Thursday, October 30, 2014

Justice League United Annual #1 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About: A giant cosmic destroyer is threatening the existence of the future, so the Legion comes back to the present day in order to fight him through time travel. In the present-day, he's Ultra the Multi-Alien, a baby in the custody of Justice League United. Byth, a Hawkman villain, is currently engaged in trying to turn Ultra into Infinitus or whatever his name is; the Legion has set a deadline of 24 hours to either stop all this from happening or they're gonna have to kill Ultra.

Review: Well, let's first acknowledge one thing: a lot of us were concerned that the Legionnaires would be bloodthirsty murderers in this story, and they are not. Mon-El is the most triggerhappy of them, and even he made it clear that he really didn't want to do this. That may sound like a pretty low bar for Lemire to clear, but anyway he cleared it.

This whole business about Byth brainwashing Hawkman and trying to turn Ultra into a giant cosmic destroyer is a workable enough comic-book plot. I don't see anything inspired about it, but it will serve.

Originally I had a big long section here trying to figure out what Lemire was up to continuity-wise, but since I wrote it he's explained himself in a Newsarama interview, so that simplifies things. Basically he's not sweating continuity; he's just presenting what he sees as "the classic Legion". I'm on his side when it comes to not sweating continuity; I prefer not to use the words "classic" and "Legion" in the same sentence. But one thing I get from this is that, for Lemire, this is something of a one-off and not a larger vision for the Legion of the kind that might lead to a Legion title down the road. So oh well.

I would have hoped that a bit Legion fan like Lemire would have a stronger take on the Legion. Because I don't get much of a sense of them from this comic book. There's nothing very Legiony about them, as introduced here. No tie to Superman, no sense of optimism, no teenageness, no champions of diversity, just generic people in costumes with a reluctant willingness to kill. Bleah.

I mean, I know this isn't a Legion comic, and I'm trying not to judge it by the standards of one. But it is an introduction, or reintroduction, of the Legion, and as such it indicates the Legion's prospects for getting their own title back. So I'm not optimistic, because so far this is nowhere near as good as the Lightning Saga, and I thought the Lightning Saga was nothing special.

One point though. Notice how Shadow Lass was badly wounded in order to motivate Mon-El to get all angry and willing to kill Ultra. She was wounded, but did not die and is expected to recover. This says to me that DC still sees the Legion as worth keeping around. If they never thought there'd be another Legion title, they wouldn't have bothered keeping Shady alive.

So I haven't been reading JLUnited, and was looking forward to seeing Equinox. But she didn't get a lot to do in this issue. Anybody else notice that on the rare occasions that DC creates a Canadian superhero, they tend to give him or her a codename that ends with the letter X? Flying Fox, Centrix, Sparx, Equinox... On the one hand, why would they do that on purpose, but on the other hand, how could they not be doing it on purpose? (And, yes, I know there are exceptions.) Is the New52 Martian Manhunter always as grim and fighty as he seems in this issue? Because I don't mind owning I'm not frightfully keen on that.

The old Justice League Detroit supervillains the Cadre make an appearance in this comic. Ah, the Cadre: for when you need some tomato cans that the League can knock over and the Royal Flush Gang have just too much personality.

Actually I wasn't sure the entire Cadre was there. Don't think I saw Fastball. And I don't remember all the others. But Shrike was there, and Black Mass. "Black Mass". Stupidest name ever. 1) He was created long after that part of the 1970s where any black character had to have the word "black" in his or her name. 2. If the supercharacter codename you have just created contains the word "mass", throw it away and create another one, because it's a stupid name. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Time travel. So the idea is this: Brainiac 5 says that when the Legionnaires travelled back in time to the present day, they had 36 hours before Infinitus destroyed the Earth. Therefore Brainy could allow 24 hours of trying to solve the problem without killing Ultra, but after that it'd just be cutting it too fine. Which doesn't make a lick of sense. It's time travel. Once you're in the past, you've got a thousand years before Infinitus shows up.

Ah, but Lemire has anticipated my objection. Apparently Infinitus "spans time". Which means, well, I don't know what it means. But Byth was trying to turn Ultra into Infinitus right there in the present day, and not in the 31st century. So... does that mean he comes into existence in all times "at once"? Sort of like, he's always existing and is always doing all the things that he ever did? Or something? It sounds like it means that if Infinitus exists at all, it's already too late.

Yeah, yeah, I know. "Don't think about it so hard, Matthew. Just go with it." Okay. That's fine. I'm always willing to not-think-about-it if that's what the story demands. But is there a part of this story that can stand up to being thought about?

One thing that gives me some hope for this storyline: this comic book is an Annual. And Annuals often suffer from being rushed, for having nonregular art, for being out of the normal flow of quality work for its series. Maybe that's the case here! Still plenty of time for this to turn out well!

Art: I think I will not do the panel count thing for this storyline.

I am very unenthusiastic about this art. Neil Edwards? Is he the regular JLUnited guy? The characters aren't very well-rendered and the backgrounds in the panels are pretty skimpy. About like the rest of the story, really.

