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The Justice League is gripped with fear! With something terrifying closing in, our heroes band together to stand against the threat. But what looks like victory may not be so simple…

It starts out okay…

After repelling some oily, black, tubes of terror, the League members go their separate ways. Jessica and Barry plan to meet up later for a date, but when they do, things don’t go quite according to plan. Meanwhile, the foe of the day seems to have had a lingering effect on Superman, who decides it’s finally time to have a sit-down with Batman.

I enjoyed the preview of this issue, and it made me hopeful that Hitch might be turning the corner after a rough start to his run. Any book that begins with a terrified Batman begging for mercy has my attention. And after an arc that was bogged down in exposition, I was happy to see more natural dialogue. The team’s victory is nice, too, with the non-Lantern members chaining themselves together with Jess and Baz to lend their wills to Green Lanterns’ light. I’m not sure if this sort of thing has been done in prior Green Lantern lore, but it’s a neat idea nevertheless (even if it is a bit reminiscent of the conclusion of the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy).

…but then deteriorates rapidly…

And yet something becomes clear almost as soon as the battle is over: Jessica Cruz is a problem. I like her character—a lot, actually—but I don’t think she’s being used very well in Justice League. I have no issues with her struggling against fear; Green Lanterns do not, after all, enjoy the absence of fear, but rather the ability to overcome it. But Hitch’s characterization of Earth’s newest Lantern has her stuck in the nearly-crippled state of fear that we found her in back when Geoff Johns introduced her late in The New 52. Sure, there’s some external force stirring up fear in the team, but it was the Lanterns who got everyone in gear to repel that force right there in the first few pages. Instead of making Jessica read like nothing’s changed since the first arc, and like her excellently-depicted growth in Sam Humphries’ Green Lanterns never happened, Hitch would have done well to let she and Baz remain above the fear—the only members of the League capable of seeing clearly in the midst of this particular struggle.

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Making matters worse, the date scene continues Hitch’s reliance on excessive internal monologue. Lots of narration can work if it reveals character instead of plain information (again, look at Green Lanterns to see this work like it should), but it isn’t working here. Why not let the artist show us that Barry nervously changes outfits without also telling us? Why not give the artist the opportunity to depict fear dawning on Jessica’s face instead of making her muse “I’m getting scared again…like it used to be…”? This sort of writing seems so forced and unnatural, and it makes it impossible for me to get immersed in the story because it keeps pulling me out.

…and then slams into the ground faster than a speeding, emotionally-stunted bullet.

And then there’s the ending. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, because the cover for next issue pretty much guarantees it, but I was shocked by the final page:

Spoiler

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Am I tired of this sort of thing? Yes, but that’s not the point. Even considering this story’s fear-inducing villain(s), this final scene feels like it comes out of nowhere. Some of Jessica’s actions on her date are, on the surface, similar, but those actions are actually reactions to fear, where this requires some forethought and initiative. It just doesn’t make sense to me, and it seems inconsistent with how the fear has affected the rest of the team. It comes off the same way this sort of thing usually does: as more of a gimmick than a good idea.

A colorfully mixed bag

Two pencillers and two inkers contribute to this installment, and while neither team does a particularly bad job, there isn’t much here worth commenting on. They both struggle with consistency, but their work would have been far more tolerable if paired with better writing. Lucas’ colors are good for the most part, but there are a number of instances where I noticed an inelegant blending of computer-generated and hand-applied colors. Again, I would never call it great, but this, too, would be elevated by a quality story.

Not what it ought to be

People call Justice League DC’s flagship title. Right now, it doesn’t deserve that classification. With so much of DC’s line improving in Rebirth, it is disappointing to see how far this particular title has fallen since its golden days at the end of The New 52. Here’s hoping someone knows how to fix this, and that they fix it soon.

Recommended if…

  • You plan on collecting all of the Justice League books.

Overall

In the wake of a disappointing first arc, I was hoping for better from Justice League #6. Hitch continues to depend on verbal revelation where visual revelation would be more natural, and there remains a disconnect between writer and artist that I’ve perceived since #1. This issue is the first of a short, two-part story, so if you’re looking to save six bucks, skip October and give Justice League another shot next month.

SCORE: 4.5/10