When this mini-series was announced way back when, I was excited to read it. While the idea of a pro-active League isn't 100% innovative, the roster was. There was a mix of old school JLAers (GA and GL), legacy characters (Supergirl and Batwoman), and B-listers (Congorilla and Starman). Prometheus, one of my favorite Grant Morrison characters, was going to be villain, brought back to place of villainous prominence. Art was going to be done exclusively by Mauro Cascioli. And James Robinson said the series would impact the entire DCU. On paper it all sounded great.
But then the series release was delayed. And delayed. And delayed.
I assumed that when the first issue was released that the series was in the can and so no further delays would happen. But then there were more delays. And now we have even seen guest artists on the book. Those sort of problems never make me happy as a consumer.
And from a story point of view, there were some cringe worthy moments as well. The dialogue occasionally sounded clunky or overly ham-handed. The heroes sometimes acted in ways I would not expect them to. (Would the Atom really crawl around people's brains after what his wife did to Sue Dibny?) There were pages devoted to scenes that seemed superfluous. It just never seemed to exactly gel.
But most importantly, and before I even get to the final issue review, I never felt like the team came together. Scenes where the initial intriguing roster were all in the same room are few and far between. And while the initial impetus for them each to join was a 'cry for justice', it felt like outside of Green Lantern and Green Arrow, none of the characters really needed to be there. Let me phrase it a different way ... you could remove Supergirl and replace her with Wonder Girl seamlessly. You could remove Congorilla and put in Freedom Beast. You could replace Starman with the Prince Gavyn Starman. In other words, I never felt like a particular character (outside of GL and GA) was crucial for the plot from a back story point of view; I never felt that one character's viewpoint was so unique to the story that they were indispensable.
On top of that, this really became a whole DCU story with Starfire, Donna Troy, Jay Garrick, Animal Man, Vixen, Black Canary all starring; you name it ... everyone was there. I mean, Donna Troy is the one who actually defeated Prometheus! And so I don't know if I ever saw Robinson's vision for the team he created and how they would interact with each other. It was that mesh of characters that got me interested in the first place.
All right, on to the issue.
Last issue, a captured Prometheus revealed his grand plan to teleport several cities around the world into another dimension as a way to emotionally torture his super-hero enemies. Despite being captured, the devices activate.
Without being granted his freedom, Prometheus won't tell the Justice League the codes to deactivate the devices. Unclear of the next best step, the bulk of the JLA teleport to Earth on a rescue mission. Others stay back to continue the interrogation.
Ominously dripping with foreshadowing, Green Arrow vows to Prometheus that the two of them aren't done dealing with each other.
For some reason, Prometheus' devices aren't working as designed. Rather than simply teleporting the cities away, the devices seem to be imploding the cities, destroying them.
Star City is shaking itself apart. One of the casualties is Roy Harper's daughter Lian.
I know this is supposed to be shocking. I mean a child was just killed. But again, the feeling here was disappointed. Did Lian really have to die here? Did we really need to see a child get killed to move this plot along? Haven't I seen enough death and maiming in comics recently? I suppose I should at least be happy that the point of view is from behind Ollie so I am not luridly looking right at Lian's corpse.
Still, a child was killed in this book as a plot device. It just felt unnecessary. Have we really reached a point in story-telling that we need to kill kids to try to get a response out of readers? And I didn't have much time in the issue to really have the death resonate with me because we were already moving on.
While the Earth's heroes scatter themselves to the effected cities, trying to slow down the carnage, the Atom tries to talk Prometheus into willingly giving up the codes. He even brings up the fact that Prometheus has really upset Green Arrow, killing Ollie's 'grand daughter' and maiming his 'son'.
Prometheus refuses to give up the codes unless he gets his freedom in return. At least he confesses that his machines aren't working as planned. Remember they were supposed to just make the cities disappear.
