading Justice League that Aquaman is someone that should have his own solo series since he is given very little depth here.
It is also becoming extremely old to continue to circle back to the current Superman not being the one the Justice League have worked with after the New 52 reboot. We have not only seen Hitch address this in early issue but also highlighted in several comic books, including Superman and Trinity, at this point. We are also going to be going even heavier into this aspect of Superman pretty soon so for Hitch to continue to anchor the character down on this sub-plot is eye rolling. If Hitch wants to make Superman a strong character he needs to start changing his narrative in this series because so many others are addressing this part of the character in greater detail that it is not needed in Justice League anymore.
Justice League #14 is also a great example of why Hitch needs to focus on one role rather than trying to work as the writer, penciller and inker of the series. Not only has the story suffered when he does the three roles but his artwork is not as strong. This can be seen whenever Hitch has to draw more than two Justice League members as his character designs start lacking details. This is particularly bad with Wonder Woman, whose face continued to change throughout the issue. It doesn’t help that Hitch doesn’t ink the entire issue since his inking does not match Daniel Henriques.
Overall: Justice League #14 is a case of bad execution with questionable characterization for multiple characters. The timing of this one-shot issue just does not line up with everything that this current incarnation of the Justice League has been through. Hindering the issue even more is more is the throwaway treatment of the big threat that caused everything in this issue to happen. The dip in quality of artwork only further shows why Bryan Hitch will be better off if he focuses on one role rather than trying to do everything himself.