By Jonathan Edwards
Based on the first half of this issue, I was going to rate it a two out of five. Heck, I was even going to say that this wasn’t the worst way for “Precision Strike” to end. And then, I got to the second half. Suddenly, Justice League of America #20 changed from the flawed ending of a weak story arc to a nigh incoherent attempt to justify and explain away its bullshit premise. “All Prometheus needed to divide us was a video camera and a list of questions.” Yes, Ryan, but only because everyone he “interviewed” was written without the ability to detect his entirely obvious attempts to manipulate them. And, maybe it could’ve worked, at least a little bit if any of the previous issues put character development first instead of dedicating so much fucking time on superficial plots with one-note villains.
Case and point with Killer Frost. “I have been working to control my heat sickness.” Really? When? It’s not like we got, I don’t know, an issue dedicated to the day in Caitlin’s life where we get to experience every moment she could break and drain someone completely. In fact, the only thing close to what she’s talking about here that I can remember is when she accidentally froze and shattered on of Aegeus’s soldiers back in, I believe, issue six. In the middle of calling everyone hypocrites, Lobo states that she also fed on a Null soldier while in the Microverse. And, you know what? I can’t remember if we saw that happen or not. I think we might’ve, but I don’t know how to verify that without buying all of the “Panic in the Microverse” issues digitally and reading through them all or making a special trip to my LCS, presuming they still have all of those issues in stock, and then reading through them there. And, I’m not going to do either of those things. Especially because, even if we did actually see it happen, it clearly didn’t leave enough of an impact for me to remember. And before anyone tries to argue that my continued disdain and distaste for this book is the reason why, I’d like to note I had no problems remembering her freezing and shattering that other guy during “Heart of the Bastich,” even though that was a plot point that never went anywhere. But, to quote Linkin Park (for some reason), “in the end it doesn’t even matter.” Why? Because even if that moment were impactful enough to be properly remembered, I wouldn’t care about what’s happening to Frost. Why? Because I don’t care about what’s happening to Frost. Why? Because there’s no reason to care about what’s happening to Frost. Again, there has not been a single issue, hell, a single moment in an issue that’s even tried to make us empathize with her since Justice League of America: Killer Frost Rebirth #1. But there, it was about Caitlin proving to Amanda Waller that she didn’t need to feed off of people until they die. But, now that she’s done that and gotten herself out of Belle Reve, we have to see how she struggles with that urge every moment of every day if we’re supposed to give a shit whenever she slips up. Steve Orlando can’t just tell is that it’s true. He has to fucking earn it.
But, let’s rewind a bit. The first half of this issue is concerned with wrapping up the Prometheus stuff, and am I crazy or wasn’t he forcing Vixen to destroy her Tantu Totem or die by his hands last issue? Because here he’s suddenly saying that if she doesn’t break it, he’ll kill the civilians. That’s actually what I originally thought his plan was last time, but upon a reread, it seemed more like he was suggesting that the civilians didn’t believe in her enough for her to be able to beat him in a fight, so if she smashed it, he would let her live at the cost of her showing that civilians that she didn’t believe in them. It was confusing then, and it’s even more confusing now. Especially after Prometheus asks if Vixen’s “lies are more important to [her] than these people’s lives?” She replies with “only in your mind.” And then, he says “then destroy your family jewelry. Show them it, and you, are meaningless.” Wait, what? So, he’s demanding that she break it as a symbolic gesture to show that she really doesn’t care about the civilians or, what, he’ll kill her? Wouldn’t not destroying it show that she does, in fact, care about them? And if the Tantu Totem is empowered by belief, wouldn’t that, in turn, make her stronger and thus more likely to be able to beat Prometheus? For the love of God, pick an angle and stick with it. The cherry on top is the very next panel, where Prometheus announces that he has “kill plans for every active superhuman. Afterthought’s predicted your every possible move.” Yeah, there’s a problem with that: Afterthought can only see five seconds into the future. This was shown and stated last issue, and, apparently, Orlando co-created Afterthought, so he should be more than aware of the character’s capabilities and limitations. Sucks to suck, Orlando.
Petrus’s art has been mostly fine, but here it really starts to drop the ball. Expressions are routinely overexaggerated and/or silly looking, the poses feel stilted and unnatural, and Ryan’s hair keeps switching back and forth from brown to black (granted, that last one’s more Hi-Fi’s fault than Petrus’s). Also, I have to say, how uninspired do you have to be to make the cover Prometheus standing over the defeated JLA when Justice League of America #4 did the exact same thing with Lord Havok. The book hasn’t even been out for a year yet, and they’re reusing covers. Brilliant.
Despite how awful this issue was, there were a couple decent, even good, moments. One of the civilians finally decides to stop being a stupid asshole, pulls out her taser, and shocks Prometheus with it to help Prometheus. It’s a breath of fresh air, but at the same time, no one else rallies behind her or tries to act similarly. So, for all we know, she’s the only person that didn’t buy into Prometheus’s blatantly garbage rhetoric. Then, when the last two pages cut to Vanity, we see Ray just having stopped a bank robbery, and he actually has some genuinely amusing banter with the criminals. It doesn’t make Ray any less insufferable as a character, but, y’know, points for trying I guess. So yeah, after having a decent-ish annual, Justice League of America #20 proves that main book is not in the business of getting any better. It sucks. Don’t buy it. Not that that’s any kind of surprising.
Justice League of America #20