[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
“Timeless, Part Four” (20 pages)
Writers: Bryan Hitch
Artists: Fernando Pasarin (p), Matt Ryan (i)
As Superman continues to argue with Tempus over the fate of his wife and son, despite being weakened by red sun radiation and really in no position to do so, Batman works with three time-traveling teens — including a girl who “Was. Will be. Sort of.” the daughter of Lex Luthor — to disrupt Tempus’ time ship.
Meanwhile, the rest of the time-lost Leaguers, busy fighting losing battles against Tempus’ minions (a.k.a. The Timeless), get a leg up when Superman, freed from Tempus’ control by Batman’s efforts, begins to wreck havoc with the ship. As The Timeless drop like flies around them, Aquaman, Cyborg, Flash, Wonder Woman, and the Green Lanterns, place into the time-jump transport drives used by The Timeless a small device given to them by a girl known only as Molly, who said if they each did so at their respective key points in time, the units would work together to stop Tempus’ plan, which is to strand all of Earth’s super-powered beings at the end of time. As the heroes do as instructed, a wave of energy spreads across time and Molly begins to transform, declaring her plan, to not just strand the supers in time, but kill them all.
I really like the art by Pasarin and Ryan. It has a realism to it that almost makes me feel as though I’m not so much reading a series of panels as viewing successive frames of a Justice League film. I also like the coloring by Brad Anderson, which is gradient and has flare effects where appropriate, but otherwise is blocked out old school, such that, as real as the art is, it looks like a comic book, with the coloring doing its job by not calling attention to itself.
I was not buying Justice League, in part because having Cyborg as a founding member (as a member at all, in fact) still feels forced to me. I wouldn’t mind so much if the multiverse still existed in its pre-Crisis form and DC had simply moved on from the Earth-1 I read about as a kid to some new one, with the satellite HQ team still out there as a group that could be visited from time-to-time. But the company line is that this is THE Justice League, the one-and-old as it has ever been, and every issue I look at I’m like, sorry, it’s not MY JLA. I only picked up the first issue of this story arc because a Legion Groupie pal online mention mentioned that it had a Brainiac 5 cameo. As a Legion completist I grabbed a copy for the collection, liked it, and have since added Justice League to my pull list. So, temper my criticisms with that.
But this story arc represents, to my way of thinking, a lot of what’s wrong with comics these days. We’re now four issues in and the plot really has not progressed all that far from the first chapter of this tale. The storytelling is just way too decompressed. After encountering Tempus at the end of #15, Superman spent two full issues playing piddey-widdley with him over how much he loved and would fight for his wife and son, before finally getting rescued by Batman this issue. Meanwhile, we know nothing more about the three teens Batman has been working with, apart from the fact that they are mysterious teens, that one might be a Luthor decedent, and that one is probably Brainiac 5. Yes, I know we say a young Brainy meeting up with Cyborg, but that’s still my prediction. We also know nothing more about Molly, apart from this issues last-panel reveal of her true intentions. Finally, the stranded Leaguers, after each getting a pretty interesting set-up for the times they were sent to, have had little to do, getting only a few panels each. Sure, they’ve each been in pitched battles with The Timeless, but we just drop in, see that, and pull back out for more of Super-whining.
This book looks great, and it reads great. Hitch can certainly write as well as he draws. But in terms of actual plot, what ground we’ve covered so far could have been done just as well in two issues as four. In fact, if when DC collects this story in TPB form, it were to completely omit Issues #16 and #17, it would not hurt the overall story, insomuch as anyone would even notice. For what we’ve accomplished so far in terms of plot, I would have preferred for the middle issues to have included more with the individual Leaguers, Gardner Fox style, with each discovering something that contributes to the overall solution to the riddle of Molly v. Tempus.
Right now, Justice League is a treat, with good scripting and great visuals, but as a narrative meal it’s all dessert and no meat, giving immediate satisfaction but ultimately leaving one hungry for more. As the saying goes, in terms of plotting for individual issues, there’s not enough there, there.