Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Justice League United #9

Justice League United #9 came out this week and was a very very entertaining and satisfying penultimate chapter to the Infinitus storyline. I am absolutely sure that I am enjoying this arc more than many because I am such a Legion fan. And frankly this has been one of the best Legion stories I have read in the last 5 years. This just feels like the Legion.

Writer Jeff Lemire clearly understands how to write the Legion, making the lack of a Lemire Legion as a title in the soft summer DC reboot that much more glaring in its absence. We see a lot of the Legion and even get a feel of their personalities. But Lemire also walks the line nicely making sure that the stars of this book ... the JLU ... aren't forgotten. Neither team dominates this issue. Both add a lot. Maybe 50/50 isn't what Justice League fans want. But I ate it up with a spoon.

And artist Neil Edwards' handles everything spectacularly. The cast of characters in this issue is insanely long. I don't know how easy a task this was for him. But we get a nice mix of large and small panels. We get emotion from the characters. And everyone looks great.

Best of all is that this feels like a second-to-last chapter. The story has been paced such that I think we will get a satisfying ending. Nothing irks me more than when I am heading into a final chapter with too much in the air, wondering how the writer will be able to wrap things up in 20 pages. Lemire gives us cliffhanger. But he wraps things up enough to tee up next month's conclusion.

As I said, we get a nice mix of splash pages and multipanel pages that make the issue progress in a visually appealing way. Unlike the recent Superman which was all big panels, we get the story we need and we get big art for big moments.

And nothing says big story like a splash page of a team heading into combat! We get the JLU and the LSH all heading to fight Infinitus' wraiths, trying to stop him from forming.

This page made me feel some sympathy for Neil Edwards. That's 38 characters in the role call! And that's just the heroes. Whew!

Despite the action which worms it's way through the book, for me it is always the character moments that I enjoy the most in mash-ups like this. Yes, seeing Legionnaires and Leaguers fighting wraiths is cool.

But seeing Animal Man mock Green Arrows rallying cry of 'Justice League Attack!' gold.

And seeing Brainiac 5 match wits and personalities with Dream Girl is also good. These two have sparred in the past, usually when Brainy underestimates Dreamy. But having him make a doomsday bomb seems like flirting with disaster.

One panel which fell flat for characterization was seeing Phantom Girl seem almost scared about Infinitus manifesting. Tinya has been treated pretty rough the last couple of years.

On the other side of the bleed, Supergirl and Byth battle it out.

I have liked the strength of Kara in this title. I was worried that she was going to be dark and bitter (based on early Lemire comments) but she has really just been pro-active and the muscle of the team. Here I love how disgusted she is by Byth's attempt to be with her. She's sixteen!

Love it!

In response, Byth shows his 'true face', becoming a monstrous tumorous mass akin to The Thing at the end of Carpenter's film.

With the Wraiths streaking towards Rann, the teams split up. Some will head to the planet to defend it from this invasion. The others will stay in space to battle Infinitus.

Again, it is small details that deepen these books and make me love them. Mon-El activates the 'Legion Planetary Defense Squad' of Wildfire, White Witch, Lightning Lass, Element Lad, and Bouncing Boy. That is one tough squad, even if Chuck is the weak link.

But inter-team squads like the Legion Espionage Squad are nice little flourishes that make love the Legion. Is this the first naming of this squad?

But it is also important that everyone get a little moment to shine. Even someone like Bouncing Boy. When Animal Man gently mocks him, Chuck shows his stuff, bouncing to smash the crystalized wraiths. It's completely ridiculous.But I love it.

One of the difficult things about writing the Legion is giving everyone a purpose, a moment.

But this isn't just a Legion book. Remember, the title group is the Justice League.

And team leader Martian Manhunter has some great moments in this book.

