The Justice League has been getting its bottom beat pretty hard. A mysterious digital devil has been making life difficult, wrecking the Batcave and commandeering Baz’s ring for nefarious purposes. But the team has caught up with this evil e-villain, and it’s time for he, she, or it to pay. The bill comes due, in Justice League #10! Some spoilers ahead.
A slow ramp up is better than a nose dive
Now face-to-face with James Palmer, the former hacker whose code Batman found in the infiltration of the Cave, the League has a long talk. It doesn’t take too long to discover that they’ve got the wrong guy. And while the real culprit is quickly exonerated of any purposeful wrongdoing, the collective sigh of relief gets interrupted by a very legitimate threat.
The opening half of this story is really slow, and a bit boring. The dialogue, while not the worst that we’ve read in this run, is not very exciting or engaging. I’m grateful that we aren’t getting pages and pages of inner monologue anymore, but there’s still too much raw information dispensed by these characters, and way too much space given to dry tech talk. I also feel like, in an effort to give each member of the League something to say or do, Hitch is failing to make any one of them stand out with a solid performance. Aquaman has felt like an afterthought since #1, and his lines this time around could easily have been given to any one of his teammates.
I’m still being critical, but I didn’t hate this first portion of the book. Palmer gets some good character work, even if the League doesn’t, and the information-by-conversation is infinitely easier to read than the narration dumps used by Hitch in prior installments. Halfway through, I already found myself hoping that Justice League might be turning the corner.
And then things got bonkers, in the best way.
Fun with the Justice League
Prior to Rebirth, the two Justice League titles were, broadly speaking, the same sort of book. While Geoff Johns’s Justice League was visually darker than Hitch’s JLA, both were essentially epic conflicts meant to be taken seriously. I enjoyed both, and, prior to this issue, Hitch’s post-Rebirth Justice League has been in step with the approach of what came before. Unfortunately, it quickly dug itself a rut in which it has been stuck for some time.
Whether or not it lasts, a change has come to Justice League, and it can be summed up in one two-page spread:
For the first time, I’m having fun with this book. The League isn’t fighting some massive cosmic threat, or some Shakespearean-alien menace. It’s not even the hacker that we thought was the bad guy last time. What we have here is a good, old-fashioned punch-up with a quasi-super team of C and D-list villains over something as simple as money. Double Down? Heatstroke? Coldsnap? If you’re asking who the heck these baddies are, you’re not alone, and even the League is incredulous about taking on a bunch of nobodies (although some more substantial threats show up in short order). And the fact that Hitch set us up to expect something a lot more sinister and grave makes the reveal all the more delightful.
Edwards, whose work on the first half suffers from the same quirks and inconsistencies that we saw in the previous two installments—even he elevates his game once the fighting starts. The layouts are exciting, and the finishes are far better than anything in #8 or #9. For the first time, I’m reminded of his work on Jeff Lemire’s Justice League United, when Justice League Canada teamed up with the Legion of Superheroes to stave off the threat of Infinitus.
Look—I don’t know if the party will last. This is one issue. But I do know that the speed of double-shipping means it takes a lot longer for us to see a course-correction. Maybe Hitch is actually working some things out and we’ll continue to see an upswing in quality. Maybe it’s just taken this many issues for him to get past his early problems. I sure hope so. I’ve wanted nothing but success for this book from the beginning.
- You’ve been desperate to see this book improve.
- You like bonkers battles with cheesy, money-grubbing quasi-super villains.
A slow start is quickly forgotten as Justice League suddenly gets fun. Whether or not you consider this an improvement will depend a lot on your particular sensibilities, and what you expect from this title; but for my money, a reclamation of this sort of crazy comics goofiness is exactly what Hitch needed to wash the stink off of DC’s flagship. We’ll know soon enough if this newfound hope is a lasting one, but for the moment, enjoy one of, if not the single best issue of Justice League since it launched in July. I know that isn’t saying much, but I’ll take what we can get and hope for more.