THE SUGGESTION: As every good team book should, Justice League Rebirth rolls out of the continuity of both previous titles and the solo characters’ books. So, prior to diving into this one-shot, readers need some knowledge that can be gathered by everyone’s favorite activity: Reading back issues! So check out Justice League of America 1-8, Superman #52, DC Rebirth, Superman Rebirth, and Green Lantern(s) Rebirth. Or, fans who wish to put in less effort can just turn to the internet and its powers of reference and spoilers. Enjoy!
The Story: What’s the point of a Justice League book with out calamity on a world ending scale? Our story opens to an understaffed Justice League struggling to hold the line against an invading force of insectoid, face hugging, body-snatchers from outer space. Missing key elements of their ranks, the team of Batman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman are forced into a defensive pattern of saving civilians. All taking place as the narration reminds us of why the world need the League, the hope it brings, and the achievements of the past. (Homework)
Meanwhile, in a suburban kitchen not so far away, pre-flashpoint Lois and Clark Kent (Homework) converse on balancing Clark’s responsibility to his family vs. his responsibility to their adopted world as Superman, how to fill the void left by the death of this worlds Superman, and how to approach a League that he doesn’t have a relationship with. As Lois say’s, “It wouldn’t be much of a League without Superman.” The battle rages on as Cyborg opens boom tubes to evacuate civilians and the League launches an offensive via inter-cranial incursion of the mother-beast.
Having been called for back-up, the Lanterns rocket into the fight (Homework). Superman puts his hang-ups to the side, dons the suit, and the story culminates by the unification of the worlds greatest hero’s to defeat The Reaper. Find out what that means, and what the ramifications are, by reading Justice League Rebirth by Bryan Hitch from DC Comics.
THE SCRIBE AND THE STYLE: Unless you are new to the world of comics, (and if you are, Welcome!!!) the name Bryan Hitch is not a new one. Hitch has done high profile work for all of the major publishers. He stepped into the spotlight drawing The Authority for author Warren Ellis, and has gone on to write and draw titles involving the Ultimates, Avengers, JLA, Justice League of America (Homework), and America’s Got Powers. He’s known for his expansive backgrounds, punching spreads, and, unfortunately, a reputation for inability to meet deadlines.
In Justice League Rebirth, Hitch holds all the creative cards, so-t0-speak. He both pens the story and provides the pencils. One of the perks of doing this, is that the story is self contained in the mind of a single person, leaving no room for miscommunication between scribe and style, and storytelling can be fluidly passed between the two. The opening of this book shows exactly what that entails. The foundation of the story, the basis of the plot, and the introduction of the majority of the characters are all shown through the art in the panels, showing Hitch’s deft understanding of how sequential art can be its own voice. While allowing the panels to establish current happenings, the narrative voice of the text boxes molds the tone of what we are reading. Taking his cue’s from DC’s chief creative officer Geoff Johns, Hitch evokes the legacy of the Justice League by reiterating the battles of the past, and what they represent to the people of earth, Hope. Hope that no matter evils will inevitably come, good will overcome. Hope that forces like Starro, Rao, and Darkseid will never break the spirit of humanity.
Hitch relies of a standard but proven form of team comic scripting. The big bad clashes against a combined force of good, and just when it looks like evil will overwhelm the team, a power house rushes in and turns the tide, saving the day. This is a predictable, cookie cutter one-shot. Bryan Hitch isn’t re-inventing the wheel, but one might argue that its a refreshing return to the basics. A classic story with classic characters that evokes a classic feeling, and maybe that nostalgia is exactly what is needed to lock in an audience that abandoned DC because of the New 52. The characters feel like timeless versions of themselves. Even the editorial notes bring up memories of the Eighties and early Nineties.
The art in this book is either boosted by, or suffering from, the well established style that Hitch clings too in all of his work. He pours so much detail into the expansive background’s of his trademark widescreen panels, that he doesn’t seem to have any left over for facial expression of the characters, save a few close ups of Aquaman having a migraine. The motion of his panels are where Hitch’s experience really shines. The figures almost seem to be in action. You can see the force behind the kicks and punches. The Flash even feels faster than the people around him. So much of the detail dropped from the pencils is picked back up by Alex Sinclair’s colors. Sinclair has a great eye for the shading spectrum of color, blending different degrees of color to show body structure and lighting.
THE SENTENCE: C- This book is an enjoyable read, but it is ultimately forgettable. As a fan, Im glad we’re getting back to the theme of the Justice League that I expect, but the team dynamics fell flat in this book, and quite frankly Hitch doesn’t know what to do with Wonder Woman. There is no reason she should be relegated to a defensive tool just to convey the need the team has for Superman when she is every bit the power house he is. Hitch will continue to write the title going forward, however the art duties will be handed off to Tony S. Daniel. My hope is that Hitch will focus his extra attention to story telling now that he isn’t burdened with complete creative responsibility. He’s established a strong base on which to build an entertaining arc, here’s hoping the editorial staff can help separate the wheat from the chafe and frame a story out of what he got right.