SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains major spoilers for DC Comics‘ “Justice League” #1, on sale now.
In “Justice League,” Bryan Hitch, Tony S. Daniel and Sandu Florea are giving us a big, summer blockbuster film in a comic book format. But while this comes across thanks to a larger-than-life, globe-spanning threat, what ultimately locks the first issue after the Rebirth special into being ranked a strong read is how well the individual moving parts of the team book are addressed.
The first issue opens with a six-page sequence starring Wonder Woman, one that starts off with her fighting Russian militants, only to have the playing field shift dramatically when a massive earthquake hits in the middle of battle. It’s an effective way to kick off both this issue as well as the story arc, for several reasons. First, Hitch starts the story with a single character, keeping the focus small to ease us in. But as the story suddenly shifts from a simple fight-the-bad-guys situation to a sudden slippage of tectonic plates and mass destruction, we learn in the blink of an eye that this isn’t a localized disaster, and that there’s something far more important to worry about.
Second, Hitch is careful to reflect the status of characters in their own titles here, without being overwhelming. There’s a moment where Wonder Woman is warned that she’s a “pretender god,” for example, a nice nod to the fact that she’s questioning her reality over in “Wonder Woman,” even as it works just as well as a simple sneering line if you aren’t up to date. That’s exactly how this sort of continuity reference should work. Similarly, we see Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz working well together as Green Lanterns, their relative inexperience (especially Jessica’s) coming across without having to rehash everything that’s going on in their own book.
Cyborg is faring well under Hitch’s direction. The character has often been treated by writers over the past few years as little more than a transporter for the rest of the Justice League, thanks to his ability to open and close interdimensional Boom Tubes. Here, he comes across as more of an information dispatcher, hooked into what’s happening around the globe and alerting members to where they’re need. At the same time, Hitch and Daniel give us a physically formidable Cyborg in “Justice League” #1; when he stops a runaway subway train, the character ripples with strength. It’s that ability to jump into the fight — along with the aforementioned Boom Tubes — that helps set him apart from Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s use of Oracle as a member of “JLA.”
Daniel and Florea bring the action to the page in a larger-than-life fashion that suitably sells Hitch’s script. When Diana attacks the Russian militia on a two-page spread, the destruction as the men and tanks alike fly through the air is jaw-dropping, a perfect counterpart to Hitch’s line, “I am here on a mission of peace.” Wonder Woman attacking the enemies comes across as a ferociously confident and dangerous woman; when she tells them, “I’m here to show you what war really is,” you believe it. Daniel and Florea do an especially good job when it comes to the destruction wreaked by the earthquakes. From the ground upheaving around Wonder Woman and her enemies, to the utter collapse of multiple buildings in Atlantis, you genuinely get the sense that this is destruction on a world-threatening level. And once the possessed begin to mob our heroes, the book takes on a tinge of horror, too, with Daniel and Florea making their mass pile-ons of those around them feel genuinely creepy.
The opening chapter of “The Extinction Machines” really does feel like a summer movie transformed into a print event. Hitch, Daniel and Florea’s “Justice League” is off to a strong start; if they can keep it up, the team will be certain to dazzle in the weeks and months ahead, as their take on DC Comics’ greatest heroes is poised to bring the proper excitement to the page.
Bryan Hitch, Tony S. Daniel and Sandu Florea’s “Justice League” #1 is on sale now.