I have not been that interested in Justice League of America. This is mainly due to the roster. This collection of characters does little for me. However, there is one way that you can guarantee that I will plunk down my hard-earned money on an issue. And that is to place the name “Ray Palmer” on the cover. Justice League of America #12 kicks off the “Panic in the Microverse” story arc where our heroes go on a quest to find Ray Palmer. Does this issue live up to my high expectations? Let’s find out!
Words: Steve Orlando
Art: Ivan Reis
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in Mammoth City, New Jersey at Heaven’s Undercarriage. It is a space alien biker bar. Lobo is there getting his drink on. Batman shows up. Lobo asks when Batman is going to pay him. Batman replies that a fight is coming and Batman needs Lobo to win it. Once it is done then Lobo can collect his fee.
Lobo adds that he will finally find “it” after years of searching. The one place where he could be happy. (What is that? The ultimate hooker/biker bar in the universe?)
We cut to the Pacific Ocean. Vixen and Black Canary are attempting to save a man named Williams who is a prison reform activist. He had been captured by a group called the Sharks. (I think that is their name. The thugs are all wearing stupid looking red shark outfits.) Vixen uses whale powers to hit the sub and knock down all of the Shark soldiers in the sub. Black Canary is inside of the sub finishing off the few remaining Shark soldiers.
Black Canary says that Williams is safe. Black Canary adds that since Williams is Vixen’s ex that Black Canary could still feed him to the sharks. (Ummm, oookay.)
We hop over to Pittsburgh. We see Frost battling some Samurai looking dude named Afterthought. (That is an awful codename.) Afterthought teleports away from the scene.
We shift to the Sanctuary in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. We see the Ray and his boyfriend, Xenos, sitting wine and eating popcorn and watching an old Errol Flynn movie. (Red wine and popcorn. I’ve never tried that. That actually might not be a bad combination.)
The two men engage in pointless dialogue about watching old movies and how the Ray should call his mom. Luckily, we are saved from this scene by Ryan Choi buzzing the Ray and telling the Ray that he needs him.
We hop over to the meeting room in the Sanctuary. We see Ryan Choi, Batman, Black Canary, Lobo, Vixen, Frost and the Ray all around the table. Ryan tells the team about how Ray Palmer found the Microverse. However, someone betrayed Ray in the Microverse and he never came back.
Ryan says that the Microverse is the foundation of all reality. That if the Microverse is disrupted then everything above it could go with it. Ryan says that Ray left him a size-changing belt that was tethered to Ray’s belt and was supposed to lead Ryan to Ray.
However, Ryan says that he could not get a signal from Ray’s belt. But, that changed last night. Ryan now has a signal. Ryan asks the team to help him find Ray Palmer. Ryan says that Ray told him to trust nobody. But, Ryan trusts his teammates.
Black Canary asks if Ryan even knows if the Microverse is real or not. Batman says that Ryan may not have proof but Ray Palmer did and they cannot ignore that. Batman says that Black Canary, Vixen and the Ray will stay behind and take care of their current open cases. Batman says that he, Ryan, Lobo, and Frost will go search for Ray in the Microverse.
We cut to the Workshop in the Sanctuary. Ryan is going over the last few details of his microship that they are going to use to shrink down and travel into the Microverse. Lobo appears in teh Workshop. Ryan asks for Lobo’s help. Ryan says he has been working on the Shrinkship’s universal drive and he can’t get it to work. Lobo replies that he has been working on universal drives since shop class. (I love that the 1980’s metalhead biker is smarter than the ultimate science nerd Ryan Choi.)
We shift to several days later. The Shrinkship is done and ready for the mission. Ryan shrinks down himself, Batman, Lobo and Frost. They appear inside of the Shrinkship. Ryan plugs in Ray’s coordinates and launches the Shrinkship.
The Shrinkship takes off and our heroes soon enter the Microverse. Suddenly, the Shrinkship is attacked. A massive laser blast cripples the Shrinkship. The Shrinkship then crash lands. Lobo kicks open the Shrinkship’s door. Our heroes then step out of the Shrinkship. They look around and take in the awe of the Microverse.
Ryan then leads the Justice Leaguers away from the Shrinkship. Our heroes wonder about who would have shot their ship down. Batman says that someone knew that they were coming. Batman says that they are still being watched. Ryan mentions that Ray Palmer tried to tell him who betrayed Ray but Ray’s message cut out.
Suddenly, Ryan exclaims that Ray’s signal has kicked in and it is getting closer. Suddenly, the Justice Leaguers are attacked by some generic looking aliens. We officially get a brawl as our heroes meet the aliens in combat. Ryan acts like a dork during the battle exclaiming that Ray’s signal is getting closer and closer.
Suddenly, all of the aliens are gunned down by someone from off panel. The last remaining alien addresses the mysterious off panel gunman. The alien says that the mysterious gunman and the Justice Leaguers think that they can stop the decay. The alien says that the universe is broken beyond repair. That they are all dead. That “the Null” hastens the end so that they may be born again. The mysterious gunman who is off panel shoots punches out the alien.
We see the shadowy figure of the mysterious gunman. Batman says that he recognizes the gunman’s uniform. Ryan says that Ray’s belt signal has stopped. Frost asks Ryan if he knows the mysterious gunman. Ryan says that they all know him.
Ryan says that it is Ray Palmer. We then see Ray Palmer standing there with guns in his hands. Ray is wearing a uniform reminiscent of his old Sword of the Atom uniform. Ray has a hood and cloak on that obscures his face. End of issue.
The Good: I wanted to like Justice League of America #12 much more than I did. There are some fun and neat elements to this story. However, they are let down by the general quality of the writing. Having said that, there was plenty to enjoy in this issue.
