COMIC BOOK REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED VOL 1: JUSTICE LEAGUE CANADA / AUTHOR: JEFF LEMIRE / ARTIST: JED DOUGHERTY, MIKE MCKONE / PUBLISHER: DC COMICS / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 10TH
DC’s premier superhero team, the Justice League, has always come in two flavours; teams of heroes that even your grandmother will recognise, and a B-team of second stringers that even hardcore fans sometimes struggle to identify. Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, J.M. DeMatteis struck gold with the B-team approach by injecting a heady combination of humour and action, and this tends to be the approach that the fans have come to expect.
Jeff Lemire’s take on an also-ran version of the Justice League is to mix banter and strangeness with action, character development, and an actual plot. The tale begins with a desperate young man, Adam Strange, attempting to get two third-tier heroes (Animal Man and Stargirl) to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his wife. And when we say mysterious, we mean ‘vanished in a flash of alien light’ sort of mysterious. The trio quickly find themselves embroiled in an alien conspiracy, and as the plot continues, other heroes turn up to see what the fuss is about.
Making anyone stand out in an ensemble cast is tricky enough, but Lemire works his magic by following a familiar formula. Animal Man and Green Arrow seem set to have a ‘buddy’ relationship based on teasing each other, Martian Manhunter turns up to keep the rest of the team motivated (before running away from a lit match), and the rest of the team of also-rans do their set-piece and then get pretty much ignored for the rest of the story. The mix of humour and action is enough to keep the reader engaged, and the result is a reasonable bit of DC Comics fun; not too dark, not too silly, and just about good enough to pass the time.
The book opens with Jed Dougherty’s light and energetic art style, and this suits what is essentially a high-adventure sci-fi book. There is a sharp shift when Mike McKone takes over as lead artist and this dips the book into a grimmer tone that doesn’t quite suit it. Both artists stick to the solid standard that we’ve come to expect and, much like the writing, it does the job without amazing the reader. Justice League United Vol. 1: Justice League Canada will satisfy those with a need for classic ‘80s Justice League action, but only just.
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