After a rare three-week break between installments, Justice League is back. With most of the League spread out across time, Superman and Batman have no choice but to keep working with the Infinity Corporation. But with Clark weakened by red solar radiation in Tempus’s lair, Bruce must find strength from an unexpected source if he hopes to restore his friend and save Earth. SPOILERS FOLLOW

Still not worth your money or your time

We have seen worse issues during this run, but the bar is depressingly low. Justice League #18 reads okay, but fails to present anything particularly interesting. The displaced Leaguers (predictably) manage to ram their faux-gold Casios into the hearts of the Timeless machines, Supes (predictably) gets free with the (predictable) help of “Bat-Luthor”. And, oh yeah, Molly is evil.

The Molly twist might have been interesting had we known her a bit better and a bit longer, but we hadn’t, so who cares? As far as I can tell, she’s Hitch’s creation, so she showed up, pretended to help, and then screwed everybody over in just a handful of issues. This is hardly interesting storytelling. How about instead of inventing villains for almost his entire run, Hitch tries mining the rich history of DC and goes with some well-developed baddies? New characters are great when creators take the time and care to establish them, but so far, Hitch is chucking out bland enemy after bland enemy, and I grow weary of getting smacked in the face with Kindreds and Fear Goo and Timelesses every two weeks. It’s exhausting.

Here’s a question for you: why did the League trust Molly in the first place? Maybe Hitch thinks that taking Batman out of that particular equation removes the most likely voice of opposition, but that’s not good enough. Wonder Woman is a leader. And I’m sorry, Diana, but you can’t go traipsing through time just because some gingery tart threw a watch at you. And what about Simon Baz? Man carried a 9 mil around until about a month ago. Had a Green Lantern ring, but carried a pistol, because he didn’t trust the ring. What—are we supposed to believe it was just the wrong accessory? And honestly, with the amount of time these people spend in cities, you’d think one of them would have learned that it’s never a real Rolex when you get it from a guy on the street.

I’m pretty sure that’s Molly’s hand.

As for the various times and places of dispersion, we get far too little of them when it’s all said and done. Even though we’ve seen it before, I like the idea of the League on this sort of mission. I really enjoyed it in Hitch’s JLA. But it worked there because of narrow character focus, and plenty of time spent in the past. No Zeus, no Brainiac 5, no Lois and Jon hostage confusion. Here, there are too many pieces on the board for a five-to-six-issue arc.

Superman Deborn’d

It’s not a good day for the Superman family. Aside from being weakened and kidnapped, they’re forced to say things that just don’t make any sense. Surrounded by the Timeless Drones, Lois says “I see you’ve met my husband.” But why would she say such a thing? Maybe I’m missing something in the art, or from a prior issue, but I don’t think so. And as for Clark, he may be fighting valiantly for his wife and son, but he forsakes his Kansas roots without a fight when Hitch puts this line in his mouth:

What’s the big deal, you say? “Amongst.” That’s the big deal. Let me stop you before you call me a nitpicker. It’s one word in one issue, but it’s indicative of the overall lazy writing in this series. Details don’t matter, whether it’s thousands of people falling to their deaths while the League celebrates a job well done, supposedly tech-savvy characters sounding more like Jenny Olsen, or Smallville linguistics morphing into Sedbergh. The most consistent weakness in Justice League has been unbelievable character dialogue, and here we have yet another example.

Poor Jenny. So threatened by information

But by far, the worst Superman-related element in this installment is Tempus’s reference to “Superman: Reborn”. In case you aren’t keeping track, that’s a crossover in Superman and Action Comics that’s going on right now. Oh wait—it’s already over. I know comics do this sort of thing all the time, and that good stories are more important than rigid continuity and story synchronization. But the nature of Reborn has just about nothing to do with this story (as far as I can tell right now), so I don’t understand why it had to get mentioned here. Hitch makes the continuity a problem himself by including this here, and it doesn’t seem like he had to. But he did, so now I’m hung up on it. Tempus’s statement reads like it is meant to create suspense and intrigue, but that riddle has already been solved elsewhere.

The artwork is the same. Almost literally.

If you want to know what I think of Fernando Pasarin’s artwork in general, paw through my last few reviews. His performance this week is pretty much what I’ve come to expect. The problem—beyond the built-in problems—is that I sense very little visual variety. #18 feels an awful lot like #17. With so many panels—across two issues now—showing us the lair of Tempus, or close-ups of his horde of bald-headed dingleberry soldiers, or those EPICWIDESCREEN shots of the Timeless’s near-stationary battle cruisers, I feel like we haven’t really moved at all since three weeks ago. And that’s a problem.

Not much else to say

We’ve been through this already. There’s a problem here. The sales might not be close to cancellation territory, but that doesn’t mean the book’s any good. It just means people buy Justice League, even when it’s a monumental disappointment. Now we wait another three weeks to find out if the solicits will gift us a change in direction.

Recommended if…

Overall

Readable, yet mediocre, Justice League #18 moves the “Timeless” plot forward by inches. Sloppy dialogue and characterization become more evident on subsequent readings, and the two primary points of plot tension have either resolved elsewhere or end up feeling unearned. Read something else.

SCORE: 5/10