In Review: Justice League United Annual #1

A letdown in several ways. Legion fans, I feel your pain.

The covers: The Main cover has art by Andrew Robinson featuring the JLU (Supergirl, Martian Manhunter, Equinox, Animal Man, Adam Strange, Stargirl, and Green Arrow) flying forward out of an orange sunset with phantom images of the Legion of Super-Heroes (Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Mon El, Saturn Girl, and Brainiac 5). Supergirl, Saturn Girl, and Mon El look fine, but the others look blocky or chunky. The coloring is nice. The Variant cover is by Rod Reis has Legionnaires Tellus, Dawnstar, Mon El, Phantom Girl, and Chameleon Girl flying out of a circle holding the silhouette of the Infinity Man. Everyone looks great, save Mon El because of his chin. The black coloring is a smart way to highlight the characters and make the threat of the Infinity Man greater. Overall grades: Main C and Variant A-

The story: In the previous issue of Justice League United, Mon El arrived in the team’s headquarters/bunker proclaiming that the alien child Ultra must be killed or the Legion of Super-Heroes will die. The Martian Manhunter reassures the child that no one will harm it, and the Daxamite and the Martian fly at each with fists ready. The Manhunter gets hit through the ceiling and Mon El is about to be shot by Alanna Strange until she and Adam change places, a common flaw of the Zeta-loop they’ve been encountering for several issues in the monthly. Adam’s gun does nothing to Mon El, and the young hero grabs the human by the neck, but is quickly thrown backwards from a scream by Equinox. This gives the two JLU members a moment to catch up, but Mon El quickly returns, but is more willing to talk than throw punches. This is not the only storyline occurring in this issue written by Jeff Lemire. It is the A story, as the issue is titled “The Infinitus Saga” Part 1 of 5. In the Polaris Star System aboard Plexus-6 Pleasure Station, the rest of the team is looking for recently killed Hawkman, as his communicator came on. The station is packed with bounty hunters and Green Arrow wants to take things calmly, but Supergirl isn’t willing to oblige. Just as they learn what happens, Lemire returns to Earth as other Legionnaires arrive via time bubble and tell their tale. Their reason for coming to the past makes sense, but once it’s told all the action focuses to the team in space and deals with the search for Hawkman’s tech. That story takes an unsurprising turn and has a lot of battling that seems to go nowhere, with an unbelievable phone call. I wanted more Legion and Lemire was just setting up the backdrop for the next four installments. Overall grade: B-

The art: I just did not like the visuals; pencils by Neil Edwards and inks by Jay Leisten. Everything is big and blocky. The double-paged spread of 2 and 3 as the two heroes begin to fight has a lot of wasted space, including the top left corner (which is filled by a ginormous sound that seemingly has nothing to do with the image), the Manhunter looks like he’s square headed, and the backgrounds are almost non-existent, relying on suggestions of a setting with three characters to populate it. This didn’t start things out well. In general, if there are more than three characters in a panel they’re simplified, such as the top of 5, all of 6, and at the introduction to the pleasure station. The double-paged splash featuring the Legion looks great, and was used to promote this issue in the back of DC comics recently. The arrival of the villain on 23 is lessened because the focus is put on the heroes rather than the baddie, which in turn makes the super close up at the bottom of the page seem odd. Page 25, however, is a stand out, as it should be. This is wonderful! Page 28 is a mess. I don’t know whether to blame the script or the aritsts’ choice for how to illustrate this scene. It’s just silly/bad. The last page would look good if the characters at the bottom in silhouette didn’t look so poor. The visuals were a disappointment. Overall grade: C-

The colors: This is a darkly colored book, which had me wondering if I wasn’t reading the dark version of the Justice League accidentally. I honestly believe that the colors were made so dark so as to hide the flaws in the visuals. Jeromy Cox should have brightened things up so that the reader could see things more clearly, but that doesn’t happen. Page 2 is part of a double-paged splash, but outside of the text and the title and credits, this is a dark page. The space station doesn’t fare any better. The flashback is dark, but that fits thematically with the story, so I could expect it, but that doesn’t justify the rest of the dark smudge of colors on every page. Brighter art might have salvaged the visuals. Overall grade: D+

The letters: Scene setting, dialogue, character identification, sounds, story title and credits, and descriptions of settings are courtesy of Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito. I would have liked to have seen the talking bounty hunter have a unique font to show his alien-ness, but what is given is fine. Overall grade: B+

The final line: A letdown in several ways. Legion fans, I feel your pain. Overall grade: C

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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