Thursday, 9 February 2017

Justice League, Volume 1: The Extinction Machines Review (Bryan Hitch, Tony S. Daniel)

I was glad to hear Geoff Johns was leaving Justice League as I wasn’t a fan of his New 52 run and I still wanted to read a great Justice League comic. My optimism was soon dampened though after hearing Bryan Hitch was taking over. Have you read his Image series Real Heroes? The premise is what if actors playing superheroes actually got superpowers and had to save the world for reals. Sounds ok, right? I couldn’t get through the first issue, it was so, so bad - it even gave me a headache! 

The good news is Hitch has gotten better since then - marginally. He’s gone from being unreadable to just a poor writer, an improvement but not enough of one. His first Justice League Rebirth book is still pretty bad. 

I can broadly summarise the plot as that tired old cliche of aliens wanting to destroy Earth and the superheroes having to stop them. The details of how they plan to do this or how the Justice League stop them, why the aliens want to do this and who they are though are nebulous at best, and that’s what I mean about bad writing ruining the book for me. 

There are giant insect aliens and giant Doctor Manhattan-types made of people, and I think they’re at war with one another, maybe, or possibly there’s another alien species against them, but the Justice League are hitting every alien in sight regardless. It’s impossible to get too invested in a plot that’s such nonsense. 

I suppose Hitch should get some credit for utilising all the members of the Justice League in the story - they all have a part to play and they effectively work together as a team to beat the bad guys. But they get such dull, static roles: Wonder Woman stands inside one of these giants so we can see their perspective, Aquapants is hanging onto some magic singing crystals that’ll save the day (really), Superman’s got to punch something right hard, and the Lanterns have a green pipeline of something to defeat the baddies. When they all align, it’s like that board game Mouse Trap but with superheroes, all doing their thing one after the other like clockwork! It’s very contrived. 

As an aside, I’m really fed up of newcaster talking heads being used as the Greek chorus, it’s so done and unimaginative. You can always tell the age of a writer when you see this crap deployed because it was everywhere in the ‘80s and ‘90s when it felt more fresh. And Cyborg is once again there to be the info dump guy - another sign of bad writing, when you need a character to vomit exposition just to make sense of the unnecessarily convoluted plot. The ending to this one too is so unsatisfyingly abrupt thanks to Aquapants’ Deus Ex Machina. 

While Hitch is yet another artist who can’t write, his art remains good and I enjoyed the opening issue he illustrated. Tony S. Daniel’s art, while not his best, is also decent here with strong lines and a good eye for interesting page composition. 

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of positives about this one besides the art and almost-robotic utility of the characters; Justice League remains a title with a lot to be desired. And back I go to now waiting for Bryan Hitch to leave the title and hopefully someone good picking it up!

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