Justice League #6
Written by Bryan Hitch
Art by Matthew Clark, Tom Derenick, Sean Parsons, Trevor Scott and Adriano Lucas
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Published by DC Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Coming off the back of a first arc that almost tore the world apart, one would forgive Bryan Hitch for easing up on the pace for a little bit. Yet as we join the Justice League in media res, coming off the back of an adventure that started off-panel, it’s evident that the only thing that could stop this momentum would be a team as powerful as the titular League themselves. Hitch appears to only know one setting, and if ‘blockbuster’ comic bookery is what you’re looking for, then the current run of Justice League certainly fits the bill.
After their latest bout of saving the world, one where the “rookie” Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz were instrumental in aiding the group, the various members of the League return to their families and loved ones. Indeed, Jessica and Barry Allen/The Flash agree to go out on a date. Yet as their courting begins, it becomes evident to the reader that something is wrong, with both characters acting against type. Jessica is terrified of being touched, Barry is cocksure and arrogant, and we won’t even mention what Superman wants to do to Batman. It’s a good old-fashioned “hero turns bad” face-heel turn trope, but Hitch does it incredibly well.
The idea of the Justice League going bad has been explored many times, not least of which was the final "New 52" arc, "Darkseid War." Indeed, the Crime Syndicate, and their multiversal counterparts in various versions of the DCU, play on the love we have of seeing our favourite heroes turn to the dark side. This is not quite that, and instead we start to see familiar heroes overcome and ruled by their own fears. This is far more interesting than a mere turn, as it reminds us that even the world’s finest can be brought down by human frailties.
Clark, Derenick, Parsons, Scott, and Lucas match the scale of Hitch’s script panel-for-panel, opening on a close-up of Batman’s terrified face, a sight that is only consumed by the wholesale destruction of a city across a glorious two-page spread. Like one of Caravaggio’s Baroque paintings, there’s another rallying spread that features the entire League illuminated by a Green Lantern’s light, expressing almost everything we need to know about the nature of the otherwise unseen battle in the blink of an eye. As the issue progresses, it’s the subtle character turns in the character faces that leads us to believe in the darkening of that light.
For all of the big stakes and explosive impact Hitch’s issue has, especially in the opening sequences, the start of the latest Justice League arc is a slow-burner. More accurately, it’s a story in a powder-keg and giving off sparks. From the very beginning of the issue, we are taught not to believe everything we see, or at least believe that we are not seeing everything there is to see. This philosophy will serve us well going forward, with a second arc in the "Rebirth" series that has stakes just as high as the first.