When DC writers don’t have to worry about continuity we get stories like Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come and Jim Kreuger’s Justice (two of the best stories in DC’s past, if you ask me). Convergence, while opening up every possible reality in DC’s past, also cleared the way for more “anti-continuity” stories. In JLA #1 by Bryan Hitch that is exactly what we get.
To be honest, I was really excited about this issue. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way DC used the JLA title in the New 52 to springboard events like Trinity War and Forever Evil. The idea of a government sponsored Justice League of America was okay, but the overall feeling that the series was going to be tossed away made it hard to toss money in its direction.
On the other hand, Hitch’s work on the first 12 issues of The Authority and JLA in the early 2000’s was fantastic. So the idea that Hitch was going to take DC’s biggest heroes, ignore main continuity story threads like Batman’s apparent death, Superman’s exposed identity, Wonder Woman’s godhood, and Green Lantern’s expulsion from the Green Lantern Corps, allows him the opportunity to tell a great, original story.
Hitch does deliver an epic story. Within the 56 pages of intense drama and action, we see a bleak future where Superman lies helpless as the Earth is destroyed. We also get the introduction of the shadowy Infinity Corporation, an action-packed throwdown with Parasite that makes the villain feel more relevant than he ever has, and a cool reveal at the end.
With so much going on in the story, one might at times feel lost, but Hitch does an excellent job of timing transitions and balancing exposition and action. There are moments where it seems the dialogue never ends, like when Superman meets Infinity Corporation’s Vincent, but the weight of the dialogue is well balanced with motive and consequence.
As mentioned before, the JLA’s battle with Parasite is excellently constructed. Hitch plays on Parasite’s ability to draw energy from any source to make him a real threat to the Justice League. Parasite draws energy from each of the superheroes making him seem like a composite of the whole team. While this is happening, Batman struggles to control the alpha personalities that compose the team, and by placing them in such a situation, Hitch makes the heroes fallible and interesting.
Hitch’s artwork is easily identifiable from the unique way he draws the reader into the environment and action. His art shines in this issue because each panel is constructed to be more than what the focus appears to be. A fight may occur, but it feels more than another battle because Hitch draws attention to the heroes, villains, and environment in perfect balance. The battle with Parasite works so well because Hitch creates a massive environment to contain the battle while creating the sense that the JLA have nowhere to hide. This perceived weakness emphasizes the team dynamic that is established in the dialogue.
While the story lives up to the epic expectations there are a few moments that may rub the reader the wrong way. The bleak future may strike the reader as awfully reminiscent of several scenes throughout the Convergence story–a defeated superhero searching for answers from an omnipresent, overbearing voice from the sky (Telos, anyone?) and Wonder Woman’s dialogue isn’t quite the characterization we’ve come to expect (“How much energy can you steal without your guts, Filth?” she exclaims during the Parasite fight).
All in all though, Hitch starts off a big story in a way that clearly adheres to DC’s new standard of great stories that don’t worry about continuity.