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Subj: Justice League #15 - A Crisis in Time.
Posted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 at 11:06:14 am EST (Viewed 456 times)
A glance at the opening pages of the superbly realised Justice League #15 and to anyone remotely familiar with DC Comics history we are immediately in very familiar territory as we open with a grim hulking Batman sat amidst a cold wilderness of gray and ready for some imminent doom that might well taken to be another rogue Super-man on the horizon or perhaps merely another routine meeting with some informant out to make good with the Batman and by doing so earn himself another free pass in the days to come. Bryan Hitch's plotting for this issue is filled with such familiarity. A bit of cinema Batman to begin with, an unvarnished nod to the eerie and disturbing whiteness as it silently sweeps across modern glass and steel cityscapes erasing all in an act of unstoppable finality. There is even the direct referencing to events that no one even remembers, such as the Flashpoint and Crisis. The bare bones of the plotting follow the same basic template which Hitch himself has recycled with unashamed regularity - in a story that unfolds gradually we come to realise a set-up that is almost a replay of the opening chapters of The Church of Rao storyline, but that story in itself informs this current opening chapter as it returns some of the very concepts of which reinforced the mystery of Rao himself.
So the first chapter of 'Timeless' looks very much like any of Bryan Hitch's previous such storylines, and takes a considerable amount of inspiration from the regular Crisis events of the last thirty years. And yet, to his credit, it all works out rather well in the end.
There is nothing original here no. But then as the observation goes there are really only a handful of stories anyway, what matters is what you do with your same-same ingredients and whether your writing and thought processes are are capable of reconfiguring these overly familiar ingredients so that they take on a new meaning, come across as different from before, as it is all happening in the here and now and due to that one detail the suspense of the piece is already half done for you regardless. So, the earth is being devoured by white fields of nothingness, which if what we are told is correct then Superman himself should find very familiar indeed as he went through the very same experiences in 1994's Zero Hour event. As Bryan Hitch opens his story with apparently random back and forths in time showing the Justice Leaguer's arrive in settings and situations that are as baffling for them as they are for us onlookers we come to learn that something called The Timeless has targeted the 21st century for a Chronal attack in a muddled effort to erase the taint of metahuman intervention in the history of mankind. Certainly there must surely be more to it than that, but with the sudden appearance of a young woman calling herself Molly the fraying Justice Leaguer's are forced by desperation to take her word on it all and follow any advice she offers. And what a cheeky lass she is. Presumably Bryan Hitch would be familiar with the characters of Pariah, Pandora, Access, Harbinger, and the Linear Men who have filled the selfsame function that Molly here has, and presumably these characters were either off-limits or simply deemed too old hat, for what DC have authorised with the character of Molly is someone who remembers every previous reality wipe that hit the DC Universe. And apart from metron and possibly Brainiac, Pandora, and the Phantom Stranger, no one in the modern DC universe has managed to retain such a recollection while still being inside of the Universe. So the point brings up the obvious question as to who Molly is, and wherefrom she comes. One developing theme to be read into though, in what is a deceptively cleverly plotted story, is that what The Timeless oppose isn't so much the metahuman paradigm as the very act of progress itself. Life, the passing of time, War, Utopian ideal, all of it is progression. As Molly directs The Flash to hand out transport bracelets to his fellow Justice Leaguer's The Flash finds himself cast back to the very day he will become The Flash, the ominous stormclouds over Central City marking what is to come later in the evening. Elsewhere Wonder Woman finds herself in the ancient past and confronted by the fall of the mythic Titans, the Green Lanterns discover they are in the apocalyptic landscape of the 26th Century, Cyborg is cast in the other direction and a familiar face welcomes him to the wonderous 31st century, and Aquaman is... somewhere in the timeline of Atlantis. But the underlying message is clear - history is a series of progressions, of which the rise of superhumans is but one more development, the belief of The Timeless, if it IS their belief, is an absurdity then, as in a world where alien first contact is an unavoidable destiny for mankind the appearance of a relative handful of superhumans is scarcely worth worrying about.
Hitch's approach to the issue is initially a confusing one. Scenes shift with random, characters appear in different places between pages and even panels, and yet what is initially hard to penetrate randomness gradually unfolds into some sort of order as we meet The Keeper called Molly and she begins to direct proceedings against the onslaught of The Timeless, with sudden clarity the earlier jarring scene shifts begin to make some sense, and if there is more to the threat of The Timeless then the closing pages of a Superman and Batman looking down on an earth transformed would add some weight to to the suspicion. Hitch's skillful use of the timetravel aspect as it develops underpins what seemed to be chaos and reveals it to be an example of the flashback techniques of narrative sequential storytelling of which Alan Moore made an industry benchmark in his and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen work. Not that Bryan Hitch's Justice League #17 is remotely on that level of craft and storytelling, the two are at opposite ends of the measuring stick in that regard, but then very little has ever come close to capturing Moore's unique density and imaginative use of the mediums underused strengths.
Savour the artwork of Fernando Pasarin and finisher Matt Ryan. Pasarin's already fine lines have improved further-still since his contributions to the Green Lantern Corps title several years ago. Here nearly every page is filled with at least one scene worthy of being a talking point in itself, the sleek simplicity of The Flash's costume is a particular triumph as whether by his hand or a more disciplined and frugal editor's discretion the use of any horrendous lightning effects is kept at an absolute minimum throughout the book, meaning that we are treated to that rare thing today of watching The Flash in action with his famous scarlet suit on full unobscured display. Pasarin appears to have a distinct appreciation of the character as more than any other it is Barry Allen who stands out on the page and appears to be more prominent than any other.
As a set-up issue both Hitch and Pasarin deliver a successful hook for the readership. We are given a visually striking threat, we are given the rough outline of who and what that is behind that threat, the Justice League are sufficiently challenged by the magnitude of events, and now split up and scattered across time the scale of the problems that now face them are absorbing to ponder as we await the next equally exciting installment. In all then a successful issue indeed.
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