Justice League of America #1 Review: Bryan Hitch Goes Big


Justice League of America #1
Writer: Hitch, Bryan
Artist: Hitch, Bryan
Cover Artist: Hitch, Bryan
Published by DC

In many ways, I feel that the comic industry is in its genuine Golden Age. At no other time in the history of comics have we had such variety and talent available at our comic shops. We have more creators producing more comics, more publishers, more movie and television properties, more readers and fans of comic book stories than ever before. It’s a great time for everything associated with the medium.

But at the same time, there is just too much for any one person to take it all in. Between the Big Two publishers alone, readers are offered dozens of titles every month. The independent comics take up even more time and space. Add in films and television series and a person would have to sleep and breathe comics every day to catch up and stay up. I’m not totally ashamed to say that the pace of the industry goes beyond my ability to stay with it. I pick and choose as I can.

I only mention these thoughts to bring us closer to where I was coming from when I picked up Justice League of America #1 today. I totally missed the Convergence event. I only followed a couple titles out of the New 52. In fact, I have always been a bit skeptical of DC’s approach to their characters, forever keeping them in that second act of their development. DC has gone to great extents to maintain that dynamic in their characters. Add in uneven artistic contributions and you may begin to understand from where I speak. While I have been reading stories from DC since the 70s, I have gotten to the point where there has to be something amazing, something transcendent, to get me to follow a title on its first go around (versus trades where the verdict on the run is a done deal).

And while I hesitate to put this first issue of Justice League of America into the ‘transcendent’ category, it certainly lives up to its billing as a massive contribution by longtime fan favorite Bryan Hitch. His biggest accomplishment is successfully hitting the ‘reset’ button on the most iconic team of super heroes the comic industry has ever seen. I don’t know what your experience is in regards to how many “reboots” of the JLA you have seen, but I know this makes at least half a dozen for me. Some of have been better than others, of course, but it has been those weak offerings (hello 90s!) that make readers reluctant to pick up the next. I give credit to Mr. Hitch and his team for bringing an intense if not totally fresh approach to how Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the JLA interact and meet their challenges.

The issue opens with Superman fighting an unseen adversary. This adversary knocks Superman straight out of the atmosphere before turning his sights onto Earth itself; chunks of the planet are blown off, Earth is consumed by fire. As a prologue, this action sequence certainly catches the reader’s attention, but when the next scene turns to the Daily Planet and interaction between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, I caught myself wondering if Hitch and DC had just hit me with a narrative device that maybe we have seen too much of as of late. You know the one. It is where a storyteller gives us the end of the story first, and then in the next scene something like, “Three weeks earlier … ” or in this case, “Prior to the Earth blowing up in a big ball of fire … ” Not quite, we are to find, but from where I come from, if it quacks like a duck …

In any event, after the jarring first scene, Hitch and his team bounce around the globe, showing us a conspiracy to

release a mysterious prisoner, Superman responding to an invitation and Aquaman promoting Atlantean foreign policy. As for the rest of the JLAers, well, that ‘mysterious prisoner’ is a long-time DC villain (one of the best!) that the Justice League find themselves in battle with. Why he was set against them is unclear. This battle takes up about half of this book. And if I counted the 48 pages of comic that Hitch and his team gave us correctly, that would mean that the main action scene alone is as big or bigger than most comics. While it seemed like our heroes fell into this trap much too easily, the scene overall was done well. Our heroes struggle mightily with this adversary, failing time and again to get control of the situation. We get to see everyone in action though, and that is fun (this version of the JLA, FYI, is made up of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash and Cyborg with Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter [maybe] on hand in the story as well). I enjoyed how Hitch made these characters vulnerable. While “super,” we see them make mistakes and falter, but the “hero” in them is able to adjust, learn and bounce back. It’s a welcome formula in an age of overpowered characters.

The issue ends with a huge spaceship descending onto New York. Superman, in disbelief, recognizes it as Kryptonian in origin. Further, it communicates that it carries Rao, the supposedly mythic sun god of Krypton. Seeing as our heroes just barely survived a battle with a being of immense power and are scattered to who knows where, it makes sense that this ship and its divine power are probably connected to the chain of events. Hopefully Hitch and his team take this wonderful setup and run our heroes through their paces in the issues to come.

Like most, I have been a fan of Mr. Hitch’s work since The Authority. The detail that he brings to the table — particularly the range of emotions he can show on a face — has driven him to the heights of the comic industry. His mastery of perspective and of drawing the human, and inhuman, form is unparalleled. Somewhat cynically, it took Mr. Hitch’s name attached to this book for me to even consider following this title (there are a dozen creators who may have had the same effect). Sweeter still though, this is the first time that I can remember where he has been responsible for writing credits. His work on Justice League of America #1 shows that he understands the characters. He understands, too, what makes this team successful in the minds of the comic fan: ground them with vulnerabilities and then see them fight their way out. I look forward to his run on this title.

From DC:

"It’s massive widescreen JUSTICE LEAGUE action and adventure from superstar writer/artist Bryan Hitch! In this extra-sized debut issue, the League comes up against an armada of aliens heading for Earth that claims to be a peaceful religious tribe. But something sinister is lurking in their ranks…something with ties to ancient Krypton! This amazing kick-off issue is available with seven different open-to-order variant covers by Bryan Hitch, each spotlighting one of seven core members of the JLA, plus an incredible 1:100 seven-panel foldout variant cover that presents all seven open-to-order covers together!"

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