Molly’s back, and she’s telling tales! While the real villain of “Timeless” discusses multiversal threats with Batman, the rest of the League has a serious tussle with an enemy far older than they are. But even if they stop today’s threat, Molly’s story suggests a bigger challenge in the future. Bryan Hitch pulls back the cover (a bit) in Justice League #25.
This is the first main-story issue of Justice League in some time that I recommend purchasing—with one qualifier: you will want to have read this run since #1. The first half of the book at long last makes interesting some of the concepts from the first few arcs. Much of what was said by the Kindred and other adversaries begins to make more sense, and while those earlier tales still have the same flaws, I can’t help but feel somewhat rewarded for my patience. I can sincerely say that this issue both enriches and is enriched by what came before it, and for that I’m grateful.
It doesn’t hurt that Hitch opens with a narrated story of an ages-ago battle. So much of my struggle when reading Justice League has come from poorly written dialogue and internal monologue; I enjoyed starting off with simple, non-introspective storytelling this time. When there is dialogue, it isn’t bad, either. Hitch finally seems to have a handle on Bruce—at least at the moment—who does a lot more listening than talking. Molly herself comes off far less irritating than she did in her first appearances, and her behavior in “Timeless” makes much more sense in light of what she reveals to Batman here.
This issue’s villain—Shirak—might be Hitch’s most interesting choice yet. As best I can tell, he’s a new creation, but unlike Justice League’s usual baddies, he’s distinct and memorable, and he has a history that hits close to home for some of the Leaguers. And while I wouldn’t say he looks amazing, he does have distinguishing features that I’ll remember after I put the book down. You can’t say that for most of the enemies the League has faced in this run.
Too long by half
My biggest disappointment in Justice League #25, then, is how easily things wrap up. Even suspecting that Hitch made it this way deliberately—that there’s an in-universe reason for it—I was disappointed by a compelling setup and a whimpering finish. My preference would have been a longer setup, a present-day introduction of Shirak, and then a mid-battle cliffhanger. Instead, we get a tidy end to the current conflict, a pretty standard “this is the Justice League” photo op, and the promise of a still-kinda-distant threat from Molly. Maybe the arc that starts in #26 will be interesting—I certainly hope so—but it’s very disappointing to see Hitch get off to such a good start and then stick a fork in it when it’s just begun cooking.
Artwork this time around is handled by Tom Derenick, seventy-four inkers, and Hi-Fi. Jokes aside, the plurality of inkers really hurts, as we go from some excellently finished characters and locales in the opening scenes to increasingly rougher stuff as we get to the end. To Derenick’s credit, though, the action is pretty great throughout. I really enjoyed his layouts, as he more often than not chose the right perspective. A picture’s worth a thousand words, so let’s take a look at a few:
That’s a really decent spread.
Something is amiss…
Whatever you may think of the finish, this is a well-laid-out page.
What might have been and what is
We already know that Hitch’s run is coming to an end, and I’ve been pretty open about how I feel. Justice League has been a struggle from the get-go, and I think DC has already waited longer than they should have to change something. But reading the first half of this issue, I’m sad. It’s not that I wish Hitch would stay on at this point; rather, I’m sad because there was a lot of promise in having him on this title in the first place. His JLA at the end of The New 52 was a real high point for me, and I had nothing but hope and high expectations for him in Rebirth. I’m sad because the first half of Justice League #25 feels like an echo of the promise—a reminder of the potential I saw but that this book has never realized. I’ve always wanted this book to be good. I’m holding out hope that Hitch finds a way to finish strong.
- You’re going to buy Justice League no matter what.
- You’ve been reading Justice League since Rebirth began, and you want some light shed on some of Hitch’s earlier ideas.
If you’ve been reading Justice League for a while, this issue is worth buying for the first half. The rest of the book is quite a bit less satisfying, and the artwork suffers from too much talent in the inkwell, but if you’ve got the spare cash, I say pick it up.