In Review: Justice League: Rebirth #1

I love the Justice League, but this makes me sad.

The covers: The Regular cover features a terrific illustration that truly shows the new Justice League. From the interior of the Watchtower satellite, the League faces the reader. At the top are Batman and Superman, while at the bottom, going left to right, are Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, Green Lantern Simon Baz, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. The characters by Tony S. Daniel look terrific. The colors by Tomeu Morey are outstanding, with terrific reds in the cosmic background and the perfection of the characters’ flesh tones outstanding. This is a classic cover in the making. The Variant cover is credited to Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn. However, looking at the signatures on the cover, this is incorrect. Doing some digging, I found this is by Joe Madureira and Alex Sinclair. This shows the big three, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, looking ready for action standing atop the DC Bullet, against a white background. Superman looks intense with his heat vision beginning to flare, Wonder Woman strong as she rushes forward with her sword ready to swing, and in the foreground Batman crouches down to give a springing punch. I love the look of this cover and the colors are spectacular. This was the cover I purchased. Overall grades: Both A+

The story: “Fear the Reaper” by Bryan Hitch begins right in the middle of the action. The city is being attacked by a monstrous creature that topples buildings as it makes it way. The crustacean/insectoid behemoth releases several thousand tentacled mini-monsters that fly through the air to attach themselves to people’s heads. The Justice League arrives on the scene to address the situation, with one member unmistakably absent. At their farmhouse outside Metropolis, Lois and Clark “Smith” are having a conversation that though the couple have been living on Earth for years, even raising a son, Clark feels something is wrong: “I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more going on here. Something I don’t understand yet.” Lois suggests he reach out to the Justice League for answers, “After all, it wouldn’t be much of a Justice League without Superman.” Bryan Hitch’s story nicely has the League confused by the sudden arrival of this “new” Superman on the scene just as the man they knew as Superman died and then confronted by this alien threat. A really strong moment is Lois’s speech on Page 9 that puts some genuine heart into this tale. The arrival of the Green Lanterns Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz help, but it’s Superman’s arrival that changes things and makes this outing feel like a Justice League tale. All of the players have something to do and they contribute logically to the stopping of the monster. Page 18’s dialogue might seem cheesy to some, but this is exactly how I want my Justice League to behave. This issue reintroduces the Justice League to the world. Overall grade: A

The art: This was a horrible let down. I’ve been following the other Justice League title that Bryan Hitch has been writing and reading because it features this iconic team, but the visuals haven’t been strong. Hitch’s work is inked by Daniel Heniques and Scott Hanna, but there’s only so much that can be done. Problems don’t appear on the first page: both panels, one showing the people’s reaction to the creature’s arrival and the second showing in Cloverfield style buildings tumbling from alien arms just beyond the panel, are excellently rendered. With a turn of the page the visuals begin to stumble. The city is a suggestion of a location. The alien’s carapace is a suggestion. This looks rushed. Page 4 shows the League for the first time and it’s very difficult to find a focus; yes, it’s a chaotic scene, but the background is filled with, again, suggestions of characters and settings that steal focus. Better, much better, are the scenes at the Smiths’ home — the characters and the setting look terrific. Things improve slightly with a return to the city, but the swarming throng of mini-monsters simply do not look good. Flash and Batman look fine, but the rest leaves much to be desired. The bottom of Page 7 contains several characters, human and alien, and it looks great — really great, but look at the panel at the top of 8: where did Flash’s arm muscles go and what happened to Wonder Woman’s face? What happened to Jessica Cruz’s lantern on her right eye? What happened to four inches of her hair in the third panel on Page 18. Where are the details for the interiors of Watchtower? Page after page, there are things that just don’t look right. I cannot continue to buy any more books illustrated by Hitch. These visuals will not win new readers or maintain current ones. Overall grade: D 

The colors: Alex Sinclair does a decent job on this book. The opening page, where the art is the best, naturally has the best coloring. The partial double-paged splash of 2 and 3 has Sinclair trying to put perspective into the visuals for the city, placing colors where he can, with a nice shadow effect over the city, but the carapace of the creature is overwhelming as just a black smudge. Better are the tentacles of the mini-monsters that attack the citizens, standing out on the page with their sickening pinks. The panel that introduces the League is a mess, with no focus in any way: too much shading has neutered the typically bright colors of the characters. The best pages are in the Smith household: bright and real. The Lanterns bring a welcome bright green to their actions, which stand out, but things go muted when they’re not around. The final page should be a bright explosion of color, and the background is, but the characters are just a shaded mess. Very hot and cold work from the usually super Sinclair. Overall grade: C

The letters: Dialogue, story title, book credits, screams, sounds, scene settings, and a television broadcast are all crafted by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. This is a high point of the book, with the opening story title being very dramatic. Everything that these two do for this book looks great. Overall grade: A

The final line: Hitch, the writer, is good, but Hitch, the artist, leaves much to be desired. These are not the visuals to use to relaunch a company’s flagship team book. I love the Justice League, but this makes me sad. You’ll feel better if you skip this book. I wish I had. Overall grade: C

To find out more about this book and others that feature the characters of the Justice League go to http://www.dccomics.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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