Sunday, May 26, 2024

Events Take a Chilling Turn in Justice League of America

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The last issue of Justice League of America saw the team wrapping up the Aegeus arc and promising help to the poverty-stricken residents of Penn City. We were teased with an arc for Killer Frost, and now we’re starting to roll on the ol’ Frosty train.

I’ve been purposefully vague about Caitlin Snow thus far. Partially because there are several fans of The Flash that know the character from her DCTV counterpart, and partly to avoid retreading ground when this arc inevitably came about. In the comics, Caitlin refers to her powers as a curse. This is because unlike other heroes like Ice who can control their glacial powers with no ill-effects, Caitlin’s powers result in a heat-sickness. Her body is compelled to feed off of the heat from others. In the past, this hunger overwhelmed her and led her down the path to villainy as Killer Frost.

While many fans have often said that Caitlin could be more than the villain she was, and deserved a road to redemption ala Harley Quinn, it’s taken a longer time for this story to work around. Justice League of America finally saw fit to officially add Caitlin on the side of angels, and on a Justice League team to boot. In this title, we’ve seen her be released from Amanda Waller’s custody, and we get to see her thoughts. We saw in the Aegeus arc that she legitimately doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and she struggles with using her powers. We’ve also seen a slow tease of feelings between her and the new Atom, Ryan Choi.

So now we’re kicking off the issue with Ryan and Caitlin going to a museum to see a glacially frozen mummy that Ryan thinks might have genetic answers to help Caitlin with her heat sickness.

Look, these two are adorable. Caitlin can keep up with Ryan intellectually, and outside of Lobo is one of his primary supporters. She believes in him, and in turn, he genuinely enjoys spending time with her and has spent a considerable effort to try and find a cure for her.

They go to the museum and start nerding out over the frozen child mummy, and it’s cute AF. Unfortunately, the more they study it, the more Ryan realizes that while something special is up with the ice, the child seems to be just… normal.

He’s crushed, and Caitlin tries to make him feel better, but they don’t get to finish that conversation. While they’ve been studying the mummy, another visitor wants in the museum.

A cloaked figure walks up to the steps and introduces himself as John Mobley. I’m going to be honest, from the cover I almost thought we were going to deal with the Spectre coming for Killer Frost’s sins. Noooooooooooooope. We get John who is on a dangerous little mind trip. The guards at the museum quickly figure out that something is up and try to prevent him from entering the building.

I do appreciate that Steve Orlando chose to take the time to show the guards as compassionate men. They obviously realize something is off with John and first try to offer him help, to de-escalate the situation before they have to resort to force. Unfortunately for them, John isn’t entirely human. He’s actually Terrorsmith, and he’s highly miffed that nobody remembers him. There’s a super creepy skull mask calling to him from inside, and he’s gonna go chat with it.

Terrorsmith turns the guards into monsters who rampage inside the museum and break up the touching moment Ryan and Caitlin were trying to have. Being able to detect a third heat signature beyond what they realize are the transformed guards, she tells Ryan to subdue them while she goes for the person responsible. It’s another cute moment where Ryan is surprised that Caitlin thinks he can take down monster guards. Caitlin reminds him of his heroism in facing down Aegeus and then chases after Terrorsmith.

She finds him talking to said creepy skull mask and essentially asks what I wanna know. Dude, what the hell? He launches into another rambling diatribe and then reveals that by touching someone, he can manifest their worst nightmares. And then he plants his hands on Caitlin’s head.

And nothing happens.

Caitlin grimly reminds him that his power might be nifty to everyone else, but she’s been living her worst nightmare for years. She then proceeds to whoop his butt and forces him to release the guards from their induced mania. She leaves him trapped, with his cape frozen to the floor, and she and Ryan depart.

Elsewhere, Lobo is causing a scene in Mammoth City, and poor Dinah is stuck trying to clean up his mess.

At least someone is having fun.

We also see Vixen and the Ray speaking to a class in Harlem. The press is still tagging along after Vixen, first asking about her investment in Penn City and then going back to the fact that Batman still hasn’t appeared publicly.

Geez, Batman. Get with the program.

Batman is actually at their headquarters, having a grump over an observation platform Xenos, their new groundskeeper, added to the building.

Dinah and Caitlin take some time to spar, and Dinah asks how Caitlin is doing after their disappointing findings. Caitlin admits she hates that she’s still struggling with this, but resolves to keep fighting, and Dinah assures her she’ll be there right along with her. Then she goes a step further and presses Caitlin on her feelings for Ryan.

Caitlin is obviously hesitant to pursue anything, and you can’t really blame her. Dinah reminds her that Ryan also gets to make his own choices as well, and maybe Caitlin needs to talk to him.

We end the issue with Terrorsmith in prison… in Amanda Waller’s custody. Amanda Waller who is still peeved she had to let Caitlin out on parole.

This isn’t going to end well.

Orlando has gone a long way to humanizing Caitlin in seven issues. This Caitlin is clearly a compassionate woman who earnestly wants to be better, a woman we could easily see a hero in. The relationship that’s started to form with Ryan could easily be written with all the subtlety of an anvil, but Orlando allows it room to grow slowly, while also reminding us that Caitlin also likes to get her nerd on and she’s a match for Ryan in more than just the “let’s be heroes” convenience.

We have a new artist on this issue, Jamal Campbell. With the tonal shift to focus more on the team and Caitlin’s internal journey, Campbell’s art is a complementary change. Instead of the grindhouse mayhem from Lord Havok and Aegeus villains, we’re treated to a thoughtful, delicately mapped story.

It’s another solid entry into Orlando’s JLA run, and while we can’t wait to see what happens next, we’re also more than a little worried for Caitlin. Being in Amanda Waller’s crosshairs never ends up well.

Fanfinite Rating: 8/10

Justice League of America #7

Writer: Steve Orlando

Artist: Jamal Campbell

Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Images courtesy of DC Comics

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