Originally published at AiTP!
As a follow up to the final arc from the previous volume of Justice League, “The Extinction Machine” is in some ways an inversion of “The Darkseid War.” While the obvious dichotomy is in terms of quality, this is thematically true as well. In “Darkseid War,” most members of the team underwent theosis, becoming the “god of” various attributes such as Knowledge (Batman), Strength (Superman), Light (Green Lantern), War (Wonder Woman), Death (Flash), and, coolest of all, the God of Gods (Shazam). Inversely, Hitch’s “Extinction Machine” sees god-like beings in the form of the Kindred take on the attributes associated with members of the League, including the Speed Force and the Emotional Spectrum. The Kindred of Magic is associated with Aquaman, which follows given the latter’s direct decent from the wizard Atlan.
Most interesting, however, is that the Kindred encountered by Wonder Woman proclaims “The power of the stars shines in me.” Apart from the iconography on her armor, Wonder Woman is not typically associated with actual stars, whether astronomically or astrologically. Yet it seems not to be a meaningless remark. Hitch draws attention both to the pan-cosmic presence of the Kindred as well as the Kindred’s fascination with the Zodiac Crystals. Furthermore, after her absorption into the Northern Kindred, Wonder Woman – floating within a field of stars – is proclaimed to be “not Kindred,” but rather “Relative,” giving credence to the notion of the Kindred as gods. How Hitch intends all these associations to be parsed out – the connection of the Kindred to stars, the relation of Wonder Woman as a Relative to the Kindred, the meaning of the star iconography in Wonder Woman’s costume – will hopefully be made, if not explicit, then at least evident.
Another added layer of symbolism Hitch imposes onto the Kindred in this issue is directional cardinality. Each of the four Kindred are associated with North, South, East, and West. Such was also the number and approximate locations of the four extinction machines within the earth’s mantle which Superman was dispatched to destroy. This does not seem arbitrary, though again, the significance is fairly opaque. The Kindred seem to be but one faction, with another being revealed in this issue as the Purge. It is the latter that appears to be responsible for having built and activated the extinction machines for the purpose of breaking apart the Earth, as per the planet in non-sectored space. And yet, the opposition of the Kindred to the Purge is no proof of the former’s friendliness to mankind. Both Kindred and Purge alike might prove indifferent to the inhabitants of the planet for which the vie.
Indifferent or not, the Kindred at least are not unaware of Earth’s denizens, particularly the members of the Justice League. They not only appear to be mimicking a connection to the Emotional Spectrum and the Speed Force, but are taking on the likeness of the League members as well. The Kindred claim to be “within all people… on any world, at any time,” and yet veritable gods such as these are essentially cosplaying as mere mortals. This is the true mystery of “The Extinction Machine.” What act of heroism has been or will be performed by the Justice League that the attention and admiration of such a gigascopic entity is so squarely upon them?
The matter is reminiscent (in terms of subject, not scope or excellence) of Hickman’s lead up to Secret Wars, in which incomprehensible forces such as the Rabum Alal, the Ivory Kings, and the Great Powers of the Universe battle over the entire multiverse, none of whom harbor much interest in or affection for humanity. During this run, Captain America, while flung forward throughout time throughout thousands of years, perpetually bears witness to beings of far greater power garbed in honor of the first generation Avengers. Both seemingly opposite notions – the insignificance of man in the universe and the centrality of Earth’s premier paragons across spacetime – are likewise being seen in Hitch’s Justice League.
I’ve made the repeated lens of my reviews on Justice League the potential (sometimes certain) sources from which Hitch stole small parts to nearly all of a given script. The Rebirth issue was flagrantly from Mass Effect, and the comparison and contrasts with Johns’ and Morrison’s first issues, Bruce Timm’s animated series start, Well’s War of the Worlds and Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth were all obvious in their own right. Contra the similarities shown to Secret Wars here, which I’d hazard less due to appropriation and more so to convergence upon similar concepts on the part of Hickman and Hitch. There’s still something to be said for execution – and in that respect there’s no comparison between Hickman’s mastery of the medium and Hitch’s weakness as a writer – but if he did indeed come across such concepts by his own creativity, Hitch deserves more credit than I’d given him previously. Indeed, some of the mysteries I’m finding to be genuinely fascinating. Such are not a sufficient crutch, and Justice League is still merely hobbling along – but credit where credit is due.