The last time we saw the Justice League of America, they were suited up in hilariously Grecian-inspired light armor, courtesy of the Ray and set to do battle against Grecian-armored mercenaries flying chimeras in to destroy them.
Let that image soak in.
Oh yes, we’re in for a ride.
For a recap: Aegeus poisoned Lobo with a venom-dipped spear to the heart and then bazooka-ed him clear across town. The Atom is still in Aegeus’s compound, and the rest of the team have been trying to talk to the people of Penn City to learn how a weapons dealer took over the city. (Hint: Extreme poverty and nobody else giving a damn about the town that the Recession Recovery forgot.)
Our now-armored heroes take the fight to the mercenaries as the Ray tries to figure out how he can help Lobo not die. Don’t worry; the Main Man’s got a plan.
Over at the mayor’s house, Aegeus offers the Atom a chance to work for him in conjunction with his current weapons designer, Xenos. We learn that Xenos isn’t there willingly. In fact, Aegeus pulled a standard “work for me, or I’ll kill your friends and family” deal. So yeah, Xenos drank from the poisoned chalice, because what else are you gonna do?
Here Aegeus goes on a delightfully self-inflated monologue about how order is meaningless, and you can’t count on anyone. Contrasting Lord Havok’s diatribe of “fascism is for your own good,” our buddy Mr. A instead details on how he was abandoned over and over growing up. Since he never had anyone to trust in, he learned that there is no system worth believing in. If this were A Song of Ice and Fire, he’d probably get along quite well with Petyr Baelish. At least until they stabbed each other in the back.
Justice League of America has now given us two extremes regarding worldview, from absolute control via power and order, to absolute anarchy to create a new system entirely. It clicked a little better with Lord Havok and the Extremists, but only because this arc doesn’t have as much time devoted to it. Aegeus tries to play on the Atom’s insecurities and his place in the JLA team to lure him away.
Back on the streets, Lobo isn’t looking too hot. The poison is in his heart, and his heart can’t heal itself when it’s pumped full of that venom. So naturally, Lobo asks the Ray to blast it out of him.
The Ray is, understandably, horrified. But Lobo more or less verbally challenges him about not being able to do what needs to be done when the chips are down until Ray gives in and spikes Lobo’s heart out of his chest.
It turns out Lobo was right. His old heart couldn’t repair itself. But he’s a Czarnian, and there’s no rule for his kind about growing a brand f*cking new one. This is why Lobo is one of the most feared fighters in the DC Universe. He doesn’t shy away from doing what needs to be done to win.
Elsewhere, Batman, Vixen, and the Black Canary fight the winged soldiers. Vixen isn’t particularly happy because these chimeras don’t seem to be alive to where she can use her amulet to connect with them. But they’re still just as deadly anyway, so Batman and Black Canary commandeer a winged menace from one of the mercenaries and take to the skies.
We cut to a family’s house as they cower in fear while a mercenary hovers over them, gun drawn. Before he can kill them, Killer Frost jumps in for the rescue… and accidentally freezes and severs his arm. The family is understandably terrified of her, even though we know it was an accident.
Back to the main action. The Ray and Lobo lock in on the Atom’s position and head to the Mayor’s house.
Just in time for Aegeus to threaten Ryan to join him… or else. The Atom chooses or else, and his teammates come crashing in like gangbusters.
Aegeus is shocked that Lobo is still alive, and hurls a lightning bolt at the group. The Ray deflects most of it, but we’re treated to a sight with Lobo missing half of his skull. As he taunts Aegeus, we get to see it grow back in. In the end, it’s Atom who takes Aegeus out by surprise, having shrunk down and then embiggened to sucker punch his lights out. Lobo is impressed.
When Aegeus goes down, the chimeras turn to salt, and we’re left with the wrap-up. The townspeople are free, but now they’re back to being jobless. Vixen and the League remind them that someone, Frances Rock, already did care about what happened to them. That’s why they came in the first place. Vixen says that she’s going to move a branch of her non-profit to town which will offer jobs and that they’re going to coordinate disaster relief as well. What’s more, where Vixen moves business, people follow. Jobs are going to be coming back to Penn City.
