The Rebirth banner has now come to the Justice League. Honestly, Justice League is not a title that needed the Rebirth refresh and branding. Geoff Johns had been delivering easily the best read out of all of DC’s comic books during his run on Justice League. Sadly, Johns has left comics for the world of movies. So, that means Justice League gets a new writer in the form of Bryan Hitch. That is a serious downgrade in the writer position. Johns is easily the best super hero writer at DC comics. And while there is no doubt that Hitch is a great artist the same cannot be said for Hitch as a writer. I have never found Hitch to be much more than a journeyman writer. It is hard to be equally talented at art and writing. Very few people can pull that off. So, it is not an insult to Hitch to say that his writing is far inferior to his artwork. I would much rather see Hitch focus on his art and have a full-time dedicated writer handling the writing chores for Justice League. Replacing Geoff Johns is a herculean task for any writer. But, expecting Hitch to pull that off is simply asking way too much and is not a realistic expectation. At any rate, let’s hit this review for Justice League #1 and see if this title suffers from the loss of Johns.
Words: Bryan Hitch
Pencils: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Wonder Woman racing into battle and narrating how she is Diana. She is an Amazon Princess. The is Wonder Woman. And that some call her a hero. (Jesus. Is it a new law at DC Comics that every single comic book starring Wonder Woman has to have her go through this rote opening monologue?)
Wonder Woman is in an undisclosed location and attacks the Russian army while she narrates that she is on a mission of peace. (Yup. A double page splash shot of Wondy destroying everything definitely looks like “peace” to me.) The Russian army fires back at Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman rants “Every day when you pray for victory over your enemies” (Not sure Russians are known for doing that.) “You pray for death to come and find you.” (Oh, yeah. That sounds like a person on a mission of peace. Absolutely.) Wonder Woman says she is here to show the Russians what war means. (Yeah, I’m pretty sure that Russians already have a very good understanding of what war means.)
Wonder Woman continues to rant “Border disputes” (Okay, that applies to Russia.) “Political differences” (This one might apply to America more than Russia.) “Racial intolerances.” (This really has nothing to do with Russia at all. They have not engaged in war for these reasons.) “Religious extremism.” (Yeah, again, not really applicable to Russia and the reasons that they start military conflicts.)
Wonder Woman says that “Peace is about understanding compromise and I have given you every opportunity to be fair.” (Um, yeah, Wondy says this line while throwing a tank at some Russian soldiers. Very peaceful. And while Wondy says that it is all about understanding compromise one could easily view this scene as Wonder Woman being a symbol of American imperialism seeking to enforce the American view of society upon a foreign people on foreign soil. So, yeah…there’s that.)
Suddenly, a massive earthquake hits and the entire city is swallowed up and the Russian army is destroyed. A sole Russian survivor says that Wonder Woman has killed them all. (Well, not all of you. You are still alive!) Wonder Woman says that she was not the cause of this earthquake.
We cut to a news report stating that the entire globe has been hit with massive earthquakes. And that coastal cities are now preparing for numerous tsunamis. The news report says that scientists have no idea what is the cause of these natural disasters. The report continues that the Justice League is racing around the globe trying to help out as much as they can. (And the rest of the hundreds of heroes in the DCU? What about them? Massive natural disasters across the globe of apocalyptic proportions are occurring and the rest of the heroes are all like “Fuck this. The Justice League can handle this one. I’m gonna stay home and binge watch some Netflix.”)
We cut to Beijing where Jessica and Baz (LUCHA! LUCHA!) are saving the city from an earthquake by creating support structures for all of the buildings.
We zip over to New York. Cyborg is in the subway rescuing people. Cyborg then calls upon his old football skills of when he would run through linebackers in order to run toward a runaway subway train and stop it before it ran into a crowd of people. (It would have been cooler if Hitch had Cyborg yell “Omaha!” and then break out of his three-point stance and tackle the runaway train.)
We hop over to San Francisco where the Flash is busy rescuing people from some fallen people. After doing his job, the Flash races off to help other areas in need.
We shift to Atlantis. Aquaman uses his strength to hold up the foundation of a building allowing people to escape. Once the people escape, Aquaman lets go and the building collapses. Aquaman is informed that the whole oceanic crust as moved and is tearing everything apart. The Atlantean guard says that the shifting is going to cause massive tidal waves on the surface. Aquaman says that he hopes his friends are taking care of it. (Translation: Fuck those surface people. I got more important shit under the water to take care of.)
We cut to Hong Kong where a massive tsunami is headed to the city. Jessica gives Baz the idea to create a false shore for the wave to break on in order to divert its momentum and keep it from hitting the city. Baz quickly makes a shore and the tsunami is diverted. Jessica says that she wishes she could make constructs herself. (What? A Green Lantern who cannot make constructs. Talk about useless. Good thing Hitch writes Baz to be an idiot who needs Jessica to come up with ideas for him otherwise Jessica would be about as useful as a third nipple.)
Suddenly, the people in Hong Kong all chant “Green light. Stolen light. Our light.” All of the people’s eyes glow red. Baz and Jessica’s power rings suddenly lose power and they both plummet towards the ocean.
