Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: Justice League United #5

Justice League United #5 came out this week and continues a nice opening run for this book. It is one of the better books that DC is putting out these days.  The first issues focused on the formation of the team and the Ultra/Byth plotline. The next issues we know will be a big story re-introducing the Legion of Super-Heroes to the DCnU. So that leaves this issue as a sort of go-between.

Writer Jeff Lemire uses the issue to focus on Equinox, the new character created for "Justice League Canada". We have seen snippets of her origin and powers sprinkled through the first arc. Here, we get an issue where her story is the predominant plot. In a comic market where almost every story seems to take several issues to tell, Lemire keeps it lean and mean. We learn enough about Miiyahbin and her powers to move forward. I am sure that there is an arc in the future based on the conflict behind Equinox's powers. But for now, this is enough. I have said before that Lemire's initial arc seemed like a nice mix of modern sensibilities with Silver/Bronze age flourishes. This 'tell an origin in one issue' definitely feels old school ... and that is welcomed here.

The art for the story is done by Timothy Green II. After 5 issues of Mike McKone's fluid look, Green's angular style definitely gives a different feel to the book. The figures seem a bit stiff, as if they are posing for a photo shoot. And the women in the book all very thin and always have their backs slightly arched, regardless of the context of the panel.

Lemire opens up the book with a recap page, bringing new readers up to speed with how the team formed. But rather than do it as a static text page or splicing in panels from prior issues, the recap is done as exposition by the Martian Manhunter. And it includes new art. While I think recap pages make sense now and then, the medium is words and art. This is appreciated over plain text.

And saying outright that Hawkman died to save his world's enemies makes his death all the more heroic and poignant.

I also like how the word United is highlighted in the recap, lending some weight to the book's title.

The team is finally united (except for Adam Strange on Rann) when Alanna brings Equinox to their base for safe keeping. Remember last issue, Alanna and Equinox barely escaped the Whitago.

While Alanna tells the group about the attack and Mii briefly talks about the Whitago (people who starved in the wild, succumbed to darkness, and became monsters), Green Arrow gets a signal that Hawkman's  transmitter is firing a beacon. He is either alive or his body has not made it to Thanagar.

Suddenly this new team has two missions. Supergirl, Stargirl, Animal Man, and Green Arrow will follow the Hawkman trail. Alanna will head with Mii to talk to Mii's grandmother and hopefully make sense of what is going on.

I like the enthusiasm of Alanna as she gets asked if she wants to be a JLU member. This book is a nice mix of established and younger heroes giving it some potential for good characterization.

This panel is also a good example of Green's art. Why would Supergirl be standing like that. It looks like the pose a model would give the crowd at the end of the runway.

Off-world, Sardath and Adam have been looking in on the team. It is a bit voyeurish and I like how it creeps out Courtney and Kara. But Sardath is able to use Zeta tech to teleport the away team to Hawkman's beacon.

Meanwhile, despite the crazy fight with the Whitago, J'onn feels comfortable having Alanna and Equinox head out on their own. At least he'll stay in telepathic communication. We have been told that Ultra can destroy solar systems so I suppose J'onn sticking at the base keeping Ultra calm makes sense.

And it feels like Adam might be pining more for Alanna than she is for him.

It seems as if this team has been together for more than the few minutes it truly has. They are taking orders from J'onn, breaking into mission teams, and supporting each other. It maybe felt a little too fast.

The space team finds itself on a station in the Polaris system. And Supergirl is happy to see that the place is a hang-out for bounty hunters.

I think Lemire's Kara is going to be brash and pro-active. I think she is going to jump into action. But I have yet to see anything that seems dark, angsty, or negative in her. Remember, he said she was going to be the bull-headed one of the team, the opposite of Stargirl's sunny bright optimism.

So Supergirl will relish beating the tar out of bad guys. I actually like a little fierceness in her.

And I have to assume that somehow the Nth metal cured Hawkman again and he tripped his own device.

Meanwhile Miiyahbin meets up with her grandmother and tells her about turning into Equinox and fighting the Whitago.

The grandmother also transforms into an Equinox and relays the family lineage. They get power from the land to defend it from darkness, power granted by their 'seven grandfathers'. And those virtues are love, humility, bravery, truth, respect, wisdom, and honesty. It sounds like a rundown of powers like Shazam's initials.

Later we learn that Equinox powers stem from the season of the land. So now she wields cold.

Unfortunately, we also learn that Mii's father, the prior Equinox, succumbed to the darkness and became a Whitago, the beast Mii has been fighting. The 'virtues' of the Whitago are in opposition to those of the seven grandfathers: dominion, control, aggression, deception, greed, and selfishness. Those are all individual, certainly not derived from the people or the land.