I love this page breakdown of J'onn entering Hawkman's mind to wipe away the Byth brainwashing. There is a puzzle-like feel to it as J'onn puts together the pieces. And even the half-faces, the two heroes looking in different directions, gives it a sort of unique feel. We have seen pages like this before, but usually the faces line up. This shows they aren't quite in synch yet.

Luckily it works and J'onn, Hawkman, and Dawnstar streak into the rift. They hope to get their friends out of there before Brainy fires his bomb.

While the heroes bash on Byth (that toothy thing in Colossal Boy's hand), Dawnstar communicates their coordinates to Gates who is able to open up his own rift.

Colossal Boy is able to grab Byth and his friends and pull them free of the bleed.

Byth seems to be much much more than a shapeshifter. He seems to have some sort of psionics. And he seems particularly strong. But alone and facing the entirety of the Legion, even Byth has to surrender.

It happens relatively fast ... but some bruisers from both teams have been pounding on him for about 3 issues. So I can believe that he finally was overwhelmed.

Alas, the cute little multi-alien we knew from the beginning of this title is gone. In his place is this suddenly ultra-intelligent, supremely self-aware Ultra. And he thinks he's God.

Despite some frank talk from J'onn, it looks like Ultra is going to manifest as Infinitus.

I wasn't expecting this! I thought for sure there would be some twist where Byth was Infinitus.


Ultra becomes a villain and is becoming Infinitus.

That is until J'onn lobotomizes him.

Since the beginning, J'onn has been Ultra's biggest defender. He has been something of a father figure. So this is pretty powerful to have J'onn be the one who has to defeat him this way. It must be killing J'onn on the inside. But what choice did he have.

And like that, the emerging Infinitus fades away. Only the damage Ultra is left.

There is some meatiness to this moment, mostly because of the relationship between the two characters.

You would think the story is over. Infinitus was the big bad and he's been defeated.

But Lemire throws in a nice classic Legion twist.

Brainiac 5 didn't trust his friends to beat Infinitus. He launched the Infinitus bomb. And with no huge cosmic being to take the brunt of the bomb, it simply explodes and opens up a black hole right above Thanagar!

Brainiac 5 accidentally creating something deadly is a well-worn path. Computo! Omega! Computo again! Having him potentially make things worse is classic Querl. But with Infinitus and Byth out of the way, having the teams deal with this threat can happen in the finale. This ending can happen in one issue.

In fact, I anticipate that somehow, something happens with Byth and this black hole. Remember, Byth has said all along that he has done all of this before. I bet that Byth is thrown back in time via the black hole and has to relive everything we have seen again. He is stuck in a time loop.

I am pretty happy with this title and with this arc. Great Legion stuff ... truly. Nice characterization for the Leaguers. A feel of DC Cosmic. And very good art to boot!

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Isn't it great! I echo your every compliment.

I'm pretty sure the Interplanetary Defence Squad is as new as the squads we got a couple of issues back. The memberships seem random, but sub-teams seem a smart way to get groups of Legionnaires getting to know one another.

It was indeed painful to see poor little Ultra get Franklined, but he can come back from this - I imagine the Infinitus potential has been burnt out, all he needs is to get his mind back.

Anonymous said...

"You don't have to pretend to be anything you're not anymore. You can be my Queen."

"I'm SIXTEEN, you creep!"

The line SOOOO put a smile on my face as well! Though personally, I would've liked it if the writer(s) had used another reason
other than Supergirl being underage for her to reject Bythe -- maybe something like she's nothing like Bythe, or just a plain


Bartiemus said...

Will Kara make it out of this story? I'm just not a fan of having so many characters on the screen it's to un focused.

Anonymous said...

Haha byth had hots for kara since they first met. He's been trying to get her since the beginning haha creep indeed

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

I agree that there is a huge cast here. If you buy this book for Equinox, you only get a couple of panels. The Strange's are barely present.

That's why I think sometimes these crossovers work best in 2 team books so each title can showcase their characters a bit better.

Alas, no Legion book!