Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED #4

JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED #4 written by Jeff Lemire, art by Mike Mckone and Cam Smith, color by Marcelo Maiolo continues the team’s intergalactic Rannian (mis)adventure; the current arc “Justice League Canada” ends here!

Justice League United is something I desperately want to like. I really do. And it is indeed likable but it’s not..quite right. Perfectly acceptable, but this comic will not be winning any awards. Does that mean it’s bad? No. Does it mean you should get it? By all means, the characters they are playing with here are worth it.

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Hawkman has been (needlessly, and let’s see how long it lasts) killed during the aftermath of saving a young shapeshifting child called Ultra from a Thanagarian terrorist named Byth. The Thanagarians are not happy; sending a man named Thorvis to collect Katar Hol and bury him on Thanagar. Supergirl is not in a pleasant mood (Kara as sort of baseline angry and almost stoic otherwise is an interesting direction for her character. It certainly brings out the alien and warrior in her) and she takes it out on Stargirl, who is in many ways like Silk Spectre from Watchman in that she was more of a Taylor Swift publicity figure with actual abilities before getting actually thrown into the frey. She comes off as naive and Kara is having no patience. Alanna Strange gets zapped back to Canada and helps Heather try to find Miiyahbin.

Meanwhile Lean&HandsomeTheActualOneTrue!Lobo and Byth are back after being pummeled by Supergirl and Co and take out Thorvis, commandeering his ship.

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POSITIVES

The team is an interesting mix; the team is actually a pretty nice balanced one, though I would have maybe had Vixen also in there. Alana Strange being racebent is awesome, the new Cree native superhero Miiyahbin or rather Equinox (who appears somewhat Doctor Light-ish meets aurora-borealis? It’s  certainly not ice power. Apparently they change with the seasons. Sidenote: when ARE we getting Kimyo, she was Doctor Light’s wife in the reboot and he passed something onto someone after he died. Come on where is she. I’m growing old here!) seems promising, but she is reminding me much too much for the first incarnation of Solstice from Teen Titans. Kiran was one of the best new characters in ages, with an awesome design and concept introduced in the twilight of the former canon. Lobdell literally threw her through a grinder, kept her in a “Winter” smoke mutation (that had been implied to eventually change, but they never did or followed through), had her go pretty much evil and then they canned the character all together. Let’s pray that Equinox can have a long hero career and become established. Buddy provides much needed comedic relief. Having Alanna suit up in an abandoned Zeta suit is more than cool.

One of the more dynamic pages. The art is wonky, it's both appealing and yet not.
One of the more dynamic pages. The art is wonky, it’s both appealing and yet not.

NEGATIVES

The art is not that great when it comes to people. It’s passable, even looks pretty, dynamic and interesting at times, but faces and anatomy can look strange, and the coloring at least on the characters themselves sure isn’t helping. Environments look pretty good and have interesting color palettes. It’s really hit or miss. I feel bad saying it’s a negative, but it’s not quite there yet.

more positives in the negative section; I liked panels like this. The coloring really looked nice. But then you had to deal with the people up close.
More positives in the negative section; I liked panels like this. The coloring really looked nice. But then you had to deal with the people up close.

Occasional experimentation with graphic black, white and blue flats in the last third of the book are appreciated but almost not quite as effective as they needed to be in order to really look good.  Most of my additional objections here are 100% personal taste; killing Hawkman to begin with was just sloppy writing, I generally hold Lemire at a much higher standard than that so it’s a bit surprising. Unless that was mandated.

Animal Man looks extremely young, which I guess he is, but he still has had two children and still has (now after they killed his older son) a five year old at home. I get it, superhero, super young super buff father, okay, but you could maybe age the face just a little. I still can’t get fully behind this entirely clean shaven, very young, google-wearing version of Green Arrow. I know it’s supposed to echo the show but he comes off as literally a Red Arrow/Arsenal incorrectly colored. In the back of the issue there’s an ad for GREEN LANTERN #35 and Ollie seems to be getting a new mask or at least ditch whatever he’s been using in this series for a green domino, so consider said complaint almost moot. Unless he’s been using a green domino elsewhere besides this book anyway then the complaint is additionally moot and exclusive to just this book. The plot point that has Adam and Alanna now unable to get near each other for risk of activating some sort of Zeta energy feedback loop and causes them to get transported all over the universe is…sort of lame. Now Adam is stuck on Rann (which is usually the case is it not?). Supergirl being that mean to Stargirl is a bit much. I get it. But. Eh. It’s been done before.

VERDICT

This has so many elements of something that could be really great, but somewhat off art is ultimately hurting it, as well a little bland storytelling that could be a bit more innovative. It’s still extremely solid, much better than other things out right now so now that the arc is over, check it out. I really am excited to see more of Equinox down the line!

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  • Clifton Hartley

    Ya, Green Arrow has been using the domino in in his book for a long time now. I have no idea what’s up with the goggles in JLU.