Let’s be frank, this issue and the previous issue of Justice League of America should have been a The Atom mini-series with a six to twelve issue run… And it’s a shame that we didn’t get that instead.
I’m sure many of you are scratching your heads right now. “What? You want these stories to be stretched over six to twelve issues? You gave this issue a 5.5/10! That doesn’t make sense!” Yes, yes… I know, so let me explain.
For those of you who haven’t been reading JLA, we’re currently in the “Panic in the Microverse” arc. Arguably, this is the arc that a number of people have been waiting for since Rebirth because it expands on the story of Ray Palmer and what happened to him. After months of searching for Palmer, Ryan Choi finally finds his signal and pulls members of the JLA to go with him on a rescue mission.
Batman, Lobo, Killer Frost, and Ryan all travel to the Microverse where we encounter an entire universe of new characters, stories, and threats. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s really interesting and Orlando managed to ground everything with a simple search and rescue/ mystery plot. After three issues of searching for Palmer, the team finally finds him with the help of Aron Aut, which is where we are now. The only problem is that Ray isn’t too thrilled to see Aron, and claims that they’re all doomed now because the team brought him to the Ignition Point (the place where all the storms started that are destroying the Microverse).
The past two issues have stepped away from the main arc of the story to tell us Ray Palmer’s story. What’s he been up to since he went to the Microverse? What made him go there in the first place? Who has he met there, and what challenges is he facing? All of these questions are answered in this issue and the previous issue, and as interesting as they are, the way they’re presented prevents you from actually enjoying the story.
I’ve always been a “show me, don’t tell me” kind of guy when it comes to writing. I want to experience a story, I don’t want to receive what feels like a second-hand retelling of what took place. Months worth of storytelling gets crammed into two single issues, and it’s a shame. What could’ve been an exciting, engaging read has been turned into nothing more than two filler issues. I mean, think about it: within two issues, we learned that Palmer went to the Microverse, learned about the universe and its inhabitants, discovered what was destroying the Microverse, started working to correct it, participated in a battle, started a relationship, developed a strong friendship with Aron Aut, and in this issue we learn even more… But all of this is covered in two issues! It’s too much!
Now, I can understand if DC didn’t want to release a miniseries to tell Ray’s story. It’s an investment, and a twelve issue run might be seen as a bit much to cover this story considering how fast they appear to be progressing the DC Universe at this time. If they didn’t want to release a mini, then they should’ve done what they did with Suicide Squad, and have the main story, then a shorter, back-up story that took up the last four pages of each issue (or something).
The point is, fans deserve more than just an “Oh, by the way…” approach. Because of this approach and pacing, we’re not getting the quality story we deserve. Yes, there are some developments in this issue, but when you don’t care about what’s taking place, and nothing feels earned, it doesn’t make much of a difference. All I can do now is hope that this “Ray Palmer’s Story: Part 2” helps make “Panic in the Microverse” land with more impact… There’s a lot of ground to cover in one issue if that’s going to happen though.
The Art: Watanabe is on art duties again. He’s not a bad artist, but he’s highly inconsistent. There are some panels that look good, and others that don’t. Most of the variances in quality stem from his attention to detail. Some panels are ripe with details and definition, while others look rushed and generic. I’m ok with him handling art for this “Ray Palmer Interlude,” but I really want Reiss to return to wrap up the proper story. Fans deserve that.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Aron Aut. I really like Aron Aut as a character! I love his motivation for what he’s doing. In many ways, I find I relate to Aut. He’s all about practicality, even if it means suffering for a little while to reach a better outcome. Unfortunately, in his mind, there is no outcome so his actions are a bit misguided. There’s a storm ravaging the Microverse, and after years of research, he can’t find a way to stop it… Rather than spending decades suffering and watching others suffer, Aut decides to speed up the process to make it happen more quickly. It sounds crazy, yes, but it’s no different than putting a dog down that’s sick and in pain. Now, clearly, this is a little different because he’s literally looking to kill millions… But I’m happy to learn this is his motivation because I would’ve thrown the book had he just been an evil guy looking to create evil. I really wish we would have had more time to get to know Aron so that when his true intentions were revealed, we would’ve felt the sting a little more.
Palmer’s Reaction. When Palmer finds out what Aut is really doing, his reaction is perfect. He doesn’t get angry because of Aut’s belief. He actually feels a bit of sympathy for him and asks why Aut wasn’t honest with him. He sees a defeated man in front of him, a man he’s grown to trust and consider a friend. Yes, the two eventually fight, but this brief moment is gold.
The Null. So, this is Aron Aut’s codename… Cause, you know, comic books. The thing is, The Null is actually a movement rather than just a name. Apparently, there are many people that feel the way that Aut does, and they’re all working towards the same goal. I find this concept highly entertaining, and wish we could have had more time to explore this…
Pacing. When this run of JLA wraps, the biggest problem people will most likely identify is the pacing. These stories race at the speed of light, and it doesn’t give readers the opportunity to experience or connect with the characters or narrative as they should. Come on DC, slow down. Take a breath so we, the readers, can as well. Let us savor some of these moments. We deserve that.
The writing. The script suffers here simply because of how much ground Orlando has to cover within such a short time. I’m not certain if this was his decision, or if this was mandated by DC. What I do know, is that Orlando is a great writer! There’s proof of this! All you have to do is check out Batman/ The Shadow, Midnighter, The Shadow/ Batman, various issues of Eternal etc. The guy can deliver great stories and great characters… If he is the reason for the lower quality here, I highly suspect it’s just that he’s trying to figure out his way around writing team books – something that is much harder than most people realize. Regardless, the script suffers here, even if there are interesting developments in the issue.
- You want to learn why Palmer doesn’t trust Aron Aut.
- You’ve started “Panic in the Microverse” so you might as well finish it.
Overall: Justice League of America #16 is basically “What’s Ray Palmer Been Up To?: Part 2.” It’s a filler issue, even though we do gain some ground with the plot. The problem here is that it’s hard to care. So much plot and narrative are shoved down our throat so quickly, that the moments meant to create an impact don’t land their punches the way they should. I’m still happy to see Ray Palmer and hopeful that we’ll get a strong finish to this story, but this issue and its predecessor could be skippable depending on how the next issue plays out.