Review: Justice League of America Vol. 3: Panic in the Microverse (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

I read the Rebirth Justice League of America Vol. 3: Panic in the Microverse in the span of an evening in about one sitting. It is, I'd venture, a good airplane book, a six-issue, relatively self-contained story within the series itself, accessible if you're generally caught up with Rebirth goings on. The flip side of that is, after a diet lately of Tom King's blockbuster one- or two-off stories in Batman, that Panic feels a tad bloated. This is a perfectly workable six-issue trade, but for six issues, not overmuch happens -- and especially since this a book directly lead into by the DC Universe: Rebirth special itself. Panic in the Microverse is a fine reading experience, but the swiftness with which I read it suggests not gripping reading necessarily, but rather a story that chugs along and doesn't ask too much of the reader.

[Review contains spoilers]

Recent news about Geoff Johns leaving one position at DC and taking another brings back to mind one of Rebirth's central difficulties, that the resolution of the DC Universe: Rebirth special seems to be tied up in Doomsday Clock, and with Doomsday Clock continually delayed, the DC Universe itself hangs in a kind of limbo. This seems to me why we had a resolution to Action Comics: The Oz Effect that just kind of petered out, forty-some-odd issues of "something being wrong" in The Flash, and so on. Rebirth ought have been a one or two year arc tops, resulting in some sort of conclusion to the Watchmen storyline and an established history for the DC Universe; instead we're past the two year mark, and as noted in my review of Dark Nights: Metal, it seems continuity is a free-for-all at this point.

It's also why Panic in the Microverse, much like Batman/Flash: The Button, can't deliver what it portends. The lead-in scene in Rebirth of Atom characters Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi got five pages, more than any other "tease" in its chapter, underscoring its importance. But like Button, since the Rebirth story is stalled by Doomsday Clock, ultimately Panic's revelations are toothless. We already know something's wrong with time (we've been told so plenty) and we also already know that a blue hand is responsible -- between Button's blue finger and this book's blue hand, someone at DC puts way too much stock in the value of doling out Dr. Manhattan's digits piece by piece. Basically the great secrets of the Microverse that we've been waiting on for two years are stuff you already know and move us toward the resolution of the Rebirth storyline only infinitesimally.

What drives the readability of the book, to Steve Orlando's credit, is that the story itself is fun. Orlando creates a believably alien world in the Microverse, different from the tiny jungles we've seen the Atom interact with before, and artist Ivan Reis especially gets to draw some fantastic cosmic "landscapes" with colorist Marcelo Maiolo. There's a good mystery here with some questions of who to trust; also two strong flashback issues starring Ray Palmer with art by Felipe Watanabe. I like Orlando's conception of Batman, and his rough-but-smart Lobo is a joy (fixing tech one minute, beating people with his own severed arm the next). In keeping with the themes of the series, it's a great sequence when Ryan Choi reaches out to make a human connection with an omni-powerful sentient planet.

At the same time, both writing for and not for the trade, Orlando's got Ryan's skittishness on too much repeat -- we get it, and then at that point it slows the story. Equally we had Killer Frost's powers getting away from her two books ago, and when it happens again here it feels less cumulative than a repeat to remind us of the earlier incident since it hasn't been mentioned since. Also, while I don't disagree with Orlando paring down the team for this story that already has many players, I would have liked more of parallel stories than just a couple of quick scenes of Black Canary, Vixen, and the Ray.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League of America Vol. 3: Panic in the Microverse

I do assuredly like what Steve Orlando teases at the end of Justice League of America Vol. 3: Panic in the Microverse, bringing in a villain from his Midnighter run; I can only hope he uses him as strongly here as he did there. This -- and that some heroes and villains from a variety of places in the comics-verse are coming -- gives me hope for an upswing for Justice League of America, past "good" and toward "better." Even so, knowing now that the end is in sight for this title in favor of the "No Justice" League, I don't feel much regret -- Orlando has landed the "for the people" approach of this Justice League far better than other writers who've tried the same in the past, but clearly something's not clicking, and I'm eager to see Scott Snyder have a turn using the "big" Justice League. September, which sees both this series's last trade and also the No Justice collection, can't come fast enough for me.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League of America Vol. 3: Panic in the Microverse
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)


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