By Jarrod Jones. There’s an unmistakable allure to having the word Rebirth splashed across a debut issue, especially one that features characters you’ve grown comfortable with over the years. It makes you excited to be a part of something all over again, like applying a fresh coat of paint over your disgusting bedroom — sure, slapping on a new shade will undoubtedly give you that nice, warm feeling of renewal, but if you still leave mountains of clothes all over the floor all you’ve done is added a new hue to the abject misery that is your life.
Case in point: Bryan Hitch’s Justice League: Rebirth #1, a gloomy, unexciting slog of a book that sets up a “bold new era” for the Justice League that looks conspicuously like the last five eras of the Justice League. Only this time it has two Green Lanterns hanging around, which is only going to become more of a bad idea once people get their post-Rebirth bearings and realize that Green Lanterns has molded itself into a hideous Cronenbergian exercise in body horror, and that having Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz tagging along now means Justice League has to play amongst the sickening viscera too. (Which might explain why all those screaming people in JL:R #1 run around with big floppy tentacles flailing around their shoulders.)
Just getting this particular gripe out of the way: two Green Lanterns? That’s too many, especially since Geoff Johns has already established that Jessica Cruz is our newest, truest ring-wielding Leaguer. (We didn’t sit through a year’s worth of Darkseid War for nothing — I hope.) Having Simon Baz pal around Justice League scores points for DC’s beleaguered diversity department (provided they actually have one), but now the League officially has a member who carries around a Desert Eagle in his holster as if bullets were the thing to finally put the fear of God into Bizarro or whoever. Makes you wonder if Batman would have something to say about that.
Of course, he doesn’t. For some strange reason, Bryan Hitch actively avoids applying any presence to his League beyond the stock personalities you’ve read about in the ludicrously banal DC Wikia Database. He writes DC’s Pantheon like they were put-upon deities who shoulder the burden of our measly existence on their well-defined shoulders. (Which, if you’ve been paying attention, is something critics and fans aren’t exactly hankering for these days.)
Hitch has his superheroes address each other by their academic-sounding first names like they were those sweater-wearing, bourbon-in-the-coffee-sipping yuppies from The Big Chill, even though that particular conceit wore itself out back in the “let’s put rape into our superhero adventures!” Brad Meltzer days. Characters like Wonder Woman and Aquaman should sound as though they’ve just stepped out of myth, but Superman? Hitch puts the kind of existential navel-gazing in his mouth that you would scarcely tolerate from a third-year philosophy major.
There’s nothing exceptionally novel about Bryan Hitch’s Justice League, except that it has this uncanny ability to make me yearn for the halcyon days when the artist was paired with writers who could grapple with a scope this massive. When Mark Millar’s The Ultimates and Mark Waid’s JLA: Heaven’s Ladder were considered actual comic book events by virtue of Hitch’s mere presence. I don’t know what happened to the team of Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary; maybe the two had a falling out at some point, which might explain Daniel Henriques and Scott Hanna’s slapdash tag-team ink job, where we’re subjected to a series of dutiful crosshatching on one page only to behold giant blops of black and weird lookin’ squiggles the next. If Neary is waiting around for a “forgive me” fruit basket, then Hitch needs to pony up some cash — because without Neary, Hitch’s pencils are languishing.
Tony Daniel hops on art chores with Justice League #1, but there’s not much reason to celebrate yet: remember, Justice League runs bi-monthy now, which means Hitch and Daniel are likely to pass the book back and forth like a far too challenging crossword puzzle until their fingers fall off and DC is forced to lure Aaron Kuder back from his cherry gig over at Marvel. If there were ever two artists you never wanted to put under the knife of a tight deadline, they would definitely be Tony Daniel and Bryan Hitch. (If you require further proof of that, then feast your eyes on this doozy.)
“We’re the Justice League,” Wonder Woman says at one point. “Run.” Well, now that you’ve suggested it, I guess I could go for a proper jog. Far away from this book.
Written and illustrated by Bryan Hitch.
Inks by Daniel Henriques and Scott Hanna.
Colors by Alex Sinclair.
Letters by Richard Starkings & Comicraft.
3.5 out of 10