By Jonathan Edwards
Justice League of America #3 is the comic book equivalent of a boat springing a leak, and to fix it, the sailor uses material they got from making two more holes. Then, after a moment of realization, makes four more holes to fix the two they just made. So on and so forth. I honestly have no idea what Steve Orlando is doing anymore, nor why he only seems to be able to bring up themes with same three or four ham-handed phrases. "People need to be inspired." "The world can only be saved through oppression." "People not gods." Yeah, Steve, we get it. How about you give as a sensible plot and/or some honest character development? No? Alright, whatever.
The premise of the JLA helping depose a supervillain, while also having to carefully navigate a volatile political landscape, is not a bad one. However, social commentary or not, the setup here is too ridiculous for the story and characters to take it as seriously as they do. I'm sorry, but the argument of "Kravian officials elected Lord Havok into office, so trying to stop him is an act of war" doesn't really work after the microsecond it takes to remember that he's literally a supervillain from a completely different dimension wearing a big dumb suit of armor and carrying an axe that shoots lightning. And, it's not like an attempt is made to show us why the parliament came to that decision or the logic behind it. We just get Havok saying "oh man, I'm so good at diffusing conflict. That's why I'm the leader now." It's stupid, and I'm pretty sure political implications move into a bit of a grey area as soon as extradimension entities start getting involved. Furthermore, at the top of this issue we get introduced to Bogna Budusheva, who I guess is supposed to be a prominent Kravian revolutionary? I can't be sure, because we get no actual explanation of who the hell she is. The JLA acts like they already know what she's about, but instead of reiterating it so the readers know, we get Bogna talking about how she "took a new name that was supposed to inspire people." It's practically a Guy Fawkes mask away from a bad V for Vendetta fanfiction.
I will say, there are two actually good things that happen this time around. Except, they are also ruined immediately after they happen. The first involves Lobo, who's pretty much the only enjoyable character at this point, and the only one not taking everything so damn seriously and espousing redundant and superficial philosophies. He travels to Ekaterinoras, the region of Kravia watched over by Tracer (basically just Sabretooth). Tracer sniffs him out and berates him for attempting to hide from his hyper-developed sense of smell. But, in a frankly pretty awesome splash page, Lobo tells Tracer that being found was the whole point. That could've been the last we saw of that entire interaction, and we still would've understood that he kicked the shit out of Tracer. But no. Instead, we cut back to them later in the issue, and Lobo is playfully poking Tracer in the eye with a cigar. Way to undercut the only badass moment in your comic, Steve. And then, there's Dreamslayer. His appearance in this issue easily and immediately makes him the most interesting member of the Extremists. The revelations about his power and dissent from Havok were rife with potential. Of course, that means it was imperative to have Dreamslayer outright explain his entire backstory and subtext as a character, right? Boy, I'm glad we didn't have to deal with pesky things like subtlety and organic growth.
By now it shouldn't be a surprise that the art is the best thing this book's got going for it. Diogenes Neves handles the pencils this time, and I do appreciate the effort he brings. Honestly, this might be the most the art has stood out to me with this series since the last prequel one-shot. Now, is that mainly/almost entirely because of the Lobo splash page? Yeah, probably. But, it's also one of the only moments in this series that actually felt like it landed and really worked.
I feel like this story arc would've maybe worked better if it had been the JLA that was teleported to the Extremists' world, where they're already in power. It would certainly mitigate some problems. For example, why Superman/any of Sector 2814's multiple Green Lanterns/anyone from the main Justice League hasn't shown up to help (despite this definitely being a crisis that definitely calls for their attention), or even why it's not possible to just swoop in and take out Havok. But then, there's stuff it wouldn't fix. Like Batman talking about "making a team of humans, not gods, to inspire with." Vixen doubling down on this by telling Bogna that the JLA wants to help "without masks." And then, when Bogna appropriately questions Batman still wearing his cowl, Vixen says that it "is his face." No. Fuck you. You can't do that. You can't say the team is supposed to represent actual human connection and inspiration on a personal level and not symbols/principles bigger than any individual and then turn around and say that Batman's symbolic cowl is his "real face." Those are, by definition, mutually exclusive. In fact, they're almost as mutually exclusive as the man who said he needed to become a symbol, because criminals are a "superstitious and cowardly lot", suddenly proposing that heroes ought to be people to relate to instead of icons to aspire to. If I didn't know any better, I'd say Steve Orlando literally doesn't understand Batman at all.
Justice League of America #3