By Jonathan Edwards
Are you kidding me with this one, DC? What an utterly worthless issue. Orlando finally realizes that it might be a good idea to show us something happening instead of just burying it in his trash exposition, but then he somehow thinks it makes sense to spend the ENTIRE ISSUE having Ray Palmer learn shit we already learned with the JLA. And to top it all off, we don't even get a payoff to the cliffhanger ending of the last issue, which, by the way, is also how this issue starts. How do you fuck that up so badly?! Furthermore, he apparently can't through a flashback without retconning the capabilities of a character he introduced a couple issues ago, nor was he able to keep that retcon consistent when it came up again only two pages later.
Justice League of America #14 ended will the revelation that Aron Aut was, in fact, a bad guy. What a shock. But like I said, even after the first page of this issue reiterates that fact, we don't actually learn how or why. Instead, we end on a different cliffhanger whilst still in the flashback. I wouldn't be surprised if we got a whole additional issue dedicated to wrapping up all of this extraneous information, and I'm more than willing to bet that the only upshot will be that Aut is somehow responsible for the damage to the Microverse. And, y'know what? If that is the only thing gained from the flashback, then this would've been a case where it'd have been fine for Palmer to just explain it. As easy as it was to see that twist coming, it still functions as a twist without the need for any additional setup or backstory. Palmer revealing Aut's true intentions, perhaps accompanied by a short, two or three page montage of their meeting, journeying, and his betrayal, would've been more than enough.
As far as the content of this issue's flashback goes, we do technically learn a thing or two about Preon and the race of space elves she comes from. And, by "learn a thing or two" I mean that we find out that she and Ray Palmer became romantically involved for some reason. Of course, there's not really any build up or anything. It just sort of happens. Also, the Docent Folk can apparently fucking teleport. I love how that wasn't even hinted at when we were first introduced to them as a race, and now we're just supposed to accept it. It's not like this is entirely blatant foreshadowing for Preon's reintroduction and/or the part she plays in the story's climax or anything. But the best part is that Orlando somehow manages to immediately change his own rules. First we're told that the Docent Folk can teleport anywhere that they've been before, but then Palmer turns around and suggests Preon could teleport them into unmapped space if it weren't for the threat of landing right in the middle of a sun. So, which is it? Upon reexamination, the initial narration reads "one of the Docent Folk, a dying species able to teleport anywhere in the microcosmos. They had been on foot." Now, I did originally misread that as a single sentence. But here's the thing, I'm more inclined to believe that it's supposed to be, and this is an error in punctuation, than that these are intentionally separated thoughts. Because in context, "they had been on foot" doesn't make any sense as anything other than a part of the sentence that comes before it. I would rhetorically ask for someone to prove me wrong in that regard, but I just don't care. Even if the nature of the power were consistent, it wouldn't change all of the stupidity surrounding its sudden inclusion.
The art is mostly pretty good. However, I have to ask, what the fuck is going on with the first page? It hardly resembles the end of the previous issue, and it's unclear if those pink and orange swirls are meant to be literally there or some stylized framing to lead into the flashback. Honestly, it's probably just the former, and I'm severely overthinking it. Although, if they are supposed to actually be there, than this opening splash page matches even less with the end of the last one.
You've got to love how immediately shitty Ray Palmer is to Ryan as soon as he sees Aron Aut. "You were never supposed to bring him here, Ryan! You've doomed us all!" Gee, Ray, did you maybe want to stop and consider how the hell he was supposed to know that? If Palmer was going to yell at someone, wouldn't it make more sense for him to direct it straight at Aut rather than the trusted student he's built an immense rapport with? Come to think of it, you could even have Palmer yell at Ryan if it was something like "Ryan, get Aut away! He will doom us all!" But y'know, that might make one of the characters feel like an actual person, and clearly that's not what this book has ever attempted to do. It's honestly kind of amazing how quickly this story arc went from one of the best issues of the entire series (even if it still wasn't particularly good) to one of, if not the absolute worst.
Justice League of America #15