We are once again at the beginning of a new arc. Justice League has been a rocky ride thus far, and so I approached this issue grateful for the fresh start, and hopeful that Hitch might at last turn things around and look like the very capable writer I came to appreciate with JLA. So how does Justice League #8 stack up? Details below.
A modest improvement
Our story begins in the Justice League Watchtower, as Cyborg reflects on the events of “The Extinction Machines” (the first arc of this book, for those of you joining us late). While Victor laments, Batman prepares, upgrading his systems in response to Superman’s recent angry intrusion. But these two Justice Leaguers soon find their days disrupted, as an unknown threat (yes, another one) infiltrates their systems and turns things sideways.
It’s far too easy to let the stink on this title affect my perception of each issue. My knee-jerk reaction to some familiar structural problems was to score this one even lower than what you’ll find below, but after another trip through, I found that Justice League #8 reduces some of my bigger peeves, even if it does introduce (or accentuate) others. So while Cyborg continues to tell us everything we need to know by talking to himself, we are spared any internal monologues once we get to the Batcave. Even if Bruce’s dialogue isn’t what I would consider pitch-perfect, Hitch nonetheless takes a good swing at letting character interaction surface expositional details (and he writes a respectable Alfred, to boot).
Some funky proportions going on here…
Unfortunately, the artwork here has probably reached a new low point for this run. Edwards does okay on some of his layouts, and good enough on the rest of them, but technical difficulties—accentuated by Aviña’s coloring style—make the artwork a frequent point of displeasure. Jesus Merino, who has penciled a few issues of this series so far, can produce some distracting anatomy, but his style is less of an attempt at realism than what we see here. Because Edwards is aiming for something more familiar, his failures to reproduce it are more obvious and, consequently, distracting. The colors exaggerate this distraction, because they—like the lines—are aiming for realism. I suspect a flatter, starker style would have better masked Edwards’s problems.
The script isn’t helping. I have a serious problem with Bruce designing a system that gives his vehicles autonomy and that is also so readily hackable by some mystery foe. Maybe the enemy is a formidable one, but the timing of everything here makes Batman look like an idiot as much as it commends the villain’s technological prowess. And speaking of technological prowess, Hitch’s attempt at endowing Batman with it is undermined by goofy, unconvincing technobabble. Maybe my day job makes it easier for me to smell this stuff, so your mileage may vary, but I couldn’t take it seriously.
DC is failing Victor Stone
So this isn’t entirely Hitch’s fault, because every writer seems to have the same problem, which means it’s likely an editorial/higher up issue as much as anything else, but…
Cyborg is, potentially, a great character. I like him a lot, and every time he gets a new book, I check it out, hoping it will be something fresh and worthy of his potential. And every time, I am sorely disappointed. So what is everyone getting wrong?
Here’s the problem, as I see it: everyone thinks that because Victor’s “super power” is technological, then the threats that he faces must also be technological. For all of the stories that have explored the dehumanization of Cyborg, it is the writers and editors of his comics that are most guilty, because our experience of him is always mediated by technological elements: what he says, who he fights—even the fonts often used to render his inner monologue.
Not counting the two-part “State of Fear” arc, which gave him very little screen time, Hitch’s Justice League has thus far used Victor in his typical way. If the threat is technological, Victor’s the one who deals with it. If not, his role is greatly diminished. He is basically the League’s computer-with-a-face, not a heroic twenty-something who happens to have massive computational power and physical enhancements.
A potential objection: Hitch gives Victor a lot to say. But the things Hitch gives Victor to say are almost always unadorned informational statements, spoken to nobody but himself. He’s basically the feedback you get from an application: “file uploaded”, “connection lost”, “threat detected”. Hitch not only gives Cyborg a computer’s tasks, but also its personality.
Not enough has changed
This issue has the advantage of kicking off a new arc. There’s a new mystery and new dangers. But the problems that have plagued Justice League are still here, and they seem to grow more pronounced the longer we’re forced to put up with them.
- You like what Hitch has been doing with Justice League.
Sorry, that’s it. There’s no reason to buy this blind. If you already read the first seven issues and enjoyed them, then I imagine you’ll like more of the same style. But if you’re new to the series, don’t spend your money. Wait for a used copy of the trade.
A better issue than its immediate predecessor, Justice League #8 is nevertheless riddled with the same holes as the larger series. Uncharacteriscally boneheaded choices by Batman and an inhuman Cyborg are particularly troublesome elements, and the decision to go with another mysterious, anonymous foe feels tiresome after the first two arcs leaned partially or entirely on the same device. Edwards produces some decent panels and layouts at times, but he too often misses his mark and generates more distraction than momentum. While not the absolute mess that we saw two weeks ago, Justice League #8 offers no hope or optimism about whatever is coming next. My advice is to leave it on the rack.