I’ve spent the last few weeks mercilessly criticizing the concept of DC’s comic universe reboot, Rebirth. However, I actually like most of this week’s issues. Green Lanterns focuses on the more interesting Jessica Cruz and mostly leaves old what’s-his-face to be sassy and obnoxious off panel. Superman digs into Clark’s parental/superhero anxieties in the right way. Green Arrow continues to be the gold standard. I’d actually thought I’d begun to change my mind about the whole reboot. And then Justice League #1 came along and revealed it was just some form of Stockholm Syndrome.
Team-up books can be tough. The writer has to spend so much time servicing the individual characters that the narrative can get lost. James Tynion IV is currently making it look easy with another Rebirth book, Detective Comics, but here, writer Bryan Hitch’s storytelling is disjointed at best. He jumps from Clark Kent’s reluctance to join the Justice League to their battle with a tentacle beast and then throws in a flashback and a cut to the Green Lanterns as well. It’s confusing and disorienting, but it’s that last thing that takes it all a bit too far.
The other major problem of the team-up book is that it asks the reader to forget what’s happening in the individual characters’ books. By all rights, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz should be off dealing with their own potentially humanity-ending epidemic. They even mention the fact as they fly off to help the Justice League with a bit of cringeworthy expository dialogue (though the issue’s worst moment comes when Flash literally yells, “action scene, people!” at the beginning of a fight). While the moment is meant to make readers want to pick up the Lanterns book, it actually ends up pointing out how stupid and same-y comic book narratives can be. In fact, the whole issue seems sort of bored by the standard apocalypse narrative. The issue begins with Clark Kent asking why these extinction-level events keep happening and ends with a newscaster basically reacting to the Justice League saving the world again with “ah, this old chestnut.”
Speaking of Superman, as with Rebirth as a whole, he is the series’ most difficult sell. Let’s accept that this Clark from another, darker Earth is reluctant to trust this version of the Justice League. He doesn’t really know them even if they look like people he once trusted. But it seems antithetical to the idea of Superman (and heroism in general) that he would stand around watching thousands of people get killed on TV just because he doesn’t want to get involved with the Justice League. He does eventually help, though, and the fact that he resolves the issue so quickly only emphasizes how disturbing and borderline sociopathic his indecision is.
While Superman seems a problem without solution, most of the other character work here is promising—what we get of it that is. Wonder Woman’s standalone book seems shockingly uninterested in her grief over her boyfriend New 52 Clark’s death, but Hitch at least pays lip service to it here. Hopefully he explores it more as the series goes on. Hitch also gets Batman exactly right. The Dark Knight is usually the most reluctant League member and while he’s committed to the team here, he’s not so sure about the new Superman. The only reason he wants him on the team is so that they can keep an eye on him until they figure out if he’s trustworthy. They’re promising plot threads, but they are aslo the smallest of comforts when it comes to deciding to buy this book every two weeks. For some, that may be enough. I’m not one of them. You shouldn’t be either.