Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics
JLA: Incarnations #5Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 26, 2001
Cover date: November 2001
Writer: John Ostrander
Penciller: Val Semeiks/Norm Breyfogle/Eric Battle
Inker: Kevin Conrad & Prentis Rollins/Joe Rubenstein/Keith Champagne
Part 5 of 7 - "Crisis"/"Changes"/"Doubt"
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey (Earth1Superman@aol.com)
In The Bunker, the current headquarters of the Justice League of America, Aquaman makes the announcement that he has to put aside League business to find his missing wife Mera. Zatanna reacts badly telling him that he was the one who had only weeks ago disbanded the League in favor of members who could devote more time to it. Aquaman agrees and resigns leaving J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, in charge.
Ralph Dibney, the Elongated Man, along with Zatanna, is stunned at the sudden departure while J'onn says that it was for the best and that Aquaman seems to finally be dealing with the problems in his life. Before he can tell the new members the news, Ralph asks if the Justice League really exists anymore. J'onn replies yes citing the new members Vixen, Steel, Vibe and Gypsy. Both Ralph and Zatanna express doubts about if the League is really needed with all the other super-teams that have popped up in recent years. J'onn dismisses their concern telling them that while those teams are worthy of respect none of them do what the League does in terms of leadership.
In the ready room the three heroes find Vibe rather upset at the cover of the recent issue of "Meta" a magazine that covers the super-hero scene. J'onn takes the magazine and sees what has Vibe so upset. The cover has a picture of the original League with the new members' faces pasted over the faces of the heroes no longer on the team. J'onn tries to calm him by saying that it doesn't matter what some journalist writes. A few minor tiffs break out between the new members, which J'onn puts an end to. He then announces that Aquaman has left the group and that he is assuming the role of chairman of the League. Steel asks why he assumes leadership which J'onn replies to by explaining he is the ranking senior member.
Steel goes on to say that the headquarters they inhabit belongs to his grandfather. J'onn puts Steel in his place pointing out that if they leave The Bunker it becomes a large fallout shelter, that with them there it becomes the headquarters of the Justice League and that Steel is a part of the League, he is not the League itself.
With that, he tells the League that their help has been requested in New York. There the League and other heroes battle shadow demons around a bizarre gleaming tower, not knowing if they should destroy the tower or protect it. After the tower releases a giant burst of energy the League, along with everyone else, are teleported to the Monitor's satellite. Harbinger, the Monitor's aide, explains the Crisis to the collection of heroes and villains. Vibe looses interest quickly and after checking out another hero named Kole Steel whacks him on the head so he will pay attention. J'onn joins in asking if Vibe is clear on the situation and after Vibe tells the League his rather skewed interpretation of the events the satellite comes under attack.
J'onn orders Vide, Gypsy, Steel and Vixen to the teleporter so they can get back to Earth. When they get there they find chaos as the timelines attempt to fold in on themselves. Gypsy explains to Vibe that the universe is under attack by the anti-matter universe of Qward. The leader of the Qward, the Anti-Monitor, seeks to destroy the vibrational walls that separate the present from the future. After reducing everything to a single point in time the Anti-Monitor will then blast it with an anti-matter cannon making his universe the only one. The only one who can stop this is the Monitor who created the machines that will act as temporal tuning forks to keep time aligned. Due to the machinations of the Anti-Monitor, however, the Monitor was killed. The Monitor had planned for this and used the energies released in his death to start the towers but the timing was off and the process was begun too soon.
The League's job is to keep the peace while the Harbinger can adjust the machines. The first obstacle the League runs into is Fire-Eyes, a dinosaur that had fought a previous incarnation of the JLA. This Fire-Eyes comes from a time before he fought the League, but that doesn't stop the heroes from taking him down. Steel and Vibe strike the final blow and actually get along. Vixen stops their camaraderie by asking where Gypsy had gone.
Meanwhile Gypsy is hiding in a corner using her camouflage powers to keep herself invisible. Another hero calls her name and tells her to get back into the fight. Gypsy asks how the hero could know where she was and soon finds out that the hero is a future version of herself. After a quick pep talk, the older Gypsy tells her younger counterpart how to kick start the machines. Before the younger Gypsy runs off, the older one tells her to never take for granted the ones she loves. Confused, Gypsy runs back to find her teammates under attack by vehicles from different times. She locates Vibe and after watching him destroy of futuristic assault robot she tells him that his powers can feed the machine and that since they are all connected starting one machine will start them all.
As Vibe starts to do just that Batman shows up and demands to know what is going on. Gypsy gives the Dark Knight a quick run down which Batman doesn't buy. Vixen shows up and tells him to back off and let Vibe do his thing, which Batman agrees to.
