Justice League United #0 review

I haven’t got a girlfriend in Canada, but I do have a superhero team – Justice League United. From the maple leaf In the logo, to the final page shot of one of the most striking members, I loved this book. It has everything I want in a JLA series – a rich mix of characters, a storyline with scope, striking art and huge potential.  

Starting fashionably in media res, we join Animal Man, Stargirl, Green Arrow, Supergirl, Martian Manhunter and Adam Strange invading an alien lab where dodging dealings are a-doing. They’re there after anthropologist Strange approached Animal Man and Stargirl at a public appearance in Toronto three days earlier – it seems that post Forever Evil the Justice League has fallen on tough times – to plead for help. His grad student and girlfriend Alanna Lewis has been spirited away by a beam of light, and he doesn’t know what to do. 

Of course, the heroes go with him to the site of the disappearance, and excitement and mystery ensues. 

Meanwhile, on Canada’s Moose Factory Island, Miiyahbin Marten proves she’s not your average teenager when dark, mystical forces invade her home.  

By the close of this unnecessarily numbered zero issue, we’ve not caught up to the beginning, but we have gotten a nice chunk of story, some great interaction between the heroes (Animal Man, especially, benefits from escaping his recently ended series, where it was all-misery, all the time), an unexpected cameo and the kind of fun, anything can happen superhero vibe most DC books have been missing since 2011’s line-wide relaunch. 

Jeff LeMire’s script is his most enjoyable DC work since he was writing the adventures of Superboy pre-New 52. It’s obvious he loves old DC lore and he looks set to provide some rollicking League adventures. The much-trumpeted new character Equinox – that’s the aforementioned Miiyahbin’s superhero name – makes a fine impression, and I can’t wait to see her meet the team. 

Supergirl, while in the opening scene, hasn’t shown up by the end of the extended flashback, which is a shame as I was hoping for clues as to how her Red Lantern journey ends. It’s almost as if DC is trying not to ruin anything here … Seriously though, interviews with Lemire have me worried about how he’s going to approach Kara’s moods and I could do with some on-panel reassurance. 

But that’s something for the future; for now, Lemire has aced it, producing a script that’s just flat-out fun – he even nods to the old days of DC by including the Encyclopaedia Galactica of Legion yore. 

Mike McKone’s artwork is a joy to behold, his layouts story-friendly, the sense of place commendable, the figure and character work strong. First Nation heroine Mii – happily, we’re allowed to call Equinox that for short – has a wonderfully non-cliched look, and given that we know her powers change with the seasons, I’m keen to see whether her clothes alter hue too. 

Oh look at me, speculating on trivia! That’s a good sign. Mind, I also have a complaint that some would call trivial – Alanna’s look. In DC’s laudable attempts to provide a diverse range of characters, Alanna’s appearance has changed along with her background. And while the new Alanna is a good design, the original space heroine is one of my favourite characters of the Silver Age, and now she looks most unlike herself. And I’m pretty sure I’d be saying the same thing if I’d lived a lifetime with the new Alanna, and suddenly she was a sleek, jetpack gal. If you’re bringing in classic characters, don’t make them unrecognisable – add diversity as new folk are introduced, a la Mii. 

No complaints about Alanna’s character, though – she’s as plucky and bright as ever she was. 

The colours by Marcelo Maiolo are great, naturalistic for Canada, eye-popping in the otherworldly scenes. And Carlos M Mangual’s letters are clear as day; I don’t know if he’s responsible for the story title lettering, as it could well date from when this book was going to be Justice League Canada, but I love it, Sixties-style font and all. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Lemire gets his poutine reference out of the way on page 8. 

14 thoughts on “Justice League United #0 review

  1. I'm stoked too. This is solid superhero comics work. Lemire's even worked in a homage to the original Justice League of America's origin story! I like the mix of characters – there's hope that even Supergirl and Hawkman will be palatable – and obviously, I'm interested in the Canadian connection.

    Could move a little faster, as I do dislike team books that take their entire first arc just to assemble the team, but otherwise, it's good.


  2. RE: introducing new, racially-diverse characters – I would think doing this has now been declared a failed experiment at DC, as replacing older characters with racially-diverse legacies just led to silly accusations that editorial were whitewashing their properties when the original (white) characters were reintroduced. Introducing new characters seems the best way forward, but even that's fraught with potential fan-backlash (gun-toting Arab Green Lantern, anyone?), creator suspicion (why bother making new characters when they won't be under your control?), and good old-fashioned reader apathy (when was the last memorable or unique mainstream comics character created?).


  3. The “In media res” time shift opening came close to loosing me. I had that lazy bit of writing on TV where it is only justified in hooking channel switchers; I hate it in even more in media where I ve already committed to the story.

    Other than that, though, really glad to see a book in Canada, and I liked how the story progressed, the new characters, and Star Girl/Martian/Animal Man interaction. Could use less Green Arrow, but whatever. Just hoping it won't be tied in to some mufti-issue arc about aliens, though and that they'll explore different scenarios.


  4. Mart here, posting a comment from Murray, whose iPad doesn't allow direct posting:


    Hey Martin, in your JLUnited review (which I enjoyed as usual), you mentioned that Alanna's background had changed. I'm not convinced that it's as changed as you might think. There's that scene in the space prison where Alanna mentions that “he's going to come for her”. Or something similar. Which suggests that her travelling through space by (zeta) beam was
    a) not unexpected on her part and
    b) part of some kind of plan

    I'm not going to be a bit surprised if we learn that she's still from Rann and was sent to earth to make contact with Adam for some reason.

    I'd be even more pleased if by the end of the arc she strapped on a jet back and pulled off a face mask revealing long black hair. 😊


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