Justice League of America #25
Justice League of America #25, by writer Steve Orlando, and pencilers Miguel Mendonca and Minkyu Jung, is part one of the New Life and Death arc, but it gets off to an extremely slow start. Despite this issue putting a spotlight on Batman and Black Canary, its true focus is on the former villain, Dreamslayer, and a mission to save his home dimension, Angor. Unfortunately, there is nothing interesting happening in Angor, unless you are a big fan of the Extremists, DC’s group of knock-off Marvel villains from the 90’s era of the Justice League.
The book starts off fun enough, with Vixen taking the lead on rebuilding the League headquarters, and it’s apparent that she has plans of doing things different the second time around. Orlando has done a spectacular job of slowly building up Vixen’s character into what could possibly be the next great leader of the Justice League over the course of this series so far. Even with Batman back in the fold this issue, Mari still seems to be in the driver’s seat.
Aztek also returns this issue, being officially introduced to the team by Ray for the first time. Her science skills are welcome, and she shows reverence for the team that was unexpected. Orlando has also done well with this character, creating a challenging partner in superheroics for the Ray, who is strong-willed, and never afraid to offer her opinion on a subject. She’s a new legacy character, but obviously inspired by Grant Morrison’s possible future version of Aztek (Azteka in Morrison’s run), in the now-classic Rock of Ages story.
Despite all of the intriguing story elements in the early part of the issue, everything takes a downward spiral when Batman brings Dreamslayer into play, and announces his intention to help the former villain save his home dimension. After Batman, Black Canary, and Dreamslayer travel back to Angor and see that it has been completely destroyed by conflict, they are drawn into a confrontation with a god-like being called the Adjudicator. He refuses to let Dreamslayer rebuild Angor, seeing it as a waste of time and energy, as it is already a failed experiment. From here, the rest of this issue is dedicated to a series of debates over how Batman and Canary could improve Angor, to give it a fair second chance, and it is a snoozefest. Even if the reader is interested in Angor, and it’s doubtful many people are, this story is the equivalent of notes from a town hall meeting. The arguments for and against bringing Angor back, and whether Lord Havok should be allowed to be in the new version, are equally boring, and it is hard not to imagine what the rest of the team is up to back on Earth while this is all happening, because just about any story would be more appealing than this one.
All that said, the art team of Mendonca and Jung, along with the inks of Dexter Vines, and colors of Chris Sotomayor elevate the book and story, keeping it from being totally uninteresting. Angor itself doesn’t give the artists much to do, as it is dark and in ruins, but there are a couple scenes that stand out as gorgeous, and they deserve to be spotlighted. The first is the arrival of Aztek. This has always been a visually fun character, with all of the gold in her suit, and the unique style of her pointy helmet, but, when she shows up through a portal to meet the League for the first time, she looks extra cool. The second standout scene, was the introduction of Dreamslayer. He gets nearly a full page to come exploding into panel, and his shapeless head, made entirely of vibrant energy, immediately draws the readers’ eyes to him like magnets. Lord Havok gets a similar scene at the end, but his design is so simple, and plain, that it almost comes off as anti-climactic.
Overall, this book was akin to watching paint dry. Orlando might have a love for the Extremists and their story, but it’s not being shared very well with the audience in this issue. The next part of the arc will have to bring in more members of the League, and up the action, if it has any hope of salvaging interest in this storyline.