Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Justice League United #4

I have been continually impressed with Jeff Lemire and Mike McKone's Justice League United comic, the perfect mix of action and characterization, a blend of modern comic story-telling with Silver Age historical nods. I will admit that I was drawn to the title because of Supergirl, having been vexed by the other League books since the New 52. But I am glad I am here. This book is wonderful.

Justice League United #4, the conclusion of the first arc, came out this week and continued that trend. This felt more like an epilogue to the first story as the heavy action all played out last issue. But that meant that Lemire was able to take the time to look at each character, adding in nice moments of character growth, and having the team remain together after the crisis at hand. And, as I have said in prior reviews, Mike McKone is able to add flourishes to his art that deepen those moments.

And, to add to the mix, we finally get to see a little bit of Equinox in action.

While the League is on Rann dealing with Ultra, the Multi-Alien, Byth, and the Rann/Thanagar relations, Alanna is on Earth, having been zeta-beamed to the Rannian base on Earth.

We learn a number of things here as she finds Miya's friend Heather and springs into action. Some things I like. Others, I am neutral about.

On the positive side, it looks like Alanna is going to be an active member of the team rather than hanging out on the sidelines. Like Adam, she has donned an  Rannian rocket suit and wields a 'ray gun'. I like this idea of her being just as much an adventurer as Adam.

On the neutral side, we learn that she is Alanna Strange, having married him in a quiet ceremony. Given the teacher/student relationship between her and Adam, the two have kept things hidden. I don't know. I suppose love is love. But I did have to suppress a bit of a cringe.

On the negative side, it is strongly implied that Alanna is from Earth. I always liked her as a Rannian citizen, making her relationship with Adam a sort of star-crossed love affair.

Still, a flying Alanna is great!

The big part of this book is seeing the Leaguers respond to the aftermath of this adventure.

Now Rann and Thanagar have historically never gotten along and this whole Ultra/Byth mess just adds gas to that combustible relationship. Thanagar blames Rann for the death of Hawkman and the creation of Ultra. Sardath blames Thanagar for the disaster as it was Byth, a Thanagarian, was the force behind the corruption of Rann's noble aims. I don't think these two planets will ever be true allies.

What I did like was how quickly J'onn stands up for Ultra. He won't let him be killed or captured. He will defend him. In fact, we learn that only J'onn's telepathy that is keeping Ultra in check. He has to defend him, from himself.

I also like how Ultra is aging quickly and taking on his more classic Silver Age appearance.

Green Arrow and Animal Man have been teasing and jabbing each other throughout this struggle. Here, sitting by while J'onn, Sardath, and the Thanagarians hash things out, there is a moment of introspection and sympathy.

Ollie admits he is a loner, not well suited for teamwork. He offers condolences for the loss of Cliff. It is a peek behind the brash, sarcastic Ollie. It also plants the seeds of how these two become great friends (as seen in Futures' End).

I especially love Buddy's response ... to hug it out. It breathes a little levity into what could have been a maudlin or suffocating moment. Great characterization by both.

When the book was first publicized, Lemire described Supergirl as an angry, bull-headed loner. He described Stargirl as the youthful face of DC's optimism. He said the two would have a hard time being friends.

Now Supergirl has been a bit impetuous. But she hasn't been overly angry. And, during the crisis, she actually did what she should do (try to save people) rather than what she wanted to do (chase and pound Lobo). I have been happy with seeing Lemire's Supergirl as being someone who wants to be proactive.

Here however, we see a bit more of what Lemire talked about prior to the series. While Stargirl is all 'golly' about what has happened, Supergirl seems a bit more world-weary and mature. She storms off, basically telling Courtney to grow up. Seems a little harsh to me.

McKone adds to the moment, casting all of Kara's body into the shadow of her cape. It is a dark moment; she even looks dark.

And we continue our rounds, looking at the other Leaguers and learning more of their characters.

J'onn is beating himself up for configuring the team in a way that ended up with Hawkman killed. I like this introspective J'onn who constantly wants to improves his strategy.

But what I love is Adam's response. This guy is a anthropology professor. You think he would be completely floored by this whole escapade. But he seems at ease here. And he tries to help J'onn work through this. Who can truly know how things would turn out if the crew was sent out differently.

J'onn, it seems is going to be more than a defender of Ultra. He might end up as a father figure. We learn that only J'onn's telepathy that is keeping Ultra in check. He has to defend Ultra from himself.

So Ultra is going to be part of the crew. Fascinating.

But the Rann connection won't be over. Sardath, a sort of scientific father to Ultra, will also be a visitor. I am glad that Sardath will be connected to the team. I feel like there has to be a link to the Silver Age Adam Strange.

And my Ladyhawke guess about Adam and Alanna turns out to be right. The two can't be together right now. Adam is stranded on Rann.

Ahhh ... they are star-crossed lovers. And Adam being 'stuck' on Rann is a nice throwback to his classic incarnation.

One thing I was surprised at was the Hawkman remained 'dead' this whole issue. I suppose we will have some sort of resurrection next issue, some sort of 'I expended all the energy of the Nth metal to revive me; I am no longer merged with it'. This way we get back to a more classic Katar.

I was glad that Byth and Lobo simply didn't just disappear. While Lobo does leave to chase down the other Lobo's out there, Byth commandeers the Thanagarian ship bring Katar home. Byth wants the Nth metal himself.

Byth is too great a cosmic villain to waste. I want to see all those characters here - Kanjar Ro, Hyathis, Manhawks, etc.

On Earth, Miya finally says her magic word to become Equinox and lashes out at the Wendigo spirits that have been haunting the area. She does say that she is worried about what will happen if she activates her powers. I wonder if there is some sort of 'Spawn' or 'Doctor Strange' like aspect to her powers, tapping into to dark magic as well as light.

It was great to finally see her in action, even if she passes out right after this scene.

McKone shines here, making her costume and capes seem alive, making her seem as much like a winged faerie as a young sorceror.

For me though, this was the best moment.

After the Rannian heroes get Zeta'd back to Canada, they have to decide what to do next. Do they stay together as a team? Use the Rann base as their HQ? Didn't the Justice League of America just fail? But didn't they act like a unit in saving people?

Kara's response is wonderful. You can see how much she wants to belong to something, especially after her recent Red Lantern time. She asks how the team would be different from teams .... not that she will stay of course. I think she is protesting too much here. She wants to stay.

And J'onn puts it succinctly and perfectly. The team needs to be a symbol of heroism, selflessness, and sacrifice. Don't like it  ... there's the door. Great leadership and great sentiment.

Of course everyone decides to stay. And Courtney gives them the name Justice League United.

But before they can share a group hug, Alanna bursts in with the unconscious Miya. Nice cliffhanger.

Whew ...

For a comic that had only one action scene (Byth slaughtering Thanagarians), this was riveting. It was a way for Lemire to show us where he is going with these characters, what he thinks of them. And this origin, a group of heroes coming together to fight evil and then staying together, smacks of the most classic origins - JLA and Avengers included.

Add to that the smooth, slick, nuanced art from Mike McKone and you have a winner.

No complaints here.

Overall grade: A


alex said...

This is really good comics. Just saw the sales chart for JLU last month and it is sad to see this book comics sales has been drop drastically :( My wishlist is that DC can do spin off book Adventures of Green Arrow-Animal Man or Adam Strange Solo Series or Martian Manhunter solo series but I doubt it will happen. Overall I give this issue 8/10 . I will like to see this team JLU fight classic JL villain like Starro or Mongul in future. Also I predict that the war between Rann and Thanagar will happen in the future. Just my prediction

Bartiemus said...

Great issue I thought. I think one of the main reasons why Kara was so cold to Courtney was dues to the fact she sees a lot of her self in her.

If you think back to Kara on Krypton she was a lot more of a happy go lucky kid loved her family and friends and just wanted to have a good time which usually involved here getting into trouble.

Then she wakes up on Earth and is constantly attacked and manipulated my guess is Kara does not want Courtney to go through that hell like she did so she want her to wake up and not be used like she was.

Overall great issue it's going to be satisfying to see Kara becoming BFFs with Courtney and Equinox it will happen it's only a matter of time.

Kim said...

I didn't mind Kara being a bit harsh on Stargirl at all. I mean, after what she's been through, not the least of which is the Red Daughter thing, and her knowing cosmic stuff etc, I think she reacted perfectly right. Not least because of Stargirl's quip about "aliens". Kara didn't come across as harsh to me at all, but more like "I've been through the universe and I've seen stuff!".

But, the main takeaway for me was J'onn. He's behaving like himself and... You can't have a justice league withouth him!

Anonymous said...

I dunno Courtney doesn't know any better her only other alien team mate is the wise and paternal J'on J'onz, Supergirl kinda came off as a bully IMHO. Not sure about this title...isn't Supergirl supposed to confront bullies?


Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Maybe I was too harsh on Kara with Courtney. I agree that her response is based on her seeing so much more heartbreak than Stargirl. But I think she could have been a little nicer in conveying that point.

Still, Supergirl has been treated very well overall by Lemire. No real complaints.

I haven't looked at sales. How bad are they?

Anonymous said...

The response seemed to sound a lot like what Kara heard from Guy and Bleez. If you act too much like a kid the team won't take you seriously.

Thomas Hayes said...

The sales aren't that bad - we just had a rather delayed onset of the slump that normally happens with new titles, because this book had a zero issue which sold as well as the #1 and #2 had a bombshell cover which offset the second issue drop. #3 went down to around 47,000 sales, into Green Lantern territory. This is fine although it is around 40,000 less than the main Justice League book.

Bartiemus said...

The sales where around 50K I think the book will stabilise around 30K or so.

The fact that it's a core Justice League book backed up by a critically acclaimed writer should give it some staying power. It could also be classed as a Young Justice book which is something DC is sorely lacking with at the moment.

Martin Gray said...

The Kara/Courtney scene wasn't my favourite, but given that we recently saw positive comments from Lemire about Kara going forward - or did I imagine this? - I'm going to sit back and see what happens. This is a terrific comic, and it has my support for as long as it keeps the heroic tone.

I'm not so keen on the Equinox costume, it's a tad bland; I wouldn't want it all-out Perez-ed, but maybe a flouncy symbol or two would help.

I think it was more than implied that Alanna is from Earth, given her 'I'm Canadian' remark, and line making it clear that the wonders of space are new to her. I'm disappointed, I wanted her to be a Rann transfer student or something.

I'm OK with Alanna and Adam being married - they seem pretty close in age, there doesn't seem to have been any abuse of power involved. (And even if he was a good few years older, I'd judge it on a case by case basis - US folk seem a lot more uncomfortable about age difference romances than Europeans.) University is where they met, he was her lecturer - so long as there's no favouritism, then I'd taken 'em both down!

The selfie cover is cute but the regular one is just stupendous!

Anj said...

Thanks for continued comments.

I suppose you are right Mart. I think people are always looking for a reason to pounce and Alanna being a student isn't a necessary part of the story. That said, you are right, they do look close in age - like an older grad student and a young prof.

I suppose sales of 40K in this day and age is great. Hope DC let's this grow.