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“Surgical Strike” begins in this week’s Justice League of America, and it’s the perfect title for this story!

The conclusion to “Panic In the Microverse” disappointed me, but if I’m being honest, I let my expectation of the story overrule my judgment of the issue itself. Do I feel the story had problems? Yes. Did it deserve a higher score than I gave it? Yes. But this is a new story, and I’ve had time to digest everything before stepping into this chapter.

So far, Orlando has approached Justice League of America by telling quick stories. Overall, I prefer stories that take their time – especially when it’s a team book so that the issues can include deep characterization, rather than devote most of uts pages to plot – this is simply a preference of mine. I feel that taking time with a story can allow stronger foundations to be built for each individual story. While we haven’t necessarily gotten this focus for each story, Orlando now has enough stories under his belt that a foundation has been established for the book itself. In addition to that, textures of characterization are starting to add up and show through. It’s taken a while to build this, but we’re starting to see some of the benefits and payoff.

“Panic in the Microverse” wrapped by revealing that Prometheus had received a wish by the Might Beyond the Mirror. He used the wish to restore his body following the events that occurred in Midnighter (which I highly recommend), and now that he’s back. Instead of seeking revenge against the man who crippled him though, he’s going after the most public symbol of justice: the JLA! And to do so, he’s going to use the League’s openness to the public to serve as their greatest downfall.

This issue kicks off with a documentarian, John Porter, covering the Justice League of America. He makes his way through the headquarters, and also interviews each League member. Noticeably absent, however, is Batman – who apparently is away on another mission. As Porter interviews each League member, it becomes clear that something isn’t right as Porter identifies opportunities within the team and explores them. Following the interview, an attack occurs on the base, and things take a turn for the worse.

It’s a solid issue that does better than any previous story in creating conflict right out of the gate. Orlando takes more of a psychological approach in attacking the JLA with Prometheus, and I find that more interesting than previous villains. The writing can be a little heavy-handed at times, so prepare yourself going into this issue. There’s also not much in the way of action, so that too may turn some readers off as well. Despite these potential set-backs, I found the debut of “Surgical Strike” quite satisfying, and it definitely made me excited for the next chapter.

The Art: To say that Justice League of America  has had a tumultuous history with artists would be an understatement. The fact that Reis’ has moved on to another project only amplified my concern for how future issues would look. For now, we have Hugo Petrus covering art, and he does a respectable job! This is definitely the best art to grace JLA other than Reis,  so I hope he remains a regular with Orlando. While Petrus’ technique and pencils are good, there is some room for improvement concerning layouts and his approach to storytelling.

Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.

Spoiler

The Good:

Lobo is Still a Badass. Head and shoulders, the best character in this book is Lobo. Orlando writes him so well, that I’d love to see him just run with the character in a solo title. Actually, I really want a Lobo/ Midnighter buddy-cop, bounty hunter adventure! Can you imagine all of the vulgar dialogue that would be in that? I’d love every single issue!

Seeds of Discord. If you’re a man (or in this case, two men) going up against a team, the best way to defeat said team is to divide and conquer. Take members out one by one. And to help make this approach possible, plant some seeds of discord to divide the team emotionally. This is exactly what Prometheus does, and it allows him to infiltrate and attack each member of the JLA like a virus. We barely get any physical conflict in this issue, but it’s clear that this won’t end well. You now have to wonder if Batman really is on a mission somewhere else, or if he was taken out by Prometheus and Afterthought.

Public Relations. If attacking the team’s confidence as individuals weren’t enough, Prometheus is also attacking their public image. He creates a dangerous situation within the League’s base, while visitors are on-site. Mari opened up the League so citizens could visit, see how they operate, and allow the JLA to serve as an open, personable Justice League. But it also opens the team up to attacks such as this. So let’s call Prometheus’ actions exactly what they are: a terrorist attack. He purposely attacks the base and traps civilians inside to create chaos. He wants nothing more than to discredit the JLA, and cause the public to lose faith in their heroes.  Yeah, the people will most likely believe that the heroes will save the day, but when they see half of the League is taken out, and other members are struggling… That doesn’t build confidence.

