Justice League United #1 Review

By: Rob Neil Gruszecki

In Moosonee, Ontario, Canada, buried beneath the snow there is a bunker where experiments with alien DNA are underway to produce an impossible hybrid, one that will bring about the destruction of Earth. Assembled to stop this potential threat are some of Earth’s lesser known heroes such as Adam Strange, The Martian Manhunter, Animal Man, Stargirl and Green Arrow who, coming together by accident, forge a diverse and interesting new team that can hopefully sprinkle a little joy into the currently dark and dismal New 52 landscape.

Justice League United is the new team book written by Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Underwater Welder, Animal Man) & illustrated Mike McKone (Fantastic Four, Exiles) which has a far more whimsical and fun feel than most of the other books over at DC these days. Currently in the New 52, the villains rule the world, the Justice League is missing and eventually in the future everything will be bleak, violent and hopeless as we have seen in Futures End, so it is really refreshing to have a title that embraces and celebrates heroism with a tone that is joyful and exuberant as well as exciting. What has been done in JLU is really hone in on some of the happier partnerships in the DCU like Stargirl and Martian Manhunter as they bring out the best in each other and harvest a connection that saved them from their own dark prisons of self in Justice League of America. In addition to that great chemistry we are given Animal Man and Green Arrow, two of the sillier B listers in the world, who poke fun and play off each other’s jabs reminding me of the banter in the Bruce Timm Justice League cartoons. With Adam Strange thrown into the mix as a hopeful and courageous scientist we finally get some rays of sunshine into the very dark and sinister DC universe. Eventually we will see Supergirl make an appearance as we have yet to have her fly into the scene but in this first issue and more so in the zero issue we get to see a new creation and introduction into the roster of DC heroes with Equinox, a Moose Cree First Nations girl named Miyahbin. We have yet to see a lot from this new face but the idea of including a Female First Nations character is one that I love and hope to see much more of.

Although this issue has a big number one plastered on its cover, don’t be fooled, this is actually number two, a direct continuation from the zero issue of last month. The numbering is obviously a sales technique but know that you have to have the zero issue in order to understand a word of this first issue, it isn’t structured say like the Guardians of The Galaxy relaunch at Marvel where the zero wasn’t 100% necessary in order to understand the first as it was more of a subsidiary companion piece that fleshed out some of Star Lord’s backstory. Justice League United number one is part two of a five issue arc called Justice League Canada which began in issue zero so make sure to pick that up before diving into this one.

One thing that I think DC New 52 has done a poor job of since the relaunch is the promise that the line would be “all ages”. If you are reading any of the main titles at the New 52, for example the first crossover with Forever Evil, the main Justice League title, and especially the new line wide crossover with Futures End, you know that these books are anything but. Grim violence and hopelessness are overwhelmingly apparent throughout the publisher and even bleeding into the movie franchises (watch Man of Steel and count how many times any character will even smile) but I am glad to say that Jeff Lemire has brought a light hearted adventure to the collection of titles with Justice League United. Circumstances are still dire and action is explosive throughout this issue but as Adam Strange rejoices in finding his awesome jetpack suit with a loud “look what i found!”, Green Arrow shares his embarrassment of having to be carried over water by Animal Man, Stargirl and Martian Manhunter embrace after defeating a monster together, you get the feeling that Lemire is having a blast telling this story that speaks through the glee and wonder in his characters. Another thing to mention is the actual assembly of the team early on in the book. Many team books take a good five or six issue to have all the characters together in one place but with JLU we already get five of the seven members duking it out with space aliens from the get go. It will be even more lively as Equinox and Supergirl join the fray but so far things are looking bright in this Justice League Canada story.

Finally the work of Mike McKone in this series deserves much adoration as he delivers so much heart to these pages and mixes in high-octane thrills and cosmic mayhem. His pencils are crisp, crazy and such a pleasure to look at. McKone really shines on this title and I hope his stay is a long one as working with these heroes really makes for clever layouts, beautiful character designs, intricate Kirbyesque alien worlds and excellent covers.

Justice League United number one is an adventurous romp through the great white north that enjoys every second of getting to play with these characters. If you miss Justice League books like Pre-52 JSA, Grant Morrison’s JLA, the original Justice League International from Keith Giffen and J M Dematteis or even books like Young Avengers at Marvel than you will have a great time with what McKone and Lemire have built here.

Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior

Follow him on Twitter @Ghost_Factory

Listen to his music Ghostfactory.Bandcamp.com or the Weekly Comics Round-Up Podcast www.GeekStampede.com