After last issue’s escalation of events, we’ll finally start getting some answers this issue, won’t we? Erm…
Say what you like about Justice League (and believe me, I will), but you can’t fault the art. That cover is ludicrously impressive for a start and the internals are similarly magnificent. Tony S Daniel does a simply phenomenal job of depicting the events of this issue, whether it’s Wonder Woman confronting a giant creature that is effectively a composite of hundreds of human beings or the Green Lanterns finding a half-destroyed world at the end of a wormhole or another giant composite creature emerging from the ocean, his work is simply faultless.
The same cannot, sadly, be said of the story as a whole. We start with that aforementioned confrontation between Wonder Woman and the first of this issue’s Kindred, the giant creature made up of lots of merged people. The problem here is the characterisation and, to some extent, the dialogue. Is Wonder Woman so freaked out that she forgets to think? Possibly. Having demanded that the Kindred release the people it’s absorbed, she then attacks it with her thunderbolt. Which, if she was going to be successful (she isn’t), would surely have injured, if not killed outright, at least a few of the people who comprise the Kindred’s form.
The dialogue is portentous but short on detail. The Kindred says, “Our purpose was within all people so we would emerge from them wherever they would be. On any world. At any time, We would come to end forever.” Okay, I get that Hitch is going for something perhaps metaphysical on an epic scale, but that first sentence is clunky and raises far more questions than it answers. Is the Kindred some kind of accumulation or synthesis of a life force that is in fact common to all worlds everywhere? Does that, by implication, mean that every life in the universe is cut from the same cosmic ‘cloth’? The fact that the questions are fairly intriguing is only more frustrating because, having raised them, Hitch seems to show no interest in answering them. Instead we get a lot of bluster from Wonder Woman and the scene ends with Diana being absorbed into the body of the Kindred herself. Which probably should be deeply disturbing on some level, but feels much more of a relief than anything else. (At least we don’t have to hear any more of her dialogue…)
We briefly see similar Kindred in Japan and Australia before we cut back to the GLs dealing with yet more flying bio-missiles. (If you remember from last issue, a whole ton of them were heading towards the Earth.) Flash helps them out but his dialogue (“I’ll go state to state…”) suggests that they’re dealing with a US-only situation when the artwork from last issue suggested that it was a much more global problem. Having prompted the two GLs to get on and do the job for which they’re ostensibly trained, Flash takes care of the incoming alien creatures while we see Cyborg do the same with those creatures infesting the Watchtower.
This is fine, up to a point, but we’re about to hit a problem with balance very similar to the ones encountered last issue. I can just about handle the quick cutting between League members, but the GLs’ trip through a wormhole, the discovery of a largely wrecked alien planet and their decision to start cleansing the nearby ships orbiting the planet needs far more space and explanation than what we got. Then we’re back at the Kent farm where Batman is (still) talking to Superman in an attempt to get him to go to the centre of the earth. I like character moments as much as the next man but at this point I’d happily swap a couple of panels of dialogue here for a little more explanation elsewhere. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great moments. The silent panel of Clark removing his cape and handing it to Lois is beautifully drawn; John offering Batman a cookie after his mother has just made it clear that she holds Batman responsible if anything happens to Clark is comic book gold. On the whole, though, this section slows the action right down and does so in a pretty unnecessary and unproductive way, although the sight of Cyborg getting swamped by a swarm of flying alien creatures is visually impressive if nothing else.
Structurally that Batman-Lois-Clark encounter (Cyborg shows up later too) is the heart of the issue, but the rest of the story is only loosely connected to that moment. While Superman’s boom-tubed to the Earth’s core (and instantly starts to suffer for his pains), Aquaman is still in Atlantis dealing with a Kindred of his own and mumbling something mostly incomprehensible about those singing stones from last issue. Despite the impressive meeting of the four Kindred (and it is beautifully drawn), precisely how they are connected to the bio-missiles, the doomsday machines at the Earth’s core or the temporary loss of some of the heroes’ powers remains maddeningly unclear. Heroism demands context to be emotionally affecting and here the context is simply too loose, too vague, to deliver the emotional punch that Hitch is so obviously striving for.
Perhaps the cherry on this particular cake of mediocrity is Wonder Woman’s conversation inside the Kindred which is as informative as it is dramatic. That is, not very. The Kindred seeming to take issue with Wonder Woman’s presence in its body could have been interesting but shouting the same thing over and over at her is assuredly not the way to make it intriguing.
The issue ends with arguably a betrayal of both the Superman character and the League as a whole. The last line of the issue, spoken by Superman, is “I don’t know what to do.” It’s meant to build up tension and give us a clear sense of things getting worse, but it mostly serves to remind the reader that this is a version of the League whose characterisation is markedly off.
This issue as a whole, then, is pretty to look at – big on spectacle and moments of gorgeous artwork, but short on an involving, engaging unfolding plot. Arguably the heart of the JL is teamwork and, although we do get to see Flash and the GLs work together, those aching for an issue that shows the JL working to combine their powers against a particular threat will be sorely disappointed.
For me, the issue is disappointing – full of bombast and ominous spectacle but lacking anything that would give the reader something to get his or her teeth into.