Review: Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bryan Hitch brings the Justice League into Rebirth with Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines. If you liked Hitch's Justice League of America: Power and Glory then you'll like this, too. Hitch writes a pared-down League and knows the strength of this title comes from getting these characters on the page together; in his teamings, Hitch evokes the Silver Age Justice League "pair off" structure, and even the Super Friends or Justice League cartoons. Tony Daniel graduates well enough to the "big leagues" following Jason Fabok on this title.

There are some marked similarities between this book and Power and Glory, and what's worked for Hitch twice now might not necessarily work a third time, but there's no major red flags here; so far it seems Hitch is on the right track.

[Review contains spoilers]

In storytelling, and especially serial storytelling, I don't think a writer wants prolonged periods of the audience being smarter than the characters; a little foreknowledge is all right for suspense, but one does not want pages upon pages of the characters acting naively and the reader knowing it. Unfortunately, that's Hitch's problem in Extinction Machines, where the Justice League endeavors to stop the ancient Kindred from completing their "song," mainly it seems just because the League doesn't understand the implications of it. But faced with the murderous "Purge" aliens on one side and the Kindred on the other, Hitch has the League take a "stop everyone" approach when the audience can clearly tell from dialogue snippets that the Kindred means no harm. That leads to the League acting dumbly for most of the book's conclusion, especially Wonder Woman, whom Hitch writes as much more brash and violent than Greg Rucka's contemporaneous Rebirth portrayal (and wielding the "Bolt of Zeus," something Hitch established in Power and Glory and brought forward inexplicably here).

As I stated, I like the structure of Hitch's League stories, which tend to pair a couple Leaguers and leave a couple Leaguers solo on various missions and then bring them all back together in the end. But seeing that structure one after another in Hitch's Justice League of America: Power and Glory followed immediately by the same in Extinction Machines begins to grate slightly, if only because we tend to be used to something more fluid in modern comics. As well, in this book the same as in Power and Glory, Hitch has the League facing two unknown and opposing factions, one of which turns out to be potentially benevolent and both of which seem to hint at some future cataclysm. We're not quite to the point of repetition yet, but one would hope Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak breaks the mold.

There's plenty that's engaging about Extinction Machines however, not the least the story of the League assessing their new reality-lost Superman. I appreciated that Hitch does not wrap the story up tidily but rather at the end of the first book, the pre-Flashpoint Superman still isn't a member of this team. Rebirth is perhaps about the DC heroes getting along, but I do recall a time post-Crisis where neither Superman nor Batman considered themselves "team players," and there's something nostalgic about the distrust the League displays here, undercut with grudging respect. The slow pace with which Hitch takes this also gives a chance for the other Leaguers not to be overshadowed by Superman, with strong roles for Green Lanterns Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, the Flash, and Cyborg, among others.

And again, Hitch seems to recognize the core thrill of the Justice League concept, which is seeing DC Comics's most recognizable characters on the page together. Extinction Machines is book-ended by panels that show the eight Justice Leaguers together, demonstrating Hitch's understanding of what makes for an effective Justice League-story crescendo. The League doesn't feel overfull at eight members, and new members Baz and Cruz fit well, reliving the title of some of the drama that Geoff Johns wrote into Hal Jordan's presence; also the fact that there are two "newbies" keeps either one individually from becoming a team mascot-type annoyance. (I find Hitch's writing of Flash's puppy dog-like affection for Cruz off-putting, but we'll see where he goes with it.) A variant cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez collected at the end of the book shows the Martian Manhunter along with the new League, and it makes me think that surely this title could withstand one more member such to give J'onn a home.

As with Power and Glory, Bryan Hitch's Rebirth Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines is a relatively self-contained and appropriately epic one-off. In some respects the story is deceptively simple, though there is the through-way of the League adjusting to its new Superman and also, given crossovers to come involving both this title and others, I don't necessarily mind so much a Justice League story that's just a "Big Seven"(ish) Justice League story. Nothing earth-shattering but I'm eager for the next volume.

[Includes original and variant covers, Tony Daniel pencilled pages]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines
Author Rating
4 (out of 5)
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

1 comment:

  1. I might have to give this a read, based on your review. I was avoiding it because of my feelings about Power and Glory.

    ReplyDelete