Review: Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Unfortunately with Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak, I begin to understand what might have been some others' concerns about writer Bryan Hitch's Rebirth title. I still like Hitch's general approach to the title, and artist Neil Edwards -- with inks by Daniel Henriques -- even very often resembles Hitch in his artwork. But even though Hitch often succeeds in getting the characters on the page together -- this feels like a more fully-realized League than the Justice League has in a while -- the stories in this book are formulaic and at times display a startling lack of knowledge about these characters. That brings the book down, and makes me feel less patient with these one-off, continuity-light stories than I had been previously.

[Review contains spoilers]

The best and worst of Bryan Hitch's Justice League is found in this book's fifth chapter, Justice League #10 and part three of the "Outbreak" storyline. The Justice League arrives at the suburban household of the man they suspect of releasing a computer virus, and in the course of almost eleven pages, they sit in his kitchen, drink coffee, and hash out the problem. It's a gigantic amount of space Hitch devotes to this, and it's ambitious and weird, charming and funny, and really made me think Hitch was on to something. Eleven pages of Batman in a kitchen in the daylight drinking coffee is a win for me.

But toward the end of that scene, Hitch's conception of the story gets very labored, with a lot of nonsense technical details that begin to bend the story in a silly direction. And literally just as Batman realizes a rogue computer program has put a price on the Justice League's head, a dozen D-list villains come crashing in. The rest of Hitch's story is boilerplate superhero comics, with the League actually struggling to defeat random bad guys like Scarecrow and the Fearsome Five. It's a case where the build-up to the mystery far out-did the revelation, and the last half of the fifth chapter and the rest of the sixth are boring, really, as the League knocks out villains no one ever really wanted to see them fight.

Hitch might've redeemed himself by bringing in Amazo, much touted on the issue covers as being the storyline's main villain. But this Amazo, too, is extremely generic, functioning more as a bruiser and only barely using his League-power-stealing abilities. Further, in the continuity we're supposedly still in, Amazo is the product of a sentient virus and the League hasn't encountered him in human form nor should even know who he is; I'm concerned less about the continuity than that Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok depicted the Amazo virus so well and Hitch just seems to slap him on the page. In similar fashion Hitch is still writing Flash Barry Allen as an ages-old Wally West, mentioning Barry eating a lot and having Barry crack jokes about needing energy drinks.

I do still appreciate what a point Hitch makes of having the team together, whether in battle or around a kitchen table. Hitch's League really feels like a team, consulting and checking in with one another, and Hitch always punctuates this title's big moments with group shots. I like also that Hitch uses the pre-Flashpoint Superman sparingly, actually absenting him from "Outbreak" entirely; as I mentioned in my review of Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines, Hitch seems to be taking his time integrating the new Superman into the group, and that feels more natural and realistic than if the League simply accepted the new Superman right away.

Outbreak begins with the two-part "State of Fear" story; unfortunately again there's not much more to redeem this one than "Outbreak." The threat here is a vague "fear monster" that makes the characters see and fight their fears along predictable lines; Hitch even has to create uncharacteristic angst for Green Lantern Simon Baz to get it to work. I did like the new Superman/Batman encounter -- there's still much unsaid, but Batman's "Not exactly the world's finest team, are we?" is funny -- and Hitch writes well Wonder Woman and Aquaman together, a pairing he seems particularly fond of. But I remain unenthusiastic about the Barry Allen/Green Lantern Jessica Cruz relationship Hitch spotlights here, given how awkwardly Hitch has the characters act and how he depicts Barry, for instance, as someone who rarely dates when in the Flash title he just finished living with Patty Spivot not that long ago.

When Bryan Hitch's Justice League offered epic stories that didn't require much outside knowledge but had among them the continuing story of the League's dealings with the new Superman, I was satisfied. But Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak doesn't quite rise to the level of epic; I appreciate that a lot in these stories turns on the events of Extinction Machines, making it all relevant, but "Outbreak" and especially its forgettable villains felt too small to be trifled with. Justice League vs. Suicide Squad comes next, happily, though that's not Hitch's story per se; I'm hopeful for better things when this title returns from "hiatus."

[Includes original and variant covers, Matthew Clark pencilled pages]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak
Author Rating
2 (out of 5)
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3 comments:

  1. Hm, I've only read the rebirth one-shot when the issue came out. I hated it so much I didn't even bother with the actual number 1. Maybe I'll give it another try thanks to your reviews.

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    Replies
    1. I had felt Justice League started strong and worsened as it went on. What didn't you like about the Rebirth special?

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    2. I don't really remember, it's been about a year since it came out. I think I remember that they started it off with a world ending event, I wasn't really pleased with the characterizations, art was meh to me, and by the final page it felt like a waste because even though it was a world ending event in a single issue I knew it wouldn't mean a thing.

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