JUSTICE LEAGUE #20 & #21

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[ TIME JUMP PRICES ]
It’s June, 2017, and everybody’s celebrating whatever it is that people normally celebrate. Well, Bryan Hitch certainly is, as he’s invited over his posse of Daniel Henriques, Andrew Currie, Paul Neary, Scott Hanna, Alex Sinclair, Jeromy Cox, and Pete Pantazis, in order for them to spit out a pair of issues for DC Comics so that things that are going to happen don’t happen too soon.

TO MISQUOTE Yogi Berra: “It's like déjà vu all over again.”

THE REVIEW:
How does one follow up a most excellently staged but, in the end, rushed and unsatisfying two part tale about a virtual entity who spans the entirety of time and wants to move Earth to the end of it?  Answer: You ignore all the loose threads from that story and put your resident speedster in a time loop that he didn’t experience the first time through.  Yeah, that sounds fascinating. Really fascinating.

So, there’s The Flash, right?  And he has these powers of super speed, via this thing called the Speed Force!  We just learned in the Timeless story-arc that the Speed Force was created the same day Flash got his powers, and instantly expanded itself backwards and forwards throughout time.  (Handy, that, given Johnny Thunder and Jay Garrick existing, Wink-Wink!)  So, this Speed Force, when it comes into contact with this weapon thing, that we eventually learn isn’t necessarily a weapon, apparently it triggers an explosion that throws Barry backwards through time, growing in both scope of destruction and scope of time-jump each time it blows.

Fortunately, said jumps don’t seem to follow any logical mathematical pattern but rather adhere to convenient narrative way-points.  Handy thing, that Speed Force reactive science!

Unfortunately, this hyperactive 'Groundhog Day' style tale doesn’t offer much beyond feeling like Hitch is trying to eke out an intermission between the Timeless story and the Only Human story, thus delaying the Justice League’s effort to solve any of the mysteries set out in the former before moving on to the latter (which still sounds very much like a delay to the ongoing story, kicking all the Infinity, Inc bits down the road until after the “extra-sized epic”, but perhaps with more value in itself.) 

As it stands, Timeless was primarily a story about Superman being a One Track Minded F*ckhead when it comes to someone threatening his family, but did so via a plot that threw the rest of the League (save Batman) in to opportunities to learn about their own history or future while Batman got to flex his efforts to heal the strained relationship with old/new Superman (despite us readers already knowing that his memory of there being two different Supes was about to get overwritten).

Along the way, Timeless dropped clues (and overt statements) about the parentage of the time-traveling Infinity, Inc. that may or may not be an actual corporation in any nation.  Yet, instead of getting any further investigation in to these threads -- like exposing who the unidentified mothers of Alexis or Jane are, revealing whether Vincent’s father was always as-we-see-him or if he somehow “became that way”, anyone from the JL actually interrogating Molly, and so forth, and so on -- we get this story that would make a great issue of The Flash, but frankly makes a wicked boring issue of Justice League (To say nothing of how the League got back to “the present” at the close of the prior story).

To his credit, Hitch closes Endless with the League gathering around a dinner table somewhere and Bats pointing out that which should have been the closing panels of issue 19.  This is part of what makes it feel so much like a break in the story, or at least like a TV series that wants to acknowledge its long-running season arc while not giving up its monster of the week format.

But, truth be told, even the monster of the week isn’t really the focus of this story.  He’s relevant, sure, but since we get the time-loop from Flash’s perspective -- with zero explanation as to how he got to the loop with no memory of the version of events the rest of the League is experiencing, nor any explanation as to how he jumps back in time further each time yet only experiences a half hour of normal time -- he’s brushed away to the side.

Much like the prior arc, Endless leaves me wanting some more exposition of the elements introduced in this story before we move on to the next one.  Unlike Timeless, it doesn’t even give us character or team growth within itself.  All we have is Barry coming to a sad realization and a little alien ex machina to wrap the conflict up.

Good thing the art is pretty.

THE MUSIC:
I bet you were worried I might use Whitney Houston for this arc’s musical theme, weren’t you?  Or maybe hoping for some old school Jacques Brel?  No?  No.  Tough.  I’m rockin’ it like it’s 1971.  We’ll keep it peppy, because Barry, but also redundant and related to living the same period of time over and over again, because time travel.  Barry Allen is (Spinning in the) Time Loop, just like Chet Nichols.




THE COMPARISON:
The only reason this story moves forward (or backwards, if you want to be accurate) is that Barry gets thrown back in time each time he touches Jason’s device.  Which, being a hero, you might think that after it kills his girlfriend and a few blocks of Brooklyn the first time, he might not touch it a second time.  Maybe allowing that he’s not the quickest thinker (despite being the quickest everything-elser), he certainly wouldn’t touch it a third time.  But in the end, I think he loops through time seven times.  It’s a magnificent implementation of the 'Don’t Touch It, You Idiot' trope, gently turned on its head as it eventually becomes the thing he needs to do in order to actually save the day. 

Yes, I may have been that guy who was yelling at the comic book just like Kevin yelling at his parents at the end of the Terry Gilliam film, Time Bandits“Mom!  Dad!  It’s evil!  Don’t touch it!”  Boom.

THE CONCLUSION:
OK. So let us total up what this story is actually worth. Mad points for the Kirby O Center: Let’s say twenty.  Plus five for the self-referential Groundhog Day comment.  Then another ten for Cyborg referring to Batman as Vader.  That needs to become a running thing across all titles. 

Three more points for making reference to the starheart, but minus three for zero apparent link to Green Lantern and another three off for hints of Alan Scott in front of Barry in a continuity that has already hinted that the Allen family knows of Mr Scott’s prior career (with even more points off if that’s been randomly retconned). 

I’ll only dock two points for all the loose threads left behind, since this story does pick up mid-battle, both in Barry’s perspective and the missed timeline of the Justice League, and Bats does at least acknowledge that they’re ignoring something important. 

Another five points off for the inexplicable focus on Lee Parker and lack of any conclusion on his implied crimes.  And five more off for creating a character named Jason who goes by Jake to his boss and wife, without any explanation for the leap of a logical nickname.  Which leaves us with a story worth about 20 points on my highly scientific 100 point awesomeness scale.  It's a good thing they threw that Jack Kirby reference in there.

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

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