Justice League United has been one of my favourite DC books of the last few years. Under writer Jeff Lemire it featured a team of likeable characters in traditional, but not staid, superhero adventures. Now it’s been turned over to Jeff Parker, an author famed for his talent in this area.
But he’s going in another direction entirely. Several members of the previous team are gone and the remainder – Alanna Strange, Animal Man, Stargirl, Equinox – are leading mission-specific operatives into weird new areas. Very weird – the vibe in this opening instalment of the new era is nothing if not Justice League Dark, as Swamp Thing and the Demon join the core members, along with Mera and Poison Ivy, to take on the threat of the Breakers. That is, extra-dimensional beings connected to the zeta beam used by Alanna and husband Adam Strange to traverse the galaxies. They’re manifesting as disgusting great beasts on Lake Erie, and have to be stopped before they destroy Everything.
Adam himself is trapped between worlds but he’s gained a fresh perspective, and it’s his newfound Space Wisdom (no one calls it that, but they really should), that’s deciding who joins his JLU pals on missions. He believes he can choose the perfect teams from his metahuman pick’n’mix – and if he’s wrong, it won’t be pretty.
While all the characters get a moment to shine this issue, it’s Mera who’s the MVP, using her immense water powers and battle nous to ensure the now-non-team stays ahead of the game … well, for most of the time. Obviously, everything can’t go the JLU’s way, or there’d be precious little fun.
And fun there is, with my only real qualm being the portentous commentary of Adam Strange. I grew up with classic Adam, the hugely practical archaeologist turned retro-spaceman, and to have him suddenly be an ethereal graduate from a correspondence course in Phantom Strangerness, well, it’s decidedly odd. I’d rather he were with the team – bright red suit, head-fin and all – blasting monsters with his raygun while thinking his way around problems.
Parker’s track record with the likes of Aquaman and, for goodness’ sake, Flash Gordon, guarantee he’d write a brilliant classic Adam. It’s as if he’s challenged himself to do different here. Well, an interested writer is a good bet for a worthwhile tale, so let’s see where Parker goes. Apparently the defeat of the Breakers will bring Adam back to solidity, so that’s a great motivator for his colleagues.
Bringing Parker’s visions to life are Travel Forman, an artist who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘coasting’. His layouts here are wildly imaginative, his character studies intriguing. The Demon is bigger than usual, Swampy more tree stumpy, Jason Blood a little less handsome – and check out the bodybuilder’s back on Mera. I like the look of this book a lot, it suits the unsettling tone Parker’s bringing.
Colourist Jeromy Cox and letterer Steve Wands apply their respective craft to the pages, ensuring this book looks like no other superhero series. And Tony Harris’ cover is certainly eye catching … which is just as well, as that tiny new logo, while sharp, is going to be lost on the newsstands. Could we have something bold please?
I’ll certainly stick with this book, even though the tone of the previous run was more immediately ‘me’. Foreman is a big talent, and Parker has earned my trust many times over. Plus, the fee Sneak Peak – still available digitally – promises me some Doom Patrol. I can never resist Robotman. He’s almost as good as Adam Strange.