Justice League United Annual #1 – Double Review [Bane of Kings/Shadowhawk]

Justice League United Annual 01

Bane of Kings and Shadowhawk take a look at the latest issue of DC’s Justice League United ongoing.

“The Legion of Superheroes return as Lemire pits them against the Justice League United in a way that’s bound to entertain.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

“This reads unlike any Jeff Lemire comic I’ve read to date, and that’s not a good thing in this case.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields

Bane of Kings:

Justice League United is Jeff Lemire’s sole remaining series at DC Comics following the cancellation of Animal Man and his departure from Green Arrow. Whilst it hasn’t quite hit the heights of either of those two series just yet, it’s nonetheless been one of the stronger series from DC’s titles and it’s great to see that the first Annual for this series has not disappointed, even if it did have a few problems.

First of all, I’d like to say that even without the Legion of Superheroes, I just love the team that Lemire has assembled for the book. It’s like he’s taken the majority of my favourite characters at DC and put them in one book – all that’s missing is Constantine and Nightwing and it would be the perfect team up. Supergirl, Green Arrow, Hawkman, they’re all up there. Martian Manhunter and Animal Man aren’t far behind, either, and the more I’m spending time with Equinox and Alanna Strange, the more I’m starting to enjoy them all the more. And when Lemire adds in the Legion, things get very interesting indeed, even though I have read virtually no comics featuring them before. This Annual has certainly made me interested in reading more about them, as I’m always massive fan of cosmic space stories (hence why I’m following all of the Green Lantern books at the moment) and it’s great to see more attention on outer space at the moment.

This Annual kicks off the first part of The Infinitus Saga and features the Justice League United versus the Legion of Superheroes. As all superhero teams inevitably do, it’s no surprise that their encounter doesn’t go to plan and when the Legion of Superheroes find themselves travelling across space and time to take out the Multi-Alien named Ultra (who is currently protected by the JLU) things don’t go as easy as they would expect.

First off, there are a few problems. There’s a lot of exposition here, mainly Legion of Superheroes-centric, and it also doesn’t help that as well as dealing with their re-introduction, it’s also still relatively early stages for the Justice League United as well. We’ve recently finished their first arc, and as a result Lemire has to balance the two different superhero teams as well as set up the first chapter of an ongoing storyline. However, whilst this issue isn’t the smoothest of introductions, there are still a lot of promising factors going on.

Lemire deals with the time-paradox story of killing someone in the past to prevent catastrophic change in the future, but thankfully what could have been a straight time-travel story is handled well to make it feel more complicated and keep it more original. We get to learn more about the threat in question, Infinitus, and it’ll be interesting to see how this storyline progresses as a result of the cliffhanger going forward.

As well as advancing new plots, it’s good to see old ones continuing to be dealt with. Whilst less experienced writers might have let Hawkman’s absence drag on for a while, Lemire handles it well bringing him back in what is probably the strongest section of the book, with some excellent drama that helps keep this book feeling fresh even with large amounts of exposition.

If you’re a fan of the Legion of Superheroes, then I’m going to say that you probably won’t be disappointed (also, on that note, if you are a fan, I’d appreciate it if you could recommend me some good stories featuring them in the comments below, I’d love to find out more about them) because Lemire handles everything pretty well. The artwork as well is great, with Neil Edwards delivering some great pencils that are only improved by Leisten’s inks and Cox’s colours. Whilst there are a few problems with the first page and various perspectives, everything is smoothed out by the end, allowing for a mostly well rounded issue.

So in conclusion, Justice League United Annual #1 may not be perfect, but it’s pretty solid. Jeff Lemire has delivered a good outing that balances the Legion of Superheroes and the main JLU team very well and kicks off the Infinitus Saga pretty strongly and I can’t wait to see where it goes in next month’s sixth issue.

Rating: 7.9/10


Jeff Lemire became one of my favourite writers in the industry last year when I started reading his issues on Justice League Dark and then followed that up with his Trillium for Vertigo and Green Arrow for DC. Strong, impactful writing is what I’ve come to expect from him in the last year and a half but with his current DC title Justice League United, I don’t think his heart is really in it. The first couple issues were bummer, though September’s Justice League and Justice League United crossover two-parter was halfway decent. This month (October that is), I thought it would be nice to get back into the series with this new annual issue, which is supposed to kick off a new arc on the book, but my expectations were all pretty much dashed to bits.

The main problem is that while the overall story is pretty decent here, and echoes some of the grander cosmic stories of the 90s and 2000s, the dialogue is completely off or all the characters involved, and there’s far too much bluster involved. Not to mention that the characters really don’t feel as if they are being properly portrayed, mostly in that Lemire is going for the obvious when he is usually quite subtle with these things. Kara is a pretty good example of this and her tiff with Oliver in the final pages is a good example of this. She’s the angry, want-to-beat-everything Kara from the early days of Supergirl rather than someone I read about in Michael Alan Nelson’s run on the title.

Even Lemire’s Oliver feels completely off, which is saying something since Lemire enjoyed more than a year on Green Arrow until recently and typified that character for me, making that book worth reading as far as I’m concerned. And the same goes for the Martian Manhunter, who just goes around picking a fight or something.

The worst thing though is something that is typical of team vs team comics, and that is that Mon-El and Martian Manhunter fight each other almost to death because the former is nowhere near level-headed enough to be diplomatic or explain things. He just goes in, guns blazing, everything else be damned. And Brainiac-5 feels like this really overwrought and boring character, rather than someone who has a Level 12 intellect as he claims. Someone that smart should undoubtedly know that the problems his team is facing could be better resolved through diplomacy and would exert that on his fellow team-members.

But none of that, sadly. I think this is probably one of the most disappointing comics I’ve read to date from Lemire and this really saddens me since I generally love his work.

Then there’s the artwork. Neil Edwards is the penciller here with Jay Leisten on inks, Jeromy Cox on the letters and Andrew Robinson on the covers. The art is, unfortunately, all over the place. There’s little consistency in how the characters are drawn, from one page to the other, with one of the biggest such troubled characters being Supergirl. Her costume is basically armour, but despite some obvious nods to that effect, it seems that Neil often draws it as typical superhero spandex Then there’s Mon-El himself, who looks really odd every scene he is in. There’s lots here to talk about of course, but little of it is is any good. The artwork is just disappointing, that’s all.

Not an issue I’m a fan of.

Rating: 3/10

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.