Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: Justice League United #1

Justice League United #1 came out last week, the last of 6 issues from that week I needed to review. So I am a little late to the game. JLU will be on the review list because at some point Supergirl will join the team. We aren't there yet by writer Jeff Lemire is building the team slowly and showcasing some of the foundation of character interaction.

I definitely liked the zero issue of the book because I felt there wasn't the mean streak that I have seen in the New 52. These were heroes, brought together by chance, working together for good, with very little angst, paranoia, or negativism. Even the snarks between Green Arrow and Animal Man felt like good natured ribbing as opposed to anger or aloofness. As a result, it felt more like a Silver/Bronze age vibe dressed in modern sensibilities. That is definitely a compliment. I have talked about the mono-tone nature of the DCU. This book felt different.

For the most part, this issue continued that feel. Unfortunately there is a 100% New 52 nonsense moment in the middle of this book that it jarred me out of the story.  More on that soon.

Mike McKone continues to do a great job on this book. There is a slick clean feel to the book and McKone uses panel shapes and splashes to keep the reader engaged. Colorist Marcelo Maiolo uses the 'bright red' contrast background in this issue ... but maybe too much. I think it should be reserved for just 1-2 panels a book.

The plot is split between two sites. One is Canada where the earth bound heroes have stumbled across an alien genetic lab and are battling a monster. The other is Alana and Hawkman on a planet near Thanagar.

I have always liked the 'teammates by chance' origin stories in comics, heroes brought together at random to fight an enemy. Here we see some members of the JLA with Adam Strange and Animal Man coming together as a team.

The creature seems unstable ... enraged and mutable. Blasts of cosmic energy by Courtney change it from fire to stone to wind and wood. I couldn't help but wonder if its forms are a subtle homage to the Appelax meteor creatures in the original JLA origin.

This is one of those red panels that seems a bit excessive.

Within the battle, Adam Strange finds a closet of rocket-suits within the lab. And just like that we have Adam Strange, hero of Earth. Nice splash page showcasing him.

I don't know if I like the fact that this is simply a mass produced uniform as opposed to something more special. And at least Lemire has Strange struggle with using it at first. He shouldn't be able to simply strap this thing on and be spectacular flying.

J'onn attempts to link to the creatures mind and we get a glimpse into its tortured past.

This is another failed experiment in this lab. It is an unstable creature, flipping between forms. Prior failures have been 'disposed' by Lobo. But this one was kept alive, probably for a reason like this ... to release as a weapon/distraction.

I have to say, it made me feel bad for this thing.

Note, another red panel. Could this be worthy of the extreme coloring?

And then the New 52 happened.

On the other planet, Alana is leading a prisoner revolt. Amid that, Hawkman fights Lobo. And then ... gasp ... Lobo cuts off Hawkman's arm!

It seems to be a running theme in the new 52, especially recently, that characters get dismembered. It has become such a standard operating procedure that it is simply no longer shocking. In fact I find it either depressing or laughable. Is there a quota? Do we need a one-armed Hawkman?

This New 52 moment is so different than the tone of the rest of the book that it felt out of place.

I do suppose that if one panel was going to have the red background, this would be the one.

Back on Earth, the creature takes off and the heroes need to give chase.

One thing I like about this book, even in its short history, is the relationship between Buddy and Ollie. They snark and tease each other leading to a nice crackle between them. That is made even more powerful when thinking of Buddy's eulogy in Futures End. You know these pointed comments at one point become more friendly barbs.

I love just how embarrassed Ollie is at needing to be carried by Buddy. Fantastic.

In the issue, Courtney really gets a chance to shine. We have heard that Lemire wants her to be the bright optimistic face of the DC youth and she sure sounds it here.

Sent on ahead since her cosmic staff is the only thing to effect this thing, Courtney really wants to prove herself. I am a fan of young heroes trying to live up an ideal and learning the ropes. So my guess is I will like Courtney in this book.

Blasting it into several forms (a red-paneled close-up of her face each time), she finally makes it into wood. And J'onn shatters it into so much splinters.

I do like that Courtney hugs J'onn afterward. She wants him to be proud of her. She is thrilled he is okay.

McKone does a great job here in that first panel - J'onn stiff, his hands open while she clutches him. He is clearly uncomfortable.

I wonder how J'Onn fans feel about this unemotional, distant reaction. I will admit I haven't read enough of him in the New 52 to know if this is consistent.

And I suppose it could be that he was switching amongst elements. But we saw fire, wood, stone ... was I reaching with this Appelax meteor idea?

Turns out I was, but I might have been on the right track. On Twitter, Jeff Lemire said his inspiration was another old JLA villain, The Unimaginable.

And on the moon near Thanagar, Byth has changed shape to be Adam Strange to try to lure Alana into his clutches. And it works.

I love this panel as he reveals himself. This multi-pseudopodded tongue is completely evocative of how Tim Truman drew him in Hawkworld. That Byth was scary-creepy. So this was fantastic!

And finally we get to the heart of the matter, what Byth has been trying to create with all these experiments. He has wanted to create a slayer of worlds ... and he has with Ultra, the Multi-Alien!!

Oh my god! Ultra the Multi-Alien repurposed for the modern comics! I have said that there is this delicious fudge ripple of Silver Age embedded in this book. And is there anything more Silver Age-y than Ultra? This is inspired.

So no Supergirl but still a very entertaining, fun, and beautiful comic. If only that dis-arming didn't happen!

Overall grade: B/B+

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Your Appelax theory made loads of sense. I'd not be surprised if Jeff LeMire's memories of that didn't inform his Unimaginable relaunch.

And I agree, let's keep the New 52 out of this. I don't doubt Hawkman will grow a new arm of Nth metal or somesuch, but I'd rather such nonsense weren't necessary. Heck, they're already 'promising' the death of a member.