Justice League of America #26 Review
Justice League of America #26, by writer Steve Orlando, and penciler Miguel Mendonca, is the conclusion to the New Life and Death arc, and it can’t come fast enough. Even at a short two issues, this story seemed to drag on for ages. The Extremists, a group of villains loosely based on Marvel characters, had destroyed their home planet in another dimension and the repentant Dreamslayer recruited Batman to help save it. Much to their dismay, a cosmic being called the Adjudicator stood in the way of restoring Angor to its former glory, saying that it would only be doomed to repeat its history. Just as Batman and Black Canary were pleading their case, Lord Havok (a Doctor Doom knock-off) showed up and all hell broke loose. If you’re thinking any of that sounds the least bit exciting, you would be wrong. It’s all terribly boring, with little-to-no redeeming qualities.
The main problem with this story is that Lord Havok and his Extremists are paper-thin analogues of Marvel villains, and Orlando has hung an entire arc on them for a second time. They may seem to have backstories and motives, but the group never comes across as anything more than one-dimensional wannabes. Havok showing up to cause trouble should have been a moment of excitement. Dreamslayer turning against him should have been exciting enough to get readers cheering. Instead, this is a story about the fate of a planet and its inhabitants that no one really cares about. The whole arc feels like a miscalculation on the part of Orlando of how much the readers are actually invested in the Extremists.
Adding even more to the flatness of this issue is the character of the Adjudicator. He is a convenient, godlike being with the ability to restart the Angor universe, but Orlando does nothing to flesh him out beyond his basic need to be an obstacle for Batman and his crew. If there had been some other, sinister motivation revealed, maybe this could have been an interesting character but, instead, the Adjudicator just comes across as a pale imitation of the petty cosmic beings of the Marvel universe.
Even Orlando himself seemed ready to rush through to the end of this story in certain scenes. The laziness of Batman pulling “seismic knuckles” out of his utility belt in order to fight Lord Havok was eye roll-inducing. The Dark Knight has fought physical powerhouses before in much more clever ways, so this deus ex machina seemed like one step up from using Shark Repellent Bat Spray.
The pencils by Miguel Mendonca, accompanied by the inks of Dexter Vines and Wayne Faucher, are a highlight of the book. Even though there isn’t much to work with in the ruins of Angor, the characters themselves look great. The art team wasn’t given the room to really work their magic like they had last issue, with large panels of Dreamslayer and the new Aztek, but they still managed to shine. The colors by Chris Sotomayor are also underused because of the dreary setting of Angor, but he does a fine job with what he is given to work with.
In the end, this issue was a bore, unless you just love diving into the 90’s nostalgia of the Extremists. Fortunately, the final scene teases an upcoming adventure that should be a lot more fun, especially since it will most likely include the whole team and center around time travel. Orlando has done better work and it’s likely this arc was just here as a little bit of filler before diving into his next big story, so it might be worth sticking around if you were put off by the last two issues.