Justice League of America #19 review

Orlando’s second chapter of “Surgical Strike” contains a combination of highs and lows. For me, Prometheus overcomes a chunk of this issue’s opportunities and tips the book towards the enjoyable side of the scale. That doesn’t mean all is excusable though. Some aspects that have bogged Justice League of America down since it’s debut come forward in this issue as well, and I can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever see these aspects improve.

With the JLA embodying the perfect representation of everything Prometheus detests, he’s set his sights on taking the team out. The previous issue throws us directly into this conflict as Prometheus infiltrates the JLA’s headquarters, and with the help of Afterthought, systemically separates and challenges the League members… All while dozens of citizens witness and fall victim to the chaos.

Early in its run, I had problems with Justice League of America jumping into narratives without much set-up, but “Surgical Strike” is one of those instances where an in-depth set-up isn’t needed. In fact, I would say that the lack of an elaborate set-up benefits this story. Prometheus infiltrates the League, plants seeds of doubt, and sets plans into motion so that when our heroes become aware of what’s going on, it’s already too late.

This issue kicks off with the conflict fully escalated! The Ray and Batman aren’t in Happy Harbor, and Killer Frost and The Atom have already been taken out by Prometheus. Afterthought is going toe-to-toe with Black Canary and Lobo, while Prometheus takes advantage of his opportunity to embarrass Vixen in front of a crowd of civilians. This is when the issue is at its best. Orlando writes some incredibly good dialogue for Prometheus, and I – surprisingly – found myself agreeing with many of his points. I don’t agree with Prometheus’ actions, but agreeing with his belief is powerful enough, and he’s counting on that. His approach is psychological, and I’m not certain if the League, or readers for that matter, realize how damaging his actions could be for the future of this team.

There’s more than psychological play here though. As expected, we can count on Lobo to deliver the hard knocks, as he and Dinah take on Afterthought. The fight might surprise some of you, but I felt it was on track considering Afterthought’s abilities. The art could have been a little better to help elevate these pages, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say the pages and panels look terrible.

My biggest complaint here stems from the problem of a heavy-handed script. I’ve never struggled to embrace the emotional aspects of Steve Orlando’s other books, but Justice League of America has yet to deliver on relationships. Every attempt has come across as juvenile or forced in my opinion… but that’s not even the biggest let-down in this chapter. A resolution for a conflict comes about out of nowhere and it had me giving the moment major side-eye. Mirroring one of my biggest complaints about “Panic in the Microverse,” characters come to a conclusion without any actual science, knowledge, or effort… It just happens.

Whether you enjoy this issue or not will most likely depend on what preferences you hold over others. I enjoyed everything involving Prometheus, and found the fisticuffs between Lobo and Afterthought to be mindless fun. I do feel that the issue if front-heavy in terms of quality though, as it appears most of my least favorite moments come towards the end of the issue. The final page does provide a decent cliffhanger though, and I’m curious to see how it wraps up in the next issue.

The Art: Hugo Petrus handles the art, and overall, it’s a solid delivery. His biggest obstacle is consistency considering the quality of his pencils shifts drastically from panel to panel. Every time I noticed a page or panel that looked rough, it was then followed shortly after with a page or panel that looked incredible. There are small details that I noticed – such as Black Canary having a busted blood vessel in her eye – that make me think that Petrus could really deliver some outstanding work if here weren’t working on a double-ship schedule. Still, despite some shortcomings, Petrus is still better than nearly every other artist that has worked on Justice League of America other than Reis.

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


The Good:

Ray Palmer. Yes, you read that correctly… Ray Palmer. Saying his involvement in the issue is brief would be an understatement, but it still makes an impact. We know Ray Palmer remained in the Microverse, and we’ve been teased about Blue Jay for two issues now… Well in this issue, we see that Blue Jay has joined Ray and Preon, and they appear to be building a team for something… My only question is, “What for?”

Slobber knocker. I really enjoyed the fight between Lobo and Afterthought. I wasn’t too certain I enjoyed the set-up of Lobo knocking Canary out, but after a few moments, I wasn’t bothered by it. Ultimately, I enjoyed that Afterthought played into Lobo’s ego – which I strongly feel was directed by Prometheus – to take advantage of him. I thought some of Petrus’ panels were a little too tight for the action, but he made up for it with small touches in characterization. If you look closely, you’ll notice that Afterthought is having a blast beating the crap out of Lobo… Something that’s disturbing, yet strangely enjoyable. And yes, I purposely used “slobber knocker” to describe this moment as a nod to “good ol’ J.R.” considering Orlando paid tribute to Samoa Joe in this issue. Had to keep the wrestling connection going.

Crippling Faith. The highlight of this issue can easily be pinpointed to Prometheus’ scenes with Vixen. The dialogue alone is quite good, and I loved that Prometheus called Vixen and the League out for pretending to be like average citizens when clearly they’re not – he specifically calls out her billionaire status and the fact that she has abilities. But beyond that, what’s really worth noting, is that no matter how the League handles this situation, the damage has been done. In many ways, Prometheus has already won. He’s created fear and stirred doubt in citizens that heroes can protect them. Even when our heroes prevail (because we know they will), there will still be people who lose faith. There will be people that will feel that believing in the Justice League is a waste of time because, at some point, someone will beat them… And, unfortunately, sometimes the thing that actually brings about defeat, is that lack of belief. I’m hoping Orlando plays with this to a degree in the future because it’s too good of a plot to let it go to waste.

Cold. It was nice to see Frost let loose a little. She’s been held back as a character due to her fear of going too far, and while I understand her reasoning, I’d like to see her gain some confidence in her abilities. If anything, her draining Afterthought, but stopping in time to keep him alive should only make her more confident in her control – especially considering she was pissed when she did this. Sadly, this moment was followed up with a heavy-handed exchange with Ryan.


The Bad:

Ryan’s Resolve. Look, I’m cool with Canary using her cry to fry Ryan’s bio belt to make him corporeal again… But the fact that Ryan knows that if Canary hits a certain frequency, it will do so, and then she does it on her first try after admitting she’s never attempted anything like this. It’s too much to take seriously. And yes, I realize this is a comic book where people have gifts, Aliens are bounty hunters, and men have computers for brains, but this is a stretch. Had Ryan tested a few theories first, then come to this conclusion, and had Canary made a few attempts to hit that frequency, I wouldn’t be complaining. Ultimately, it was way too easy to resolve.

Distance. Yeah… This is that heavy-handed emotional scene I’ve referenced a few times. This is the same back and forth these two have had since they first recognized feelings for one another, and it’s about time this relationship developed in one way or another. At the moment, it reminds me of angsty, teenage relationships, and I tend to roll my eyes in these situations.

Tick. Tick. Boom. Whoa! Prometheus planted a freaking bomb in the suit he created for Afterthought. First off, if I were Afterthought, I’d be pissed! This only drives home the reason why I love Prometheus as a villain though. He’s beyond humanity in so many ways, and he takes pleasure in causing pain. Now I’m curious to see how this moment is resolved. Obviously, the League won’t die, but Afterthought might. Plus, if this bomb does go off, it will only create more fear for civilians and bad PR for the League.

Recommended If:

  • You’re a fan of Prometheus.
  • You’ve enjoyed Justice League of America so far.

Overall: I’ll be the first to admit that JLA isn’t without its problems, but I do feel there has been some progress. We’re still getting some heavy-handed dialogue, and poor plot progression in some areas, but as far as the conflict is concerned, I think this is the most entertaining threat yet. It’s quick and to the point, but Prometheus’ presence packs quite a punch all on its own.

SCORE: 6.0/10