As the mysterious Kindred begin to take shape, the League struggles to contain the threat from space. Even with the help of a Superman that they do not yet trust, our heroes are stretched to their limits. Will they break—will this three-front war prove more than the Justice League can handle? And perhaps most critically, will Batman eat a cookie offered by Superman’s son, or risk jeopardizing his already-cool relations with the Man of Steel? Read on!
The Kindred are better when we can see them
I’ve had a number of struggles with this book since #1 arrived in the third week of July: odd dialogue, rushed pacing, and an abundance of verbal exposition, among other things. Perhaps the hardest problem to articulate well—and which I have therefore largely avoided so far—has been my general impression of the Kindred. Their short, repetitive sentences remind me of the stress-aliens from Toy Story; and the as-yet-unexplained terminology (this week: “the purge” and “the returning”) coupled with some really weird language (“our purpose was within all people so we would emerge from them wherever they would be”) reminds me of a really hokey sci-fi story I workshopped in one of my college creative writing courses. Both of these (perceived) parallels take me out of the story, because I spend too much time either annoyed or confused with how something is said.. That, and the Kindred’s penchant for self-revelation, made the first two issues an especially tough read for me.
The Kindred, circa 1995
Thankfully, this week’s installment improves upon the Kindred, even after getting off to another rocky start. Part of this is surely visual—they are for more interesting now that they are in their own form, rather than manifestating themselves in possessed people. But in their final scene of the issue, we (finally) get to see them speak in a non-expository way. Their words are still self-revelatory, but they are not sentences designed to educate Wonder Woman or Aquaman, and the delivery is therefore much more natural. I am genuinely interested in them at the end.
The bulk of the issue, unfortunately, sees the Kindred and almost everyone else bogged down in excessive exposition. Wonder Woman gives us a Kindred recap at the beginning, which wouldn’t read well under any circumstance, but would at least be somewhat understandable if we had waited a month for this chapter. But it’s only been two weeks since #2, so I find it hard to understand why this sort of thing needs to be here at all.
Hitch’s most frequent missteps come from characters narrating or speaking explanations. Cyborg muses to no one at all that something “looks like some sort of signal,” while Lantern Baz instantly understands that he and Jess are “going through some sort of wormhole or something.” Just like when Arthur instantly knew that the Zodiac Stones saved him in #2, we’re seeing the League exhibit an unbelievable omniscience that—like the linguistic oddities of the Kindred—takes me out of the story.
Perhaps the worst instance of chattiness comes after Baz and Jess go through the wormhole:
If you’ve read any Green Lantern comics, you’ve probably noticed that Green Lantern rings give a lot of feedback. In fact, one of the two rings on this page tells our heroes that there are no life forms on the alien ships orbiting this forsaken planet. Why, then, does Baz tell us what his ring is detecting on the planet itself? We’ve got all of this space on a nearly full-page spread. Why not have Baz say “Ring, scan planet for life-forms,” and then let the ring respond? We’re in a comic book—show us what’s happening instead of narrating it all for us.
If you’ve been reading my reviews for Justice League, you probably know that I had high regard for Hitch’s previous book. Maybe I’m looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses, but this isn’t the way he did things in JLA. And so my best guess for why things are so different now is that Hitch’s transition from writer/artist to writer only is proving a challenge for him; lacking control over the visuals, he floods narration and dialogue with details that he wants us to know. I can’t read his mind, but the finished product reeks of a lack of trust between Hitch and Daniel. If that’s the case, it’s especially unfortunate, because despite increasingly rough finishes (more on that in a moment), the visual storytelling on Justice League has been quite good from the start.
Twice-monthly is showing
On those rough finishes: there’s been a pretty straight line down since issue #1, where Daniel (obviously) had much more time to finish his pages. The warts are hard to accept, especially after seeing how beautiful the book could look in the first chapter. Sometimes, a panel merely lacks detail, but in a lot of cases, characters end up looking distractingly bizarre.
On the bright side, the decline in the detail work is somewhat offset by some helpful storytelling improvements. Jarring scene transitions have plagued this series, but Daniel manages to smooth things out with an economical use of space. On two occasions, he goes with small, inset establishing shots. They cost him almost no real estate in the larger spread, but they’re a perfect bridge between what comes before and what comes after, and it’s a seemingly small thing with an enormous payoff for this issue’s narrative flow.
Morey’s colors are as good as they’ve been (which is very good!). There isn’t much I can say about them that I haven’t already said. I’m hoping that once we swap artists for the next arc, Daniel has time to get ahead, and that we’ll have higher-quality line art for Morey to work with.
I’m also still a fan of the lettering work, both in the more stylized credits page and throughout the book, both in font choice and placement. There is one very odd mistake on that credits page, though:
Contrast adjusted to make issue clearer
To be fair, this one is as much on editorial as it is on Starkings/Comicraft. Not sure how they missed it.
- You’ve been reading Justice League and want to know what happens next.
- You can handle a dip in visual detail and fidelity in exchange for improvements in layout and storytelling.
- You’re still giving Hitch the benefit of the doubt and time to right the ship. *raises hand*
I’m still disappointed. There are definitely some marginal improvements in the script, but Hitch’s delivery remains very clunky. The story beneath the storytelling intrigues me, but I still largely dislike the way it’s conveyed. Daniel’s subtle layout improvements help, even as his detail work continues to suffer (presumably) from tight deadlines; but the whole enterprise appears to be held back by Hitch’s inability to trust his artists—even artists as capable as these. If you’re going to buy Justice League anyway, hang in there—I still think we’ll see things turn around. But if you’re on a tight budget, there are a number of other Rebirth titles that will leave you much more satisfied, and you’re better off catching up on this one later.