Justice League #9 review

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Last time we saw the Justice League, they were getting the pants hacked off of them by some mysterious digital assailant. Batcave, Cyborg—even Green Lantern—all systems infiltrated, all systems being turned against the League. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD

Let’s start with what I like…

So here’s what happens: Bruce comes out from the Batcave rubble, the rest of the League tries to stop Simon’s hacked ring from killing them, and we learn the rather obvious identity of the culprit. That’s not what it feels like—it feels longer and substantially less enjoyable.

But, like the heading says, I’m going to switch the format up a bit and attempt to enumerate what I find redeemable. I’m sure you can tell from my tone that it’s an uphill battle, and you likely won’t be surprised when you get to the bottom and read the score, but it’s hard spending roughly four hours a month with something you really don’t like, so it can be helpful to play Pollyanna for a few minutes before diving back into the slop. In that spirit,

  • I like the big action spreads, and feel like these are when both Edwards and Aviña are at their best.
  • I like how Diana and Arthur speak to Baz, as though the crisis has something to do with his inexperience.
  • I like seeing Cyborg drag his powerless cybernetic body along with his organic remnants. This is the most heroic, nothing-to-do-with-technology moment that I’ve seen him have in a long time.
  • I like that Alfred has a large presence in this arc. I think having the worlds of individual League members mixed in has lots of potential for great character development and interaction.
  • I like that the enemy is someone affected by the League’s inability to save everyone (even if it feels reminiscent of Graves from the New 52 run).
  • I like the “reboot to get rid of the hacker” strategy, because it’s a sensible solution that doesn’t feel like Hitch arbitrarily intervening in the plot.
  • I like The Animaniacs.

You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

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Unfortunately, a few likable elements can not salvage what is yet another mess of artistic oddities and annoying narrative devices. Sure, I like some of Edwards’ action spreads at a glance, but his anatomy gets so weird at times that the effect is quickly spoiled by inspecting the details. It seems like most of his problems come from trying to render heavily-tilted, top-down perspectives, and he doesn’t exactly shy away from these angles. And while Aviña’s colors during Lantern-heavy sequences are decent, the rest of the book seems pretty lifeless to me.

Then we have the script. It seems like each issue manages to preserve prior problems while finding new ways to make my eyes roll. The usual excess of inner monologue is still sprinkled throughout, including a bizarre conversation that Arthur has with nobody at all. I continue to feel like there’s not enough legitimate interaction between characters—that, other than in battle, we aren’t getting the opportunity to learn through observation. Hitch heads in the right direction with Alfred and Bruce, but there are other problems in their exchanges that cancel any gains.

pulpfiction

The technobabble problems I mentioned last time have only gotten worse. In addition to exceeding the reasonable number of uses for the word “code,” Hitch isn’t doing his homework well enough. At one point (possibly at others), he refers to “a root code.” Maybe he has some buddies who speak a different vernacular than I do, but I haven’t met a programmer from the US or the UK (and I’ve worked with several on both sides of the pond) who refers to code with the word “a” before it. Code is always plural. There are numerous other ways to refer to a single unit of code, but never the way that Hitch does it here.

Maybe you’re not a developer like me, so maybe you don’t care. But I would argue that you might still get taken out of the story by the oversized chunk of dialogue given to Bruce’s impromptu information security seminar. For a book that has struggled to earn my investment in its characters, the last thing Justice League needs is to narrow its focus on so sterile a point. Technological threats are certainly of increasing relevance in modern times, but reading someone yammer on about them doesn’t make for very interesting reading—at least not here.

Let those who worship evil’s might try to kill me so my ring reboots and leaves me temporarily defenseless

I’ve pled ignorance on Green Lantern lore before, but there’s a doozy this time around, and if there’s historical precedent for it, I would argue it should be obliterated from canon. At the end of the previous installment, Simon’s ring was hacked, and throughout most of this issue, he’s mixing it up with his compatriots (albeit against his will). Unsurprisingly, it’s Barry that comes up with the eventual solution, but quite surprisingly, it is simultaneously a rather brilliant and boneheaded solution.

Why brilliant? The core of the solution—the “what”—is to reboot Simon’s ring. It’s a technologically sound approach, as—generally speaking—rebooting a system will sever (even if temporarily) any network connections. It’s also a solution that non-technical readers can relate to; we live in a world where tech support asks us to do the same thing to work out the kinks in our own devices.

Why boneheaded? The “how” of the solution. Barry posits that attacking Simon with deadly force—or at least the appearance of deadly force—will cause the ring to reboot and kick out the hacker (Flash says “revert to factory settings,” but that’s not really what happens, and I’ve already harped on the inadequacy of this book’s tech talk, so let’s move past it). Why on earth would he think this? Green Lanterns are attacked with deadly force all the time. If deadly force triggered a reboot, there would be a lot more dead Lanterns floating around. And if Barry thinking it is bad, the fact that it works is even worse. If I were Simon, I’d start packing that pistol again, because this ring all of a sudden seems like a pretty bad deal. Not just because of the reboot, either; if any big-headed, grieving hacker with a Walmart laptop and no experience interfacing with power rings can penetrate the greatest achievement of the Guardians of the Universe, then the ring is looking a lot less worthy of our trust.

I don’t know what else to say

I desperately want something to change with Justice League, but as the weeks roll on and things get worse, I’ve lost any hope of improvement. The first movie featuring DC’s famous super team releases in November, and it will likely drive new fans to comic shops for the first time. I hope for Warner Bros, DC, and all of us, that this is not the book greeting those fans when they get there.

Recommended if…

  • You’ve been enjoying Bryan Hitch’s Justice League run so far. If you haven’t, keep looking the other way.

Overall

What can I say that I haven’t said before? Justice League’s latest arc remains a disappointing mashup of mediocre artwork and annoying storytelling. Excessive, poorly-crafted tech-talk and a ridiculous new “feature” of the Green Lantern ring manage to sink this one completely, and the continuing lack of effective character development makes reading a chore. If you haven’t already bought this one, don’t.

SCORE: 4/10

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