By Jonathan Edwards
“Panic in the Microverse” is finally over and thank god. I addition to the regular problems with this book, this particular arc has dragged. And, it’s no mystery why. Injecting two full issue-length flashbacks right in the middle of your story, and before the cliffhanger you previously ended on, does no favors for pacing. That’s especially true when neither of said flashbacks provide any useful or necessary information and plot progression. But, that’s the past. How is Justice League of America #17 here in the present? Well, to be honest, it’s not bad. There are still a few hiccups along the way, but the core premise of how to stop the Microverse from being destroyed is sound, and we actually get a good chunk of time dedicated to developing Ryan’s character. Not counting any of the JLA Rebirth one-shots, this might be the best issue of this series to date.
However, a couple of things in this issue could’ve worked a bit better if those flashbacks hadn’t tried to set them up first. For example, the foundations of Aron Aut’s (I’m not calling him ‘Null,’ because that’s a stupid name) logic for why it makes sense to exacerbate the effects of the Ignition Point established last time completely fall apart here. Supposedly, it was because his scans ‘proved’ there was no way to fix it, and a quick destruction was the merciful option. Yet, when Ryan suggests a theory that neither he nor Palmer has considered, Aut doesn’t even take a second to consider it. Instead, he just screams about how “thousands of deaths across the Immensity, more, would be for nothing!” Of course, that makes no goddamn sense. Up until now, Aut has been concerned with preventing the suffering of millions at the hands of the Quantum Storms caused by the Ignition Point. Again, “everyone is going to die anyway, so a quick and painless death is better.” But now, it’s suddenly about the lives already lost ‘meaning something?’ It wouldn’t have made sense even without his flashback, but what’s the point in dedicating an issue to developing a character’s backstory if it’s not going to come at all into play in the climax? It wouldn’t even be hard to do. Have Ryan try and sacrifice himself like he does, and then Aut, after realizing Ryan is right, stops him, switches belts, Ryan tries to stop him, he says something about always liking the concept of ‘zero,’ and then, Aut sacrifices himself instead. Boom. Ryan would maintain the development he’s supposed to get, and Aut would be more than a one-note villain. Hell, I actually thought that was the direction the story was going up until it became obvious it wasn’t.
The other thing I wish we really hadn’t seen earlier was the fact that Palmer and Preon are romantically involved. I know it’s small, but it would’ve been so much punchier to see them reunite and then suddenly kiss. Sure, it would probably require some exposition afterward, but it would’ve been fine in context and allow for a moment when the JLA, the reader, or both can realize how much of a mistake it really was to side with Aut over Preon. Speaking of small things, I still fail to understand how Palmer can question why Ryan would bring Aut to the Ignition Point. He does it again here, even though Ryan had literally no way of knowing that Aut was a bad guy. Furthermore, why does he wholly blame Ryan when most of the JLA is also there? For all Palmer knows, it was a group decision (which it kind of was), and Ryan didn’t have control one way or the other.
As for the art, it’s all pretty good. Nothing to complain about, at least in terms of the interior art. I don’t usually talk about covers, but this one in particular really bothers me. And okay, technically it’s not the art itself. It’s the concept: “Ray vs. Ryan! Who will be The Atom?” Yes, I get that it’s supposed to be a spin of what actually happens by the end of the issue, but it’s a pretty substantial stretch. And yes, I know that similarly deceptive covers have been used many, many times by other books, but that’s not a valid reason to do it again. Covers like this risk misleading a reader by promising a story different from what’s actually in the issue. They could very easily pick it up based on that, and I personally don’t think that’s the right way to sell books.
Even though Justice League of America #17 ended up being mostly okay, I still wouldn’t really recommend it. It’s not an especially great issue, and it does nothing to counteract the mediocrity of the rest of this arc and, really, the series as a whole. Plus, the teaser for the next one doesn’t make it seem like it’s going to be all that good either. Maybe it’s the mention of the Might Beyond the Mirror and her involvement with it, or maybe it’s that “showing the hypocrisy of Justice” isn’t an interesting idea. I don’t know, but I’m not looking forward to it.
Justice League of America #17