Today, Shelby and guest writer Mogo are discussing Justice League 17, originally released February 20th, 2013, This issue is part of the Throne of Atlantis crossover event. Click here for complete ToA coverage.
Shelby: When I was in drama club in high school, we put on a lot of older comedies with the entire plot revolving around one basic misunderstanding. That one misunderstanding would compound exponentially (as misunderstandings are wont to do), and before you know it, you’d have a wacky, 2-hour situation involving mistaken identities and hiding in closets. At the end of the show, everyone would reveal themselves, and, with a good chuckle, the guy would get the girl, the plucky sidekick friends would hook up, and everyone lived happily ever after. In ComicBookLand, where two superheroes can’t bump into each other on the sidewalk without getting into a fight and destroying a city block, misunderstandings are never so innocently comedic. Justice League 17, the finale of the Throne of Atlantis, is no exception.
The cat(fish) is out of the bag: everyone knows Vulko was responsible for everything, including indirectly the drowning deaths of hundreds of people in Gotham. Aquaman claims figurative responsibility for it all, and he, Mera, and the rest of the Justice League join the massive battle. As Atlanteans fight the B- and C-list recruits Cyborg rustled up, the Trench monsters try to kill everybody. Arthur and Orm do the brother vs. brother thing while everyone else deals with…everything else. Arthur punches Orm in the face and claims the throne of Atlantis for his own. Orm acquiesces, and it’s all over, everyone lives happily ever after. Just kidding: Vulko is turned over to the Atlanteans for justice, and since Orm no longer has diplomatic immunity, he is arrested for killing everyone. Seems like kind of a mean trick, but whatever. Arthur heads down to Atlantis to rule all the oceans, Mera gets the dog and a lighthouse as a consolation prize, and Batman decides it’s time to form another team.
This issue did everything it was supposed to do. We had a hugely satisfying battle with tons of “spot the heroes” moments. Seriously, I love getting excited about hero cameos.
It’s great to see Element Girl nerd-out over meeting Batman, or Zatanna be useful in a non-dark title. It’s a nice, organic segue into Justice League of America; Johns has given us a believable reason to dust off these characters and bring them into the limelight. Also, that is definitely a lady Atom diffusing Atlantean bombs; does anyone know who’s under the mask? My money is still on Jean Loring, and I honestly don’t know how I feel about that. She would only be an interesting choice considering her past with Ray Palmer, and if Ray isn’t around, making Jean the Atom seems a little pointless.
The fight between Orm and Arthur hits all the beats it’s supposed to as well. We’ve got “you’re my brother and I love you,” “you can still do the right thing and stand down,” and my favorite, “I never wanted to lead in the first place.” Arthur understands that to lead a people, you need to shoulder responsibility by yourself. You can have as many cabinets, advisors, and sexy former assassin wives as you want; ultimately, you will be the one and one alone held responsible. Arthur never claimed his birthright because he didn’t want the loneliness of that decision, but now he has no choice. The only way to stop the war that the drylanders will almost certainly lose is to claim the throne and stop it himself. He’s sacrificing the life he wants to lead for the well-being of basically everyone on Earth; that’s the most god-damn noble thing I’ve heard all night.
So, if this issues does everything it’s supposed to, and provides satisfactory conclusion to the Throne of Atlantis event all while managing to lay the groundwork for JLA, why do I feel a little dissatisfied? As touching as Arthur’s sacrifice is, I feel more sorry for Mera and Orm. It makes sense that I pity Mera; she followed Arthur to the surface to start a life with him there, and instead he abandoned her on dry land for the one part of the ocean she can’t go to. Orm, though, is a different story. He killed hundreds of people, and was happily ready to kill hundreds more; sitting in Belle Reve the rest of his life is too good for him, and yet his story tugs at my heartstrings.
All he was trying to do was be a good king. His people were threatened, so he took the steps he thought necessary to protect them. I am, of course, not even remotely condoning his actions, I just feel bad for him! You have to admit, it was a little underhanded the way Arthur got Orm to abdicate the throne and secretly give up his diplomatic immunity. Orm loves his brother and loves his people, it was all just one big misunderstanding.
While my heart may be a total pushover for this sort of story, my brain recognizes what Johns is doing here. He’s setting up the JLA, jump-starting a new arc for Aquaman, and creating a sympathetic and complex villain for Arthur to deal with later. My only question is: where does this leave the Justice League? You know, the people who are actually in this book. Once they get the JLA all settled in their new home, will the Justice League just jump square into the Trinity War? Or will whoever’s left of the team finally get a chance to form a real team? With that, I turn things over to Mogo, the sentient planet who needs no introduction (because he comments on posts, like, all the time, and you all know him). Mogo, how do you feel about the conclusion of Throne of Atlantis, and where do you think the title will go from here?
Mogo: Thanks a bunch, Shelby. Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I had truly believed I wouldn’t buy a new DC comic as populated and blockbuster and perfect in every way as I feel this one is until, at the very least, Trinity War. And probably not even then. Still, though, I did have relatively high expectations for this comic – it’s just that those expectations were greatly exceeded.
This is the Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis that gave me Blackest Night. This is my modern equivalent to Marv Wolfman and George Perez in their Crisis On Infinite Earths prime. I don’t even know where to begin describing it. This thing is an orchestra of cameos, character beats, worldbuilding threads, and epic action sequences.
I’m so happy that Shelby did such a great job covering the character moments because I’m totally about to blow my word count geeking out over the more superficial elements. I love the way Reis illustrates these characters. Some artists make the Jim Lee-designed Batman and Superman costumes look barely more substantial than the spandex of yore; kind of a thicker, nylon update. Reis shows you the moving pieces of these hard, armored outfits. This is armor.
And I can barely find the words for how I feel about Reis’ Cyborg. I prefer it to Perez’s Teen Titans Cyborg — something I had previously considered impossible. And there’s a bit of Neal Adams in Reis’ faces and figures, too. It’s like he’s internalized the classics of the late 70’s and early 80’s in order to refine those elements into these works that seem somehow classic and modern.
You’re onto something, Shelby, when you reference Mera’s epilogue which kind of lingers uneasily at the end of the ride (just as Orm’s does). I love Mera and I hate to see her left by the wayside. But I feel just as sorry for Arthur, you know? He kind of had it made while he was living in that lighthouse, winding down with his sweetheart and his dog on the couch, watchin’ the ol’ boob tube after a hard day of adventuring. From now on the word ‘unwinding’ can no longer be a part of Arthur’s vocabulary. He’s the monarch of a previously-uncharted underwater nation that just made world news in the worst way possible. And he won’t have his partner there for moral support. Nor his brother. Or his advisor.
Yep, it kind of sucks for Arthur. Heavy is the head that wears the crown and all of that. But for longtime Aquaman fans? Well, you just can’t help but get excited when you’re reading a high-profile Justice League crossover that culminates in a page like this:
And to answer your query, Shelby, I have absolutely no idea where this comic or its characters are headed from here. But I can’t wait to find out. I’ll be manically scouring Aquaman Shrine if anyone needs me.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?