Vibe succeeds and while he couldn't fix all of the mix-ups he managed to get them in one localized area. J'onn, Ralph and Zatanna show up just in time to see the fruits of Vibe's efforts. J'onn tells the team that he is proud of them and that they are now and forever the Justice League.
While running his final race to save the universe from the Anti-Montior's cannon, Barry Allen, the Flash, reflects on his life. Images of past events fly through his life. He sees the lightning that gave him his speed, the lightning that gave Wally West his powers, his wife Iris, the death of Iris and his eventual reunion with her in the future where she was born. He then sees images of himself fighting alongside the Justice League of America before finally hitting top speed and grabbing the tachyon that powers the Anti-Monitor's cannon.
After letting go, the Flash's essence becomes one with the speed force. He becomes the lightning that gave him his powers and Wally's powers and is in tune with the powers of all the other speedsters in the present and future. Before leaving he lingers in the moment and witnesses Wally finding his costume and then the JLA as they attend his funeral. Finally he goes to Iris, who is crying for the death of her husband. After touching her one more time he lets go and goes to his final reward.
In his offices at "Meta Magazine", Tully Reed listens to the radio reports of the chaos in Washington, DC as G. Gordon Godfrey's Watchdogs continue their rampage. Tully stares at the headline to the latest issue which reads "Metahumans Murdered" and thinks of Roz.
As the radio coverage continues, Tully remembers arguing with Roz over the cover to "Meta" that had Vibe all upset. Tully tells her that this isn't the type of magazine he wants to run. Roz defends her story saying that they can't take the heroes too seriously. Tully replies that he takes it very seriously and reminds her that he saw those heroes fight back an alien invasion. Roz softens and admits that all she wanted was for him to be proud of her. The two embrace.
Tully's memories shift to shortly after that night when he and Roz were caught in the final onslaught of the Anti-Montior's shadow demons. While trying to find cover, one of the demons kills Roz right before Tully's eyes. Vixen shows up seconds later and Tully begins shouting at her that she should have been there. Vixen explains that they can't be everywhere at once and that they saved as many as they could. In his grief, Tully continues screaming that he believed in them and now they betray him. Vixen replies that they didn't betray him; that they just couldn't be what he wanted them to be.
Sometime later, Tully sits in his office talking to G. Gordon Godfrey. Godfrey uses Tully's bitterness and his own seduction powers to bring Tully to his side of anti-hero sentiment. Tully agrees.
Back in the present, Tully realizes that he had been used by Godfrey and orders the latest issue of "Meta" to be pulped no matter the cost and the loss of advertisers. While staring at the cover that Roz designed he realizes that the heroes didn't betray him and that he let grief cloud his vision. He again understands that the heroes are only human; it was he that wanted them to be legends and that he was never going to forget that again.
Story - 5: Question: How do you explain the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which took place when DC still had a Multiverse, when there is now only one universe? Simple. Instead of having the Anti-Monitor wiping out alternate realities have him wipe out alternate timelines. Wasn't that easy?
Seriously though, the best part of the first story from this issue was that we finally get a clear-cut explanation of the whys and wherefores of the Crisis in the post-Crisis/post-Zero Hour/post Hypertime DC Universe. Okay, maybe it was a bit of a cop-out, but by devising some kind of clarification of how the Crisis works beyond the "there was a Crisis and it was bad" story that we have already gotten Ostrander cleans up a bit of continuity that has been up in the air for a while now. Having the alternate futures being destroyed instead of whole other universes and having the "warpzone" from Crisis be a meeting of timelines instead of Earths works and makes the Crisis a bit easier to understand in terms of current continuity.
Beyond that "Crisis" was pretty solid. Unlike the previous issues there wasn't a particular character that was the focus of the story. Just about everyone got a chance to shine, which helped to balance the story and give Ostrander a chance to shine with characterization.
The character I was most taken with and that surprised me in how much I liked him was Vibe. Let's face it; Vibe was somewhat of a stereotype. Sure, he might have had some good moments here and there (especially in the Legends crossover), but overall he was the typical comic book representation of a Latino character complete with a "thick" accent. Here he had some personality, even if it consisted of him zoning out and giving an inaccurate description of the Crisis.
Gypsy was another good character and gave me one of the many fanboy moments of the story. Gypsy was scared so she ran away which makes sense considering she was very young when she joined the League and that her powers weren't anything to write home about. Having an older version of Gypsy give her the necessary pep talk was a nice touch. Also I liked the fact that the older Gypsy was wearing the Justice League Task Force uniform. I enjoyed that series and was sad to see it go. My only problem is that Gypsy told her younger self that she should trust J'onn implicitly no matter what happened. This doesn't jibe with the uniform she's wearing because by that time she had lost of lot of faith in J'onn when he left her behind in the snow during the Judgment Day storyline. This may have been intentional, but it clicked the eyebrow meter. It was touching, however, to see the older Gypsy tell herself not to take the ones she loves for granted, foreshadowing the death of her parents.
