By Jonathan Edwards
It’s ironic that a book as clumsy and heavy-handed as Justice League of America would title one of its story arcs “Precision Strike.” What’s more, I think Orlando himself might be realizing that and panicking. Because, in addition to more of Prometheus’s cliché “I planned for every possible scenario” speeches, we get two back to back panels where first the Atom and then Black Canary comment about the “precision” of the latter using her supersonic scream to overload the former’s bio-belt, defaulting it. But, a couple of things needs to be said about that. First, how the hell does that actually make sense? Okay, in theory, Canary could adjust her scream to the same frequency that Ryan was vibrating at, and it seems like that’s the explanation they’re going for. But then, how exactly would she be able to determine what the correct frequency was, and why would that specifically impact the belt? Second, either way, there’s nothing precise about Canary continuously screaming until the belt finally overloads. That’s like trying to ignite a piece of damp firewood by using a flamethrower. Sure, you might eventually get a campfire going, but you accomplished it solely by way of brute force.
A particularly weird thing about this issue is just how inconsistent some things are. For example, Afterthought manages to bait Lobo into accidentally hit Black Canary with a barbell. Once she finally gets up, she staggers away, obviously very injured. She runs into Ryan, and once they do their whole “precision” nonsense, she’s suddenly acting like she isn’t in any pain. Furthermore, after they save Killer Frost, and then go back to help Lobo, Afterthought states “Canary?! Your own teammate pounded you into meat!” Now, maybe he’s just surprised because of her injuries. However, she’s clearly not alone (Afterthought has already been frozen in place by Killer Frost at this point), and when she left before, he called her a coward for retreating after sustaining “multiple light fractures.” Side note: pretty sure ‘light fracture’ is not an actual medical term. There are such things as stress or hairline fractures, but those are caused by bones receiving long-term repeated stress. They’re most definitely not what you’d get if a super strong alien accidentally hit you with a barbell and sent you flying into the rest of the weightlifting kit (also, that much force would probably kill her). So, with all of that in mind, it plays a lot more like he’s surprised she came back because of some perceived betrayal from Lobo, and that’s exactly what I thought he was saying when I first read it. Of course, that doesn’t make any sense either, as Lobo’s actions were clearly accidental.
And then, there’s Prometheus and his ultimatum. Unless Vixen destroys the Tantu Totem from which she derives her power, he will kill her in front of the civilians. There’s a bit of a problem with that though. Namely, if she gets rid of her powers, Prometheus might very well kill her anyway, and he’s a supervillain, so there’s literally no reason to believe he wouldn’t do that. Apparently, the Tantu Totem only works if people “believe in it” (which, as far as I can tell, has never been the case before and is a total bullshit change to suddenly make), so I think the idea is Prometheus is threatening to kill her in order to pressure her into revealing whether or not she really trusts the civilians’ faith in her. But at the same time, Prometheus declares “You sit in your Godswood and make people line up for tours while telling them you’re with them. It’s a fraud.” And of course, the dumbshit civilians of Orlando’s JLA immediately start believing him, one going as far as referring to their own actions as “idolatry.” I don’t know why Orlando keeps writing civilians like such goddamn idiots. His characters preach about accountability and transparency, but then all of the whiny, self-important and self-absorbed people they’re breaking their backs to protect, hear the shakiest of counterarguments from a known supervillain, and suddenly all they can say is “They call it inclusion. But the purple guy’s not wrong.” Yes, he fucking is! The JLA didn’t force anyone to come to The Sanctuary. They opened it to the public and offered tours, and the people came because they were interested. The JLA didn’t force anybody to wait in a line. They had to wait because only so many people can go on a tour at a time, and way more than that number showed up. This is not a complicated concept. It’s literally the same thing as every tourist trap and amusement park in the world. Oh, Prometheus also points out how easy it was for him to sneak in, since “all it took me to get here were words and a video camera”. Yeah, Orlando, you can’t pretend that’s because of the JLA’s carelessness to cover your own contrived premise.
Hugo Petrus’s art is, for the most part, quite good, including a couple pretty cool layouts. Unfortunately, we do end up with some wonky expressions at times (mostly from Black Canary, oddly enough) and a least one panel where I legitimately can’t quite tell what’s meant to be going on. The single strangest moment is when we’re getting close-ups of various civilians while Prometheus talks to Vixen, and one of them is smiling. There’s no other way to interpret it. Dude is straight up smiling at someone’s life or death situation.
We get some more blatant set up for a future arc in the form of an out of nowhere cut to Dreamslayer fighting something (again, presumably the Might Beyond the Mirror) in Angor before being suddenly teleported to the Microverse, where Blue Jay, the last surviving member of the Champion of Angor, Ray Palmer, Preon, and Batman, await him. I guess this is where the Caped Crusader disappeared off to. Additionally, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t another book detailing what he’s been doing while away from the JLA, how he met up with Blue Jay or what’s going on with all this Might Beyond the Mirror nonsense we keep only getting flashes of, and that’s a lot of important shit to let happen off panel. But, I guess it would be a mistake to have something potentially interesting happen in one of these issues. Better just keeping shoving in more of the same manufactured conflict and forced drama that has never once made for a satisfying read.
Justice League of America #19