Back at headquarters Ryan and Lobo have a heart to heart. The Atom isn’t sure why Lobo’s on the team, and Lobo admits he doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about most of them. Batman owes him a favor, and he’s super keen on cashing that in, but the rest? Eh. He then waxes poetic about how pure dolphins are and admits that Ryan reminds him of a dolphin, and that kinda makes him good in Lobo’s books. Thanks, I think?
We cut to Ray talking to Xenos. It turns out that even if you do the wrong thing for all the best reasons, there are still consequences. For Xenos, it’s that the people of Penn City will never forgive him. So the Justice League have offered to let him stay at their headquarters in Happy Harbor, and help with the massive amounts of upkeep and reconstruction that need to be done. He’s a little overwhelmed, and Ray promises him that he can always talk to him. He’s from Vanity City, after all, the most depressed metropolis in the country. He gets it.
Finally, we end with Killer Frost talking to Dinah. When the Black Canary goes to check on her, she and we find out that our favorite ice queen trying to do good might have a cure.
This arc resolved far more quickly than the Extremist arc did, and in places, it does feel rushed. Some of Aegeus’s speech feels somewhat stereotypical, and I would have liked to see more of Killer Frost in this issue.
With that said, there are a number of things I did enjoy. Orlando has made Vixen a very powerful figure in her own right. It’s not Bruce Wayne moving his company in or offering money. Orlando’s Vixen feels like a solid answer to the King of Wakanda (give her a solo title already!) in Justice League of America, and the rest of the team treat her as such. It’s very gratifying to see a powerful black woman be able to snap her fingers and get corporations to move.
Lobo, as gray as he is, does have something to offer this team, especially the Ray and the Atom. As the newbies, they’re still learning their paces and we still seem them feel in awe at the other established members of their team at times. Lobo is a good drill sergeant for them, forcing them to adapt to the superhero business and be able to make the tough decisions and think outside of the box.
Also, Black Canary continuing to sass Batman will always give me life. Seriously. I could happily live on people giving Batman shit for at least a decade.
But what I’m really looking forward to is Killer Frost’s upcoming arc. We’ve seen from the beginning that she, unlike Lobo, legitimately wants to atone for what she’s done. She wants to be a hero. When she accidentally maimed the mercenary earlier, Orlando and Andy MacDonald framed it so we know it was an accident and not her “dark side” creeping in. It’s refreshing to be removed from the will she/won’t she scenario, but now we’re moving into another turbulent patch of story.
There is much to be said about “cures.” In our modern day, it seems we’ve been split down into two camps. Those who advocate for acceptance and self-love, and those who want to be rid of whatever is afflicting them. There’s no easy answer. As a woman living with multiple chronic illnesses that impact my ability to live a full life, Killer Frost has resonated with me for some time. I’ve seen the self-love and self-acceptance movements. And those who boldly claim they are proud of who they are and all of their parts.
There’s also a very troubled history with medical science trying to “cure” people that don’t want or don’t need to be “fixed.” Take reparative therapy, for instance, or the embattled Autism Speaks organization. These are two very different cases, but both are relevant examples.
People will ultimately decide for themselves, and some fans will want Killer Frost to stay as she is.
Personally? Yeah, I’m proud of myself and what I can do. But I would gladly carve my right arm off with a filet knife if you walked up to me and told me you could either make me a cyborg or give me a magic pill so I wouldn’t have to wake up every day in pain. So that just going out to McDonald’s for dinner isn’t a massive undertaking that will leave me exhausted.
Killer Frost’s arc is just beginning, but if she decides she wants to take the cure? Well, she’ll get no argument from me.
Fanfinite rating: 8/10
Justice League of America #6
Writer: Steve Orlando
Pencils/Inks: Andy MacDonald
Letterer: Clayton Cowles