Review: Justice League Vol. 4: Endless (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

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The titular aspect of Bryan Hitch's Rebirth Justice League Vol. 4: Endless is a two-part sci-fi story reminiscent of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it's an enjoyable use of the Justice League framework that still ties in to the book's ongoing story in the end. But that ongoing story has been built for too long on hype with no real plot growth, and Endless's final chapter is another exercise in Justice League spinning its hyperbolic wheels. Sandwiched in between those parts are three stories by guest writers; in some respects there's utility in getting some other voices in this title, but on the other hand, the guest writers bring some mischaracterizations worse than what this title already suffers from.

Moreover, there's an overwhelming focus in this book on Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, none unfortunately that does any better job endearing her to the reader than this book has attempted so far. I am eager to read Sam Humphries's Green Lanterns to see what I hope is Jessica written right (and Lantern Simon Baz too, for that matter), because I don't think this is it.

[Review contains spoilers]

The two-part "Endless" sees Flash Barry Allen tossed a few minutes into the past every time he touches a rampaging alien weapon; the story is written and drawn by Hitch, has a nice mystery to it, and in something of an additive note to the recently-collected Batman/Flash: The Button, also sees Batman and the Flash teaming up to solve that mystery. Despite some general characterization problems -- and a side-plot, for instance, about the villain's wife having an affair that Hitch never ties in to anything -- it's a solid two-off Flash/League story, and in other circumstances I'd be happy that this otherwise-independent tale at least nods to League's "something's coming" throughway before the end.

But here at the end of League's twenty-first issue, that the League should have a conversation where they literally list five or six different threats who've told them "something is coming" and then finally resolve that maybe something really is coming seems naive to an extreme degree. Indeed what's really happening is that Hitch has told the same story or hit the same touchstone so many times already that the reader has long since gotten the message, and the characters lag behind because Hitch hasn't moved beyond the first steps yet in all of this. It is to the point of ridiculousness that Hitch's final issue collected here, Justice League #25, sees Batman having four full pages of banter with one of the harbingers of this threat with still no real story movement. Hitch also uses the word "rebirth" liberally as if to tie all of this into DC's ongoing event, but I suspect this really has nothing to do with that, and that makes riding Rebirth's coattails like this a little cheap.

What mostly takes away from the otherwise-good "Endless" story is that it's predicated on Flash trying to prevent the death of his apparent-girlfriend Jessica Cruz (though not if you ask Iris West over in the Flash title). To that extent Jessica is reduced to plot device in this issue (not to mention that Hitch never resolved that Jessica quit the League a few stories back), a temporarily-dead woman for Flash to cry and rage over before he's motivated to do his heroing. Earlier in the story Hitch has Barry explaining the ins and outs of supervillains to Jessica, in line with this book's use of Jessica as this ineffectual but still desirable woman that Barry constantly needs to worry over.

Jessica then at least gets the spotlight in a pair of stories by Shea Fontana and Tom Defalco respectively, though I'm not sure the Lantern comes off much better. Fontana has Jessica varying between beating herself up for infecting the League Watchtower with parasites and being terrified of the bugs; DeFalco too has Jessica deriding herself for carelessness with a villain. There is surely a tradition of stories about junior League members having to learn the ropes, but there's a repetitiveness to these "Jessica's got a problem again" stories (and in Hitch's previous League volumes), and I think writers did the same with Cyborg or Lantern Kyle Rayner, for instance, without turning to such tropes. I'll note the book doesn't treat Simon much better, giving him what seems like uncharacteristic angst as well about his abilities and his heritage.

I did enjoy that Fontana essentially teams the League with Lois Lane, and there's some fine material here showing Lois as an equal to the League in her investigative skills. But for Fontana to be about to write the Wonder Woman series, it's very worrisome for her Diana to answer Simon's high five with "I respect your people's celebratory rituals," a significant misunderstanding of how long Diana's been in "man's world." There's no lack of small detail problems like this throughout the book, whether DeFalco's Jessica sarcasm toward Batman, Hitch still writing Barry Allen as Wally West (or Grant Gustin), Hitch having the Molly character call Batman "Bruce" around a bunch of prison guards, or Dan Abnett having Diana "smell magic" and spout "Great Hera!" Ian Churchill does a nice job in Abnett's aquatic story, but I rather wish the creative team could have had Mera join the League without a story where Mera nearly destroys the East Coast because she's lost control of her emotions.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League Vol. 4: Endless

I say it every time, but I really love that Bryan Hitch brings the League together in every story; see the last page of Justice League Vol. 4: Endless with the League standing tall (and Cyborg pricelessly still in his sweater vest), reconfirming their commitment to one another. If the presentations of the characters sometimes miss the mark, Hitch has at least written one of the least angst-ridden and most convivial Leagues we've seen in a while (see also the League sitting down for a meal together at the end of "Endless") and that's eminently refreshing. There's plenty notes the next Justice League writer can take from Hitch's run.

[Includes original and variant covers]

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

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Wow. Looks like I got my word for the day!


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