This week's DC Comics releases continue to promote the recent publishing wide initiative entitled "Rebirth" which is promising a return to the more legacy driven stories, focused on the characters that has always been an integral part of the success of the brand for over 75 years. Many readers felt alienated by the recent "reboot" which was branded as "The New 52" and (re)introduced many of comics leader's most recognizable heroes as contemporary versions of themselves.
The initiative was no doubt an effort by DC Comics to compete with Marvel Comics which has benefitted from the cross-platform opportunities that the success of its film franchises has brought to reignite interest across their line of comics. The play introduced in 2011 didn't prove as lucrative a campaign as perhaps Chief Creative Office Geoff Johns might have expected, but it gave the writer and opportunity to relaunch one of the mainstay titles making the team book Justice League #1 the flagship for the launch.
Used as the platform to introduce the redesigned versions of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman (courtesy of industry legend Jim Lee) and modernize their origin Justice League has remained a popular book, and largely kept the heavy-hitting line-up intact for its entire run. Fifty-two issues later the book which Johns has mostly helmed for the relaunch, is heading straight into "Rebirth" with several shake-ups including a new team of creatives.
Artist and writer Bryan Hitch cut his teeth on the companion series Justice League of America when that series was retooled. Having come out of the recent "The Darkseid War" storyline which pit the team in the middle of a power struggle between arch enemies Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor (the latter making his "New 52" debut with a more elaborate backstory since introduced in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series).
Joining Hitch on Justice League #1 (Rebirth) is Tony S. Daniel and Sandu Florea on inks on a brand new approach that will no doubt test the new team dynamic.
So exactly how "new" is "new"? For readers who have been following the recent arc that took over most of the Superman comic books and lead to the "Final Days" of the Man of Steel, we learned that the Superman that was introduced at the beginning of "The New 52" has died, and the Superman that now protects the planet is actually the Man of Steel from before the "New 52" reboot. How the post-Crisis Superman has come to land on the "prime" Earth in the current DC Comics multiverse is a story to be analyzed on another day (but was chronicled in the recent "Convergence" storyline).
While Wonder Woman and Batman mourn the loss of their friend, they've invited this new version into the league especially to keep a close eye on him. Hal Jordan the Green Lantern patrolling our sector of space has passed the helm of policing the planet Earth to to largely untested recruits. Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz happily accepted to fill his position on the league while Jordan attends to more important matters elsewhere (check out Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps; Rebirth #1 out now). Filling the ranks are tried and true original team members The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg.
Already, Issue #1 has the group taking on (another) cataclysmic world event that is being already labeled as an "extinction-level" danger. It appears the the earth itself is collapsing and though the league is doing everything they can to keep things together, whatever is occurring is also stealing some of their super-powers in the process! With no discernible enemy in sight, except that it calls itself "The Kindred", the league is confounding with a mystery -- an awakening -- that may well bring them to their knees! Sound familiar?
That may be the most apparent problem with Justice League #1. Having just come out of a rematch with Darkseid and faced-down the Anti-Monitor, it perhaps might have served the series better to give these characters some room to reboot. Perhaps the mystery around Superman's recent "death" should have been more their focus, or the mysterious return of Wally West the Kid Flash who reemerged from the netherworld prison he has been trapped in since The Flash caused "FlashPoint". Instead the group finds itself in another global threat that it may, or may not survive.
It's all well and good that the stories, especially under the mindful guile of Bryan Hitch who has really become very much at home with these here, continue to take on epic measures, but if the purpose of the "Rebirth" was to reestablish the legacy of which they come from, shouldn't that be the first priority to making sense of what Johns has promised isn't simply a "marketing stunt". It also might be of note to the publishers that the biweekly, 22-pages of story don't serve to potentially grab readers the way that it should. At a cover price of $2.99, that's nearly six dollars of story your audience is investing in.
But is it really?
Justice League #1 the first part of "The Extinction Machines" storyline is out now and available in print and on digital platforms. ★★★★