“Look around you. This is one world. Is that the limit of your vision?”
DC You’s Justice League of America title returns to comic stands this week following a five month hiatus. With the success surrounding Rebirth it’s surprising that both publisher and writer are devoting time to finishing this arc. Considering the short memory of weekly comic readers it might be difficult to recall the story that preceded this issue. But a few pages in, the plot begins to unfurl as Rao, a God of Krypton, posing as a healer focuses on influencing the masses of Earth and other worlds to fall to their knees in worship. The central villain may not be incredibly memorable but thanks to Hitch’s creative use of time travel, Rao’s character is explored from a fairly interesting perspective. Just one of several plot points that seek to compel readers to continue this series. Thanks to an energetic and heartwarming script by writer and artist Bryan Hitch, some fans may just tough it out to the end.
After a confusing mix of solicits and cancellations it’s still unclear just how many entries remain in Hitch’s non-Rebirth Justice League title. According to DC’s website the 10th issue comes out on September 28th but the 11th is listed as coming out on the 14th. As their own press releases go back and forth we’re left with what appears to be the penultimate installment of the series.
In Justice League of America #9 we find two of our heroes lost in the cosmos, interacting with the Rao’s of different ages. This inventive use of time-travel forces Green Lantern and The Flash to face different incarnations of the Kryptonian God, adding necessary backstory and context to the mysterious villain. In Green Lantern’s subplot Rao must come face to face with his younger self. Hitch’s premise is clever, pitting Rao’s younger and older selves in a standoff regarding their philosophies and power. The conversations between the two delve into how a sincere and honest healer evolved into a power-hungry manipulator. A very unique method of introducing the older Rao’s motivations and history. If only the Justice League themselves were as integral to the story.
The works’ final pages are dedicated to yet another emotional moment for the downtrodden superheroes. After suffering at the hands of many writers and villains over the last few months it’s almost become tiring to witness the mourning/attempted resuscitation of the New 52 Superman. But Hitch manages to create an effective, beautiful moment with Diana attempting to fight fate singlehandedly. With most of the League at Superman’s side the primary focus is on two misplaced heroes.
The Flash aids a group of scientific misfits against one Rao; Green Lantern, depowered, rots in the ancient cell of Rao’s younger self. The Flash and his team of scientists provide the exciting action as they face off against one of the Rao’s and his cult following. Though it’s invigorating to see The Flash dropkick a Kryptonian God the ensuing fight is short-lived and the supporting characters annoy more than inform. Hitch begins to connect his pieces by using Flash’s timeline to reveal a major clue behind Rao’s reasoning for coming to Earth. Unfortunately, the moment is brief and easily missed despite its grand implications. If only the pages that led up to said reveal were just as interesting.
Flash’s more flashy adventure is a fitting companion for Green Lantern’s quiet and character-building journey. Hal’s desperate for freedom after being imprisoned by the older, greedy Rao in the cells of the younger and more peaceful Rao. While the several Rao’s are confusing at first, Hitch uses multiple designs to help distinguish between the characters. Hal and the younger Rao have their back against the walls in the presence of the God’s more developed self, making for the most riveting storyline in the issue. As they learn more about the elder Rao and his power it becomes clear the pair’s unlikely partnership may save both Earth and the younger Rao’s world.
Hitch’s pencils end up feeling like a mixed bag. The wide scope of his frames and settings make for breathtaking set pieces but his facial expressions and muscular anatomy leave much to be desired. One of several inconsistencies is the Flash’s torso, which varies in length at different points in the comic. The aforementioned facial expressions make it difficult to take some scenes seriously; emotional moments often falling flat because of vague looks and overuse of shadow. While the settings are large and imposing, sketchy linework and dull, poorly designed cultists mar the otherwise intricate lines of Bryan Hitch’s exotic locations.
Even as Rebirth helps DC Reclaim a sizable chunk of the market, the last remaining threads of the New 52/DC You era still haunt their shelves. The death of this era’s Superman was caused by three independent happenings in the DC universe. Peter Tomasi and Gene Luen Yang began this long-winded and emotional farewell to the lone son of a dying star in the pages of Superman and Action Comics earlier this year. The “final” event to lead to his demise is revealed by Bryan Hitch in the concluding pages of Justice League #9. Though the central focus is on Flash and Green Lantern facing off against different versions of the same Kryptonian God, Hitch manages to draw yet another powerful moment from Clark’s passing by way of an emotionally charged Wonder Woman surrounded by pleading friends. Unfortunately, Hitch’s art doesn’t survive the same scrutiny as his cleverly compelling writing. Heroes are plagued by blank expressions, and tension is wasted because of a forgettable fight scene with unremarkable baddies. However, the script sets up an inviting conclusion to a desperate Justice League’s struggle against an immortal powerhouse. Rao’s motivations start to become clear as the once-confusing plotlines converge. While certain artwork and scenes leave much to be desired, Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America #9 features enough rich and exciting character work to bring a dwindling audience back for more.
- In-depth exploration of villain
- Diverse, Multi-faceted Story
- Satisfying Send-Off to a Hero
- Somewhat Bland Flash Subplot
- Inconsistent Expressions and Figures