By Jonathan Edwards
Ugh. I realize that it was naïve for me to think that maybe, just maybe, since the last issue ended up being somewhat decent, this one would follow suit. Nope. Admittedly, the premise here isn’t an inherently awful one, but it’s one that requires some nuance and careful execution to work. And, therein lies the problem. Neither of those traits are among those that Orlando’s run on JLA exhibits, let alone excels at. What’s more, you can actually see the internal logic try to be established, start falling apart and eventually completely break down throughout the first few pages. So, by the time the “conflict” really starts, you’re already ahead of it and bored waiting for the story to catch up.
We start with John Porter, a self-described “documentarian” who somehow managed to get authorization from the McCabe Foundation to interview each and every member of the JLA. This apparently also includes access to each of their private quarters and workstations without the requirement of any kind of monitor. During the course of each interview, he pretty blatantly asks leading questions, twists words and even outright lies. And, of course, no one is smart enough to fucking figure that out. It’s not like Vixen mentions how many press conferences and releases she’s done, should thus be both hyper-familiar and hyperaware of that type of yellow journalism. Oh wait, that’s exactly what happens. But instead of her calling him on it, she just passively aggressively questions his credibility by saying she’s never seen him at any of those press releases or conferences but still goes through with the whole interview. Let me be clear, this is not dramatic irony, where the audience knows something that the character(s) don’t and changing the meaning of the scene because of it. This is an Idiot Plot, where the characters are so stupid that they believe Porter (who they’ve only just met) wholesale and don’t even bother to consult the people that they’ve been working and living with. It’s the same absurdly extreme “benefit of the doubt” that made Ray’s criticism of Batman in the Makson story completely ridiculous. And sure enough, Ray proves once again how much of a dipshit he is by storming out of the Sanctuary and ostensibly quitting the JLA after hearing the most ham-fistedly untrue of Porter’s nonsense.
Obviously, Porter isn’t who he says he is. But for some reason, they try their damnedest to hide who he actually is until the end of the issue, even though it was already revealed last time, and he’s on the god damn cover. Yeah, no surprise, John Porter is actually Prometheus. That aforementioned unsupervised access to the Sanctuary comes into play when the quarantine alert suddenly goes off, sealing everyone (including a large number of civilians) within. And, this is the final nail in the coffin for a recurring element in Orlando’s Justice League of America. One that has never quite worked no matter how he tried to justify it. The JLA’s attempted “transparency.” I get what’s trying to be done, and there is some room for interesting discussion about accountability in regards to superheroes. But, opening up your secret base to for the public to come dick around in on a daily basis is fucking ridiculous. It literally jeopardizes everyone involved by painting a big ol’ target on a map for any supervillain to attack or invade in hopes of getting their hands on the advanced technology. Furthermore, the civilians of JLA are some of the most entitled assholes I’ve seen in a superhero book. They demand things and never seem to want to take “no” or “I don’t know” as an answer, and the whine at the slightest inconveniences to them. Before the quarantine, Vixen leads civilians to the exits, saying they’re closing the Sanctuary for the day, and someone actually has the audacity to say “can you do that? You said it was open to the public!” Yes. Yes, they can. Just because something’s public doesn’t mean it’s always open, and figuring out what Ray’s temper tantrum is about without having to worry about keeping your dumb ass safe is a fine reason. Now, stop being a dickbag, and let the superheroes actually be superheroes.
The art itself is fine and gets the job done. However, I have some problems with the first page as well as the interview sequence. For the former, the last two panels (of the four we get) are of John Porter’s glaring eyes and sinisterly smiling mouth. All they do is immediately betray the fact that he’s a villain using the documentary as a cover. And for the latter, why do all of the interviews look aesthetically the same as the rest of the book, when the very first panel shows that a camera is recording? Wouldn’t it be infinitely more interesting to go all out in making that sequence strictly what the camera is seeing in each interview?
There are a handful of other problems throughout Justice League of America #18. For one, Batman has apparently disappeared, and it’s entirely unclear if that’s relating to events in any other DC books or not. Additionally, I still don’t get why characters continue to question why he’s not always hanging around with the JLA. Yes, it’s his team, but he’s friggin’ Batman. He has an entire city to watch over as well. It’s also really weird that John Porter was able to get authorization for documentary interviews strictly through the McCabe Foundation with no apparent need for the members of the JLA to clear it personally. And, why exactly wasn’t he given access to only a single room to do all of the interviews in? There’s also a really random two-page cutaway to the Realm of Chaos, where Dr. Chaos is fighting, presumably, the Might Beyond the Mirror. I’m sure that’s set up for a future issue, but boy is it clumsy in its integration here. Lastly, if Vixen knows that the quarantine doors were constructed with the intention of keeping Lobo in if he ever went rogue, then why does she still try and ram them open? There’s also a thing about Ryan’s bio-belt being connected to a network that can be hacked, but I’m not convinced that’s completely nonsensical, so I’ll leave it be for now. But yeah, don’t buy this. It’s crap. Not that that’s in any way surprising.
Justice League of America #18