JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED #14

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[ STARGIRL: SUPER-SALE
If the kids are united then we'll never be divided, and that is why this October, 2015, Jeff Parker, Paul Pelletier, Rob Hunter, and Jeromy Cox will be neither rejected nor denied as they continued the Weird War for DC Comics.

TO QUOTE George Orwell: “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous.”

THE REVIEW:
So we're on the second issue of the second arc of the new format for Justice League United. We gathered up some assorted heroes (and villains) according to the mysterious visions of Adam Strange, and charged blindly into another mysterious breaker wreaking havoc on the world. And, on they go.

Well, let's be honest: this series never set out to be anything amazingly insightful or groundbreaking. It's been a fun, silly superhero comic from the first issue. But that said, Jeff Lemire did build up some great characterizations in his opening arc, forming the team and showing us how they work with one another. Then he lost his way a little bit with bringing in the Legion (upon legions upon legions) of Superheroes, and flooding his story with so many characters he, Leisten, and Edwards couldn't even keep in sync with who was where.

Now that Jeff Parker has taken over the story (with a thinned-out core team, that may well have not been his decision) he's taken it in a slightly different direction, yet has managed to get the series back on track. The long arc of the team is great: We've got a meta-science mystery with the fate of Adam Strange and the source of the breakers that gives the team a clear ongoing mission to distinguish them from the “other” Justice League. Unfortunately, the short arcs of each mission are still feeling like they're lacking some substance. There's a lot of great little moments, but it's lacking that pop that really gets me looking forward to the next issue of a series.

Pelletier, Hunter, and Cox, on the other hand, are continuing to turn in bold, bright, and expressive page after page of the aforementioned silly superhero action. Given that this arc is planted in an endless war of overlapping battles, a lot of it is old school war comic style battles. These combat scenes are explosive and terrifying, but the insertion of superheroes into them looks simultaneously seamless, art-wise, yet anachronistic as it should be to the participants.

My only complaint on the art front would be the mismatch in uniforms from the Creature Commandos' initial silhouetted appearance and their later fully illustrated appearance. This is perhaps a remnant of the creative team's initial intent to keep the Commandos' reveal a surprise to readers, later thwarted by both the solicits and issue 13's cover art. Either way, it's a fairly minor deal. Top marks on the art this issue.

While most of the characters' response to the situation was played well for either comedic or dramatic effect, there was one verbal anachronism that nagged me. While Enemy Ace's English is established as superior to Stargirl's German, that doesn't mean he can just roll with her appreciation of his “baller aerial save” without questioning the slang. Or at least raising an eyebrow. Maybe a gentleman rolls with it, hey?

I don't want to sound like I'm really down on this issue, as breaking up the team into smaller chunks to explore the breakers works excellently as a plot-device. The Batgirl / Vandal Savage pairing is perhaps my favorite dynamic, particularly when the terrified and disgusted reaction on Babs' face fills in the unspoken and clearly unsavory details on Savage's explanation of why he crossed the Nazis.

This pairing is also the one with the least mysterious case of continuity chaos. Thanks to the arc opening with a flashback to WWII to frame our story, we know that this is an “authentic” 1942 edition of Easy Company and their chosen enemy unit of local Nazis, complete with period-appropriate cultural insensitivity. Stargirl and Enemy Ace's tail in the woods (whom I'll try to reference vaguely for those of you who haven't read it yet) could be a past, present, or even future version of the character, thanks to the background we got on him in his post-Flashpoint appearances thus far. From the uniform, I'd venture that perhaps it's his Vietnam-era self?

The Creature Commandos, on the other hand, are hurting my little continuity obsessed brain. There seems to be a mix of the creatures created by Dr. Nina Mazursky (in post-Flashpoint continuity) and those created by Dr. Medusa (in classic continuity) who thus far have not been seen as part of the modern S.H.A.D.E. incarnation of the Creature Commandos. Could they be as-yet-unseen or even future creations of Nina's? Or have WWII Commandos teamed up with S.H.A.D.E. Commandos? On top of that, both J.A.K.E. (G.I. Robot) and G.I. Zombie appear to be part of this post-S.H.A.D.E. Team (both are casually referenced by first name by other Commandos), but are wearing classic military fatigues as if they're supposed to come from some pre-Desert Storm era conflict. Plus there's Robotman's comment about G.I. Robot looking like an early version of his body, implying that he might actually be a product of the Chief's. 

I don't think G.I. Robot has had a post-Flashpoint appearance yet, and I don't think G.I. Zombie's run in 'Star Spangled War Stories' established how long he's been a zombie, so I suppose its possible they came from a different time than the rest of the Commandos and have teamed up since getting trapped in the breaker. But still, I'd really like a clearly defined explanation so I can stop fretting about details like this that don't really matter. 

The big question, though: What have Alanna, Miiyahbin, and Buddy been doing outside Arracourt while the rest of the team is getting shot at by every soldier, ever? And while we're collecting soldiers from across time, where are our Atomic Knights?

Then there's this issue's “cliffhanger” appearance to add to the mix. What era version is he? It may not matter so much as who's in control at the moment, but I'm guessing he'll spell the end of the heroes fighting heroes trope. Ahhh, cliffhangers.

THE MUSIC:
I feel like I've used this one before, but abundant shenanigans afoot in a bubble that has collected, trapped, and looped assorted and sundry soldiers from a plethora of different eras, sure does remind me of a certain phrase. Perhaps it's the chorus of Jim Croce's Time in a Bottle? No, not the rest of the song. Just the chorus.




THE COMPARISON:
This issue involves fracturing a team out across a contained environment, out of communication with one another, and with each of their own efforts to determine the best course of action. It somewhat reminds me of the escape from Cloud City in 'The Empire Strikes Back', with Leia realizing that Lando isn't the enemy as he remotely tells Lobot to execute their escape plan as Luke lurks about with his ninja Jedi skills. But the visual for me needs to come from Steel carrying around Robotman on his back, then getting knocked out so technically Robotman is carrying him. Either way, the reverse piggyback looked to me an awful lot like Chewbacca carrying C-3PO around Bespin.

THE CONCLUSION:
Frankly, my final ruling on this issue is going to have to wait until the arc is complete. I like the format of the series, but this issue was all connective. The first issue assembled the team and charged in. This issue didn't add much other than revealing that the soldiers were aware that they were in a loop of some sort and adding one more threat at the end.

What the issue did excellently was highlight a bunch of characters that don't currently have their own ongoing series and haven't gotten a whole lot of page time recently. Hopefully, it won't fall victim to the folly of flooding the story with more characters than can be kept track of. If we're just getting cameos of any character with a military tie for the sake of this breaker's manifestation, then I think this arc will finish strong.

Personally, I think this issue lacked the necessary touch-point with the ongoing Zeta-space story. Just a single page moment to check in with Alanna, Buddy, and Miiyahbin's efforts and / or Adam's ethereal self would have greatly improved the read. Even a single line to indicate that they were still questioning the moral validity of their actions -- or Adam being certain that morals were irrelevant. As it stands, it's still a great, fun, story. But as a single issue it falls just a bit short.

I'm sure issue fifteen will feel more fulfilling. If not, we'll probably at least get a funny gag of Stargirl picking up her staff and making a comment about it being covered in gross zombie guts.

Zombies have guts, right?

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