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July 21, 2017

Justice League #1 Rebirth (review)


Justice League #1 Rebirth (review)
(DC Comics, September 2016)
Writer: Bryan Hitch

Writer Bryan Hitch has a better reputation as an artist than a writer. As a consequence of his efforts on a number of titles, Mr Hitch has developed notoriety as a “widescreen” artist, someone who draws blockbuster movie style action in comics.

“Justice League #1 Rebirth” features American comic book publisher DC Comics’ ensemble of most of its top tier superhero character properties. In this issue Mr Hitch has the superheroes gather to fend off a an immensely giant monster, which straddles Manhattan like a fly on a speck of blood. The creature is called a Reaper and it uses parasites to take control of and bring into its body the citizens of New York City. Some of the superheroes penetrate the body of the creature in an effort to stop it. One of them, Superman, uses his powers to cauterise some of the Reaper’s brain. The monster flies off into space. The comic evokes the kaiju genre of Japanese manga, of which we have spoken recently.

But that is not all the comic evokes. In 1999, Mr Hitch worked with writer Warren Ellis on a comic book called “The Authority”, published by Wildstorm Comics. Issues 9 to 12, the last arc of Mr Ellis’ run on the title, was concerned with an immense, somewhat Lovecraftian pyramidal creature returning to the Earth since a primordial age. A superhero team called “The Authority” fend off the creature’s horde of flesh eating nightmares which were dispatched from the Moon to the Earth. Then, the team travel through space to intercept the creature. Upon entering one of its giant pores, the team travel within the vast corridors of its body, until they reach its brain. There, the team leader, Jenny Sparks, uses her gift of electricity generation to electrocute and kill the creature.

Common to both plots are:

a. An Immense creature from space threatens planet;
b. The creature uses a horde of smaller but equally repulsive monsters to neutralise the human population;
c. A team of superheroes fight off horde;
d. The team of superheroes enter creature’s body;
e. The creature is defeated through brain damage.

The plots are vastly similar. Mr Hitch cannot be forgiven for ignorance: he was the artist on Mr Ellis’ “The Authority” and for that exact story arc.

It is at best an inauspicious first breath for one of DC Comics’ most important title’s reinterpretations: it is too kind to say this is more a recycle than a rebirth. The sin of plot plagiarism has been perpetuated by editorial inexperience: either the title’s editors were unaware of Mr Hitch’s body of work, or they regarded the repetition of the plot as tolerable. Either way, the editors have dropped the ball, even as Mr Hitch has cheated with it.

Hub City Review notes that the use of a monster with this visual appearance and the same name as a monster from science fiction video game “Mass Effect”. This means the creative theft is twofold.

As reported on the Comics Alliance website, Marvel Comics are rumoured to have sent a memorandum to its artists warning them not to engage in copyright infringement / plagiarism. Perhaps DC Comics should circulate a similar memorandum amongst its writers.

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