Paul Pelletier’s art is a dynamic shift from previous artist Travel Foreman’s style, but — when “Justice League United” #13 opens in Arracourt, France in 1940 — a more traditional style is required as Jeff Parker writes Sergeant Rock and Easy Company into this new adventure. Colorist Jeromy Cox adds a dingy, musty color to the gutters to give the story a throwback appearance and letterer Steve Wands provides a smart range of samples in the opening scene as Rock encounters Vandal Savage, eliciting shouts and uncomfortable dialogue from the hardcore soldier.
Titled “War Zone,” this issue could very easily be an inaugural chapter of a new series, as the art and measure of the story differ quite a bit from the first adventure of the Zeta Beam-powered Justice League squad. The Zeta Beam comes from Adam Strange, who is both one with the beam and the plot device that drives the issue to collect such disparate characters as Stargirl, Robotman, Steel, Vandal Savage, Batgirl and Sergeant Rock.
Some readers are bound to be disappointed that the story does not match the cover, as there is a complete lack of the Creature Commandos, but Parker keeps the pacing so brisk that the reader is afforded little time to be glum. The writer ensures every member of the cast has a chunk of dialogue and matches up some interesting interactions between them, including his choice to address the apparent redundancy in enlisting Robotman and Steel. The new roster provides an excellent recap of the mission and the characters called in provide suitable foils to explore the details of the mission as the action takes hold.
Pelletier’s work, while mostly straightforward and traditional, does experiment a bit, especially with cross-spread layouts as the characters gather in the Zeta Beam space. The artist employs facial expressions, body language and stature to identify each individual and differentiate them. To his credit, he even provides a visual comparison between Stargirl and Batgirl, showcasing his ability to serve up a wide range of characters and maintain their unique appearances throughout the story.
It’s clear Pelletier has fun with this book, as the opening pages are clean and crisp but crafted in a manner that absolutely highlights the respect Pelletier holds for Rock. Inker Rob Hunter locks the figures down and provides the emotional resonance necessary through strong linework and lush shadows while Cox brings a brave, bold palette to the tale, which shifts with the story. The rest of the issue beyond that first scene is detailed, but the opening just really hits the right notes to welcome the readers in and firmly grasp their attention.
As with the cast of characters in the previous adventure, “Justice League United” #13 brings in some inherent tension and drama simply by putting characters together in the same panels. Parker, Pelletier, Hunter, Cox and Wands provide some great character studies in this comic, giving fans of specific solo characters moments to smile over while also reminding the readership (and maybe even DC) of the lush history and opulent tapestry of the DC Universe. With Parker and Pelletier on task, each one of these characters becomes more intriguing, with the lesser-knowns getting a nice turn in the spotlight. If this issue’s cover holds any clues, readers are in for even more fun in the upcoming issues of “Justice League United” #13. Whoever joins the story will certainly have my attention, as Parker seems to have a knack for finding the resonance in most characters and Pelletier consistently delivers strong, lively art.