October, 2014, finally comes to a close as Jeff Lemire hops into a time bubble to partner up with those two hotheads, Neil Edwards and Jay Leisten, so that they can formally kick off 'The Infinitus Saga' in this latest tale from DC Comics.

To QUOTE Paris: “I do defy thy conjurations, And apprehend thee for a felon here”. And Romeo, “Wilt thou provoke me? Then have at thee, boy!”

Yup, just as you suspected from JLU #5 -- and the cover of this here Annual -- that band of unfortunately named heroes from the thirty-first century (that probably seemed like a harmless idea back in 1958) have popped up in Moosonee to kill baby Ultra.  Give or take.

And are they going to show up and say “hey, we're heroes from the future and we need to discuss something very serious with you”?  No. Of course they don't. They've got that old heroes-fighting-one-another trope to act out first.  Which works well with Martian diplomacy, I suppose.

Meanwhile, the blonde part of the team follow the clues as to why Hawkman's communicator was triggered, as only the galaxy's most disorganized and hotheaded “detectives” can.  (Yup, thar be fisticuffs, boy-o.)

See?  Supergirl opening a door before reporting what she saw with her x-ray vision was totally in character.  Told you so.  Not only in character, but it's a full-on plot point as well, so I won't spoil too much other than to say that our 'away team' is still working out how to be an 'away team'.

There is really a lot of great stuff in this Annual.  Even though our team is split up in two we still get some brilliant moments, though most of them are one-liners.  We've got Adam and Alana swapping places at inopportune and amusing moments.  We've got Buddy trying to work out the logistics of having two team mates with the initials “S.G.” (and spiralling in to Martian conspiracies from there).  And we've got Kara's aforementioned … um … spontaneous heroing. 

Plus, of course, Buddy and Courtney continue to make the appropriate old married guy and clueless teenager gags, building them up as both the most brilliant and most annoying hero pair ever assembled.  (With a bonus space-phone gag!)  I'm looking forward to the issue where we go full sit-com and Ellen starts suspecting Buddy of having an affair with a seventeen year old. 

But fear not -- beyond the slapstick -- we've also got some good team building, adapting under pressure, and the sad realization that they are not always the strongest or smartest team in the room.  We've got some casual in-story explanations about why things work the way they do from everyone's favorite on-call Rannian super-nerd, Sardath (Even if it does expose that he's still pretty damn reckless).  And we've got a trifecta of big reveals that you may or may not have seen coming, but certainly sets up 'The Inifinitus Saga' to potentially be a very satisfying arc.

On the art side of things, since this is an Annual, instead of our newly introduced team of Timothy Green II and Joe Silver, we've got Neil Edwards and Jay Leisten with Jeromy Cox on colors.  Edwards' style is much more similar to Mike McKone's work than Green's, but Cox's colors lack the sometimes arbitrary-feeling stylized colors of  Maiolo.  I list this all as a positive because so far I like McKone and Edwards' style better, but to be fair the return to this more traditional look right after introducing a new art team is a bit jarring.

I suppose it's pretty impressive that this was such an entertaining read, considering how many pages are filled with Legion of Superheroes stupidity.  Nine of the first thirteen pages of this book are wasted with the previously mentioned overused trope of heroes duking it out instead of identifying themselves -- or -- in any way attempting conversation before Brainiac 5 shows up and starts the explaining.

And given the well established snarkiness of the Justice League United members, not a single one guffaws at Brainiac 5 when he tells his tale involving team mates with names like Star Boy, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Element Lad, White Witch, Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, Blok, Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Lightning Lass.  Le sigh.  Cosmic Boy must have been out with a cold.

I'm sure there's a way for modern comic book readers to enjoy the Legion of Superheroes without rolling their eyes every time one of them addresses another.  It probably involves isolating the characters in their own titles and not letting them time travel in to the “current” continuity.  This story arc could just have easily involved a single Green Lantern showing up or an encounter with some sort of space prophet with a warning about Ultra's apparent fate.

The interesting part of the story is with Byth and his Church of the Infinite and his super-secret machinations.  He has seen the patterns etched in time, man.  If this issue didn't have all the Legion bloat it could've be the best book published all month.

Well, I searched high and low for a classic cowboy ballad about a well meaning Sheriff barging in to some other town to kill the orphan taken in by a local reverend because he “knows the sort”.  Certainly sounds like something Randy Travis should have recorded by now.  I sent him an e-mail, but he hasn't gotten back to me yet.

So we'll have to go the that other song which this issue evokes; The B-52's classic “Love in the Year 3000” . . . because The Legion of Superheroes aren't much, but they are certainly a spandex spiral vortex.  (Yes, I realize that the year 3000 is technically the 29th century, not the 31st, but, well, what with the ambiguities of space-time and all, you can suck it.)  Oh, yeah, and tentacles.

While the end of this issue may have provided a way around it, the majority of the issue is really just a variation on the classic Hitler paradox.  If you travel back in time to kill Hitler (or, as the case may be, a “multi-alien” named Ultra) in order to prevent the terrors he would commit in the intervening years, then what would cause you to go back in time and try to prevent it in the first place?  (To say nothing of “fixed point in time, so sorry” theories or multiple timeline logic).  So, we've got time bubbles, so let's Kill Hitler!  Wheeee!  (Or, if you prefer, save JFK?)

So Jeff Lemire is getting pretty damn good at building a solid dynamic between the members of the JLU.  Despite sending four of them off to deep space while the others engage in some overdone clichés with a side of slapstick teleportation, he still manages to move the character and team development along in quite an exciting way.  Once you remove the nine pages of Legionnaires playing Jock-o-rama and six pages of Brainiac 5 making a short story long, you've got a strong, gripping, albeit short tale moving forward on two fronts.

But what happens next?  That's the big question!  Lay your bets on what to expect in the opening pages of Justice League United issue 6 . . .
  • Mon-El kills Ultra and the Legion of Superheroes return to the thirty-first century only to find everything gone to hell because Biff Tannen rules over most of the known universe from his chain of casinos.
  • Stargirl finds out what a brothel is and returns to Plexus-6, vowing never to leave until her every desire has been fulfilled.
  • Ollie decides that Buddy's lack of knowledge of one of the most well known Star Wars species is an unforgivable sin and leaves him stranded on a moon with no oxygen.
  • Adam Strange gets so drunk off Rannian fruit wine that he starts being able to see in five dimensions. He uses this power to unbirth Byth, kill Hitler, and save JFK, all with one epic cosmic hiccup.
  • The ghosts of Otto Binder and Joe Plastino return to kick Jeff Lemire in the junk. Twice. Each.

*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.

JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED ANNUAL #1 JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED ANNUAL #1 Reviewed by David Andrews on November 17, 2014 Rating: 5
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