By Jonathan Edwards
Well, here we are at the beginning of the end for Steve Orlando’s Justice League of America, and holy shit is this issue terrible. I mean, Jesus, this book’s been bad in the past, even awful, but this takes the cake. From the utterly laughable premise to the entirely clumsy execution, everything about Justice League of America #27 reads like Orlando isn’t even trying anymore and is instead phoning it in as much as possible. Maybe this is his way of being petty and getting back at DC for canceling his crappy book, or maybe he somehow thinks this is a quality idea. But, it really, really isn’t, and it kind of has to be seen (or at least heard) to be believed.
Last issue ended with Chronos expounding his intention to take down lifelong enemy Ray Palmer once and for all, and this one opens with their fight already in progress. The former Atom gets the upper hand with the help of his brand-new companion, Yun Xee, who was created out of thin fucking air to be perhaps the single most contrived story catalyst I’ve ever seen. Because, when she uses her psychic powers to attack Chronos, he is somehow able to see into her mind. Presumably, due to his time manipulation powers (not that that’s clarified in the issue itself), he’s able to dig around in there until he learns of the “imprint” left at some point in prehistory by the God of Superheroes. Supposedly, it’s a physical phenomenon that, if tampered with, will prevent the concept of superheroes from ever existing on Earth. Yes, I am dead serious.
There is a lot that could be unpacked here regarding how much of an astronomical failure of creativity this is, but first and foremost, it shows an imbecilically simplistic and fundamentally erroneous understanding of what superheroes are in relation to human culture. At their most basic, superheroes exist to embody and defend what is considered “good” based on collective agreement on the concept of morality. So, while the idea of a God of Superheroes isn’t in and of itself bad, the idea that such a god would be the sole reason for their existence makes as much sense as there being no police without a God of Police to first put the idea in people’s heads. Furthermore, any prospective merit that idea could’ve had was immediately lost when literally everyone in the book immediately accepts the existence of the God of Superheroes as if they’ve always known about it. This kind of mass retcon is only condescending to readers, as it doesn’t even attempt to justify itself in-universe. Instead, it pretends this revelation has always been true as if no one will think about how it recontextualizes every single thing that’s come before.
But, really, the truly infuriating part of this whole dumbass idea is how fucking little Orlando works to introduce it. How goddamn lazy do you have to be to pull a new character out of your ass without any explanation of who they are or why they exist, arbitrarily assign them what could be called some of, if not the most important knowledge on Earth, and then have them carelessly make that knowledge available to a supervillain? That is one hundred percent shitty writing.
Hugo Petrus is back for this absolute train wreck of an issue’s art, and he does fine. It’s not good, but it’s not technically bad to look at either. The problem comes from how bright and colorful and equally-lit everything is. Nothing about this aesthetic is dramatic or fits the stakes and tone of the story. Rather, it’s like watching (or reading, I guess) a sitcom. Also, Chronos changes costumes in the middle of the issue, and his new one is both uninspired and stupid. Sure, you could say his classic outfit is silly, but it’s iconic to him. What’s more, there’s no motivation for him to change outfits randomly. If this boring new look was really that important, they should’ve just introduced him with it.
The only remotely positive thing I have to say about Justice League of America #27 is that Ray continues his streak of finally not sucking by lamenting how easily Prometheus tricked him. But, that’s not fixing any problems. It’s just acknowledging they existed after the fact. Additionally, I was ready to question why Palmer didn’t immediately spread the word about Chronos, but, in theory, Chronos could’ve appeared to the JLA only a mere instant after he disappeared from the fight with Palmer. That could be giving this book and Orlando too much credit, but there’s plenty else to be legitimately mad about for the time being. Also, I’m going to go ahead and predict that, in the end, someone other than the God of Superheroes (possibly Ryan) will turn out to be the one that actually makes the imprint. Because Steve Orlando thinks he’s clever. And, he’s not.
Justice League of America #27