By Jonathan Edwards
I decided to try out something a little different this week. Justice League of America and Justice League/Power Rangers are both books I've technically been reviewing since January. Back then, my receptions of the two series were fairly contrasting, with the JLA one-shots starting on the stronger side and JL/PR being crap. However, after the successive drops in quality that were Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 and Justice League of America #1, Steve Orlando's team up series is more or less on par with DC and Boom!'s mediocre crossover (not to be confused with Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern, their outright awful crossover). And, since both of these "Justice League" books also portray Batman as making bad decisions and dimension hopping antagonists, I might as well try something a bit different with them. That is, smash them together to review at the same time.
First and foremost, let me say that my overall opinions of both series really haven't changed. JLA has strong art but fails to justify itself, especially after over 100 pages of buildup to the first issue. JL/PR doesn't take itself as seriously, but it ends up being simplistic in both story and art. I intend to focus on more specific plot elements from both books here. So if you care, here's your spoiler warning.
The end of Justice League of America #1 saw Batman offer himself to Lord Havok in place of Ryan Choi. Of course, Ryan only found himself in Lord Havok's grasp because Bruce decided that combat training was optional for the members of his superhero team. Issue #2 picks up with Batman saying he can help Lord Havok save Earth, and Havok actually agrees. I was surprised, because that's actually a potentially interesting direction to take the story. With Batman being a prisoner and forced tactician of The Extremists, he could surreptitiously delay their plans for world conquest, biding time for the JLA to come up with a counter-attack. Or, Doctor Diehard, the only member of The Extremists other than Lord Havok to speak in the previous issue, could attack Havok and try and take over as leader of the group while ranting about the need for "extreme measures" and how "toxic" freedom is. Because, that is exactly what happens.
Eventually, The Extremists teleport away, and the JLA has no idea where they went. That is until Ryan reviews the readings his equipment got of the radiation Havok was emitting (or something), and from that, he tracks their location. Okay, sure. Why not? Oh wait, I know. We literally see The Extremists teleport into a fucking public area and immediately start attacking people. Is it really being suggested that absolutely no media coverage arose from that? Not even any posts on social media? I don't buy that. Furthermore, where the hell is Superman or literally anyone from the main Justice League? Did Batman call dibs or something? Because, this is not a small potatoes situation, especially when the JLA does dick to handle it.
Thanks to some really specific plot convenience, Lord Havok gains control of an entire country, and any aggression toward The Extremists can now be considered an act of war. This is another potentially interesting direction for the story, but I'm honestly not convinced it'll pay off any better than the book's other squandered opportunities. It's really unfortunate, because, as mentioned, Orlando does have some interesting ideas. Hell, I still feel like this JLA's lineup is evidence of that. And I don't know if he's just spreading himself too thin by integrating multiple of them at a time, or if perhaps editorial mandate has twisted his arm, but the execution of those ideas leaves a lot to be desired.
Justice League of America #2
When I reviewed Justice League/Power Rangers #1, I referred to Batman as "easily the most interesting character in the issue." Well, he went from being that to a nonentity in #2 to needlessly contrarian here. Seriously, why is he so opposed to letting the Power Rangers help fight Zedd's monsters? "We don't know you well enough to fight beside you, and this isn't your world" are both shit reasons. What're the alternatives? Letting the full team of people you don't trust stay together, where they could come up with a plan to undermine your efforts if they were somehow evil? And since when has being from a different universe itself been a reason not to team up with someone? Wouldn't it make infinitely more sense to have them with you as long as they agreed to listen to the Justice League's orders? Especially since, as Trini (the Yellow Ranger) points out, they'd be more verse in fighting Zedd's monsters and likely have valuable intel on, y'know, how to best beat them? I mean, it turns out they don't give any advice better than "keep attacking" (yeah, no shit, Sherlock), but you'd think Batman would still expect them to have it. It's a painfully obvious attempt in adding extra conflict that'll very likely lead to Batman "accepting" the Rangers at the end of the story, and it won't be satisfying.
Another thing I've been harping on throughout my reviews of this series is just how functional the Power Rangers' supposedly damaged teleporter actually is. This time around, we find out that apparently "damaged" means it completely fucking works. Zedd and Braniac manage to steals the Rangers' communicators and the coins that let them control their Zords, and they immediately leave the DCU for Angel Grove. Wow, way to fucking go. If it's not going to have an effect on anything else in the story, why bring it up in the first place? Could Zack not have, I don't know, randomized the teleportation coordinates instead? That would've removed any question of the other Rangers following, all of them summoning their Zords, and getting back to their universe. Furthermore, it's hard for the Rangers being suddenly trapped in the DCU to come as a surprise when you think it's already happened, because the story says their teleporter was damaged in Zedd's attack. If it seems like a small detail to dwell on, it's not. It's the single in-universe explanation for why this story exists, and whether it's been forgotten, intentionally ignored, or incorrectly explained in the first place, it's bad writing.
The single best thing about this issue is the idea Billy (the Blue Ranger) comes up with for how to get back to the Rangers' universe, and it's not because the idea makes any sense. He proposes that they all go to fucking CERN and use the Large Hadron Collider to make an interdimensional portal. What in the absolute fuck, Tom Taylor? This comes so far out of left field and so poorly justified that I kind of love it. The subsequent scene of them actually following through with said idea is amazing. Superman tells the CERN physicists what they want to do, and when they tell him it won't work, he basically replies with "nah, we got the Justice League and the Blue Power Ranger. We got this." And, I have no doubt in my mind that issue #4 will begin with just that.
Justice League/Power Rangers #3
With that, this Oversized Review comes to a close. I have to say that I'm still inclined to think that JLA is still going to have its fans despite its overall meager offerings. However, I draw the line at CERN. If you particularly liked this experiment in review format, please do let me know in the comments. It might just make me want to do this again sometime.