Now that the threat of the Might Beyond the Mirror has been taken care of, the Justice League of America are ready for a new day and a new mission. Batman’s back, Aztek may finally have a spot on the team, and… that’s about it. There isn’t much that happens that’s particularly exciting. A shame, that, since this is an extra-sized anniversary issue and it just drags on and on.
This has long been a title that hasn’t had a clear focus. Sad to say that even reaching its home stretch, that still holds true. I was intrigued by the lineup, as they’re all great characters, but nothing’s really been done here to make this title rise above the pack.
Part of the blame, to be sure, may be some unknown editorial mandates. Orlando set up quite a few different plots that looked like they were going somewhere interesting, only to be cut short and wrapped up in a generally unsatisfactory manner. The Queen of Fables could have been a genuine threat, for instance, but that story wrapped up before it really even started. And Lobo? On a team of heroes? How can that not be an entertaining disaster? To be fair, Orlando has proven that he’s great at writing the Main Man, so I won’t fault his characterization at all, but even after explaining his purpose on the team it… really seems like he doesn’t have a purpose.
Then there were some other bright spots that have yet to amount to much. The journey into the Microverse was a pretty solid romp, and far and away the most complete arc of the series, and the reintroduction of Aztek to continuity was a welcome surprise for like ten of us. Those events were drops in a bucket, though, and they haven’t really paid any dividends. Ryan Choi has grown as a character, to be sure, so that’s a plus. Even still, it doesn’t feel like it amounts to much of anything, which pretty much applies to the series as a whole.
Now Orlando is coming full circle, going all the way back to the first arc with the Extremists. Dreamslayer is back on the scene, come to enlist the JLA’s help in saving the world of Angor. Batman agrees, insisting on going alone, though Black Canary tags along anyway. There’s definite potential for an interesting story there, but it never coalesces. Characters talk at each other, giving responses to unasked questions and disregarding what others have actually said. It’s almost like two actors interpreting a scene in completely different ways, playing their parts how they think they should be rather than off of the other. Because of that, there isn’t a sense of actual chemistry and conflict between the characters.
There are several points in the issue where the dialogue is incredibly choppy, so it’s hard to get a grasp on both the situation and the characters’ responses to it. Batman says he wants to go alone, then Dinah yells at him. He says once more that he’s going alone, then she yells at him some more, and then… that’s it. There isn’t a sense of interaction, or even a visual cue that Bruce has changed his mind. They just say their lines and go about their business.
I hate to call the writing bad, because it isn’t a disaster per se, but it’s not great. There’s never a real sense of urgency or danger at any point in this book. Like the dialogue, scenes bounce around almost haphazardly, finding the team in different situations without a sense of how or why. Ray Palmer appears as if from nowhere. Literally. The team is standing around discussing their future, and he just suddenly… shows up behind Batman between panels. The team is understandably shocked, just like the reader, but the next scene sees them talking as if nothing had happened.
At the very least the issue looks good, for the most part. There are a few rushed panels here and there, but Miguel Mendonca and Minkyu Jung aren’t exactly slouches. Their styles complement each other well, and their figure work is solid. I particularly loved a page early on that shows Frost being consoled by Promethea in an icy plain, the soft blues of the background serving as a stark landscape for the colored outfits of the two women. I loved Chris Sotomayor’s work on Nightwing, so it’s good to see him here.
Ultimately, this issue lacked any consequence. That may change in upcoming installments, but it’s hard to care when it doesn’t feel like there’s any reason to. The characters don’t seem to be invested in the situation at hand, so why should we?
- You’ve really wanted Batman back on the team.
- You’re invested in Angor.
Overall: This series has long had an identity crisis, and that problem doesn’t look to be resolved any time soon. There’s no immediacy to the threat, no emotional stakes presented, so what we’re left with is a book without any real substance. The team talks at each other without truly interacting, and events come and go without reason or explanation. It looks good, to be sure, and there isn’t anything offensively bad, but I was honestly bored through most of the story.