I tend to date a lot, and mostly first dates at that, as per Barry and Jessica’s here in issue six of Bryan Hitch’s Justice League. I had a first date the day after the last issue came out, and I’ve got another first date with a different girl tonight (Rao bless Tinder). Unlike Barry or Jessica, neither of whom date often, I love going out. Even on a bad date you have get to meet someone new and have an excuse to sit down for a good meal at a nice restaurant; even if the company’s not worth your time, the cuisine should make up for such, or better yet you walk away with a good story to tell for years to come.
Example: one of the worst dates I’ve ever been on ended with me walking alone for five miles in the dead of night through a bad part of inner city St. Louis while dressed as the skinniest Captain America since Steve Rogers before he took the Super Soldier Serum. Compared to that night, I might have preferred something as simple as my date attacking the wait staff or undergoing an extreme personality shift.
Hitch hasn’t exactly laid the seeds for the romantic developments between Barry and Jessica, but that in itself is hardly unrealistic. Whether meeting a girl in real life or online, I tend to be fast as a flash in cutting to the chase; a five-minute conversation in person or two-to-three messages back and forth online is more than enough time getting to know someone before asking them out for dinner or drinks. If anything’s odd about the situation, it’s that they’ve known each other since the events of Forever Evil (however many months ago in comic book time that may have been), with Barry presumably attracted to Jessica that entire time, but being too slow to act upon it. He’s supposed to be “The Fastest Man Alive,” but she beat him to the punch, evidently tired of waiting for him to ask her out.
Of course, some will argue that Barry is making a mistake by dating both a friend and a co-worker, an alleged violation of the “Platinum Rule.” True, there may be a number of eateries in town where I can no longer expect good service, and there may be several churches south of the Mason-Dixon where I’m no longer welcome to attend services, but for the most part people are mature about going separate ways and still seeing each other on a regular basis. Just as often I’ve stayed good friends with women after going out and breaking up or asking them out and getting rejected. I even kept things amiable with those two girls I didn’t realize were roommates with one another. The point being, Barry and Jessica surely have to know that if things don’t work out between them, it’s not the end of the world (that was last issue).
Seeing Jessica prepare for a date is insightful. Hitch here is being true to her characterization as a shut-in, but part of me wonders just how much of her musing are amplified of common apprehensions among women. I’d estimate that about a third or more of my own dates “postpone” indefinitely at the last minute or outright cancel (though none have used an alien invasion as an excuse yet). Slightly less – but still a significant number – simply never show, leaving me standing in front of the rendezvous spot or drinking alone at the bar while I wait; I half expect as much to happen tonight. I’ve got to give Jessica approbations for not flaking out on Flash.
I’ve also got to thank Hitch for veering away from realism by having Barry take Jessica to a real restaurant. Too many of my Tinder matches have been conditioned to expect a hook-up at either of our places. While watching a film a few nights ago in which the protagonists takes a pretty girl to a corner pizza parlor, my friends beside me noticed that I’d had a grimace of pain plastered across my face in seeing such. Perhaps it’s the gentleman in me, perhaps it’s the gourmand, but I prefer to wine and dine a woman the right way. I’d even go all out with the bouquet of flowers, as did Flash, were such not guaranteed to come across way too strong. Not too strong, however, was the first outfit he’d tried on. Here’s a free piece of dating advice for the future, Mr. Allen: unless you’re wearing a black tux and bowtie, there’s no such thing as overdressed.
Now back to the review. Here’s where things begin to fall apart. In all my dating experience, I don’t have too much familiarity with my potential paramours experiencing sudden and inexplicable personality shifts due to alien parasites or ancient curses or whatever the reason here (though one ex-girlfriend did try to literally retcon our relationship from having had happened, One More Day style). In fact, I generally find characters acting outside of their own control to be a pretty poor plot device, one which substitutes real character development and motivations for conflict with a diablos ex machina. Jim Lee may have drawn the best brawl between Batman and Superman in the fifth chapter of Hush, but Frank Miller’s is the more memorable because both heroes were true to their established personalities while battling one another; it wasn’t Batman versus any random Kryptonian, but Bruce Wayne against Clark Kent.
When next issue comes around and Jessica Cruz battles The Flash, and Superman fights Batman (again), will either carry any emotional weight, given that the characters are clearly not themselves? I’d compare what Hitch is doing to smashing action figures against each other, but most young boys are actually more imaginative in their play than that.
I had hope that with The Extinction Machine arc finally finished Justice League might begin to improve. The pencils of Matthew Clark and Tom Derenick might be of minor improvement over Tony Daniel’s (maybe), but Hitch has yet to prove himself to be a bard worthy of writing the lays of our culture’s greatest gods and heroes. Plus, now I’m going to be worried all night that if I try to hold my date’s hand, she’ll go crazy and attack the wait staff.