[WARNING – This review contains SPOILERS for Justice League #4.]
The fourth issue in DC Rebirth‘s Justice League finds the mighty protectors of Earth trying to understand and fend-off a global threat known as “The Purge”. This team is still mostly trying to figure itself out; with a new Superman and two rookie Green Lanterns, they learn to trust each other in a trial-by-fire. With an unclear motive – other than planetary destruction – is this new foe too much for the League to handle?
Lantern’s Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are doing their best to destroy the massive alien constructs aligned outside Earth’s atmosphere. The missiles being launched at the planet are being handled by The Flash on the ground, while Superman tries to destroy the threat deep beneath the planet’s core. Superman left Lois and Jon in the care of Batman and Cyborg as they attempt to understand and analyze the Purge.
Wonder Woman is also trying to understand these creatures by communicating with them, while having a poorly timed crisis of self. In the ocean, Aquaman hears ancient crystals singing to him and surmises that they are key to stopping the attack on Earth. The Lanterns make the only real progress by completing their given task before discovering an unexpected army of creatures resembling Cyborg.
Justice League #4 suffers from the 22-page limit of a standard-sized comic book. Nothing truly noteworthy changes between the end of last issue and the final page of this issue. Writer Bryan Hitch has to spend equal time with all the members of the Justice League roster, and because of it very little actually happens. The Lanterns, Flash, and Superman all keep their focus on doing their job in saving the world. Batman, very uncharacteristically, stands around and asks questions while Cyborg fights a Purge takeover of his body. The team is disjointed, but each of them is supposed to at least attempt to carry their own weight when the entire world is at stake.
The three issues leading up to this were perfectly paced and managed to spread the attention around effectively, but Justice League #4 was a noticeable step down. By the end of this book, Lois Lane contributed more to stopping this threat than Wonder Woman – and all Lois did was convince Batman that Superman will do his job. I’m confident Bryan Hitch’s fifth issue will get the book back on track as the team hopefully takes a big step at coming together. For the most part, the problems with this comic are nitpicks that can be easily adjusted.
Jesús Merino and the art team start off really strong with this issue, opening up on the Green Lanterns fending off the giant space monstrosities. The splash page greeting readers on their first page-turn is beautiful, featuring an interesting drill construct by Simon Baz. Unfortunately, the art becomes less and less detailed as the story progresses, making me wonder if this book was maybe rushed due to the shipping schedule. It’s definitely not a poorly drawn or colored book by any means, it simply starts off very strong and goes down hill from there. There are poses in these panels that bother me just as much as Batman’s lack of urgency in the story does. (Maybe I’m being too harsh about Batman, but I know damn-well Snyder, King, and Tynion IV wouldn’t have him flat-footed for that long.)
Justice League #4 is a noticeably weaker installment, following three exciting trips into the trial-by-fire team building our heroes find themselves in. It’s hard to ignore the feeling that this whole effort may have been rushed in one way or another. Perhaps it’s the first victim of the double-shipping effort by DC? All that being said, this team has earned itself a long enough leash to let this one disappointing issue go. It could have been way worse, but it most definitely could’ve been better.