Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!
Justice League of America #8 is the first of a four-part story called “The Man From Monster Valley” and in it, Steve Orlando does something I wish had been done a long, long damned time ago. I am practically vibrating with glee as I type this. Let’s get to it.
The issue opens as we see a man in a jungle surrounded by velociraptors (hey, they totally DID have feathers, dammit!) and running away from agents of SKULL who have invaded his valley. It’s all immediately reminiscent of an aged up Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur dynamic only there’s no T-Rex. Anyhoo, this guy’s raptor pack are being picked off one by one until the Justice League of America swoops in to save the day. They manage to save the man, but they quickly realize that the raptors who were all he had are now all dead, including his “mother” raptor.
Can I say this was a fridging? I really want to be able to type the line “Justice League of America fridges raptor mother!”
All kidding aside, this guy can barely speak English and has been on his own in what Ray coins Monster Valley for years. It’s going to take him a lot of time to reintegrate back into human society.
Look, I hate, haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate the “little boy is orphaned and raised in the wild and is found and is really a super gajillionaire and handsome and super smart and can do anything!” trope. I’ve hated it since Saturnin Farandoul. I’ve hated the various interpretations of that we’ve seen in characters like Tarzan, Iron Fist (sorry, Danny), Black Condor, Cat-Man… you get the picture. If they’re abandoned as kids and get a super special upbringing and become heroes and/or also surprise!wealthy I don’t want it.
So imagine the alarm bells that started blaring in my head when I started reading about the wild man, now Makson’s interview. Suddenly he’s very handsome and clean cut, extremely well-spoken, genial, kind, and charming. He wants to reconnect with the rest of his family. He is every trope I hate rolled up into one and I was a little nauseated thinking Orlando was really going to make me swallow this Gary Stu pill.
Only that wasn’t Orlando’s intention at all.
The JLA are all watching Makson’s interview, and some of them are absolutely thrilled at how well he’s re-integrated. I completely understand why Killer Frost, especially, wants this to be true. However, Dinah smells a rat. This is just too easy, too convenient. And then Batman comes waltzing in like the grumpasaurus master he is and immediately agrees with her.
This is too easy. Makson’s lived with reptiles his whole life and learned their mannerisms. He’s lying through his teeth and it’s very believable unless you look at his micro-expressions. Bruce smells the same rat as Dinah, and orders the team to split up. Dinah and Lobo with him, the rest go to the gala Makson is going to be throwing and be on guard. Lobo, for once, is impressed at Batman’s ability to be a cold-hearted cynic.
The Ray is more than a little displeased with Batman, calling him a hypocrite and commenting that he can’t even bother to show up to their own press conferences. Vixen does her best to defuse the situation, by reminding Ray that Batman is who he is because he can make the hard choices against popular opinion, especially when it isn’t easy. And then Killer Frost notices Ryan isn’t with them.
Surprise! He snuck along with Batman and Co. Long story short, he’s worked with Batman enough that even if he doesn’t want to believe anything is amiss with Makson, he does trust Batman’s instincts. I continue to have a heart attack as Batman is a good leader and accepts Ryan’s help and dispatches his team to their various missions. He wants to know why SKULL was in Monster Valley, and he wants Ryan to do a little reconnaissance on Makson. Batman is working well with half of his team. Orlando is a miracle worker.
And now we’re at the part where the super special orphaned rich boy character is truly flipped on its head. The reason I hate this trope is that it’s become a de facto mark of Gary Stu characters. It’s lazy and doesn’t take into account any of the compelling elements that should be told with a character like this. How well can they reintegrate? Can they form stable relationships? How do they adapt to their new surrounds and technology? In the trope, these are all largely glossed over until the character needs super convenient tragic backstory sympathy points. Then they’re trotted out for man pain in a hot minute, only to be just as quickly reshelved. Because the super awesome rich guy with a totally unique background has to get back to being DA MAN.
Makson, though, is an entirely different fish.
When Ryan enters Makson’s apartment he quickly realizes that television appearance was more of an act than anyone thought. In fact, Makson isn’t a handsomely charming family man at all.
No, he hates them and kinda wants to murder boat all of them. Thus ends part one.
If you can’t tell, I am really digging this story so far. Batman is enjoyable (mark that on the calendar), and we’re getting an original take on a very tired trope. The art is bright and vivid as I’ve come to expect from this run, and I just really want to read issue #9 now.
Fanfinity Score: 8/10
Justice League of America #8
Writer: Steve Orlando
Pencils: Felipe Watanabe
Inks: Scott Hanna
Letterer: Clayton Cowles