July and August, 2016, were both busy months for our Justice Friends over at DC Comics. You know them, right? Batman, Superman, Brian Hitch, Tony Daniel, and Sandu Florea. Oh, and Aquaman. Nobody ever remembers Aquaman. I tell ya - ride a seahorse in to harbor one time, man, and you're marked for life.

TO QUOTE Zach de la Rocha: “Come on! Come on! We gotta take the power back!”.

So, a Reaper, the Kindred, and a hive full of bioweapons walk in to a bar, and the bartender says, “Hey, we don't allow brain-humping space-sealife in this bar!”. The Reaper sulks and leaves as the whole bar starts to shake apart. The Kindred and the hive full of bioweapons, on the other hand, sit down and take a selfie over the giant “party sized” Mai Tai they ordered, before the hive full of bioweapons texts all her friends to come down and join them. 

Yeah. That's basically the Extinction Machine story-line so far: the abridged version. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be all excited about the mystery of how the four different threats to all life on Earth are related, but, to be honest, I'm not. I barely care. Sometimes a writer can come up with a great hook for a really cool story, but it just doesn't play out in a way that's engaging to the reader. I don't dislike Brian Hitch's work -- as I'm loving his weird twisted-time story over in JLA -- but this post-Rebirth Justice League just isn't drawing me in.

There's plenty of good stuff in here, though. The Rebirth issue itself had some really solid Bat-brooding moments as he reminisced about trust issues related to the new / old / alternate Superman that may or may not really be pre-Flashpoint Superman. This opening flashback-brood pays off with an echo in issue 2 where Batman's internal monologue about 'alternaSupes' clearly being a Superman, even though he's not Batman's friend Superman, beautifully expresses the current state of the Justice League's relationship with Kal-El both in this title and playing out over in the Superman books. 

The Rebirth issue, in carrying out its task of summarizing the star characters as an introduction (or reintroduction) for new (or returning) readers, also did a great job of reminding us of just how young Vic Stone is. The two newest Earth Green Lanterns, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, are reintroduced with a brief summary scene to give new readers a crash course in what they need to know for the scope of their involvement in this story. Oh, and after our heroes gather together and send off the intergalactic Extinction level event, Barry Allen takes his support of the new guy (Jessica) several yards in to creepy-flirtatious territory. So there's that. 

Of all the Rebirth issues, Justice League is really one that can be skipped, even by die hard fans. I'm sure the events of the issue will eventually come around again in this opening story, but it really doesn't add much to the story thus far. The art was really not conducive to the epic superhero tale it was trying to tell (I'm not even clear on who did the art? Is that Brian Hitch on art and story? Or did Daniel Henriques and Scott Hanna do the art directly in ink? I'm confused by the credits box).  Fortunately, when Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea jump in on the main series, things are much better and you get the bright, bold, engaging art that works so well for Justice League stories.

Unfortunately, while the art is awesome and the broad strokes of the story sound great, it just doesn't have that page-to-page hook to really draw you in. Keeping in mind this is a story in which there are three active extinction level events that need to be prevented before the world comes to an end. Yes, they may all be connected, but the mystery of how or why just isn't there. It's an all-hands-on-deck disaster porn story that lacks all but a few great moments of character. 

There's probably plenty to rip apart on the fundamental “that's not how science works” level of the story (regarding fault lines, how tidal waves work, and so on), but what dragged me out of the guts of it were the apparent violations of the core comic book basics. Maybe I missed something. Maybe my understanding is wrong. Or maybe they're supposed to be clues to a mystery that hasn't actually been posited yet. But my understanding of Green Lantern constructs is that the GL needs to be there for it to exist. He or she can't just, say, zip off to Hong Kong and trust that the constructs left behind will hold Beijing together and stay in place. There's also the whole issue of Simon -- the Green Lantern who carries guns because the ring failed him his first day on the job and he wanted to have backup -- having just had a situation where his and Jessica's rings shut down simultaneously, decided the safest place for the entire population of Hong Kong would be in an armada of light-construct wooden ships, floating high above the city so that any future power outage would result in the population of Hong Kong plummeting to their deaths.

The concept of characters “losing powers” has always been a dodgy one to implement, particularly in a team book where powers come from different sources, but having Cyborg appear to lose his ability to stay connected to the Justice League coms, but still have the strength to hold up a collapsing building, seems a bit beyond the norm to me. We also have Batman somehow magically knowing that the swarm attacking Gotham are “some sort of biological weapon” -- despite appearing to be far to overwhelmed by the quantity of them and indicating to Flash that he plans on stealing study notes of them from ARGUS and the CDC.

What is really engaging are the brief moments in each book; the Kindred telling Wonder Woman that she has no idea who she is, or the whole “words that make the worlds” reference in Atlantis. While we got some great reminders of what makes the Justice League real heroes, these moments are spread out throughout three issues of what has, thus far, felt like it was all preamble. I still feel like this story is going to maybe get awesome soon, and perhaps it will make a great read when it comes out in trade paperback, but the fractured storyline doesn't feel like it quite fits with the periodical format, even with the new Rebirth twice-monthly schedule. 

I don't know about you, but when reading a story about characters losing their powers (and being told by apparently mind controlled citizens' that the power wasn't theirs to begin with), I can't help but be drawn to Die Cheerleader's Pigskin Parade as the obvious soundtrack. I'm not sure if it's the theme to the Justice League's predicament, or that of the mind controlled citizenry, or even the thus-far-blandly-mysterious Kindred, but I'm sure it's relevant.

Once upon a time there was a vampire role playing game called The Masquerade. Much like one of our three mystery antagonists in this story, the vampires in this game were referred to as The Kindred: Those who share the blood. While it seems fairly unlikely that Mr Bennett or any other vampire is going to be involved in this tale, the similarities in the Kindred taking control of the people of the world -- presumably against their will -- to confront the League seemed a strong enough parallel to the vampire Embrace for this comparison to work beyond the name.

All in all, this has currently been a good series. Not a great series by any means, but Justice League fans should enjoy it nonetheless. It seems like it's building to something that could be really fun and engaging to new readers or casual fans, but it needs to keep people interested long enough for that payoff. Fortunately, it's Justice League, so low sales numbers will likely not threaten its continued existence. We'll see how the story plays out and how it performs long term. Until then, just enjoy the ride.

What's really important, though, is that it damn well better reveal the secret behind the most intriguing mystery in these opening issues before the run is done! WHAT IS IN THE WHITE/KENT KITCHEN URN LABLED “BB”? THERE IS NO BAKING INGREDIENT THAT STARTS WITH “BB”! Don't leave me hanging, man! I'll send Aquaman after you.

*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 & #2 JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 & #2 Reviewed by David Andrews on August 22, 2016 Rating: 5

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