While Vixen and Steel weren't used as much that doesn't mean that they were underused. Steel fulfilled the "young upstart/bigot"role, which was resolved in the end with he and Vibe getting all buddy-buddy. Vixen also fit nicely and it was pretty cool to see someone, anyone tell Batman to back off. At least she did it in a nice way.
The only problem I had with this story was that Aquaman quit at the beginning of it. After putting so much emotional investment into him in the previous issue and seeing him come into his own as a character it was let down for him to suddenly quit. I understand that it had to happen because that's how it happened and I understand that from a characterization stand point it made sense I was still a little disappointing.
Story - 4: "Changes" I would have enjoyed this story more if I hadn't seen it done before. No offense intended towards John Ostrander, but I liked this story much better when it was told in Secret Origins Annual #2. For those of you who haven't read that comic the second story retold the origin of the Barry Allen Flash and had him go through his entire career after catching the tachyon in the Anti-Monitor's cannon and then becoming the lightning bolt that gave him his powers. "Changes" had a similar concept and theme, but also had better art.
This is not to say that I didn't like "Changes" because Ostrander managed to make the concept fresh. This story was more of a tearjerker as well and had more emotional impact that the previous version. Showing Barry saying good-bye to his friends and colleagues and especially the good-bye to Iris tugged at the heart strings of this fanboy and made the story worth it.
I liked seeing Barry go into the speed force and touch all of the future speedsters in one way or another. I realize that this is a comic book and the characters are fictional but there is some justice in having Barry see his legacy come to fruition. If I'm guessing right this story was saying that not only did Barry become the lightning that gave him his powers, but also the lightning that gave Wally his speed too, which makes sense.
Story - 4: "Doubt" Here is a good example of how the right writer can take a pretty cliched concept and make it work. After the first reading of this story I felt that while it was well written it also bothered me. I have come to like Tully Reed as a character and to see him go through this "crisis" of faith smacked of the "the converted doubting [hence the title] what they believe chestnut.
After a second pass, though, I can't fault Ostrander for going in this direction. It makes sense that even the most faithful would have doubts from time to time, especially after the death of a loved one.
My main problem is that the characterization was pretty weak in this story. Everyone seemed extremely one dimensional, especially Tully's doomed love interest Roz. One-second she is hard edged newswoman who will let no one get in the way of her attitude and the next she's a softhearted woman who is in love with Tully. The shift was quick and had no feeling behind it. This made her death seem insignificant because we saw her for two pages and then she was gone.
Tully flip-flopped as well. One minute he's defending the heroes and then he hates them and sells them out to Godfrey. To his credit the woman he loved did die and Godfrey does have those nifty mind control powers, but since the story was so short Tully's actions have no real emotion behind them.
Art - 4: Overall...
Again Val Semeiks' art is great in some places, not as good in others. His art style is too homogenized in spots and once again everyone pretty much looks the same with the exception Vibe and the female characters. Some of the character designs were a little overdone as well. Batman, for example, looks like he has curtain rods hidden under his cape on page 21.
Also again, though, Semeiks shows a great eye for layout and design. There is real power in his art and the action sequences reflect that. Where he really shines through is the time warp (the concept, not the dance) sequences where he melds the past, present and future. The backgrounds and aircraft designs are detailed and solid. Pages 12 and 18 in particular have a lot going on and give them that "need to give a second or third look" quality that good comic book art has.
Another nice piece was page 6. Semeiks manages to pack almost as much detail into the Monitor's tuning fork as Perez did. This page also required some viewing time to see all of the heroes that were packed into it.
I have nothing personal against Norm Breyfogle. I think he is a talented artist and can certainly draw with more proficiency than I ever could. This doesn't change the fact that, on the whole, I do not like his art. Don't get me wrong. There are certain comics where I thought he did very well. The middle period of his Batman work was very good.
OverallI liked the art on "Changes." The page layouts had a Neal Adams feel to them with the eye being pulled into different directions. The Justice League scenes had good action and were busy without being distracting. Breyfogle sticks to his style well with the expressions that were enjoyable.
The nicest piece was Barry entering the Speed Force. Here is where Breyfogle really shines. Page 5 was great with all of the images blending together. Breyfogle seemed to like using the lightning as a page layout technique, especially on page 6 where even the smallest section was used for an image.
I will have to say that this story was much better than Breyfogle's work on the Flashpoint mini-series. That could just be me though.
