Justice League Rebirth #1
“Fear the Reaper”
Writer: Bryan Hitch
Penciller: Bryan Hitch
Inkers: Daniel Henriques with Scott Hanna
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
The Justice League has been the core book of the DC lineup for several decades now, and it often has their most talented writers and artists producing it as a result. When the New 52 launched in 2011 it was helmed by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, and this time around it is Bryan Hitch who gets the nod as both writer and artist. Hitch has been one of the biggest names on the art side of the field since his work on The Authority and has a long history of high profile launches, including (interestingly enough) Marvel’s Ultimates book starring the screen-ready, modern update for the Avengers (because a movie called “The Avengers” would flop horribly… oh how history has proved that one wrong). Hitch is also not new to the League as, just prior to Rebirth, he had his own Justice League title that was basically his to do with as he pleased. That book never received a proper ending, and since he is working on this title now it probably never will.
Aside from his amazing artistic talents Hitch is well known for one other professional detail, which is that he is largely unable to maintain deadlines (a trait many of the hottest artists in comics seem to share). Given that he was already working on a book prior to this one it seems likely he wasn’t able to build up much of a buffer the way Jim Lee was for the New 52 launch, and consequently parts of this issue feel rushed and not up to the standards that we normally associate with Hitch. Most of the art is fine, but that just makes it even more jarring when panels with weird facial expressions and the like pop up. Which is disappointing because the occasionally wonky art does distract from an otherwise decent story.
The main plot for this issue sees the current members of the Justice League — Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman — handling an alien invasion in progress. The invasion turns out to be too much for the fantastic five and they call on some recent additions to the DC universe: Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, and the alternate reality Superman. Together this new Justice League takes down the alien threat and saves the world. If this were a regular issue for the series I would probably be underwhelmed by it, but serving as an introduction to the characters in it and the current state of the DC universe it works well enough. It certainly does a better job of explaining who this Superman is relative to what’s going on in his own books, but that is also a low bar to beat. I still don’t really know what is going on with the current Superman stories, but at least for this issue I know enough to enjoy the story.
That said this is hardly a perfect issue. The alien threat, the Reapers, are pretty much an organic copy of the Reapers from the Mass Effect video game series. The only significant difference, aside from not being robots, is that this set of Reapers appears to be here in advance of an even greater threat to Earth. What exactly that threat is is not yet explained, but it seems hard to imagine that it can really top Darkseid or the Anti-Monitor on the threat scale. There are also parts where the dialogue seems a bit off — most notably with the League members telling the Reapers to run away and be afraid because they guard the Earth — and I already mentioned that the art is not up to what we would expect from Bryan Hitch. For the most part the book gets away with it by virtue of needing to tell a tale of a straightforward victory by the League from start to finish in a single issue, but there are cracks.
The overall package of this issue is okay. It works as an introduction to the characters and also to setup a future threat for the League to face off with down the road. The new members of the team are welcome, and I am glad that both Baz and Cruz will fill the Green Lantern spot on the roster rather than trying to pick and choose one of them. I am still confused about the whole Superman situation, but that is an issue with the larger Rebirth story rather than this specific comic. I suspect this issue will mostly be forgotten as the Rebirth reboot continues forward — it certainly lacks the punch that Justice League #1 did back in 2011 — but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It does what it needs to do and anyone who reads this issue will know what to expect from future issues. That is kind of the point of Rebirth, so on the whole I will call this a success.
The follow-up book, Justice League #1, should be out on July 20th, 2016.