Imagine you’re a kid again. Nine, maybe ten years old. You and your best friends are in the back yard, playing with your sweet Justice League of America action figures. Mostly the good guys, of course, because who wants the villains? After you guys stop fighting over who gets to be Batman, you start coming up with a story.
Unfortunately, you only have one bad guy, thanks to a well-meaning relative who picked it up at the grocery store because they “know you like those Super-mens.” So, lacking any other popular baddies, you cast other toys as the evil army. Army men, samurai warriors, and Vikings are now the de facto cannon fodder sent to fight the world’s greatest heroes. Let’s throw in some dinosaurs for good measure, because why not? Dinosaurs rule. It may not make much sense, but who cares when Batman fights a friggin’ tank?! It’s fun because it’s so crazy, just one more grand adventure you and your friends have together.
That’s effectively what reading Justice League of America #28 is like, and I kind of love it for that. Steve Orlando has invited us over to play with his toys, and it’s as deliriously crazy as you’d expect.
And I wasn’t kidding about Army dudes and samurai warriors either: it’s literally what happens.
Amazing. Though you’d think Batman would disarm that guy before kicking him, so as to minimize collateral damage. But whatever, it’s still fun.
And don’t think that I mean the writing is childish either. Far from it. There’s not as much depth here as you’d find in something like, say, Doomsday Clock, but that’s ok. Orlando is clearly having a blast wrapping this series up, and the enthusiasm present in his writing is palpable and infectious.
Because of that, just on a pure entertainment level, this issue certainly delivers. It’s light and fun, especially seeing the escalating measures Chronos uses to try and best the League. Given that the issue is mostly action, it helps that it’s primarily good action. The fight scenes are big and easy to follow, and Petrus once again makes some clever visual choices. I like the design of Chronos’ portal, all glowing cogs and gears to evoke the idea of a clock.
Hi-Fi’s colors are occasionally flat and a bit muted, but they work really well in the more fantastical scenes like this. Those cogs are practically glowing due to the color choices.
Despite clever details like that, there are some layout choices that had me scratching my head. Generally speaking, the action is easy to follow, and Petrus does a great job choreographing so many different characters on the page. There are points when his sense of movement is a little confusing, though, resulting in a few scenes that don’t quite have the impact they should have.
Take the scene below, where Chronos utilizes Chemo (yessss) to bring down Ray’s light-construct fortress.
I get what’s supposed to be happening, and based on the smaller panels at the top left it looks like Chemo is supposed to be gaining speed as he approaches an object. The sense of movement is there, but the resulting impact and Ray’s reaction don’t quite have the force and power that they needed. There’s another scene later where the Atom and Chronos are fighting and, in one long panel, we see the two figures’ silhouettes against a bright background. There are lines between the two, indicating a sense of movement, and the way the panel is laid out it appears that Atom attacked Chronos. It’s actually the opposite, as the next panel shows Chronos in the background, looking over his shoulder at the Atom who now has a massive gash on his arm. Had these scenes been animated then these layout choices would have been perfect. As storyboards, they’re great, but in the static medium of comics they don’t work as well as they could have.
As far as the story goes, it’s pretty basic. And honestly? That’s ok. There’s the whole ordeal with Ahl, the God of Superheroes, and it’s all… fine. We don’t really have any emotional attachment to his plight, as he’s such a new character, so other than knowing that he needs saving there really isn’t much else there. Yeah, he’s supposed to place his hand on some batch of soil so as to spawn the line of heroes in the future, but I really didn’t have any strong feelings toward him one way or the other. I wanted him to get saved more because I want the good guys to win than because I had great affection for the character, so to that end he feels more like a plot device than an actual participant in the story.
It’s really Ryan Choi who shines here, building on the strong character arc that began in the previous issue. Orlando clearly has great affection for Ryan, and the way he’s paced Choi’s character development is really solid. Where he was almost afraid to go out and be a hero at the beginning of this series, now he’s gained enough confidence in himself to stand up to one of his mentor’s greatest enemies. It’s strong, inspiring character work and I wouldn’t mind seeing Orlando on an Atom solo book in the future.
I like to use the word “fun” to describe things. Whether that’s a bad word or not, I don’t care. Comics are entertainment, and I want to be entertained. Do I enjoy heady, weightier stories? Of course. But not every comic needs to be a game-changer or deconstruct what we know of the medium. Sometimes they just need to have Batman and Aztek fighting Spartan warriors and dinosaurs, which is exactly what Justice League of America gives us.
Bonus: To celebrate next week’s Action Comics #1000, a nifty variant cover from Francesco Mattina.
- You like purely action-driven issues.
- You’ve enjoyed Ryan Choi’s character arc.
- Dinosaurs, tanks, and samurai. What more do you want?
Overall: Steve Orlando is having a blast writing this book, and it’s hard not to go along for the ride. While the plot is a little light and the driving conflict isn’t as pressing as it needs to be, this issue succeeds as pure entertainment. With generally impressive visuals and an undeniable sense of adventure, I had more fun reading this issue of Justice League of America than I have any other comics in the past few weeks. It’s like playing with your favorite action figures alongside your best friends, which I’d like to think is high praise.