I’ve essentially obliterated every issue of Justice League of America ever since its debut. I don’t say that to brag, just to indicate that I’ve come to expect poor storytelling/ execution from this title. That might be why I was so surprised when I didn’t think this issue was terrible.
I should start by confessing that I like dinosaurs. I think Jurassic Park came out when I was four, and I convinced my mom to take me to the movie theater to see it six times. Six times! I love dinosaurs that much (no really, I created a super hero back when I was in the 8th grade named Raptor because I am obsessed with velociraptors). The point of this is that when I see something absurd like dinosaurs in a comic book, I don’t immediately get turned off. My reaction is quite the opposite.
Enter Makson, a man raised by dinosaur-esque beasts, who is being hunted by S.K.U.L.L. in a hidden strip of land named Monster Valley. Then, for no apparent reason, the JLA shows up to assist. It’s at this point that I think, “Oh God… Here we go. This is going to be bad. We’re just jumping straight into another story with no set-up or explanation.” I’m analytical, so a number of questions start popping in my head:
“Where is this place and why are there dinosaurs (not that I’m complaining about dinosaurs)?”
“Who is S.K.U.L.L., and why are they chasing Makson?”
“How did Makson get in this situation to begin with?”
“Where in the hell did the JLA come from? More importantly, how did they know about this place?”
As the questions flooded in, I found myself surprised to then find explanations – albeit surface-level explanations with no depth. My advice, just take it and run with it, because there’s no point in getting frustrated due to a lack of details. With these explanations, Orlando then jumps the story forward one week, where Makson is being interviewed in Mari’s penthouse by a news reporter. Within this time frame, Makson has adapted himself a bit too quickly to be even remotely believable.
I initially thought I was going to like Makson (to a degree anyway), until I saw the man-bun. Yes, when he becomes all city-like, he keeps his long hair and dons a man-bun. I’m sorry, but this is where I start to draw the line. Clearly this guy has to be evil! Why else would he sport a man-bun? How does one even go from Tarzan to hipster hair in the matter of a week? Oh… of course… He’s rich and inherited millions from his dead parents.
So now we have a story that has moved from an absurd Tarzan interpretation to a predictable Iron Fist-esque narrative. I’d be open to see where this narrative would go, if it weren’t already moving at a break-neck speed. This is one of the main problems plaguing Justice League of America – Orlando is setting up and knocking down stories so fast that there’s no time to become invested. And if you can’t become invested, then it’s incredibly hard to care – even for our heroes.
In the case of Justice League of America, Orlando has tried to implement character arcs, but they’re rarely touched on, and even then its squandered down to a single line or two. I can’t help but feel readers are being cheated of fully experiencing the team, and that’s a shame considering there are so many rich characters.
As expected, Lobo delivers the best moments of the issue. Batman also, surprisingly, uses some detective skills here. Granted, the level of his detective work is the equivalent of what a third grader would do as a detective, but considering this side of Batman has been M.I.A. in books lately, I’ll accept any form of it. And despite all of the downfalls of the pace of the story, Makson is more interesting than half of the League members at this point.
The plot contains a twist towards the end that might resonate with some readers, but as I’ve mentioned, the pacing destroys any chance for this story to connect. If you don’t take the time to set a story up properly, then you can’t have a worthwhile payoff. You don’t get a payoff in this issue, and considering it’s a two-issue story, I doubt we’ll get a quality conclusion in general… But somehow Makson will be a character that we “won’t soon forget.” Sure…
The Art: Felipe Watanabe steps in to cover art duties, and is a welcomed change from Andy MacDonald. For those of you keeping count, we’re eight issues in, and we’ve had four different artists (Reis, Neves, MacDonald, and now Watanabe)… That’s insane. Anyway, while I do welcome the improvement concerning the art, the quality isn’t as good as Reis’ art that launched this title. That leaves something to be desired, and I honestly can’t say with confidence we’ll get back to that level of execution.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
- You like dinosaurs? (Or maybe not, because this reasoning could lead to crying…)
- You prefer quick, short stories that ram through the narrative.
- You want DC’s interpretation of Tarzan (for roughly five pages)
Overall: I fully believe Steve Orlando is an excellent writer and have loved a number of his works. Justice League of America is not one of them. Considering the aspect of his work that tends to resonate with me the most is his understanding and use of characters, I feel as though we’re being cheated by these short, quick stories. There’s no opportunities for characters to shine, or even for fleshed out narratives. We’re getting the bare minimum, and quite frankly, that sucks.