Justice League #31 review

Justice League 31

It all ends here. In this, the final issue of Bryan Hitch’s run on Justice League, we see the culmination of over a year of storytelling. Does the conclusion of “Legacy” redeem this run, or is it guilty of the same flaws that have plagued the issues that came before? Read on to find out! SPOILERS AHEAD

The villain problem

Who is the villain of Hitch’s run on Justice League? Who are the villains? We can name vague entities, like “the Kindred”, “the Darkness”, and “the Timeless”, but there’s no larger-than-life personality for us to latch onto. There’s no normal-person-gone-bad or megalomaniacal warlord that stands out. When we have gotten individuals with actual names—like Molly or Tempus—they have been incredibly bland. Where are the deeper motives?

The villain of “Legacy”, Sovereign, was similarly vague throughout most of this arc. We finally found out who she was in the last issue, and her motivation is definitely more interesting, but that reveal brought with it the realization that Sovereign wasn’t actually the main villain. And by the end of this final installment, she really isn’t a villain at all.

The real villain of “Legacy” is—brace yourself—

THE DARKNESS

Or maybe it’s the Kindred, post-facto. I’m not entirely sure. I’m also not entirely sure what the motivation is for either of them. At the end of the day, Hitch’s run has almost always pitted the heroes against hive villains with no discernible motives, except maybe to spread fear and anger, or to rend the world asunder. When your closest points of comparison are the brown-clouds of Parallax and Galactus from the cinematic Green Lantern and Fantastic Four films, you’re not in a good place.

By the end of this, we don’t know all that much more about the Darkness. It somehow conceived Wonder Woman’s child, I guess, and it makes people angry and murderous, but what or who lies beneath it? Was it once a person? Is it really just a lame cloud of hate goop? And while we’re talking about Hunter’s father, if he was literally conceived by the Darkness, how could Diana somehow keep him from being touched by it? I’m no geneticist, but I’m pretty sure the inheritance of material happens at conception. Also also, if your mom is a super-being, and your father is a soulless, evil goop, what would you look like? Shouldn’t Hunter have his father’s eyes, or chin or something? Maybe the muscular shoulders of an Amazon paired with the amorphous ooziness of a swirling cloud of sinister spew? I mean, he kind of looks all Amazon to me—except for the whole being a dude thing, of course.

So how do our heroes and their weird kids defeat the Darkness and save forever?

Love.

Yes, that’s right,

Love.

So the next time you find yourself up against a nondescript cloud of malevolent rage-sewage, remember: like Tinkerbell before it, the only way to defeat the Darkness is to stop believing in it. So yes, the grand villain of this 31-issue run on Justice League, the culmination of countless hours of reading and reflection, is an angry fairy without a humanoid form.

I don’t believe in fairies

The “love conquers all” solution is not an automatic failure in every situation. If it fits the characters, and you care about those characters, then it can work. The Wonder Woman film sort of makes a successful go of it, and the success depends on all of the great character work for Diana throughout. Here in Justice League, however, I feel like I’ve suffered through over a year of bad character writing, and I’m having trouble caring about anybody—even these characters that I already loved before I ever picked up the first issue. This is a conclusion that smacks of cheap sentimentality much more than deeply-established principles.

Not much help from the artwork

At this point, I’m likely going to be repeating points made in prior reviews—a lot. I get that there are folks who love Fernando Pasarin’s work. If you’re able to enjoy this without experiencing my massive distraction at the grotesque faces and disproportionate anatomy, then go right ahead. I wouldn’t  presume to tell you what you should or shouldn’t like.

But here are the facts: Pasarin is clearly aiming for some type of realism. I know this because he gets more of the anatomy right than wrong. But what he gets wrong is so wrong that it undermines not only the entire figure, but his larger attempt at storytelling, as well. Here are some example (the first one is the first thing you see when you open the cover):

With no disrespect to overweight, full-figured folks, neither Wonder Woman nor Hippolyta fits those descriptors. Pasarin usually draws Diana a bit fuller than other artists, but it’s been fine—strong and solid, but still fit. He approaches the line without crossing it. Here? Here she looks downright chubby, and so does her mom.

Her head shouldn’t be able to turn that way. Not really sure her upper body should be able to turn that far in relation to her legs, either.

This pose looks all wrong for Batman. His thighs seem both too far away from his body and much too large.

A big, beefy blur

You can usually count on Pasarin to produce some striking environments, but so much of this issue is given to a big, multi-character slug fest that he appears to have run out of time, desire, or both. As such, the bulk of the affair takes place over nondescript backgrounds. This robs the final showdown of much of the drama it might otherwise have gained from a more authentic-looking backdrop. Superheroes fighting in space always looks more like a poster than a story.

Recommended if…

  • You’re one of those folks I mentioned earlier, who don’t get distracted by Pasarin’s quirky character work
  • You enjoyed this run

Overall

A busy, sentimental finish to a run that hasn’t earned our sentiment, Justice League #31 feels like one last twist of the knife. I’m relieved that it’s over, but even after a year of suffering, I’m still more disappointed than anything else. I loved Hitch’s first crack at JLA, and I wanted desperately for him to succeed. I find no joy in reporting his failure.

SCORE: 3/10

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