As I said before, this feels like the cliff notes version of her origin. We don't know much about the people in the background of the prior panel. We don't know how her dad succumbed. We don't really even have a deep understanding of her powers. I could imagine this being a three-parter or even a six-parter as this legend is played out longer and larger. But I like this. I know enough to move on. And there is some mystery still left to play out.

Now aware of her power and her legacy, Equinox heads out with Alanna to find her father. They do find him and a skirmish ensues.

But it is over pretty quickly as Equinox uses her powers to drain her father of the darkness. That doesn't sound like cold powers to me. But it is mystical enough for me to accept. And it is nice that she is able to redeem her father.

Drained of the darkness, he fades away, joining the tribe of ghosts who were the prior defenders of the land. It is a brief but powerful scene. We barely have time to digest what happened. And I would have loved to have the time to see more of Mii's emotions in the aftermath. I suppose that can come later too.

Instead, Alanna knows that neither of them need be alone anymore. They can be part of something bigger ... the League.

Some of that youth and vigor is seen when Mii talks of meeting Wonder Woman, almost like a fan. After 3 years of glum New 52 heroes acting like they hate being heroes, it was great to see a couple of young people happy to be helping.

But it does feel just a little fast. Equinox just learned her origins. Just found out she is destined to defend the land. Just saved her father from evil. Just saw the line of her people as ghosts supporting her. Would she really just join? Or would she say she needed time to figure things out.

Maybe she will be a part timer.

While that would have been a nice quiet ending, Lemire gives us a doozy of a cliffhanger.

Ultra is growing quickly, is suddenly smart enough to speak, and says 'time is broken'.

And then this guy shows up ... Mon-El!

I knew the Legion was showing up next issue but this still was a great ending. The Legion is back and in good hands!

So some great characterization, an origin of Equinox that leaves me thirsty for more, a new plotline and a compelling cliffhanger. Just another smart and slick issue of Justice League United. For what might be considered a 'rest issue' this moved things along and entertained. The art just wasn't my cup of tea.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

I agree about the odd stances, and did you notice both Alanna and Green Arrow doing a bit of 'pirate posing', legs up on a box or something?

I loved that Guardians of the Galaxy-ish cover line, and it looks good with the logo, I hope it's a declaration of intent for the book, and is kept.

I now know that Neil Edwards is working not just on the annual, but through issue 10. I do hope he stays, his work on ARGUS and elsewhere is great.

Anonymous said...

Of course this had to be the issue I decided to skip for a month. I thought it wouldn't be as good but I guess this review proves me wrong. It's nice to see Lemire bring some Bronze age sensibilities and lighter writing to this series. Makes for a better balance for all the darkness of The New 52. But I'm glad I'll be reading The Infinitus Saga, Lemire is on the ball here.

Louis Seymour

Bartiemus said...

I did find it odd that pretty much all of team went to space to check on Hawkman. I mean Alanna and Equinox have no experience what so ever taking out bad guys.

I loved Kara and Courtney calling the guys creepy for listening in the first sign of them being on the same page.

Also I think Animal Man is going to be a fun fathere figure for the girls on the team as they all need one another great issue good to see Jeff Lemrie is on top form here.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

It was a great issue. I'm back to buying more DC books than Image books in a long time. But look at how long the legs on the women are on the first page. You've mentioned the poses, but pg 1 really stood out as Image in the 90s.

Anonymous said...

"The Legion is back and in good hands!" Really? Jeff Lemire is a talented writer, but remember this is the New 52. No optimism, no hope, heroes hating each other, villains being hailed as heroes, graphic brutality, pessimism; the exact opposite of what the Legion of Super-Heroes has always stood for. Will DC Editorial allow Lemire to make the Legion what it was and what it should be? I sure hope so. I dropped the entirety of the New 52books I was reading after the end of the last Legion series, so saddened was I at the bleak tone and "shocking" acts of dismemberment and death. I picked up Justice League United because I heard the Legion was coming back, and I have faith in Lemire. Let's hope he brings back the Legion that so many fans want.

Anonymous said...

Kara's character design seemed off in this one, eyes Anime Big and a chin as pointed as pencil....and I'm really starting to hate the crotchplate it just hangs there like the Berlin Wall, very totalitarian.
As for Equinox's got the facts out and circulating which is all we can expect given she doesn't have a solo book to tease out the details....I like the seasonal magic gimmick that has some potential.


Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I guess J'Onn thought they were just going to talk to the Grandmother (the initial intent) and not seek out a Whitago to brawl with.

The art is odd, but Neil Edwards is going to be on the book in the future. His style isn't so stilted.

And I do think Lemire has handled DC properties right. I think he'll do all right by the Legion.