Sometimes, you have a really bad day.  Sometimes everybody seems to be having a bad day. But the most awkward day comes along when you are in a pretty good mood but everybody else acts like they are suffering from painful rashes in extremely inconvenient places.  It leaves you nervous and slightly confused, unable to interact smoothly with a world that seems poised to lash out at the least insult, whether real or imagined, innocent or intentional.  In Justice League of America #1, author and artist Bryan Hitch gives us a team of heroes who act as if they really, really need a consultation with a good dermatologist.  The result is often unattractive and uncomfortable, even though the actual story comes together solidly enough.

Perhaps the art is partially to blame for this situation.  Bryan Hitch is justly known for his pencilling skills, but he occasionally suffers from a mismatch between his heads and his bodies, as if the whole figure in a given panel was assembled from pieces of two different kits.  This tendency is certainly on display in this issue, making the figures look slightly disproportionate and visibly jarring.  Hitch also tends to draw his faces with deep, dramatic lines.  The result s sometimes is to make the characters look significantly older than the story implies and, for lack of a better way to describe it, perpetually worried and annoyed.

But most of the trouble comes from the writing, particularly the characterization.  It is true that Clark Kent has a reason to be supremely irritated.  Not only does his sparring with Lois Lane continue unabated, but he finds himself faced with a pile of dead, well, Supermen, each plucked from a different timeline.  However, it is completely out of character for even a frightened and angry Clark Kent to evince the demeanor of a dim-witted Mafioso in physically threatening an offensive scientist.

As for the other members of the League, Hitch has chosen a stereotypical growling, hypercompetent Batman, which is not the most original or convincing of portrayals but which does have the excuse of precedent.  His Aquaman, on the other hand, a growling and defiant king of a nation that holds itself superior to the surface dwellers, might be more comfortable in the Flashpoint universe.  As far as the other members of the Justice League go, they serve mainly to pad out a spectacular action sequence in which the team falls into a trap and must fight Parasite.

This is a book that exists outside of the main DCU continuity.  Hitch and everyone else associated with the project has made that clear, and it is not a problem, although DC might have avoided confusion by naming it Justice League Chronicles or some such, rather than resurrecting the iconic JLA label.  It also isn’t necessarily a problem that the opening arc seems sure to dwell on Superman.  It is the nature of team books that the spotlight will shift from one character to another, and using Superman as the center of the first story in a new Justice League title makes a lot of sense.  Still, Hitch appears determined to double down on this emphasis, as a mysterious being claiming to be the Kryptonian deity Rao appears at the end of the first issue.  A story that has Superman as the central focus is one thing, but a story that is about Superman with the rest of the League as living props is something else again.




The first issue of the revived JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA is certainly full of action. It is also brimming with mystery and hints of cosmic significance, perhaps too many in truth. But for all the spectacle and portent, the characters feel askew and the focus imbalanced. Whether the next couple of issues correct these problems will determine whether this book succeeds, or whether this illustrious title returns to a file to await the next enthusiastic attempt.