The Vanier Report: Tales From A DC Pull List (Justice League United #11 Review)

The Vanier Report: Week 25

Justice League United 11 largeJustice League United #11
Written by: Jeff Parker
Pencils & Inks by: Travel Foreman
Colours by: Jeremy Cox
Letters by: Steve Wands

Ever since its “sneak peek”, I have been eagerly awaiting the return of Justice League United. In its first two arcs, the title managed to capture the excitement and adventure of the big-scale storytelling that characterized the Silver Age. “The Infinitus Saga” teamed the JLU up with the Legion of Super-Heroes and the team looked poised to be an unstoppable cosmic force for good.

But post-Convergence, something has happened. Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, and Supergirl – three of the JLU’s big names – have left the team for their own reasons (see their respective books), leaving the team of Animal Man, Stargirl, Alanna Strange, and Equinox to address the cosmic fallout of Convergence.

All across the universe, special-temporal anomalies known as “breakers” have appeared, threatening the very fabric of reality. In an earlier attempt to destroy the breakers, Adam Strange was lost to the Zeta Beam, where he now exists in some kind of symbiotic relationship. From within the beam, Strange has determined that the best way to fight the breakers is with mission-specific teams of operatives, conveying that information to the JLU so that they can recruit specialized task forces. The first of these, explored in this issue and led by Equinox, includes Poison Ivy, Swamp Thing, Etrigan, and Mera.

JLU 11 Adam and Alanna

There’s a lot to like about writer Jeff Parker’s new direction for the JLU. Mission-specific teams allow for shorter arcs, more characters, and nearly infinite permutations of team relationships. But where his first issue falls down is in its laborious set up of this premise. A solid half of the issue is dedicated to one-at-a-time flashbacks of the recruitment process for each mission member, learning the motivators behind their enlistment as well as how they were selected. And while there is nothing explicitly wrong with watching the team come together, it feels far too linear. Given Adam Strange’s near-omniscient narration from within the Zeta Beam, where he sees time and space as fluid and non-linear, it is jarring to then progress through the issue in such a disappointingly ordinary manner. And by the time the team reaches the first breaker, there is no time for anything else. The actual story of the arc begins next issue.

The pacing of Parker’s narrative is frustrating, but he does manage to capture some wonderful little character moments – Etrigan referring to the bone-strewn island as “homey” and Swamp Thing’s annoyance at Stargirl’s disruption of his home are both lovely moments of Parker setting up the different personalities of the team. Likewise, Equinox’s inexperience as a leader shines through in her less-than-motivational speech to the team.

JLU 11 Swampy and Stargirl

Travel Foreman’s artwork is as subject to hills and valleys as is Parker’s writing. For the most part, the art in this issue is fresh and exciting, with Jeremy Cox’s colours shifting from vibrant to sombre without feeling jarring or disjointed. In many moments, the artwork feels as if it adapts to suit the characters being highlighted, which is terrifically engaging. In particular, there is a single panel in which Swamp Thing reveals himself to Stargirl where the two characters almost appear to be drawn in different styles; Stargirl’s startled youthful energy is contrasted with the sheer magnitude and gravitas of the Swamp Thing’s power.

These moments, unfortunately, are undercut by some unconvincing panels and inconstant drawing. From hatched shadowing that looks like Alanna Strange has grown a beard to a single panel in which Mera is depicted with body-builder muscles, Foreman shows that his artistic flexibility could also be classified as inconsistency. I should note, I have no problem with a heavily-muscled Mera – I think it adds immensely to her character as a warrior and a queen – but she is not consistently depicted in this manner, even within the issue. The visual discrepancy is what is jarring.

Alanna Strange shadow beard

Overall, I’m a little disappointed with this issue. Both the writing and the art are a little haphazard, which takes away from what should be a bombastic and exciting story. I love the idea of the team dealing with the aftermath of Convergence, and putting the JLU – and indeed the fate of the universe – in the hands of three young, relatively inexperienced female heroes. There is lots of incredible potential in this story and in this premise, and I hope that subsequent issues begin delivering on that promise, but this particular issue just falls a little short.

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Feature Written By: Reid Vanier

“Reid is a comic book fan masquerading as a theatre artist. His love of comics (specifically DC) was inherited by his father’s collections of Flash, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Justice League of America. Reid is now the Editor and Lead Writer of Modern Mythologies.”

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