Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Justice League United #8 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

In the future, Infinitus's "infinity wraiths" attack Earth. The Legionnaires there evacuate everyone they can, but Dream Girl decides that it's hopeless and their efforts would be better spent going back to the past to help Brainiac 5's team. So they do that, and get back just in time to witness Ultra (and Supergirl) go through a rift, which leads to Infinitus coming back out of the rift. Two issues to go on this, so I guess Infinitus is going to do a lot of dominating next issue.

Review:

Over half the comic book is devoted to the Legion, so I like that. But it's the same complaint I had about the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" story: it's stretched out over way too many issues. I think you put an editor on this with a strong will and a belief in brevity, this story would be two or three issues long and would really pop.

It's a Justice League comic in which we get very little going on with the Justice League. J'onn is trying to get Ultra out from under Byth's sway, and Supergirl is obviously trying to do what she can, but the other Leaguers are just sort of there and hardly even have speaking parts. How many characters in the whole comic would we say show any personality at all? Dream Girl, J'onn, Ultra, Byth, Supergirl... maybe Brainy? And I'm being very generous here.

Well, if you're not developing the plot, and you're not developing the characters, what are you doing? You're showing a lot of fighting and posing is what you're doing.

Along those lines, is it just me or is Infinitus a very boring villain? He hasn't even said anything yet, unless I missed it. What does he want? Why does he want it? What's his deal? We've had four issues of this stuff and all I know about the guy (as distinct from Ultra!) is his name and that he's superpowerful.

Underwhelming.

Art:

I was pleased to see that I got the Karl Kerschl retro cover with Adam Strange and the Flash. Doesn't have anything to do with the story but it's cool.

Recently I ran into a challenge on Twitter for people who review comics to not just talk about the drawings and colour, but also the diction, cadence, and rhythm. And, presumably, other stuff was implied in that but I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what it is. But I understood the point: the way the characters and stuff are rendered is nowhere near everything that the art of a comic book is about. I knew this, of course, but I don't feel on firm ground with it. But I want to try.

So here are some things I can think of to say about the art of this issue that I hope are smart things.

1. The composition of pages 2-3 does not work for me. Three panels of lots of people fighting, with backgrounds that don't contrast with each other, and the panels on the one page blending in with the panel on the other page. It's messy is what it is.

2. I do think it's cool the way page 1 and page 12 have parallel panel patterns based on Dream Girl's eyes. Similar parallelism on pages 8-9 and 22, to what I consider lesser effect. After all, the appearance of Infinitus in the present day is the thing we're supposed to be dreading; it takes some of the impact out of it if we already saw it thirteen pages ago.

3. The lack of background detail continues to not impress me.

4. Dream Girl is the central figure in most of the panels she's in. I was coming up with some theory about how she's the only one who's allowed to overlap out of the panel boundaries, but in fact Infinitus, Hawkman, and Bouncing Boy also do, so never mind that.

5. Symmetry on pages 16-17, almost making a face: blue bursts for eyes, Ultra for a nose, Byth's smile for a mouth. Also, J'onn J'onzz and Byth mirroring each other, to show how Ultra's torn between their influences. And all three are standing in the same stance! Plus, J'onn's cape directs our attention up so we read the bottom panel last, instead of between page 16 and 17. That's what it's doing, right? I'm new at figuring this out.

Membership Notes:

Biggest surprise of the issue was the bunch of Legionnaires who came back to the past with Dream Girl. It's not clear whether this is normal for this version of the Legion or because, as the Time Institute guy says, "Brainiac 5 and the others are changing things!... The past is in flux!" Anyway, we can see Dreamy, Star Boy, Blok, Lightning Lass, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Ultra Boy, Colossal Boy (listed as "Colossal Lad"! Come on!), the White Witch, Bouncing Boy, Element Lad, Invisible Kid, Matter-Eater Lad, Shrinking Violet, and what I'm going to call Duplicate Damsel, all of which is within normal parameters. But also there's (and I admit that for some of this I'm guessing) Andromeda, Magno, Dragonmage, Computo, Kid Quantum (Jazmin, not James), Ferro, Kinetix, XS, reboot Karate Kid, and Monstress. Plus Quislet gets shown in the little roll-call band on the title page. (Why is he there but not in the story? And why are the others in the story but not there? Because Colossal Lad, that's why.) And, Shadow Lass? Just a second; it also says in this issue that Shadow Lass has been medically evacuated to Mars. But there she is in the double-page spread arriving in the 21st century. Or is it Umbra? Are we distinguishing between the two of them? Mysterious.

Well, it's certainly nice to see the boys and girls again, and I'm glad to experience the sensation of not having any idea what Lemire is up to with this, but I don't want it to distract me from the fact that this story is a lot of feathers and not much chicken.

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7 Comments:

Blogger snell said...

I suspect part of the problem is that, as all DC titles have to have storylines that wrap up in march so Convergence can start, Lemire was stuck having to vamp while stretching the story well past its natural length.

That's no excuse for not making the story more complex, and giving us actual characterization (which you're 100% right in noting are absent). The need to fill extra months could have been a benefit to the story. Instead, Lemire is just giving us padding.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

And I don't even buy the Convergence excuse. So what if the Infinitus thing is set to end a month or two before Convergence? Have a two-issue story where the JLU has to stop the Matter Master from stealing the giant nickel from Sudbury.

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Infinitus must be scary. Why else would they evacuate the whole population of Earth?

By the way, this evacuation reminds me of what the Legion Lost discovered team when they found Earth abandoned once they returned to the future in Legion Lost #10 with no trace of who done it or why. I wonder if this current storyline and DeFalco's issue in Legion Lost are connected.

The big question: if Earth had to be evacuated because of Infinitus' assault on the planet, why was Shadow Lass evacuated to Mars, only one planet away? I would have thought the whole solar system would be in danger.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

1. Well, sure he's scary. But that's not much by itself.

2. Yeah, I think that this definitely matches the Legion Lost thing, whether that was the original plan or not.

3. It is true.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Petty thoughts:

They evac'ed 50 million people from Metropolis and you're surprised they missed 50 of them?

Jenni! Jazmin! Candi!

But where are Jeka and Shikari? If you're gonna include dead characters (Monstress) and anachronisms (preboot Lyle and ice-arm Brek in the same scene), then I want those, too!

3:04 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I think we're aiming at a moving target here anyway.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

This is true. I do like the subtextual idea that Ultra becoming Infinitus in the 21st century is causing temporal ripples leading to anachronistic versions of the characters showing up. It would be nice for that subtext to be made explicit, but doing so would violate the nature of such time ripples, that the nudged timeline becomes the "correct" one for the characters, so they can't comment on it because they see nothing wrong. (And thus is temporal paradox made real.)

4:11 PM  

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