Membership Notes: An unusual roster. Lemire has said he's going to use "all" of the Legionnaires, but I think he means original-Legion type characters only. In the comic book, we see or get references to the following:

Bouncing Boy
Brainiac 5
Chameleon Girl
Colossal Boy
Cosmic Boy
Dream Girl
Duo Damsel
Element Lad
Lightning Lad
Lightning Lass
Matter-Eater Lad
Phantom Girl
Polar Boy
Saturn Girl
Shadow Lass
Shrinking Violet
Star Boy
Sun Boy
Timber Wolf
Ultra Boy
White Witch

Supergirl also appears, but as a Justice Leaguer; this Supergirl was never a Legionnaire.

Notable by their absence: Karate Kid, Wildfire, Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Sensor Girl, Quislet, and the Legionnaires who joined early in LSHv7. (Although there are a few characters that I really can't tell who they are. Like at the bottom right of page 17.) Classic, huh.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was kind of disappointed that Lemire didn't try to fit this storyline into the Retroboot Legion continuity and present a grand vision of things, instead of treating this story as a one-shot. I had hoped that maybe he had been chosen to use this arc to relaunch the Legion title. Who knows, maybe at the end of the fifth issue we'll still get that BIG announcement, but I doubt it.

I am interested in seeing how he brings back the Legion Lost team members into picture.

Lemire promises that all of the Legionnaires will make an appearance. It will be interesting to see who all he puts on the roster. It it only be the "classic" Legion members or will the new kids from vol. 7 make an appearance. Harmonia is the only one that I hope comes back. I was pumped to see Gates pictured in the splash page. I'm glad he was considered a "classic," but then again, maybe he has to be if the Legion Lost team will be featured

8:47 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't miss retroboot continuity, as retroboot continuity was largely one tiresome slog after another, but I agree that it doesn't do to just discard it.

I'd love to see all the Legionnaires, FC:L3W style, but I think we're just going to get the nostalgist version of "all". (And I think the answer to how he's going to get the Losters in there is that he's going to ignore that Legion Lost v2 was ever a thing.

9:29 AM  
Blogger dbutler16 said...

I haven't read this, but the last Justice League thing I read was the Pandora storyline which led into Forever Evil. I was not impressed

By the way, I'm very glad to see Gates and Blok were on the roster!

1:01 PM  
Blogger dbutler16 said...

By the way, great write-up, and you're right, they did miss some, what I would consider "Classic" LOSH members!

1:02 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Thanks. I don't say that Lemire and Edwards missed those Legionnaires; most likely some of 'em just didn't happen to be in the picture and will appear later in the series.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The LSH cartoon show had an episode with a very similar premise to the one this comic features.Of course,the premise itself is a sci-fi staple,so,great minds and all that.

I would be quite happy to ignore the retroboot.Discarding it would do just fine.Picking at the scab that is the retroboot won't let the Legion heal from it.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I'm okay with ignoring the retroboot, where possible. Unless something useful can be made of it. I wouldn't want to specifically exclude it, though, as often happens in reboots.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Meerkatdon said...

(First...yes I know, the following is far too obsessive. It's what I do.)

Seems to me that the Legion flying by in the two-page spread is from immediately before Legion of 3 Worlds (Polar Boy has an ice arm, Blok has his pre-L3W look, Mysa's not there, various costume details, etc) with the addition of Gates (presumably because of Legion Lost). Some members are not pictured. I presume that this was intended as a mental image of Brainy's memory of "the Legion."

In the subsequent pages, with the Legion confronting Infinitus, the whole Legion Lost crowd is NOT pictured. I presume that they were, by that time, Lost. None of the "new" members (Chemical Kid, Dragonwing, Glorith, of Harmonia) were in evidence...I don't know what to make of that.

I think it's significant that Sun Boy was also not pictured in the fight against Infinitus. I mean, wouldn't you send him along with the other long-distance heavy hitters?

[For a moment I was ready to make an issue about Luornu being called "Duo Damsel" rather than "Duplicate Damsel/Girl" -- maybe when one of her selves was killed by the Fatal Five, she lost all the additional bodies? -- but that's going to far even for me. I'll call it Chronicler's Error.]

As a preliminary guess, I'd say that this is a close analog of the v. 7 Legion -- one in which the New Guys didn't join, yet Sun Boy still died. Presumably this Legion thumbed their noses at Gigi and didn't disband.

I expect the Losties are still around in the 21st century, especially since Dawnstar and Wildfire were (will be?) hanging around with the Justice League in the near future.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

It's possible, and I guess we'll see how Lemire handles it. I was just going off of what he said in his interview.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also note we potentially have a significant retcon for the New 52 here -- Martian Manhunter doesn't know who the Legion is, but he met the Legion Lost team (and told them they would never get home). Wonder if that will get addressed at some point.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I wouldn't count on it. J'onn is probably trying to forget that series just as much as I am.

2:20 PM  

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