Jeff Lemire and Mike McKone’s “Justice League United” #0 presents part one of a five-part story, defying an unspoken rule of #0 issues: they should be fairly independent, enhancing what follows without becoming a prerequisite. Lemire opens the issue with action and intrigue, throwing the makeshift Justice League into a hidden lair where aliens are experimenting on humans. After a few pages of that, however, the writer time jumps into the recent past to Canada where Animal Man and Stargirl are making a shared public appearance. It’s an odd pairing to be sure, especially in Toronto, but Lemire uses that angle to thrust Buddy Baker and Courtney Whitmore deep into the great white north. The plot itself appears to be a simple alien abduction story, but the pieces with which Lemire decorates it are the highlights of “Justice League United” #0.
Mike McKone lays out some fine pages and fills the panels quite nicely, but a great deal of his figures are rigid in their battle. The never-before-seen attackers further complicate the action, as it’s difficult to discern their front from back and the floating disks all around them muddy the visual waters more. Thankfully, the bleak Canadian winter makes for a clear backdrop. Colorist Marcelo Maiolo brings the same effects used in “Green Arrow”: dropping the color out of the figures and filling the negative space around them in a solid, vibrant color. That effect doesn’t work so good in this “traditional” superhero adventure, serving as more of a distraction than an enhancement.
With Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter and even Hawkman present, there’s no denying connections to the Justice League brand, but the formula here is severely diluted, almost on par with the shift to Justice League Detroit back in the 1980s. It’s not a disparaging evaluation — I am one of a handful of reader who enjoyed the Motor City League’s adventures — but with a serious lack of heavy-hitting, recognizable characters, this collection of heroes is more on par with the Forgotten Heroes than the flagship team of the DC Universe. Lemire adds to that universe by introducing Adam Strange and Alanna as well as the much-touted new character, Equinox. That said, the promise of Hawkman picking a fight is the most promising aspect of this comic book. “Justice League United” #0 introduces the readers to a wide array of characters and sets the forming of the team in motion, but as one-fifth of the initial adventure, it fails to leave a distinct impression. Hopefully, subsequent issues will prove to be more satisfying.