Bryan Hitch’s current run on the Justice League is a story that’s been gradually getting better in ticks when it needs to be improving by bounds. The ominous red-dialogue mob has now stacked atop each other to make giants that now possibly threaten the world. If this run has done one visually interesting thing, it’s through how it’s constantly evolved the visual design of the villain, always building a different type of intrigue and doom with each iteration. The brainwashed civilians collapse into each other to create colossi across the globe; each glows a specific color in the Lantern spectrum but why?
Yet the real mark of improvement comes to a stark direction towards the characters. Most of the Justice League is still forgotten, but with the introduction and recruitment of this new Superman from another world, there’s a glimpse into what this story could be about. Batman and the League need a Superman to go to the center of the Earth, and though he’s already accepted, Superman goes to his farmhouse in Kansas to tell Lois what he’s going to do.
Their relationship and this interaction are hands down the most engaging part of the story. Lois argues with him, tells him this plan is stupid and dangerous. She doesn’t want to lose her husband, and though Clark tries to ease her nerves and remind her of the other times he’s come back to life, they both know he still might die.
This was the first human moment—the first actual conversation in these entire three issues but unfortunately only takes up three pages. When Superman is teleported to the molten core, the art conveys how overwhelming and desperate the situation is. Superman is engulfed by the intense heat, blinded and struggling but as the issue closes here, I couldn’t stop wanting to go back to that conversation, to stay in it a bit longer.
Why couldn’t Superman get to say a real goodbye to his son? Why didn’t Lois chew out Batman and Cyborg? We don’t even get to see the conversation teased at the end of issue #2 where Batman tells this unfamiliar Superman their plan that could take his life.
The Justice League #3 falls into the same traps as the other issues of the series. There are glimpses—glimpses of themes, glimpses of character moments that you can just see ready to peek out and claim the story, but then they’re gone all too soon. Just as Lois White, Superman’s wife has a moment to react to that interminable silence that is the wait until her husband either comes home or dies an explosion happens.
Just as there’s a moment for Batman to acknowledge this extension of trust to someone who looks exactly like his dead friend, exposition drools out instead. Instead of a human and engaging story about these characters, these strange and contrasting personalities that find common ground, the pages so far have been an elaborate action sequence and all sound and fury signifying nothing.
Theming in a superhero story is almost always determined by the source of conflict, yet the villains here are kept so vague, so cloudy and indeterminate what their origins and interests are—that I can’t even tell you what this story is meant to be about.
There are earthquakes, I guess? Big glowing dudes are stomping around and maybe are doing something bad? There are strange bug monsters that are somehow related? I’ve read the first three issues of this story—now sixty pages of this story—and I feel like I have no better grasp on what’s going on than when I read the first five pages of issue one.
This might be harsh, but this story isn’t unsalvageable. It only needs to remember why readers come to see tent pole superheroes in the first place. It’s not because we’re interested in seeing an action sequence or their super power or the villain of the week—we’ve come for the characters we remember and love.
We want to see stories about them, not stories that they happen to inhabit.
[su_box title="Score: 2/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Justice League #3 Writer: Bryan Hitch Artist: Tony S. Daniel Colorist: Tomey Morey Publisher: DC Comics Price: $2.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital