Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review: Justice League United Annual #1

Justice League United Annual #1 came out last week and was the official start of the Infinitus storyline guest-starring/re-introducing the Legion of Super-Heroes to the New 52 universe.

Now as a fan of this book, and a lifelong fan of the Legion, I have been looking forward to this storyline since it was solicited. The Legion has been in a bit of a tailspin for the last decade or so and I am hoping the writer Jeff Lemire can figure out a way to bring back the magic. If this opening chapter is an indication I think he can.

Unfortunately, things have become so muddled in Legion history that I first need to figure out which Legion this is. Is it a 'new' one? We know that the JL3K world is the pre-New 52 Earth's future. It was hinted in the last page of the last issue of the New 52 Legion book that that Legion was the Earth 2 Legion. So is this the Earth-0 Legion and have we not met them before?

Mon-El is here (wasn't he dead or dismembered in the last series). Phantom Girl is here (didn't she dematerialize in the last issue). And I don't see any of the Legion Lost in the action. They look like the 'old' Legion. But they haven't met the Infinite Man before. Hmmm ...

Lemire 'introduces' us to the group and sets up some early dynamics - Mon-El's love of Shady, Brainy's big picture intelligence. And he continues to deepen the characterization of the JLU team.I don't post any here but there are great Animal Man/Green Arrow moments. And also, I love Buddy calling home to his family from deep space.

Art is by old ARGUS friend Neil Edwards who brings a smooth style to the proceedings, kicking things up a notch for the more cosmic pieces. I am glad he is on the book moving forward.

At the end of the last issue, Mon-El shows up with the plan to kill Ultra. Seemed a little bloodthirsty for the Daxamite. Of course, J'onn has really taken on the role of protector/father to Ultra and won't let it happen. A brawl ensues.

The fight calms for a second, long enough for Mon-El to at least acknowledge that he knows the League historically and that they need to stand down. Even Equinox is famous a thousand years from now.

You might notice that it is Adam Strange here now, not Alana. It seems that they will unexpectedly switch back and forth via the Zeta beam. I really really hope that isn't going to be true moving forward. 'Unexpected' switches and power lapses bug me. They never happen at a really inopportune moment - like when one of them is in the shower, or when one is in space and the other isn't in a space suit.

Meanwhile, the away team is investigating Hawkman's JLU beacon going off. It leads them to an interstellar brothel/bar.

While Green Arrow wants the investigation to be subdued and quiet, Supergirl decides to ignore his orders and attack.

Early on, Lemire described Supergirl as the bull-headed stubborn member of the team. Here we see that. She thinks she knows what's right and she isn't going to listen to anyone else.

As always, I don't mind Supergirl messing up and learning on the way.

Kara is able to find the guy holding Hawkman's communicator. And facing a Kryptonian right cross, he spills the beans. Hawkman's body was hijacked by a cult and brought to a planet for some 'ceremony' done by the high priest Byth.

But this panel .... yeesh. Talk about fan service. Talk about highlighting the red crotch shield, the worst part of Supergirl's New 52 costume.

Back on Earth, Brainiac 5 arrives with Phantom Girl and Saturn Girl. They decide that maybe they should explain why they are on this mission to kill Ultra.

In the 30th century, on Thanagar, Infinitus rises. And, in Galactus style, he begins consuming planets. Suddenly Psion, Thanagar, and others are simply gone.

Against such a power, even the Legion are powerless. And in the battles, Shadow Lass gets 'terribly wounded'. There seems no stopping Infinitus then. The only hope is to defeat him before he is a threat. And his energies match Ultra's. In a leap of logic, Brainiac 5 assumes Ultra becomes Infinitus.

Therefore, to save billions, Ultra must die.

It does seem like a leap to me.

More on this later.

The space team heads to a moon where the informant says Hawkman's body was taken. I like that Green Arrow confronts Supergirl about her lack of teamwork right away. That is the sign of a leader.

And I like the art here.

The first panel has us looking from Green Arrow's perspective. Look at the arrogance of Supergirl here, looking sideways, finger pointing ... like she is chastising a kid. Even I would be annoyed. And she tries 'the ends justify the means' argument. Never good.

Exasperated, Green Arrow walks away reminding her she is on a team.

I hope that Lemire shows growth here. I don't want a bratty Supergirl here while she is maturing in her own book.

To no one's surprise, Hawkman turns out to be alive.

Byth has resurrected him. And brainwashed him.

Meanwhile, Brainy continues to explain the plan. They cannot let a being who will kill billions exist. The Legion will give the JLU 24 hours to figure things out or they will be back to kill the Legion.

Again, it sounds a little too bloodthirsty for the Legion. Second, don't they no better than to try to change history? Third, don't they have 1000 years to figure this all out?

