Justice League United #3 came out on Wednesday and continues to be one of the best comics that DC Comics is publishing right now. Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Mike McKone have been firing on all cylinders since this book started. There has been the perfect mix of action and characterization. There has been silver age homages and tones in the midst of new 52 dismemberments. And there has been a wonderful sense that these heroes, brought together by chance and just a short time ago, are actually acting like a team.
Good characterization. Heroes acting like heroes, acting like a team. Silver age goodness in a modern story. These are elements that is rare in DC titles these days. And so this is like delicious treat.
And I have to apologize to Jeff Lemire. When he was promoting the book before the first issue, he talked about Supergirl being an angry loner, the opposite of the bright optimistic Stargirl. I worried that he might be taking Supergirl back a couple of steps in the progress we have recently seen in her. So far, that hasn't happened. Kara might be fiery and passionate, but she has her heart in the right place here. And Lemire gives her some very big moments in this issue.
But she isn't alone. All the featured characters have great moments here. I am loving this book.
And Mike McKone continues to shine here, adding little flourishes to panels that add so much to the story.
The main action of the book is in deep space, around Rann and Thanagar. But Lemire keeps us up to date with Equinox, the new character he is bringing to the book.
Last issue, she was captured by a shape-changing Whitago demon. In this issue we see her iced up like Luke Skywalker in the Wampa cave in Empire Strikes Back.
A vision of her Grandfather shows up saying he is 'one of the seven'. And he says she has the Whitago inside her. He then changes shape into the monster we saw earlier in this arc.
For me, I am pretty excited for this character. I feel like I don't know much about her right now. But I like diversity in comics. I like being exposed to new mythologies so learning about native Canadians will be great. And it sounds like their might be a darkness within her powers she'll need to control. That's always adds nice friction to a character.
Last issue ended with Ultra awakening and Byth's facility exploding. Luckily Sardath activated his Zeta technology to pluck the Leaguers out of the blast. But Lemire adds an interesting wrinkle. For one, the beam grabs Byth and Ultra as well as the heroes. And second, the beam is erratic taking some to Sardath's lab and sending some out into the Rannian desert. Given how quirky Sardath has been, this seems plausible.
We don't exactly know Ultra's powers are but he seems to be able to lash out with force energies. And he seems to just be lashing out. Here he actually strikes the Zeta generator, leading to even more insanity.
Great art here. You can feel the blast as Adam Strange and aliens get blown back.
Out in the desert, Green Arrow, Animal Man, Stargirl, Supergirl, and Martian Manhunter skirmish with Lobo who also was grabbed by the beam.
After initially being dropped by Lobo, Supergirl rises and retaliates. I love this moment. I like that Lemire at least references the Kara/Lobo history by her commenting on her hate for him. Secondly, it is great that Supergirl is the muscle here. Nice left hook knocking Lobo out of sight.
Prior to this punch, there is a funny moment between Animal Man and Green Arrow where Buddy verbally jabs Ollie about his power set. I think this relationship is going to be a fun part of the book.
This is more a J'Onn moment than a Supergirl moment but I thought it spoke volumes of how Lemire is going to treat Kara. Initially Supergirl is going to fly after Lobo to continue to pound him. But J'Onn reminds her that there is something bigger they need to take care of - Byth and Ultra. Supergirl needs to decide is she part of the team and part of the big mission? Or is she out for herself and revenge and violence?
She makes the right choice and joins the team. Hurrah!
But I also love the art here. Again, I always wonder if I am overreading things. But by putting the whole team in silhouette, it really cements the concept that they are one unit, a team. This panel could have been drawn many different ways. But by making them all equal in weight on the page, they are a team.
Sprinting to Sardath's headquarters, the team is united with Hawkman and Adam Strange. The Zeta generator being damaged has been wreaking some havoc. Adam and Alanna keep teleporting and switching places. And more, when they are together, they can't seem to survive.
I wonder if Lemire is setting up some sort of Ladyhawke relationship between Adam and Alanna. The are in love but can never be together. (Man, I am dating myself with my references.)
Sardath says the Zeta core is unstable and about to explode.
During the chaos, Byth grabs Ultra and escapes.
The Manhunter takes charge, splitting the team. He takes Supergirl, Stargirl, and Green Arrow with him to face Byth and Ultra. The rest will help with the core.
I love this moment. Initially Hawkman wants to join the fight with Byth but he is put in his place by J'Onn. It both shows the leadership of the Manhunter and how easily a soldier like Hawkman can be refocused by following orders.
I think J'Onn is going to be the tactical leader of the group. But I think Buddy is going to be the 'leader' of the team.
Approaching Byth and Ultra, Supergirl decides not to waste time with words and simply grabs Byth and flies off. It shows maybe a touch of impatience. Maybe a bit of feeling too invulnerable. But it also shows she is a young hero who maybe acts before she thinks. I thought it was perfect.
There is a great fight scene where Byth challenges Supergirl's resolve. He changes into her Red Lantern form, telling her she is filled with rage, and asking her to join him.
No such doing. In fact she is quite poetic as she rebukes him.
Great action. And I love that first panel with Supergirl just entangled and looking awkward.
Meanwhile, J'Onn tries to calm Ultra by entering the multi-alien's mind. Ultra is growing physically, now more like a toddler, and looking more chimeric like his Silver Age appearance.
But this moment where J'Onn says he will stop Byth from hurting Ultra, that he will help Ultra, is touching. Both telepathically and physically he hugs Ultra. It really shows the depths of the Manhunter, from brusque team leader to gentle empath.
Remember the Zeta Core is going critical and Hawkman decides the best way to save the city is to fly the thing as far away as possible. Unfortunately it explodes while still in his hands.
One last great Supergirl moment, all in 3 small panels.
Lobo comes and grabs Byth and two fly away. At the same moment, the core explodes. We see Supergirl see both events. She needs to decide what she is going to do. Is she going for the action? Or is she going to help?
She decides to help. Fantastic!
The issue ends with a great cliffhanger that I won't spoil here.
I can't help but reiterate how great I think this issue is. The characterization here is phenomenal. Supergirl and Martian Manhunter really get the spotlight (which is fine with me) but we see snippets of the others which are consistent and natural with their personalities. And it feels like this group would work together, despite how different they are. This feels like how a Justice League book should feel.
Add the new twists in Zeta tech, the Byth/Lobo team, the ongoing Equinox mystery, and some hard core action and this was completely satisfying.
Plus, Mike McKone and the whole art team of inkers and colorists really shine.
Overall grade: A+