By Jonathan Edwards
So, here we have the second part of a two-issue story called "Heart of the Bastich." If the title wasn't a complete giveaway, the main focus is meant to be Lobo. And from that, one can presume the purpose of this 'arc' would be to further cement him as a member of the JLA and better align him with their goals (as stupid as they may be), as he's easily been the furthest outlying for literally the entire run. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of metaphors would understand that the word "heart" in that title obviously implies that we are going to see the emotional core of the character, and that will likely lead to some kind of genuine growth. However, there are a couple problems with that here. For one, why the hell is Steve Orlando doing that with Lobo of all characters? Were people really clamoring for that type of development for him? Secondly, Orlando fucks it up.
The end of the issue tries to give Lobo some development. Although, it only manages a confusing metaphor about dolphins. I still don't get the comparison. And even if that were clearer, it's completely disconnected from the main focus of "Heart of the Bastich;" The fact that cutting out Lobo's heart is the only way to replenish his healing factor that Aegeus managed to render inert in the previous issue. And, even that doesn't make sense. If Lobo's healing factor is compromised, how exactly does cutting out his heart fix that? Is Lobo dying some sort of hard reset for his healing factor? Even if it was, wouldn't Aegeus's poison still be in his body negating it? Is the idea that the poison in centralized in Lobo's heart, and getting rid of it will also get rid of the poison? If that's what Orlando was going for, he could've specified that instead of making it something that had to be inferred. And, how would Lobo know that that's how the poison worked? Couldn't it be just as likely that as long as the poison was in his body at all, it would prevent him from healing? Especially because of how potent it supposedly is.
Furthermore, what about Aegues's weapon made it poison Lobo? He says that it was "blessed by Helios," but Helios was a titan of the sun. Does Lobo have a weakness to the sun I don't know about? (admittedly, I'm no Lobo scholar). Because if not, why the hell would a Helios weapon poison him? Was Orlando trying to reference the period of time where some ancient Greeks conflated Helios with Apollo, the latter of which possessing a bow that can shoot poison arrows? Why not just say it's blessed by Apollo then? Is Apollo too cliché? Then use his epithet Phoebus or something. That, at least, is something that can be looked up quickly with a clear connection to why it all makes sense. I know a good chunk about mythology, and I still had to completely guess what Orlando was going for.
And no, what Aegeus says later about his weapons being "tempered by unreason" is not a valid defense. It's just as stupid as the rest of this shit. Mythology and stories are some of the biggest ways people translate the uncertainty of the universe into a way they can try to understand them, and those frameworks are then replicated. Has Steve Orlando never heard of story structure? The Hero With a Thousand Faces? The Monomyth? Comparative mythology? Hell, the Greeks, who Aegeus seems to be exclusively pulling from, had a polytheistic religious system with specific gods to worship based on location and various attributes. That might seem outdated nowadays, but that's an inherently structured system.
If that wasn't dumb enough, then we also get a scene where Lobo has to convince Ray to cut out his heart, and then provoke him because he won't do it. Fucking really? Okay, I get the idea of cutting out someone's heart is an uncomfortable proposition, but Lobo straight up says it'll fix his healing factor (even if that is stupid). The fact that Ray can't bring himself to do it isn't really even the problem. I mean, sure, there's still the subconscious understanding of that action as killing another. But, Ray doesn't even intellectually acknowledge that it won't kill Lobo. Did he need to hear those exact words? Did he not believe Lobo? If not, why not ask a follow up question? To top it all off, we don't even get to see Lobo's regeneration. We are told, not shown, that he's "making noises," and then he bursts through a ceiling, fully healed. It makes the whole attempted conflict surrounding his inability to heal worthless when we don't get to see any actual payoff for it.
There's plenty of other stupid peppered throughout this issue too. For example, Ryan acting like Aegeus is a personal villain of his despite no actual reason existing for that, one of Aegeus's soldiers breaking away from the fight against the JLA to threaten a random family about it, Batman acting self-righteous about how he was going to save Ryan (even though that should be obvious, since he's are your stupid team, Bats), Vixen needing to hammer home that she knew all of Aegeus's chimera mounts weren't actually living animals, and the comic trying to convince us that we were supposed to give a shit about Xenos by jamming in a bunch of exposition at the end. Seriously, he was briefly introduced last issue and has had almost no characterization, and then Steve Orlando, again, tells us he's important instead of showing us anything. Oh yeah, and that's immediately followed by more telling, when Frost suddenly reveals that Ryan discovered something offpanel that might heal her. Even though we know it won't.
I will say, the work remains decent. Most of the time anyway, as there are a few head-scratching moments. The weird light armor that most of the characters bear for the majority of the book is still dumb. Then, the first couple panels have Ryan facing completely different directions. I think maybe the idea was that he was supposed to have turned around when Aegeus brought up that he blew away Lobo, but it still reads as inconsistent. And then, in between the scenes of the random foot soldier threatening a family and Ray and Lobo, there's just a single panel of Aegeus talking to Ryan. It's really weird formatting, and it doesn't flow at all. It's so jarring that it looks like it was supposed to be part of a two-page spread that was cut out.
I've asked a lot of questions in this review, and just about all of those were rhetorical. The reality is that they're not just nitpicks or me not letting my suspension of disbelief kick in. It's stuff that kept popping in my head while I was reading, as well as follow up questions that cropped up when I stopped to think about those initial ones. They are things so glaring that the reading experience becomes completely unenjoyable. Because, the reality is that this book just fucking sucks. It's a shame, but it's the truth.
Justice League of America #6