Also, isn't coming back in time like this changing things? Why not just take baby Ultra into custody now and bring him ... alive ... into the future? Won't that change things too?

I don't know. After so many time traveling jaunts, this seems like an overly simplistic plan by a 12th level intelligence.

In deep space an all-out brawl breaks out.

Throughout this fight, Byth keeps talking about living this moment before, breaking a time loop, etc. He has maneuvered everything in a way to have his plan unfold, breaking some infinite loop that he is living.

I always laugh at poor characters who have to relive these moments. They never break things and undo the loop.

But Byth is clearly mad. Whereas in the past he was little more than a shape-changing thief, here he is a nihilist, trying to bring about the existence of Infinitus. He calls himself a herald (maybe re-enforcing the Galactus feel to Infinitus) and a high priest. I think I liked him more as an immoral, hedonistic crimelord and not a religious zealot.

But his plan is working. While he is fighting the JLU here, his Cadre is on Earth preparing to get Ultra.

The Cadre!

I love how Lemire is working in some odd corners of the DCU into this title. Ultra The Multi-Alien, The Unimaginable, Byth, and now The Cadre!

Love that Supergirl by Edwards on the bottom.

And we learn that Ultra will be the vessel for Infinitus. Hmmm ... maybe Brainy wasn't too off the mark.

This was a great opening chapter to a long arc. All the players are on the board. We know the threat. We have a plan. And we have some smaller subplots - Kara's insubordination, Hawkman's allegiance - all sifted into the mix. I feel like I have a foundation that 4 more issues can build on.

Now a killing Legion? I don't know if I quite am on board with that.

As I said, the art is a step up from Timothy Green and is better suited for this title. In particular, the flashforward into the future with a double splash of the Legion and the emergence of Infinitus were excellent.

I guess I'll have to see where it goes!

Overall grade: B/B+


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see the Legion back but honestly most of the JLU team is kinda boring. I like B and C list characters on teams but that's usually because the writer has the freedom to develop them. JLU is end to end action with costumed heroes that look like versions we've seen before but are otherwise interchangeable with heroes that play the same hero on other teams.

And wasn't the whole point if the Red Lantern thing to get Supergirl past the hotheaded angry thing? Or are we going to get arc after arc of her learning the same lessons about maturity and self control with each writer getting their turn at showing us her epiphany? Which is quickly forgotten for the next writer to write the same "growth"?

Oh well, there's the Legion, at least they're here so they can kill a child. Wait, what?

iopy said...

This was a nice issue and I'm really glad to see the LOSH back in action. Lots of action!

I have to say though that I miss the days when an annual was a stand-alone story with a beginning and an end. Stories in comics today never end, they just lead into the next event.

The only off note for me is Supergirl, but it's a huge one. I never thought I'd say this, but maybe the book would be better off without her, I'm already convinced she'd be better off not in the book. Lemire's version is Lobdell's with the genocidal edges filed off but with a new edge of actually *wanting* to get into fights and actually anticipating them. I love Lemire, but seriously guy, what are you thinking?

To anon above: I'm just telling myself JLU came before the RL arc. Otherwise Soule and Bedard's story was interesting but in the end meaningless.

I won't comment about that fan service page other than to say JLU is now on my "flip through in the store before I spend money" list.


Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I agree that Kara acted a bit 'pre-Red Daughter.' I thought her actions in the first arc where she understood her role on the team - saving Hawkman rather than flying after Lobo - were better handled.

In a recent article, Lemire described her as 'self-reliant' which is different than overtly angry or immature. I hope she isn't the foil to Stargirl too much.

And yes, this killing Legion seems slightly off. We'll have to see.

Bartiemus said...

I actually like how Kara was here she has never met any of these people before so why should she trust them?

And to her Green Arrow is just some guy who shoots Arrows she doesn't knows how much experience he's had.

I do love Ollie leading the team I'm hoping its permeant.

Peter LoCasto said...

Considering the other Legionnaires arrived minutes after Mon-El did, my guess is the whole "time is relative" thing and that how long they stay affects when they'll arrive back, so chances are they really do only have 24 hours.

Anonymous said...

This Kara acts so much as the old Powergirl hot head and with angry issues , and present Karen is like a grown up version of silver age Supergirl,mixing with some pre flashpoint Kara.

Maybe the curgente Supergirl IS the New 52 version of Karen anyway.

It would be ironical, but makes sense
Earth 2 Kal is a mixing of silver age Superman with bits of his post crisis version (married with Lois, foster parents alive).

The other way the main New 52 Superman is based on his golden age vension,with bronze age elements.

Martin Gray said...

Nice review - it's funny how we put different spins on that shot of Supergirl's bottom; I find that costume so stonkingly ugly I can't imagine anyone getting a kick out of seeing it.