First off, I loved the final scene in Justice League of America #12. And the ending with the dramatic return of Ray Palmer was fantastic. This moment had me pumping my fist in excitement over Ray making a rather badass return.
Ray Palmer is an excellent character. Unfortunately, Ray’s character has been screwed over due to the use of Jean Loring as a psychotic murderer in Identity Crisis. Ray’s character was crippled by the ending of Identity Crisis and he had a hard time fitting into the Justice League after that story.
Things were made worse for Ray’s character once he got unceremoniously dumped in favor of Ryan Choi. It did not help that Choi has struggled miserably over the past eleven years to get over with the bulk of the readership. Personally, the only moment I ever enjoyed that involved Choi was when Deathstroke killed him and put his tiny body in a matchbox. That was such a deliciously evil moment involving a character that I love seeing act bad: Deathstroke. And the use of a matchbox as a coffin was a powerful visual.
I am excited about Ray Palmer returning to the DCU. Bringing Ray back works perfectly with the overall thrust of the DC Universe Rebirth initiative. DC is embracing what made their universe great and Ray Palmer is certainly part of that equation. I would love to see Ray given a spot on the main Justice League roster. Ray’s character has a deep and rich history with the other members of the Justice League roster.
Ray is a unique character. He has both the pedigree and rich history that newer DC characters like Choi do not have. But, Ray is also full of untapped potential and a bit of a blank slate and is not burdened down by continuity due to how sparingly he has been used over the past 15 years. Ray’s character offers a rare combination of a history and name recognition that gives him instant credibility and loyalty from long-time readers. But, him being largely a blank slate allows DC plenty of creativity on how to use him which should make him appealing to newer readers as well.
Ivan Reis provides for his usual quality artwork. I have always been a fan of Reis’ slick and dynamic style of art. Reis’ style is a perfect match for a mainstream super hero title. Reis is able to breathe some life into a story that is thin on character work. The various characters have excellent facial expressions will help to inject some life into the story.
Reis does a good job laying out the issue. There is a good mix of pages with multiple panels and pages with 1 page splash shots. The one page splash shots are particularly impressive. Most notable is the page when our heroes enter the Microverse. And the one page splash shot when our heroes exit their ship. The one page splash shots are nicely detailed and dynamic. Reis also nails it with a dramatic one page shot to end the issue.
Marcelo Maiolo does a nice job with the colors. The colors on this issue are vibrant. I like the pop of the bright colors which feel right at home on a mainstream super hero title. The colors enhance the fun action/adventure vibe that is necessary for a mainstream super hero title.
The Bad: Justice League of America #12 is not a bad read. There is nothing terrible about this issue. The problem is that there is not anything great about this issue, either. Unfortunately, this issue is rather bland which makes it a bit of a boring read.
The story itself is shallow. Everything in this issue is right on the surface. There is very little in terms of subtext and depth to the story. There are no nuances or textures. What you see is what you get. The reader does not need to actually engage their brain at all while reading this issue.
Orlando does the basics needed for a quality super hero story just fine. However, Orlando does not go beyond just the basics. The story reads like it was constructed using a “How-To Write Super Hero Stories” book. Everything feels stock and generic. There is nothing particularly unique or interesting to the story. The result is an issue that feels pedestrian and that blends into the woodwork of the myriad of super hero titles that saturate the market.
The character work is bland. The various characters either have a beige personality or act like caricatures. Frost, Ray, Choi, Vixen and Black Canary all have generic voices and personalities. Batman and Lobo get standard issue versions of their characters. All in all, these characters never rise about being mannequins as they carry out their lines in an unremarkable fashion.
Speaking of dialogue, the dialogue in general is dry and not particularly interesting. The lack of character work and dull dialogue make it so that there is zero chemistry between the various members of the Justice League of America. A successful team title requires quality chemistry between the roster members. This is just not the case with this issue.
To be fair, DC did not do Orlando any favors by hamstringing him with an unimpressive roster for this title. Ray, Frost, Vixen and Choi are all C or D-list characters. None of them bring much to the table. It is tough to do much more than half of your roster is from the bargain bin of comic book characters.
Then you get Lobo. He is a big name. But, damn, he is still nothing more than a 1980’s parody. It is hard to get into the character. It is certainly hard to take the character serious in any meaningful manner.
Then we have Black Canary. I love Black Canary’s character. She is fantastic. However, she deserves better than this. Dinah should be with the big guns on the Justice League title along with Green Arrow. It just is more fitting for her character.
Then that leaves Batman. Batman is the best. But, it is painfully obvious that Batman is on this team because DC knows that none of the other characters on this roster are going to sell copies.
My only complaint with the art is Ryan Choi’s costume. It is just ridiculous looking. I understand that DC is trying to mimic Ray Palmer’s costume from Legends of Tomorrow because synergy or whatever. But, the fact is that some costumes that look good in live action movies or television shows do not look good in comics and visa versa.
In this case, Choi’s costume looks goofy and it is made even worse by him wearing glasses while wearing his helmet. This costume must have been designed by someone who has never had to wear glasses. Glasses naturally slide down you nose. All the time.
With a helmet on, Choi would not be able to push his glasses up when they inevitably slide down his nose during the normal course of the day. And what if his glasses fell off during a fight? He would have to remove his helmet, put his glasses back on and then put his helmet back on. All during a fight. It is just stupid.
I get it. He’s supposed to be “nerdy.” Hence the glasses. How about he wears glasses when not on duty and pops in contacts when he goes on a mission. It just makes sense.
Overall: Justice League of America #12 was an ordinary read. But, the fact that the cover price is just $2.99 helps soften the blow. I do think that this story arc has plenty of potential. And I am certainly aboard for this entire story arc. Still, I would only recommend this issue to die-hard Justice League of America and/or Ray Palmer fans.