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Mild Mannered Reviews - Justice League Unlimited

Justice League Unlimited #1

Justice League Unlimited #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 1, 2004

Cover date: November 2004

Writer: Adam Beechen
Penciller: Carlo Barberi
Inker: Walden Wong

"Divide and Conquer"

Michael (George) O'Connor Reviewed by: Michael O'Connor

Aboard the Justice League Watchtower, the heroes are gathered to discuss a series of alarming incidents that have occurred over the past few days.

First, Captain Atom went berserk when he, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna were repairing a solar panel on the international space station. Then, while they were examining Captain Atom, Wonder Woman began attacking her fellow Leaguers. And, finally, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Atom all lost control aboard a military base, tearing it to shreds before regaining their wits.

Now, Superman thinks it best that the three of them disperse from each other, the League, and civilized society before they do any more harm. Supes transports to an asteroid out in space, Wonder Woman to the Fortress of Solitude, and Captain Atom to the South Pole.

Almost immediately after they've left, Brainiac and Despero show themselves, disabling the other Leaguers aboard the Watchtower (just Flash, Batman, Zatanna, and Hawkgirl) with one blast of Despero's energy field. Then, they explain that their nanobots invaded the League's Watchtower through the ventilation system, gaining access and control over its most powerful members.

With Supes, WW, and the Captain out of the way, Despero and Brainiac plan to conquer the Earth. Unfortunately for them, Zatanna summons the three heroes back into the Watchtower, and just when Despero is about to flip the switch that would activate the nanobots inside Supes, WW, and the Captain, Zatanna changes his remote control into a bunch of roses.

Against the three Leaguers, Brainiac and Despero don't stand a chance. Captain Atom gives Brainiac a taste of nuclear energy and Superman knocks Despero into next week.

2Story - 2: Well, here we are. Justice League Unlimited #1. And what's the difference between it and Justice League Adventures? Nothing, really. There's a cosmetic difference, but nothing very shocking or fresh here. Instead, it's the same type of story we've come to expect out of the Adventures books of late - bland, predictable, and uninspired. I mean, what's "Unlimited" about this issue? Was the writer not informed of say, oh, I don't know - the three part "Starcrossed" saga or the first episode of JLU, "Initiation"? Or how about just "Hearts and Minds" where we see that Despero is turned into a tree at the end and no longer has control over the Pitar flame? Where, my friends, was the continuity? What, for instance, was Hawkgirl doing in the Watchtower? And where were all the freakin' heroes? Why would they need Superman, Captain Atom, or Wonder Woman to take out Brainiac and Despero when J'onn J'onnz (who must have been asleep on monitor duty) could have gathered all the heroes in the whole Watchtower (they must have been hiding somewhere) and had them open up a few cans of you-know-what? Green Arrow, Supergirl, Hourman, Red Tornado, Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, The Ray, Vigilante, Bwana Beast, Metamorpho, Etrigan the Demon, Waverider, Fire, Ice, Hawk, Dove, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., Crimson Fox, Elongated Man, Nemesis, Booster Gold, the Question... do I need to go on? Are they all at home or something? Come on! Besides Captain Atom and Zatanna, we've got the same old Leaguers aboard what looks to be the same old Watchtower (rather than say, the brand new, spiffy one with all the beefed-up security that would be insanely difficult for Brainiac and Despero to infiltrate). And to cap it all off, Batman makes a comment at the end about the villains' biggest error being their underestimation of the rest of the League. What rest of the League? The rest of the League was MIA and Batman, Flash, and Hawkgirl all stood around and watched Superman and Captain Atom and Zatanna take out the two baddies.

Now, let me try and shuffle all this ranting into a coherent point. If you're going to re-christen this series as Justice League Unlimited, get your facts straight. The first issue of a series is supposed to set-up the framework and substance for the title. While continuity has never been a huge concern for me with the Adventures books, it is a problem when the comic book doesn't even attempt to mirror its animated counterpart. While I can see that Beechen may not have had the full details on the "Initiation" episode, he should have focused his writing on what he did know and avoid what he didn't (in this case, since he didn't know much about the Watchtower or the extended roster, setting the story aboard the satellite base was really foolish). As for the Hawkgirl error, that's really just inexcusable. If he didn't catch that on further revision of his story, why didn't the editor?

This is not a promising start to what I hoped would be a dramatic revitalization of the sagging Justice League Adventures.

4Art - 4: Well, at least the art was pretty. The art team really proved that they could take the Timm style and run with it in new directions. The full-page spread where Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain Atom go berserk is nothing short of Awesome. Another great image is Superman flying towards the reader as army men are tossed off like flies in the background on page 6. This is really dynamic stuff. Too often the "Adventures" style is represented by stiffly drawn characters and flat action sequences. But this issue gives us great perspective, realistic facial reactions from the characters, and an engaging flow from one panel to the next. Aside from an end battle sequence between the League and Brainiac and Despero that proves to be a little anti-climactic, this work is really terrific. I hope to see more of Barberi and Wong in the future.

1Cover Art - 1: When I first saw the advance solicitation image of this cover, I got very, very worried. "Is this what they're changing the style of the show to?" I panicked. Just look at that goofy, awkward Superman, the anorexic Wonder Woman, or Zatanna's HUGE legs. Thankfully, the animated series looks great (heck, even better than the last two seasons) and this cover is not representative of the gorgeous artwork inside either. But, for scaring me so bad (and being an eyesore to boot), it gets the lowest rating available at the Superman Homepage.

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