We hop over to Wonder Woman. We see the dead Russian soldiers turn into zombies with their eyes glowing red. The zombie Russians says “Stolen power.” “Our power.” “Guardian. Keeper. Watcher. Your time is over. We are coming back. We, the Kindred.”
We zip to San Diego where Flash is running around rescuing people. Suddenly, people start chanting “Stolen speed. Out speed.” Suddenly, the Flash loses his speed powers.
We shift to New York where Cyborg has lost contact with Jessica, Baz and Flash. Cyborg contacts Batman. Batman answers that he is in Gotham and headed to some alien craft. Batman says that the earthquakes have been minimal in Gotham. (Of course they have been! Even natural disasters are scared shitless by the god damn Batman!)
Cyborg says that he is getting reports that Superman is appearing everywhere and performing miracles. Cyborg says that he admits he totally has a man crush on Superman. That Superman is in Metropolis, Chicago, Boston and Washington, DC. Cyborg asks Batman if he should call in Superman. Batman says, “No.” Batman says that Superman seems to be helping.
Batman arrives at the scene of the crashes alien ship. Batman says that whatever is causing all of these disasters cannot be natural and that they have to figure this out. Batman says he will contact Cyborg later.
Batman gets out of the Batmobile and approaches the alien craft. Suddenly, alien bug-like creatures come out of the vessel and attack all of the bystanders. Batman contacts Cyborg and asks him to alert the authorities and that they need to quarantine this area of Gotham.
We slide over to Aquaman who si telling his soldiers to take the citizens over to the old quarter of the city since it is more stable. Suddenly, the Atlanteans’ eyes glow red. They begin saying, “Stolen words. The words started here. The words that make the world. Our words. Our worlds. Where are they? Where are our words? Give us back our words.”
Suddenly, the possessed Atlantean attack Aquaman. At this point, Atlantis then crumbles into the ground.
We hop back to Eastern Europe. (Oh, how nice! With just two pages left in the issue Hitch finally tells us where Wonder Woman is located. Excellent writing form.) Wonder Woman is battling the Russian zombies. The Russian zombies say that “The awakening is starting. Here and everywhere. It is time to prepare. The Kindred are coming.” The Russian zombies call Wonder Woman a “Pretender god.” The Russian zombies say that Wonder Woman has no knowledge of the Kindred and who she really is.
Wonder Woman replies that she is “Diana. Wonder Woman. An Amazon.” (Yup. Got that already.) Wonder Woman defeats the Russian zombies. Wonder Woman then says, “The Kindred? Well, hear me now, Kindred…I have friends. And we are coming for you. (That line was delivered just like what you would expect from a 1980’s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie!) End of issue.
The Good: Justice League #1 was a solid and straightforward super hero comic. The strength of Justice League #1? Action. That is the word best used to describe this issue. Justice League #1 has its fair share of faults, but being boring is definitely not one of them. Hitch comes out of the gate with his foot on the accelerator as he cranks this story up with an issue that is crammed full of action from cover to cover. Justice League #1 is much like a summer blockbuster movie. The reader gets treated to a story that is grand in scope and delivers non-stop action.
Hitch does not waste anytime at all getting his opening story arc off and running. This no-nonsense and quick start is definitely an approach more writers should take with their debut issues. The plotting is nothing special and is actually quite basic. But, Hitch does all the necessary tasks that a debut issue of a new title must deliver. Hitch rapidly introduces the entire roster of heroes on this title, the initial threat in the form of the natural disasters and then the big bad villains for the opening story arc in the form of the Kindred. From a pacing standpoint there is not much else a reader could want from a writer. And from a basic plotting standpoint, the reader is satisfied that we have all the various chess pieces in place and the main conflict off and running.
Hitch also succeeds in giving Justice League #1 a clear identity. Hitch presents to the reader a good sense of the direction and purpose for this new title. It is important that all of this be conveyed to the reader with the debut issue. That way the reader knows exactly what they can expect from the title. It also helps to sell the reader on the title and to encourage them to come back for more. Hitch makes is obvious that this Justice League title is going to have an emphasis on classic super hero action and adventure. That the stories are going to center on epic cosmic tales on a large-scale. Basically, Hitch lets the reader know that Justice League is going to be the summer blockbuster styled comic book in DC’s arsenal of super hero titles.
Hitch does a good job setting the stage for this initial story arc. The massive scale of this story is effectively conveyed to the reader. Hitch does a good job putting our heroes in a seemingly no-win crisis situations. And then Hitch ends the issue with a quality hook ending with the appearance of the mysterious Kindred and our heroes all in tough situations. This is wisely balanced by a badass line from Wonder Woman delivered in all of its 1980’s action movie glory that signals to the reader that our heroes may be down but they are definitely not out.
For the most part, Hitch succeeds in his endeavors and goals for Justice League #1. This is a fun read. It is an exciting read that offers the reader some quality escapism from the rear world. The story is straightforward and should appeal to a wide cross-section of readers. The average comic book reader should enjoy the summer blockbuster style approach and want to come back for me. All in all, despite the weakness, Hitch did enough to hook most readers into coming back for the next issue.
Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea combine to deliver some solid artwork. This is not the best effort that I have seen from Daniel and Florea. But, it is quality work that gets the job done. Daniel has a nice style of art that works well with Hitch’s classic super hero adventure story. Daniel definitely does a good job conveying the massive scale to Hitch’s story.
The Bad: While Justice League #1 does present the positives that are found in a Hollywood blockbuster movie it also presents the same weaknesses. The main weakness is that Justice League #1 lacks any depth to the story. This is a shallow issue. There is not much complexity or substance at all to Justice League #1. What you see is what you get with Hitch’s story. Everything is right on the surface. This story is going to be mainly popcorn for the brain. Readers who demand complex and intricate plot-lines and impressive character work and dialogue will not be that impressed with Justice League #1.
Justice League #1 does move at a fast pace and is plotted in a clear linear fashion as it swiftly installs the opening plot-line. However, the plotting is extraordinarily basic. This issue has a “paint-by-numbers” feel to the construction and delivery of the story. Hitch also distracts the reader with plenty of action and destruction in order to mask the fact that there is little actual plot progression in this issue.
Hitch employs a basic 3 act structure with Justice League #1. Each act is nearly identical in size to each other. The first act consists of seven pages consist of Wonder Woman battling the Russians are mostly fluff. These seven pages do nothing to advance any plot-lines. The second act consists of eight pages which show the reader the various Justice Leaguers around the globe dealing with natural disasters. These eight pages also have plenty of fluff and do little plot advancement other than setting the stage for the Kindred’s attack and arrival. The third act consists of nine pages that center on the arrival of the Kindred and various Justice Leaguers falling to the mysterious villainous force. All in all, there is not much in the way of plot complexity or progression.
The conflict presented by the Kindred feels generic. This type of mysterious “alien” attack from another world or dimension is a classic super hero trope. The problem is that such a common and unoriginal approach for the opening story arc on a debut issue of a new title makes readers feel like there is no special reason to come back for more. A new title needs to establish why it is different from the other super hero titles on the market. A new title needs to have its own special approach or identity in order to give the reader a reason to add the new title to their pull list. Hitch’s well-worn conflict and villain does not fill the reader with the confidence that Hitch has much original or interesting in store for us.
Hitch chooses to keep the Kindred shrouded in mystery. We do know that the Kindred were Windstorm characters back in the mid 1990’s. The original Kindred were mutated animals. It remains to be seen if Hitch has something completely different in store for us with this version of the Kindred. Either way, I have never had much interest in Windstorm and have never been a fan of mixing Windstorm characters into the DCU. So, the Kindred are villains that are not going to appeal to me all that much.
Setting aside my lack of interest in Wildstorm, Hitch does nothing with the Kindred to spark the reader’s imagination and interest. The Kindred come across as a rather undefined and generic threat. Hopefully, once the Kindred are officially introduced Hitch can fully flesh them out and make them into compelling villains. At this point, Hitch has not done much to get the reader that excited about the Kindred.
Hitch’s character work continues to be unimpressive. The characters are bland at best. None of the characters exhibit much personality. There is very little in the way of chemistry between any of the characters. The characters are more like props in an action movie designed to move the story along rather than to add complexity to the story.
The average character work is not helped out any by Hitch’s pedestrian dialogue. None of the characters have a particularly compelling or interesting external voice. The dialogue vacillates between generic at times to cheesy at other moments. The worst is Wonder Woman’s dialogue. I get that Hitch is trying to put Wonder Woman over as a badass warrior. But, the dialogue is too heavy-handed and her viewpoint is overly simple. It gets to the point where Wonder Woman’s dialogue becomes unintentionally funny.
Hitch also fails to make the newer characters in Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz new reader friendly. I know nothing about the two characters. It would have been nice to know why these two Green Lanterns are operating as a team. It would also be nice to know why Jessica cannot make constructs.
Hitch fails to make either character interesting. The problem is the generic character work. A writer can write Batman, Superman, Aquaman or Wonder Woman in a generic fashion. But, because the characters are so well-known to readers, the readers can fill in the blanks and add texture to the characters based on our own history with the characters. However, writing new characters, like Baz and Cruz, in a generic fashion is death to those characters. New characters that come across as generic are immediately written off by the reader. That is the case with both Cruz and Baz.
Even worse, the limited character work for Cruz and Baz does nothing to get either character over with the reader. Hitch makes Cruz come across as relatively ineffectual in a crisis situation. Hitch’s handling of Baz is even worse. Baz comes across as a moron who needs Cruz to do all of his thinking for him. Neither new character was presented in a fashion that piqued my interest at all.
Overall: Justice League #1 does provide that fun summer blockbuster vibe. Yes, this issue does have numerous weaknesses. However, it does a good job at delivering straight up classic super hero action and adventure. Better than many of the comic books that are currently masquerading as super hero comics. And, you get the further bonus of the cover price only being $2.99. Yeah, that is still not a cheap price tag. But in a market where comics are routinely being placed at the $5.00 mark having to only pay $2.99 for the price of admission is quite enjoyable.