Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics

JLA: Incarnations #3

JLA: Incarnations #3

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 11, 2001

Cover date: September 2001

Writer: John Ostrander
Penciller: Val Semeiks
Inker: Prentis Rollins

Part 3 of 7 - "Like a Tombstone in the Sky"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey (

As the Justice League puts the finishing touches on their orbiting satellite headquarters, Green Arrow watches the Earth from a window. Superman attempts small talk and finds that Arrow is not happy about the League moving their headquarters into space. His position is that the team belongs among the rest of society, not watching them from above like the gods of Olympus. Superman contends that from their current vantage point it is easy to see how fragile the world is and that it keeps everything in context.

Arrow goes on to point out how vulnerable the satellite is with it being in space. Superman retorts that no one knows that the headquarters is there and that there are so many redundancies and fail-safes that the satellite should be safe. The debate ends with Arrow saying that just because he is the one pointing out the problems that doesn't mean they don't exist.

In Metropolis, Lex Luthor looks skyward and discusses the new satellite with his assistant, Sydney Happersen. Luthor doesn't like the idea of the Justice League having their headquarters up there where they can look down on him. Luthor decides that a direct attack on the Justice League would be counterproductive to his position. He sends Happersen away wanting to be alone to ponder his next move.

Some time later KLEX Channel 7 is reporting on the recent battle the Justice League had with the international terrorist organization know as Kobra. Meta-human expert Tully Reed informs the audience that Kobra's leader, Lord Naga-Naga, is a man of mystery who was born in India and one of a pair of Siamese twins who was stolen away by an Indian snake cult. The cult raised Naga-Naga as their own with the knowledge that it was his destiny to rule the world.

Earlier that day, Kobra attacked NORAD in a merciless assault that took the installation completely by surprise. Apparently the attack was not a surprise to the Justice League as they battled to take back the mountain.

Despite being out numbered, the League took back the mountain but the heroes were unable to capture Lord Naga-Naga himself.

After the newscast, his fellow anchorman informs Tully that he shouldn't play up the League so much, especially Superman as Luthor, who owns the station, doesn't care for them. Tully, in a rather flip manner, informs him that it doesn't matter because the public loves the heroes. With that, Tully leaves for a big interview.

From his base in an Indian Valley, Lord Naga-Naga watches as a representative from Lex Luthor sets up a deal with Kobra to attack the League. Luthor's emissary informs Naga-Naga that the League has a satellite and that in exchange for the exact coordinates Kobra will share all technology with Luthor. Not wanting to speak through a middleman, Naga-Naga kills the emissary and takes the man's phone. He then changes the plans and notifies Luthor that he will destroy the satellite and the League and that being part of this plan is honor enough. After Naga-Naga hangs up, Luthor muses about how easy it was to manipulate Kobra to his own ends and that when they make their move Luthor will put the second phase of his operation into play.

Meanwhile, after an argument with Black Canary, Green Arrow heads off to his interview with Tully where he gives a scathing review of the League's recent actions. This doesn't go over well back at headquarters and the League, Hawkman especially, take exception to his comments. Green Arrow finally quits the JLA when the rest of the team turns against him as well.

After Arrow leaves, Canary asks Green Lantern to go after him and try to talk to him. She would have but she had monitor duty. GL does so and the Arrow finally breaks down and tells GL that this main problem is that he's turning 40 and doesn't know why he's playing hero anymore. Lantern informs him that despite the conflict the League needs him. Arrow then mulls over whether he needs the team.

Before the conversation goes any further the two heroes receive an emergency communication from Black Canary that the satellite is under attack from Kobra. The group manages to gain entry to the satellite and Black Canary immediately goes on the offensive, using her martial arts skills and sonic scream. In the end they are simply too much for her and she falls as Lord Naga-Naga makes his entrance.

Arrow immediately wants in on the action not caring that he has quit the League. Before they can do anything they get another communique, this one from the Atom. He tells them not to go to the satellite and rendezvous with him at LexCorp Corporate Headquarters. They join the rest of the League there and are told by Luthor that some LexCorp technology was stolen and used in the assault. Luthor then shows them a video sent by Naga-Naga who demands that the League surrender to him.

Green Arrow doesn't buy it and suspects that Luthor is involved and voices this opinion by leaping over the table. The League holds him back with Lantern agreeing that Luthor is right in saying that it probably is a trap.

Arrow then volunteers to act as a decoy in their attempt to take back the satellite.

Shortly thereafter, Arrow teleports to the League headquarters and immediately begins his attack, firing arrows at the Kobra foot soldier. What Kobra doesn't know is that one of the arrows is a disguised Martian Manhunter, who remains hidden as Kobra takes Green Arrow down. After a sound beating, Arrow is brought before Naga-Naga. He smacks Arrow around which only serves to make Arrow taunt him more. Then Arrow reveals that the Manhunter is on the satellite and that he has disconnected the bombs and alarms. Naga-Naga is incensed, not believing him until the Justice League busts in and lays siege on the Kobra foot-soldiers while the heavy hitters take care of Kobra's forces outside the satellite.