While Eric Battle does very well with backgrounds, I have never really enjoyed his figure work. His overuse of shadow leaves a lot to be desired. I know the office was dark, but I don't think we ever got a clear shot of the "Tony Stark"Tully Reed, except for maybe page 6.
Even though the action sequences were good, I just didn't get a lot out of the art. Certain little things stuck out. For one thing, G. Gordon Godfrey looked more like the child of Wally West and Abra Kadabra than the New God that had been shown before. For me, Godfrey should have been drawn as a very charismatic individual rather than the smirking guy who is trying to court Tully. This is a lot better, though, than some of the other comics where Godfrey appeared in. In the first two parts of the Legends crossover (the Batman and Detective Comics installments) Godfrey looked nothing like he did in any of the other comics.
The shadow demons were nice, especially on page 3. They had a real creepy feel to them. Vixen was drawn well and I really liked the transition panel on page 5. This is one of the times I really like computer effects in comics. It gave the story a nice emotional impact.
Cover Art - 5: There is nothing like the Martian Manhunter looking as if he wants to beat some super-villain butt. The Manhunter looks very powerful on the cover with his arms folded and that dead serious expression on his face. I also liked his cape flowing into the rest of the cover framed the cover well. The image of the dying Barry Allen separated the cover from the previous issues. I wasn't too thrilled with the faces of the JLA hovering over the skeletal Barry, but it wasn't too bad.
My favorite part had to be the Crisis crossover banner at the top of the cover. It seemed fitting to have it up there given the issues subject matter. It also separated this cover from the others on the rack this week, which is, for me, what makes this a great cover because it stands out. While I liked the previous issue's cover in terms of layout issue 5's cover had a better overall feel to it.
Mild Mannered Reviews
2001Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic was on sale.
-  Superman #164
-  Lex 2000
-  Adventures of Superman #586
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #108
-  Action Comics #773
- JLA #49
- JLA: A League of One
- JLA: Act of God #1
-  Superman #165
-  Adventures of Superman #587
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #109
-  Action Comics #774
- JLA #50
- JLA: Seven Caskets
- JLA versus Predator
- Justice Leagues: JL? #1
- JLA: Act of God #2
-  Superman #166
-  Adventures of Superman #588
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #110
-  Action Comics #775
- President Luthor: Secret Files and Origins #1
- JLA: Act of God #3
- Justice Leagues: Justice League of Aliens #1
- Justice Leagues: JLA #1
-  Superman #167
-  Adventures of Superman #589
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #111
-  Action Comics #776
- JLA #51
- Legends of the DC Universe #39
- Superboy's Legion #1
-  Superman #168
-  Adventures of Superman #590
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #112
-  Action Comics #777
- Superman Adventures #55
- JLA #52
- Superboy's Legion #2
- JLA: Black Baptism #1
- Batman: Gotham Adventures #36
-  Superman #169
-  Adventures of Superman #591
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #113
-  Action Comics #778
- Superman Adventures #56
- JLA #53
-  Superman #170
-  Adventures of Superman #592
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #114
-  Action Comics #779
- Superman Adventures #57
- JLA #54
- JLA: Incarnations #1
- Super Friends! Trade Paperback
- Superman: Where Is Thy Sting?
-  Superman #171
- Green Lantern: Our Worlds At War #1
-  Adventures of Superman #593
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #115
-  Action Comics #780
- Superman: Our Worlds At War: Secret Files and Origins #1
- Superman Adventures #58
- JLA #55
- JLA: Incarnations #2
-  Superman #172
-  Adventures of Superman #594
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #116
-  Action Comics #781
- JLA: Our Worlds At War #1
- JSA: Our Worlds At War #1
- Superman Adventures #59
- JLA #56
- JLA: Incarnations #3
-  Superman #173
-  Adventures of Superman #595
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #117
-  Action Comics #782
- World's Finest: Our Worlds At War #1
- Superman Adventures #60
- JLA #57
- Superman & Batman: Generations II #1
- JLA: Incarnations #4
-  Superman #174
-  Adventures of Superman #596
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #118
-  Action Comics #783
- Superman Adventures #61
- JLA #58
- Superman & Batman: Generations II #2
- JLA: Incarnations #5
- Joker: Last Laugh #1
- Joker: Last Laugh (Secret Files & Origins) #1
- Joker: Last Laugh #2
-  Superman #175
- Joker: Last Laugh #3
-  Adventures of Superman #597
- Joker: Last Laugh #4
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #119
- Joker: Last Laugh #5
-  Action Comics #784
- Superman Adventures #62
- JLA #59
- JLA: Gatekeeper #1
- Superman & Batman: Generations II #3
- JLA: Incarnations #6
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Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2001.