Now that’s more like it. After a shaky start with an initial storyline that felt all over the place, “Justice League United Annual” #1 gives a better feel for what the “Justice League United” has in store for us. And while it’s still not perfect, for now the efforts of Jeff Lemire, Neil Edwards and Jay Leisten give us something to look forward as the new Justice League team clashes against the Legion of Super-Heroes.
In many ways, “Justice League United Annual” #1 is an extension of what we had in “Justice League United” #0-4. The fallout from rescuing Ultra, the death of Hawkman, and the villainy of Byth all still hangs over this title, reminding readers that the world rarely lets things resolve in a neat, tidy package. Thrown into the mix here is the Legion of Super-Heroes, jumping to the present day from the 31st century to try and stop a galaxy-destroying menace before it even begins.
Lemire’s story has at its heart the old, “If you had a time machine, would you kill Hitler as a baby?” adage, with Ultra sitting at its center. It’s thankfully a little less black and white after the initial scuffle between Mon-El and the half of the League still on Earth, but the looming threat over an innocent child is the crux of the problem. Lemire does a good job with defining just how dangerous the rise of Infinitus in the 31st century would become. With tens of billions of beings already destroyed by him, this is hardly a small task at hand. It’s also nice to have the other storyline feeding back into this one so quickly, and in a way that continues the “team finding its way” thread in a less intrusive manner. Green Arrow and Supergirl’s conflict makes perfect sense for a new team, and it’s also nice to not have Byth and Hawkman’s fates dangling for months or years. It is a little funny to have Equinox’s codename somehow decided between panels and having her as a full member of the team, but at the same time it’s more of a relief to just have the book moving forward.
Edwards and Leisten step in to provide art for the annual, and it looks good. Both of them bring their characteristic smooth and slick look to the title; Edwards’ pencils form handsome, clean faces, and Leisten’s inks are as sleek as ever. I’ll admit that the first page worried me a bit — the perspective seems a bit off, resulting in what feels like a 30-foot tall Mon-El — but after that the book quickly equalizes and looks strong. The two-page spread highlighting the membership of the Legion looks great, with Edwards handling all of the difference faces, costumes, and forms well, and he takes the old Infinitus character design and makes it look much more menacing than I ever remember it appearing back in the day. Even Supergirl’s costume (that’s still in need of a fix or two) looks good here; the big heavy cape and its shoulders looks perfect, and the positioning of fabric near its bottom feels much less revealing. The best part is probably the reappearance of Hawkman, though, which feels like much more of a moment than it otherwise could have thanks to the sheer drama and power of his springing into action.
So far this storyline is making the right steps. Fans of the Legion will be happy to see them still alive and intact in the future (and it sounds like all the issues with time travel that had come up in “Legion Lost” are gone, with the insinuation that the missing members are now back in the 31st century), and every character getting a nice bit of characterization. This is much more along the lines of what I’d expected from “Justice League United,” and it’s nice to see the kinks worked out. Full speed ahead!