Justice League #17 review

Justice League 17

With the help of Infinity, Batman and Superman have caught up with the Timeless. Meanwhile, the rest of the League has dispersed across time to stop the enemy on the most urgent fronts. But can the World’s Finest take down a seemingly infinite foe? And how can the League save history when they aren’t even sure what’s being done to it?

Still a better read…

Last issue brought us perhaps the most encouraging installment of Justice League: after struggling to find his voice apart from his pencils, writer Bryan Hitch at last delivered a readable story—one I actually found enjoyable. The characters left me wanting, but overall, I liked the dialogue-driven approach far better than what we’ve seen previously. This time, Hitch continues with a similar emphasis, and I’m grateful. Whatever else you may say about the story and characterization, Justice League #17 reads well.

I also like what we learn of Tempus, “the Timeless mind.” His intentions don’t quite make the Timeless sympathetic, but they do add some much-needed dimension to what has heretofore seemed like yet another uninteresting swarm of baddies. Tempus has a few things to say about the League, as well—things which I suspect carry significance that stretches beyond Justice League and into the larger Rebirth mystery.

…but nothing really happens.

Unfortunately, not a whole lot actually happens this time, and for all of the decent dialogue, we learn very little of consequence. Tempus provides his few interesting details, but most of the issue focuses on battlefield banter and posturing. Clark has a fantastic line on the first page, but only the first time you read it. When you step back and consider his audience, it just doesn’t make any sense for him to say what he says to whom he says it (it also gives me violent BvS flashbacks). The rest of the League prepares to engage the Timeless throughout history, but they don’t actually cross the line into actual conflict (not counting Wonder Woman’s fight with Cronus) by the end.

SHOW SPOILER ▼

Still better visuals…

Pasarin gets a few opportunites to shine. For my money, he’s better at scenery than characters, and he provides several outstanding set pieces this go-round. Tempus works, too—it certainly helps that his otherworldly physiology has no obvious reference for comparison (unlike Pasarin’s often-odd human anatomy). The rest of the time, Brad Anderson’s colors do a decent job of taking pressure off of Pasarin’s unpleasant character work. Green Lantern’s light and lush backdrops go a long way toward distracting me from weird faces and tiny hands.

…but ultimately C-grade artwork.

Weird proportions

With all of that said, the question remains: is this Justice League-worthy artwork? Does this look like the best DC has to offer—something that deserves the designation of “flagship”? Accepting that some of this is subjective, I still have to answer no. When Rebirth began, Tony Daniel seemed like a more-than-fitting successor to Jason Fabok, who dazzled us for over a year at the end of The New 52. But Daniel left after the first arc, and we’ve had nothing but C-grade talent since then. I know there’s more to comics art than aesthetics and finishes, but those things still matter, and most of Justice League in Rebirth has been downright ugly. Sure, Pasarin produces better-than-average layouts, and I’ve already praised his backgrounds and scenery. Those two things definitely carry a lot of weight in the medium. But Fabok and Daniel are quite good at these things, too. So are David Finch, Mikel Janin, Dexter Soy, Marcus To, and a whole host of others who are holding down the fort on other DC titles. Pasarin isn’t in the same class as any of them.

Bottom line: I come to Justice League expecting to be wowed. I come expecting that everything between the covers is meant to impress me. I do not come expecting that there are things I’ll need to overlook every single time if I hope to enjoy it. It isn’t my job to make me like this book, and sadly, it doesn’t seem like anyone else is taking responsibility for it. I’m sure somebody is, and I’m sorry if this all sounds very harsh—but anyone can see that this book is in embarassingly bad shape compared to the New 52 version, and it’s been that way for a long time.

A better book, but still not what it should be

Justice League has been better these two weeks, but it still falls far, far short of what it ought to be. Almost a year in, Rebirth has its share of stinkers—but no book has been more disappointing than this one. When will something change?

Recommended if…

  • You’ve got enough money in your comics budget to accommodate a book that may not be great, but still reads well.
  • You’re a Pasarin fan.

Overall

Justice League #17 would be forgivably average in another context, but in a series where average is the high bar, it’s tough to celebrate rising from “terrible” to “I don’t hate it.” Hitch’s dialogue-driven approach makes reading this less of a chore, but not much happens, and the characters still don’t read like themselves. Pasarin has some nice wide shots, but his humanoid figures still look distractingly strange more often than not, and I found it very hard to immerse myself in his side of the story. I’m happy this wasn’t terrible, but I’m not terribly happy—we need better for Justice League than “just okay”.

SCORE: 6/10

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