Bryan Hitch is back and he has taken the helm of one of DC Comics most iconic franchises: Justice League of America. This is a series that Hitch and DC have been teasing for a long time and it is finally here. I have my reservations on how this JLA series will turn out since I’ve never been a big fan of one person handling the writing and art duties for a series, especially from one of the Big Two. That said, I am a big fan of Hitch’s past work and I’m hopeful that he’ll be able to turn out something incredible. Is that the case with Justice League of America #1? Let’s find out.
Writer & Artist: Bryan Hitch
Inkers: Daniel Henriques, Wade Von Grawbadger and Andrew Currie
Colorists: Alex Sinclair and Jerome Cox
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
The Good: The post-Convergence DC Universe is a very different place from when the entire universe was relaunched during New 52. From a creative standpoint DC Comics is entering a time where they are experimenting a lot more with their characters than they ever have. Some of these creative chances have been more successful than others in this first month. And because we are seeing so many creative teams taking chances that I found Bryan Hitch’s JLA #1 an incredible letdown on multiple levels.
Before I get into that I will say that there were was a positive that I did take away from this first issue. The way Hitch assembled the Justice League was done in a way that did give the team a credible threat to fight together in the Parasite. The Parasite has always been one of my favorite Superman villains because he isn’t a villain that Superman and the others can simply punch and kick to defeat. Hitch made sure to show us that the Justice League can take on villains in other ways thanks to Batman and Cyborg’s specialties in the group.
The threat of Parasite was also a good way to bring the team together for the real mission the team will be going on. It was different from the typical assembling at the Watchtower thing we have seen from Geoff Johns’ Justice League. This helped to further highlight how this is a team of individuals who aren’t always around one another but still assemble to form a super team when the need calls for it.
Hitch’s artwork was also very consistent throughout this issue. It wasn’t the best I’ve seen from him but he did give the entire book a big event look from beginning to end. This is something that is important to making this series feel like the premiere JLA series in a sea of books in the franchise. I especially loved how Hitch drew Superman. The work he did whenever Superman was on screen, whether at the Daily Planet or fighting Parasite, makes me hope that he will draw a solo Superman comic at some point in the near future.
The Bad: The biggest problem with Justice League of America #1 is that it never goes beyond being an average Justice League story. There is nothing truly remarkable about the story that Hitch is beginning to tell. Even for having an extra sized first issue to begin his Justice League story there is never a point that Hitch made this series standout from the litany of other Justice League titles currently flooding the market.
The truth is that during the course of this 40+ page first issue there was never a point that I felt like I was getting something new or different from what I’m already reading in Geoff Johns’ Justice League book. As a fan, if I am going to buying a second series in a franchise that features almost the same exact roster of characters I better feel like I am getting something from both books. That is what I don’t feel like I am getting from Hitch’s JLA compared to John’s Justice League. Whereas Johns’ current Justice League has a greater consequence to the entire DCU, which keeps me wanting to read it, Hitch’s JLA is just boarder line average with very little consequence to the characters or the universe.
It is that lack of consequence that saps anything that JLA #1 tried to do that made it feel special. At the top of that list is someone learning that Clark Kent is Superman. There was nothing about this reveal early on that made the story more impactful. Even with the fact that in the current DCU this is a known fact by the entire universe Hitch never made it feel impactful for that being the case in this series. The dialogue never made you think about how much this revelation would affect Superman’s interaction with the other Justice League members or those who he is interacting with. He is just being normal Superman who doesn’t seem to care about his biggest secret being uncovered. And if Superman doesn’t care then why should we?
That lack of caring is something that trickles down to the rest of the story because now I also don’t care about the fact that whatever mission the Justice League go on it’s just going to be re-written. Seeing so an army of dead Supermen actual hurts the impact of how serious the threat is. When I first saw the opening that showed Superman dying from whatever he was trying to stop it actually felt like whatever he fought we should take seriously. But once it was revealed that a Superman has dealt with this scenario countless times only to fall I couldn’t help but become numb to the impact of Superman’s “death.” It’s the sort of thing that Hitch should have realized that for the betterment of the story “less is more” and he should have left it to only being that one death that triggered the events of this series.
Now, while I did say that I appreciated Hitch’s efforts to make this series new reader friendly I did find his approach to be slightly awkward. There were some mixed signals given throughout this issue that makes me question when this story takes place. At first it seemed as though JLA #1 takes place not long after Darkseid’s original invasion when the team was first formed 5 years ago, in New 52 DCU time. With the way that the Justice League members acted when they were fighting Parasite that definitely seemed like the case since there were a lot of rookie mistakes being made the team.
At the same time Hitch throws out the fact that Aquaman is “friends” with the God of War that makes things confusing. Since we’ve never been told that Aquaman has had a past with Ares or the Greek Gods in general, so the only one he has to be talking about is Wonder Woman. If that is indeed the case then that means that this story takes place sometime close to the present since Wonder Woman didn’t take on the role of God of War until recently. This lack of clarity in continuity is worrisome since we’ve seen so much change during the course of the New 52 that it could be hard to keep everything straight if Hitch continues to use these facts in his story.
And while I did like the artwork there were a lot of little moments where you could notice Hitch and his team rushing to get this issue finished. There were points in this issue that it seemed as though character’s hair was just photoshopped in the last second. Also, the transition between all the inkers and colorists working on this issue was very noticeable as you could tell when the inking and coloring styles change from scene to scene. It was most noticeable during the Parasite fight as the quality we saw during this fight was not as smooth as the scenes with Superman earlier in the issue.
Overall: DC Comics is entering into a period where many of their franchises feel fresh as they experiment with different creative runs at the same time. Unfortunately, that sense of freshness was not present in Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America #1. The story and art in JLA #1 was average at best and being average is not good enough when your comic book costs $5.99. It does not help that nothing in this comic felt consequential to the DCU, especially when you consider that Geoff Johns is telling a much more compelling Justice League story with a similar expanded roster. This is an unfortunate turn of events because I really wanted to like Hitch’s latest work but paying such a high cover price for an average story has completely turned me off from purchasing another issue of this series.