The battle is fierce, but the League prevails only to find that Naga-Naga has escaped and that Arrow is unconscious and badly beaten. GL takes him to get some help.

Sometime later at a private hospital, Green Arrow is loudly complaining that he wants out and suspects that the "fascists" who run the place are probably running medical experiments on him. The Atom asks if he is back on the team to which Arrow replies that he is not. He goes on to explain that he needs to figure out his place in the League. The Atom informs him that he always has a place with the JLA. Arrow smiles and tells him that one day he's going to regret those words.

5Story - 5: Here are some interesting facts pointed out by my girlfriend Rachel. A Naga is a creature of Hindu legend that is mostly pictured as snakes, mostly as cobras. They have the ability to take human form or can appear as snakes with human heads. They are the guardians of raindrops and pearls and have a pearl embedded in the head of the snakeskin. They are also immortal. Aren't comic writers clever?

Series like JLA: Incarnations are always a tricky proposition. As much as fans, like me, enjoy stories that tell untold stories or take place at some point in the past there is always the danger of having current sensibilities color the past. There's a fine line to ride by telling a good story and trying to keep the flavor of the era that the creators are working in.

Luckily for this series there is a very capable writer handling the writing chores. John Ostrander manages to ride that line and not stray too far from it. By having each story be told from one member's perspective, Ostrander has a focus to keep him from straying too far off the path.

This issue was Green Arrow's turn and with the characterization shown it is obvious that Ostrander did his homework. Here we have the quasi-paranoid, almost hippie Green Arrow that Denny O'Neil developed back in the day. The arguments with Hawkman especially show Ostrander's research as they bicker just like they did in the time period when these stories took place. Arrow's heroism comes through strong at the end of the story when he volunteers to act as bait.

My personal favorite was Arrow taunting Kobra despite the fact that he had been beaten pretty badly. It's scenes like this that make the issue work.

The rest of the story was very well done. Kobra is always a fun villain to use with his grandiose speeches and the hissing. The secondary villain, Luthor, was right out of the John Byrne era with him trying to destroy Superman (and the League) but not wanting his hands to get dirty in the process.

This brings up another point that made the story work. While we know that Luthor hated Superman during this era (and still hates him I might add) we never really got the sense of how Luthor felt about the other heroes. Since Luthor didn't trust any of the heroes, not just Superman, was a nice bit of character work and made the story work better.

Tully Reed remains an interesting character. For me he is the four-color representation of the fans of the Justice League over the years.

He's undeterred in his affection for the heroes even going against the grain at the station he works at. Even though the general public doesn't know how evil Luthor really is it is well known that you don't mess with this guy and Tully just laughs it off.

As for Superman's part I am pleased with Ostrander's handling of the character. Most writers who use Superman in guest shots don't write a character, but instead use the perception of Superman. This can work when it's one character dealing with Superman because you can play it off that the characterization is how the character perceives Big Blue. This is a team setting though and the rules change. Ostrander presents us a Superman that matches the Man of Steel from his own comics but still manages to make Superman his own. The scene early in the book with Green Arrow was especially good with Superman's optimism and humanity coming through.

4Art - 4: As much as I like Val Semeiks his art was a little weak this issue. My main problem with Val's art is that his characters seem to have the same faces. This is evident on the roll call page. The only one who stands out is Green Arrow, but that may be because he was the focus of the issue. Aside from that minor quibble, the action is very well done. The fight scenes were solid, especially the battle between Green Arrow and Kobra's minions. Page 31 is really nice especially the panel where Green Arrow leaps into the breach with his bow over his head.

The panels that take place in space are especially nice. The detail on the satellite on the double splash page is really good. There are some nice touches like the light streaming out of the windows. The Kobra Space Squadron approaching the satellite was nice too.

My favorite bit of art is the attack of the Justice League on pages 33 and 34. There is real power coming though with the ground forces, but nothing in the issue compares to the trail of destruction that follows Superman as he flies through the ships and Semeiks makes good use of Firestorm's powers as he turns the Kobra ships into what appears to be stone.

4Cover Art - 4: As much as I enjoy the layout the series has used so far I really wasn't happy with this issue's cover. Green Arrow looks fine, it's the rest of the cover that I have a problem with. Bondage covers do little for me and the perspective seems a bit off with this. The Kobra soldiers are neat and the determined, dazed looks on their faces do something to make the cover a little more attractive.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic was on sale.

January 2001

February 2001 March 2001 April 2001 May 2001 June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 Annuals

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