 

The Bad:

Old tricks. If you read Orlando’s Midnighter, then you’ll realize that Prometheus is up to old tricks when he disguises himself to infiltrate the League as a documentarian. Prometheus is hyper-intelligent and a master deceiver. It does feel a little “been there, done that” at first (disguising, infiltrating, and attacking), but I guess if it works, don’t fix it. Either way, some people will find the approach a little redundant.

A Heavy Hand. Because of the short nature of each story, there are times Orlando’s dialogue, especially scenes conveying emotion, can feel heavy-handed. He has a short window of time and pages to make his point, which results in some moments feeling as if they haven’t been completely earned.  We get that to a degree here. Most of it stems from Prometheus while he’s in disguise as Porter. His questions are a little too direct and divisive in my opinion. Granted, it’s also not uncommon for your average Joe to use this approach when confronting or questioning something he/she doesn’t agree with. For me, I wish there had been a little more subtlety in the questions.

Other readers might also feel like Ray’s outburst, in particular, is heavy-handed. While I agree, I can also believe it. I connect with the Ray on a few levels. For one, I’m a gay man, so there’s that… but here it’s the idea of people being “bad.” When I was younger, I really struggled to accept that some people purposely chose not to exhibit integrity in their day to day life. Some people just don’t care if they disrespect other people… And it would anger me to no end. I couldn’t understand people like that because I was raised to do the opposite. In fact, it was a requirement in my home. My parents made me respect others and live with integrity, or there would be swift consequences. So I understand where Ray’s head is at. He has a heart of gold, and not everything has made sense for him on an emotional level…

Prometheus’ reveal. After revealing Prometheus in the previous issue, placing him on the cover of this issue, and including him in the solicitation… I don’t understand why Orlando wrote a second reveal for him. It seemed unnecessary. I know it is a fresh reveal for the JLA, but it is ultimately redundant for readers.

What I Would Have Done Differently:

I feel like most of this chapter is really good. If you allow yourself to accept this approach to storytelling, you’ll find some strong moments and references. Now, keeping in mind that hindsight is 20/20, I probably would have introduced Prometheus earlier in the series, or added in another story to separate his return from his arc. For example, the Prometheus reveal that was at the end of “Panic in the Microverse,” I would have placed it at the end of “Curse of the Kingbutcher.” I then would have kept Afterthought’s appearances in “Microverse,” and then had this issue without placing Prometheus on the cover. It would have made the John Porter disguise less obvious, and more engaging for readers.

I also wouldn’t have revealed that Prometheus and Afterthought are working together in “Microverse.” I would have left those details out, then let Afterthought appear in this issue, as he did with Black Canary and Lobo. Readers would think he was the big bad for this arc, then discover hes working with Prometheus on the final page. This would aloow for a stronger “oh $#!&” feeling.

Recommended if:

  • You want a little more attention to characterization in JLA.
  • You like the storytelling approach of classic Justice League and JLA stories.
  • Prometheus

Overall: I’ve come to realize that I need to accept Justice League of America for what it is. I’ve been hard on the book, and while I won’t walk my criticisms, I do realize that I’ve let my expectation rule a piece of my opinions. But now that I’m choosing to approach each issue with this outlook, I’m finding strengths in the story I wouldn’t have allowed myself to see before. “Surgical Strike” is a perfect title for this arc, and precisely describes Prometheus’ approach to confronting the JLA. There are moments of heavy-handed dialogue, as well as an unnecessary reveal, but overall the issue works. The highlight here though is a subtle commentary on terrorism, and it couldn’t come at a more perfect time. The idea is tastefully approached as Orlando presents a reality, and allows us to form our opinions from there rather than shocked a stance down our throats.

SCORE: 7.0/ 10

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