Justice League enters the Rebirth era with The Extinction Machines.
After the death of the New 52 Superman, his Justice League teammates warily engage the older Superman who steps into his place. At the same time, they integrate rookie Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, appointed by Hal Jordan to protect Earth in his absence. The team first deals with a massive alien creature that attempts to prime Earth for a harvest. The team then deals with a series of devastating natural disasters caused by ancient devices buried in the Earth’s crust. The League is caught between a mechanical alien swarm called The Purge and a quartet of powerful beings called The Kindred, composite creatures made up of hundreds of fused humans to channel primal energy forces. A potential link to one of the heroes emerges and a seeming victory portends more threats to come.
Better known as an artist, Bryan Hitch has been growing into the role of writer over the past couple years. He gets the new era of Justice League off to a solid start, paying homage to the Silver Age with the arc’s structure. For much of the story, the League is split up, with solo efforts or teams of two dealing with individual aspects of a bigger threat, then coming together for a rousing climax that unites the whole team and its varied abilities to achieve victory. It’s a decent example of updating a classic plot archetype with a modern sensibility.
Hitch has a good grasp of his cast and crafts strong moments for each hero. The interactions among the team work fairly well, as the dynamic of a “new” Superman and rookie Green Lanterns bouncing off the established core of the team produces some good drama. Hitch brings in Lois Lane as an impactful supporting character, giving her and Batman some particularly good scenes. The Purge and The Kindred provide a world-shaking challenge worthy of the team, though each feels a tad underdeveloped. But Hitch makes clear there’s more to come from this story avenue and he writes the big action sequences rather convincingly. It’s a good opening arc, one that suggests a lot of promise for the series.
The team of penciler Tony Daniel, inker Sandru Florea and colorist Tomeu Morey handles the bulk of the art chores for The Extinction Machines. They nail the “big screen” aesthetic that a book like this requires, assaying large scale fight and adventure sequences with a lot of style, while also infusing the quieter moments with enough tension and dynamism to keep the energy level up. Morey does some especially impressive work, as the demands of the story call for an expansive palette, specialized coloring effects and careful attention to the mood and shadings of scenes. In addition to the primary team, Hitch himself pencils the Rebirth special issue (working with Daniel Henriques and Alex Sinclair) and Jesus Merino and Andy Owens spell the Daniel/Florea team on an issue mid-arc. Hitch brings his distinctive style to his kick-off issue, while Merino and Owens work in a similar enough vein to Daniel and Florea to make the substitution fairly seamless. So far, at least, the book is holding up to its twice monthly schedule with minimal cause for comment.
While some knowledge of recent DC history is a benefit, it’s not necessarily crucial to enjoy The Extinction Machines. Hitch and company craft a classic Justice League story that’s enjoyable and an effective launch for the new era.