Uncollected Editions: Justice League United Vol. 3: Reunited (DC Comics)

A new entry in our “Uncollected Editions” series, where we look at single issues that might’ve made a collection, but never came to be.

In 2016, on the eve of DC Universe: Rebirth and DC’s jump to the Rebirth continuity, Justice League United Vol. 3: Reunited was one of those DC You-era collections solicited, cancelled, resolicited, and cancelled again, never to appear. This was not surprising — a series already cancelled, with the final issues written by a different creative team than the previous dozen; these things happen, and we saw the same at the advent of the New 52.

For its first 10 issues under writer Jeff Lemire, Justice League United was the character-driven answer to its widescreen Justice League-proper counterpart. Taking characters including Martian Manhunter and Stargirl from the militaristic, ARGUS-lead Justice League of America, Lemire’s United shaped up to be purposefully softer, a League whose express purpose was to demonstrate “heroism [and] selflessness” (and also for Lemire to continue to write characters Animal Man and Green Arrow, with whom he’d had success). Over two collections, United never quite achieved that lofty goal, waylaid by setup and a too-long team-up with the Legion of Super-Heroes, but the book was enjoyable nonetheless.

Jeff Parker takes over for issues #11–16, alongside Lemire’s Animal Man artist Travel Foreman and, in the middle, Paul Pelletier. The premise is reminiscent of the ye olde Justice League Task Force — a small core group of Leaguers work with a rotating team of heroes per story arc — with a twist. Because the League United is now focused on “Breakers,” time- and dimension-bending anomalies, the available cast of DC guest-stars is wider and zanier.

[Review contains spoilers]

The book best uses this concept in the “War Zone” story, issues #13–15, drawn as mentioned by Pelletier, who looks as good as I’ve ever seen him. (Parker and Pelletier had just before collaborated on a good Aquaman run.) Leaguers Stargirl, Equinox, Animal Man, and Alanna Strange start off joined by Batgirl, Steel John Henry Irons, Robotman, and Vandal Savage, but by the end Parker has worked in Sgt. Rock and the Easy Company, Enemy Ace, Frankenstein (the current agent of SHADE) and the Creature Commandos, the Unknown Soldier, and for good measure, the Kevin Kho OMAC. It’s a lot, but never feels overwhelming, and as someone who’s never been much for DC’s weird war stories, I can say that Parker making me care for Sgt. Rock or Enemy Ace is a feat.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

The first story, “Island of No Return” (issues #11–12) is no slouch either, as Equinox leads Poison Ivy, Etrigan the Demon, Mera, and Swamp Thing. “Island” is a fine bit of superhero horror, and Foreman is in his element drawing an increasingly squishy, bulbous alien entity. As with “War Zone,” the story is a running mystery, whether the audience can figure out why these particular heroes were brought together before the plot reveals it. “Island” is only lesser behind “War” as the unexpected guest stars are better in “War,” but surely what one wants to see is this run ramping up and getting better as it goes on.

Not to be outdone, the final issue finds the League (no guest members this time) encountering the House of Secrets and no less than Abel of DC horror fame (not sure if Abel’s malevolence here is quite on-character, but no matter). Parker parlays this into a revelation that Alanna, portrayed throughout as an Earth-born anthropology grad student, is indeed the daughter of the Rannian Sardath, meshing her with her standard continuity (shortly before it would cease to matter). While I appreciated seeing Alanna Strange emphasized in this series over Adam for a change, it took something from the overall mythos that neither was Rannian, so I was pleased that was where Parker ended.



In its heyday, my chief interest in this run was the seeming direct ties to Convergence (a proper collection would have also included the Divergence “sneak peak” story), in that these anomalies the United were chasing would be Convergence-caused anomalies. That turns out not to be the case; whatever lead me to believe these were Convergence-tied (and I’m betting that’s marketing copy, not high expectations), such is never reflected in the issues themselves. Ditto that the characters appearing here are time-lost, but not Multiversal.

Still, Jeff Parker does a swell job here. Given that these are one-off stories, relatively short, not disconnected from the larger DCU but neither continuity heavy, Justice League United Vol. 3: Reunited would have been a nice next chapter for United after often-plodding Justice League United Vol. 2: The Infinitus Saga.


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