It all seems a bit contrived. Everything that Prometheus has planned in this book, every theft and counterattack and defense, has worked perfectly. Of course, if his machines worked as planned, the cities would just blip away and we wouldn't have the devastation and death we have been treated to. We wouldn't have Lian's death. It just seemed like an easy out to get to that point.
Because absolutely everything else Prometheus has planned is working like a charm. He has a defense against telepathy. Miss Martian feels some sort of backlash when she tries to mentally pry to codes from his mind.
And he has planned against magic. First he has sewn Freddy Freeman's mouth shut to keep him from saying his magic word. Again, this seems a bit off to me. We are talking about a man who skinned the Tasmanian Devil and used the pelt as a rug. Would he really stitch Freddy's lips? Wouldn't he just kill him? Of course, killing Captain Marvel would be too big a deal for this book. And besides we wouldn't see this gory shot of his sutures being removed. And that is all this is good for in my mind, something gruesome to try to get a response from me as a reader.
What's more, even when freed, Captain Marvel can't do anything to the device in Fawcett City because Prometheus made it impervious to magic!
In fact, all the devices seem impervious to any super-hero interference. Prometheus has covered all the contingencies.
Do they deal with Prometheus and end the disasters? Do they keep him in custody and hold him responsible for this tragedy? It is an interesting 2 page spread (of which this is one corner). There is some disagreement amongst the group. Some say no deal. Some say deal for the greater good.
As always, small editorial errors bother me. So when the Flash says they need to decide quickly because 'they're loosing' (instead of losing) I had to roll my eyes.
He states it simply: 'we have to think of the living'. On first reading, I thought this was a nice moment. After all, Arrow lost the most here. Since the beginning, I thought he was going to be the moral compass for the team, joining it to keep Hal in line. So to have him take 'the high road' made some initial sense to me. He could look past his own tragedies and think about others ... that's sort of what heroes do, right?
But how did it play out? If Prometheus gave the codes and they worked, would Vixen really let him just walk away because she 'gave her word'? I don't think so. And would they ever let Prometheus walk without giving them the codes and trying them first? In other words, I can't play out the actual scene in my head in a satisfactory way. Maybe that is why we only see the conclusion ... because the scene can't be written well.
I figured I'd throw in the second panel because it the only shot of Supergirl in the book. Wasn't she supposed to be one of the key characters in this book? And she isn't even in the finale. This is what I was trying to get at earlier. This really wasn't a team book the way it was advertised. The characters we were told would 'star' were really just part of a cast of thousands.
And so we finally get to the 'big ending'. Despite his speech about the greater good, Ollie needs 'justice' and he thinks murder is the way to get it.
But even this scene ... the dramatic last page of the series ... fell flat.
From a story point of view, I can't get around the fact that Prometheus dies this way. Here is a villain so prepared that he has a defense against everything ... including having nanites to defeat the Atom in his blood. He had shown himself to be protected against telepathy and magic. But his helmet isn't arrow proof? Just a plain old steel-tipped arrow is what brings him down? Really?
And that is without my asking just how the hell Green Arrow got into the Ghost Zone and walked into Prometheus' stronghold. Are you telling me Prometheus doesn't have any defense systems there? Prometheus had just walked through the JLA satellite and defeated almost the entire team and he allows a hero to simply walk into his home and shoot him in the head with an arrow?
But even more than that, I am just sick of seeing heroes kill people. I don't think I need to see my heroes fall and go through a moral crisis and then reinvent themselves any more. I think I just want to see them be heroes again. As readers, we keep hearing that comics will try to move away from 'dark' and 'grim and gritty' but we see this the month after The Sentry literally rips Ares apart over in the Avengers.
And the fact that we see it over and over means that I have become somewhat inured to it. Maybe 10 years ago this would be shocking. Now I just sighed and thought 'here we go again ... another hero who crossed the line.' And that truly is a whimper for an ending, not the bang I think Robinson was going for.
Overall grade (issue): D+
Overall grade (series): C-