Justice League of America #23 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Neil Edwards, Penciller; Daniel Henriques, Andy Owens, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Caitlin’s Made the Worst Choice
Ray: Steve Orlando has quickly made a name for himself as the king of 90’s DC Comics deep cuts, and they don’t get any deeper than the events of Justice League of America #23. Not only is he bringing back a villain last seen in Mark Waid’s JLA run, but characters like Aztek and Ray factor heavily into the narrative. And then there’s the surprising return at the end of the issue, which will undoubtedly be the thing most people are talking about. But there’s enough going on in this issue without that shocking cameo, starting with the fact that the Queen of Fables has quickly taken over the world, turning Killer Frost into her thrall and enslaving the rest of the Justice League – and seemingly killing Vixen in the process. The Queen, better known as Tsaritsa, has a complex backstory dealing with a tragic sister and a mad quest for power.
She’s a lot more complex than most villains, but the issue’s opening is a bit of an info dump. Still, it works well when the core of the issue is her twisted bond with Killer Frost, who shares a power set with the deceased sister Freya. Orlando does a great job with Frost like he has since the beginning of the series. I was also intrigued by the subplot involving Xenos, Ray, and Aztek, particularly Ray’s continued struggles with his mother. Orlando doesn’t shy away from complex and often fraught interpersonal relationships. Vixen’s return, while inevitable, was suitably dramatic. And then there’s the end of the issue, as Promethea returns to confront her arch-nemesis. Obviously not as well-known as the other Alan Moore creations currently making their way into the DCU, but DC has owned the ABC characters for a while, and I trust writers like Orlando and Lemire (with Tom Strong in The Terrifics) to do them justice.
Corrina: A quick correction. The Queen of Fables last appeared in Gail Simone’s run on Superman, with art by John Byrne, in 2006. (A run that was, sadly, truncated.) As I said last week, Simone created the character, though Waid used her first in print. Waid always gives Simone credit but not so most of the official citations on the character that you’ll find on the web.
Okay, with that piece of comics trivia done, I admit, I’m totally ignorant of both Aztek (who I was vaguely aware existed) and Promethea–who I should know because, hey, Alan Moore, but Moore’s on a writing wavelength that tends to provide little enjoyment for me. Promethea seems cool and her entrance is certainly dramatic but I didn’t get a charge from her entrance. Mostly, I would have preferred that this team tackle the problem themselves rather than bringing in yet another character in an already overcrowded field. Canary and Vixen have done some interesting things in action sequences but neither character has been truly explored, not like Ryan or Caitlin or Ray, or even Lobo, and I’d have liked to see more of them. For instance, Vixen’s return is dramatic and wonderful, but it offers me little insight into Vixen the person. And I know more about the Queen of Fables, who has her background presented lavishly, which has not happened for Vixen or Canary.
Now that I’ve talked about what I’d prefer, I should mention that what’s on the page is generally terrific, providing a reader unfamiliar with the Queen of Fables with a compelling villain, and showing Caitlin’s anguish. She made a horrible choice because she wanted to save people from herself. But, ultimately, it was a selfish choice that went wrong, very, very wrong. I fear for what Caitlin might do to redeem herself.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.