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Justice League Unlimited: Time After Time | Review

Cover of Justice League UnlimitedJustice League Unlimited: Time After Time
Writers: Adam Beechen, Stuart Moore, Jason Hall and Steve Vance
Artists: Tim Levins, Carlo Barberi, John Delaney, Min S. Ku and others
DC Comics; Teen (13+)

The 2001-2004 Justice League cartoon generated a pair of companion comics, Justice League Adventures and Justice League Unlimited, and those comics have recently proven to be a valuable well for DC to find high-quality, evergreen all-ages comics stories to reprint. The publisher dips back into that well for Justice League Unlimited: Time After Time, a second thematic collection following August’s Galactic Justice.

As the title indicates, this time the theme is time travel, and the half-dozen stories within the collection’s pages come from not only Justice League Adventures and Justice League Unlimited, but there’s also an issue from the short-lived 1997-1998 series Adventures in the DC Universe, which attempted to do for the larger DCU what Batman Adventures and Superman Adventures did for those families of characters (and largely succeeded, thanks to excellent but under-appreciated work from Steve Vance and John Delaney).

The particular issue from Adventures in the DC Universe featured The Legion of Super-Heroes, the super-teens from the 30th Century (although now that we are currently living in the 21st Century, the Legion has similarly moved to the 31st Century).

The Legion returns for another story later in the collection, in which a handful of the team meet a handful of Justice Leaguers, who chase living computer virus “Kilg%re” through a time portal.

The Flash flashes forward to the post-apocalyptic, Planet of the Apes-inspired time of Jack Kirby’s Kamandi, the Last Boy On Earth in another story.

The remaining half of the book features time travel in the other direction.

In one story, the Lex Luthor of the far-flung future travels into his past, and the heroes’ present, in order to try to destroy the so-called trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

In another, Wonder Woman, The Elongated Man, and cowboy stuntman-turned-superhero The Vigilante travel back in time to the Old West, where they team-up with that era’s pre-superhero heroes: Jonah Hex, El Diablo, and Bat Lash.

And in another, the time-lost Justice Leaguer The Shining Knight leads a huge group of some 15 heroes back in time to defend Camelot from Morgan Le Fay and a magical army of black knights.

It’s that story, “Castle Perilous,” that perhaps best encapsulates what makes the book so fun. Its panels are full to bursting with superheroes, not only the present-day Leaguers but also some dozen more or who make one-panel cameo appearances. Writer Adam Beechen therefore gives artist Carlo Barberi a feast of colorful characters to draw in his big, bold style, a style that pushes hard enough against the designs established by the cartoon to make the art distinctly Barberi’s, but not hard enough to break the general aesthetic (the cover features a splash page of Barberi’s art from this story; you’ll note the one character not wearing tights is King Arthur himself).

The thrust of that story involves its narrator Vixen, the animal-powered fashion model-turned-hero, coping with her first trip through time and trying to come to grips with living in a world where going to fight alongside King Arthur is just another day at the office. In addition to demonstrating the scale and scope of these comics, “Castle Perilous” also shows their range, highlighting relatively obscure characters like Vixen and Shining Knight alongside the likes of Batman and Superman, while telling a relatable story in a wildly over-the-top world.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a third Justice League Unlimited collection in the next few months. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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