Justice League #8
Writer: Bryan Hitch
Penciller: Neil Edwards
Inker: Daniel Henriques
Colorist: Tony Avina
Lettering: Richard Starkings
WARNING: Major spoilers – article meant only for those who have completed reading this issue!
I had the great benefit of my review assignments for this week being three books by members of the Top Writer’s club in comics these days. Mark Waid, Marguerite Bennett, and this issue, by Brian Hitch, which was the first issue I read out of my stack. This was a well-written and well-drawn book. Unfortunately, it is a carbon copy of a ton of Justice League issues written over the years. I get it; it’s a setup issue to transition the team from the last arc to the next. But I finished the issue feeling like I had not gotten much out of it. More on that in a bit.
The story picks up with Cyborg lamenting the one death that occurred in the wake of the League’s battle with the Kindred. In one aspect, I was a bit dismissive of the notion that the League, who has fought battles in which there were a LOT more casualties, were all brooding about this one individual. But I get it. It’s a focus essay on the value of one single life being as precious and representing a failure of the League that is just as important to the Palmer family as any dozen casualties would have been to others. Cyborg observes or hears a sub-carrier frequency and sees its visualization in his Watchtower feed, which is enough to expose him to some type of virus that invades his systems and the Watchtower’s. Batman, who is working with Alfred to install a security patch on all of the Bat-vehicles, sees his systems hacked as well, and has to fend off an assault by every one of his own creations. The remaining members of the League, sans Superman, arrive to assist Cyborg. But before they can subdue him, the virus leaps the air-gap between Victor and the Green Lantern’s ring. In one of the few scenes that actually grabbed my attention, I whispered an “Oh, shiz” along with the rest of the League. In the closing panel, we see dozens of aggro constructs and know it’s going to be a veritable shiz storm that the team will have on their hands at the beginning of next issue.
My problem with this issue, like i said, is that it does not do anything new. I like Hitch, and as I mentioned, the story is written well. There is a bit of detectable sorrow in the writing of the thoughts and words between the Cyborg and Batman scenes that communicate the League’s efforts in struggling with the wake of the Kindred defense. I just feel like if you are going to invoke this thread, it needs to feel a bit more heart-breaking. Some of that blame is in the storytelling from an art perspective, where we do not see the emotional strain or a smoldering intensity in Batman’s face. Not like we have seen it drawn in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics in the recent issues as Bruce has been dealing with the (as far as he knows) death of Tim Drake. It just didn’t get me in this issue like it has in those other two series. There are some nice heroics in the Cyborg scenes, with a last minute Boom Tube save where Cyborg shunts the Watchtower back into space before it almost crashes into the Earth’s surface. But outside of that and the Green Lantern ring hop at the end, I just did not feel like there was much being done here to go out of the way of what we would have already been expecting. There is no deep character insight offered here, and no major reveals. It’s a solid issue, just not one that falls too far from the stock Justice League tree.
Neil Edward’s pencils are good, but again nothing earth shattering. Panel arrangements are pretty pedestrian. The best panels are the ones with the entire team on-screen. I was not too keen on the larger panels with full-length action poses of Batman in motion. Something about the perspective made the proportions seem a bit off. The best work in this issue is really from colorist Tony Vina and letterer Richard Starkings. The former for the deep, bright, rich greens in the Lantern constructs and the bright oranges in the multiple explosions. The latter for an incredible expose in getting a ton of letters for exposition, background computer chatter, and dialog on the screen without making it feel too cluttered.
Despite my criticism, this is a great jumping on point for those who have not been reading JL and want to get in now. It is not a talking heads issue; despite everything that is communicated in character dialog, exposition, and thought, there is a ton of action in this issue. It’s a good League story and a good setup. It just does not achieve much more than I have come to expect in a bridge story commencing a new Justice League arc. Fans of the team will not be disappointed, most likely. But those looking for a compelling reason to on-board this title to their recurring pull-list do not have much to grab onto other than the closing panel cliffhanger. That will be enough for some. For others, it may just leave them continuing the search for the next title to add to their pull.