By writer Bryan Hitch, artists Bryan Hitch, Daniel Henriques, Jesus Merino, Scott Hanna, Sandu Florea, Andy Owens, and Tony S. Daniel.
The Justice League is a familiar concept for any comic fan, you say Justice League and you automatically pair Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman together. Yes, there is Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Green Lantern, among others, but these three remain the three defining members of DC’s super team-up. This may be old hat for some comic enthusiasts, but after Rebirth there is a new dynamic to the team with New 52 Superman dead. Justice League Vol 1: The Extinction Machine is a trade that collects issues #1-5 that take place after the Rebirth reboot. What we have left is a team sans Superman, but there is still a pre-52 Superman running around being all domestic with his wife Lois, son Jon, and living a very un-hero like existence on Kent farm in Nebraska.
Writer Bryan Hitch tackles a very familiar Justice League scenario: a universe-wide threat in the form of The Kindred, an ancient group that wishes to take back their powers and wipe out all humans. The key to defeating The Kindred is the united efforts of all members of the Justice League, but with a few new members in the form of two new Green Lanterns (Jessica Cruz and Simon Baez) and pre-52 Superman; things do not go smoothly as expected. This trade covers the uniting of Batman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Aquaman with the new members who are willing to get battle-tested to earn the trust of the team.
This familiar scenario does seem to fall a little flat to get readers invested. It feels like the same old DC storylines, veiled behind the new Rebirth logo with a new Superman and Green Lanterns. Honestly, the most entertaining part of this collection of work was watching the slow simmer of distrust and resentment built between Superman and Batman. Readers are left wondering when Batman and new Superman are going to just start beating the crap out of each other. Hitch does apply enough nuance in the exchanges between the two that gives the readers the promise of a future explosive confrontation. Batman is angry, his friend Superman died and this other Superman is off living the life his friend always wanted but could never undertake because of his responsibility to use his powers for humanity. Superman (pre-52 alive one) feels exposed and underestimated. He has proven himself before, and he expects have at least earned some respect and trust from his fellow superheroes.
Hitch does no favors to Lois Lane throughout this issue. She is featured at Kent farm with her and Supe’s son, Jon, mostly acting as the stereotypical superhero wife. She begs Superman to stay out of the fray and stay at home with them, and then when he inevitability gets called into battle she has a near hysterical reaction showing nothing but resentment toward Batman. Has Lois not character development since the 1950’s? Writing the character as such a one-dimensional housewife is a disservice to the character, pre-52 or not.
The art throughout the trade features work from many different names including Bryan Hitch, Daniel Henriques, Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea, and Jesus Merino among others. Despite the many hands in the collective pot, the art from each issue still has a cohesive feel to it from character design, to colors, to panel layouts. The beautiful thing about buying trade issues is the extra art pieces that come with the book at the very end. You get to see a Variant cover gallery, which is super cool. There are 16 variants in this gallery and they are from such great artists like Joe Madureira, Alex Sinclair, Yanick Panquette, and Nathan Fairbairn. Then, we get to see the character designs for each Justice League member. The design shows who to assign the credit to, like Jim Lee for Jessica Cruz and Greg Capullo for Batman. It also goes over in incredible detail every aspect of the uniform from an artist perspective, like acknowledging Superman’s cape attaches to the top of his uniform as there is no collar. This little bit of insight into the creative process gives the feel that we are pulling the curtain open on a secretive process. Any prospective comic artists out there are sure to geek out over these details, as they are the building blocks to making comics. Speaking of building blocks to comic making, did we mention the pencil art from issue #1 that is also included? These are the super awesome benefits to buying trades in addition to the single issues and they usually provide some insight into the making of the comic and are a fun way to feel even more connected to the books we love oh so much.
Has DC been killing it since Rebirth? It’s is debatable among passionate comic fans, but they are certainly on a better path. Justice League Volume 1: The Extinction Machines is another example of the company taking a good idea and not completely realizing the full potential in front of them, but they are making progress. The book may be plagued with predictability throughout the main plot, but it still manages to capture the reader’s attention with some well-loved characters. The book does manager to endear readers to some new faces like Jessica Cruz and Simon Baez, the new Green Lanterns, and it also leans on some established personalities to keep the story moving along.