Review: Justice League Vol. 3: Timeless (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Bryan Hitch's Justice League -- both Rebirth and beforehand -- has had its share of ups and downs. Justice League Vol. 3: Timeless is fortunately an improvement on the previous volume, but in large part because Hitch tells a story again with much the same setup of two of his other League books. Clearly Hitch has a line on what works, but this is so repetitive as to be really pushing the lines of credibility at this point, not to mention a variety of little errors along the way. It does help that artist Fernando Pasarin, a long-time favorite, does fine work for the most part here, and at least we can say Pasarin has some Jason Fabok-esque big moments in this book that demonstrate him as a League-caliber artist ready for the big time.

[Review contains spoilers]

Among the strongest parts of Hitch's long-form Justice League tale that started pre-Rebirth in Power and Glory are these time-traveling twentysomethings who've shown up to help and hinder the League (clearly, by the end of this volume, the offspring of some of DC's heroes). Vincent, Jane, and Alexis are back again in what's essentially a sequel to Power and Glory, but which also follows Power's structure -- the kids arrive time-lost and bearing half-answers in the midst of the League's battle with another foe and muddle through until they get to the truth. Meanwhile Timeless also echoes both Power and Hitch's Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines in that Hitch sets the League between two foes, one of which seems more benevolent than the other, but of course not all is as it seems, and all of them -- in all three books -- are working to forestall some amorphous predestined tragedy.

Arguably Hitch is building to something here, but in throwing the same "I must destroy Earth to save the universe" bad guy at the League over and over, there never feels like any deepening to the story. Further, every extraterrestrial villain in this series refers ominously but vaguely to "something's coming" or "something changed reality" in such a way that I suspect Hitch himself doesn't know the actual nature of the threat (Dr. Manhattan, we assume) any more than the reader does. This is among the worst ways to interact with these kinds of line-wide crossovers (and we saw this plenty with the Infinite Crisis prelude books), simply using it as a McGuffin without any real ties or context such to take any emotion or suspense out of the experience. And if by chance Hitch is building to his own reality-bending threat quite aside from Manhattan, that additional similarity surely doesn't help things.

As has been the case with each of Hitch's Justice League books previous, however, we can't at the same time just dismiss these stories outright. Hitch does exceptionally well in writing widescreen threats for the League that keep the heroes plenty occupied (even if it's the same thing again and again). Here, Hitch does not for the most part pair up the Leaguers the way he's done before, but instead sends them all on independent missions tailored to their histories or powers, before bringing them back together in epic fashion for the conclusion. As I've said before, this use of side-plots for the Leaguers works perfectly, reminiscent of old Super Friends adventures, and clearly Hitch understands the arc of a good Justice League story better than some League writers who've preceded him, always ending on the big group moment that every League story should build to.

Timeless would also seem to be the culmination of Hitch's Superman storyline, appropriately and probably not coincidentally before Superman Reborn's influence makes the whole thing moot. The running storyline in Hitch's Rebirth Justice League has been the League working to trust the post-Crisis Superman and Superman similarly coming to terms with them. The book starts with the one-off "Regroup" story (written and drawn by Hitch) in which a trapped League confronts and finally accepts this alt-Superman, in what I thought were some fairly moving sequences. Some of this drama, especially between Superman and Batman, spills over into the "Timeless" story proper, but effectively everyone is friends by the end.

So in the broad strokes Timeless works, especially if taken in isolation from its fellow League books. Page to page Timeless still has problems, however, perhaps the most egregious being Batman, entirely out of character, making a detailed Star Wars reference; Hitch's conception of the characters is not always entirely on point. His Flash Barry Allen/Green Lantern Jessica Cruz scenes chew up the page, with Jessica perpetually decrying how she can't do this or that and Barry obsequiously bucking her up in a way that ill-represents each character -- not to mention that, knowing that Barry's dating Iris West in his own title, this is assuredly to end in angst-ridden heartbreak. (Hitch also writes a Green Lantern Simon Baz who goes on at length about how badly things are for him, as he did in Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak, when I don't think Simon's regular title bears this out.) And while not dismissing Superman's love for his family, Hitch's Superman repeats every issue his concern for his wife and son, and also Hitch's Superman shows an uncharacteristic tendency to punch first and ask questions later.

Fernando Pasarin, whose work I enjoyed on Green Lantern Corps and Detective Comics, debuts on League with this volume. Pasarin's slim figures and tendency toward full-body poses make him a good match for Hitch's art, and between Hitch and Pasarin the book has a tonally even quality. There's plenty of high sci-fi here, also in line with Hitch, and all the Leaguers are well-depicted (though Pasarin's Superman is annoyingly, consistently drawn as Sylvester Stallone). Pasarin has a cosmic two-page spread toward the end of the book worthy of a poster, and at first glance I actually thought it was Jason Fabok; that Pasarin is achieving that kind of show-stopper quality is auspicious indeed.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League Vol. 3: Timeless

If I've got it right, Bryan Hitch has one more volume after Justice League Vol. 3: Timeless before he turns back to the "Infinity Corporation" characters, and then at that point I believe Hitch takes his leave from the book. That's about right; this is a good run, give or take, and as I've said before it might even read better in the combination hardcovers that'll turn some of these repetitive individual stories into longer, sweeping tales -- letting alone the majesty of artists like Hitch and Fernando Pasarin in deluxe size. When Hitch concludes, this'll stand well as a long-form story, and maybe the next writer will take lessons from at least some of what worked here.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League Vol. 3: Timeless
Author Rating
4 (out of 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Thanks for reviewing this. I had picked up the first deluxe hardcover collection of this series and was on the fence about getting the next one when it comes out because the first one didn't really grab me. I haven't actually read the second part of it yet because I got distracted with reading other collections (Mike Grell's Green Arrow! Such great stories there.), which kind of goes to show that the first part wasn't anything spectacular in my eyes. Based on your review, it sounds like it's a bit more of the same but with better art, which might be enough to convince me to get the next hardcover. Plus, I had heard that the series gets better as it goes along.


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