Mild Mannered Reviews - JLA Comics
JLA: Incarnations #6Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 31, 2001
Cover date: December 2001
Writer: John Ostrander
Penciller: Val Semeiks/Eric Battle
Inker: Prentis Rollins/Keith Champagne
Part 6 of 7 - "Buddies"/"Authority"
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey (Earth1Superman@aol.com)
At Justice League International headquarters in New York City Batman shows his fellow Leaguers a tape he had recently confiscated from the Penguin. The tape contains a promotional video for the country of Bialya in which President Rumaan Harjavti advertises what a wonderful place Bialya is for super-criminals. With no extradition treaties and everything a criminal could want, from money laundering to "entertainment," Bialya has become a vacation resort for super villains. Batman informs Maxwell Lord that he has a plan to deal with the problem but is quickly shot down. Lord points out that since Bialya is a sovereign nation and the League operates under a United Nations charter they can do nothing until the U.N. says differently.
After Batman sulks off Booster Gold tells Blue Beetle that he has a brilliant plan to deal with the situation. Beetle is hesitant since Booster's plans tend to go south in a hurry. Undeterred, Booster goes on to explain that if they dress up as super villains and rob the bank of Bialya all of the villains vacationing there would be forced to go home. Booster finally persuades Beetle to go through with it by telling him that if they go through with it Batman will like them.
A few days later Beetle and Booster show up at Bialya's immigration office dressed as Deathmetal and Bloodspot. The immigration officer is unimpressed with their credentials (which consists of a Daily Planet headline showing the two beating up Green Lantern Guy Gardner), but when they dump two sacks full of cash on the desk the officer is most helpful.
After getting a hotel room, Beetle and Booster takes off their disguises. Beetle is upset over the current turn of events, pointing out that he used to be a serious super-hero. Booster tries to cheer him up which only serves to upset him more considering that the two had looted the J.L.I. operating fund for the money they used as their cover story. Booster brushes him off and then asks him what the plan is for cracking the bank. This proves too much for Beetle and the two argue the point. Finally Beetle tells him that he will cannibalize the muscle suits to help in robbing the bank so they can get out of Bialya as soon as possible.
That night at the First Laundro-Bank of Bialya Beetle and Booster sneak in through the laundry vent. Booster is confused as to why they chose that method of entry and Beetle explains that he wanted the authorities to think that it was the super villain Copperhead who robbed the bank. He had also fixed the security tape to loop, which would show the place was empty and cobbled together a laser pen using the same type of lasers Penguin uses in his umbrellas.
Once they get to the safe, Beetle attaches four magnetic field transducers to the safe door, which are linked to his gloves and allow him to pull the door off. Inside the safe President Harjavti, his assistant Geoffrey Froukes (who was the immigration officer that had checked them in), and members of Harjavti's military are waiting. Translating for the non-English speaking Harjavti, Froukes tells the heroes that they had taken their voiceprints when they came through immigration and matched them with a database of hero voiceprints, which is standard procedure when small time villains enter the country. He goes on to translate the President's orders for Beetle and Booster to be caned on national TV with international rights to be sold to the highest bidder.
The heroes think that things can't get worse when Froukes adds that the President has ordered them to be thrown into Bialya's meanest prison for the rest of their days. Booster attempts to free himself and Beetle by using his force field, but Froukes has taken that into consideration too and uses a device designed by T.O. Morrow to nullify the force field and any other weapon the two may have. With that, the soldiers use the butts of their rifles to knock the two out.
Back at the J.L.I. Embassy, Oberon barges into Maxwell Lord's office wanting to know why a million and a half dollars of League operating funds had disappeared. Before he can answer Fire and Ice bust in with the battered form of Guy Gardner to tell them what Beetle and Booster had done to the formerly annoying hero.
Lord smugly enlightens them that he knows of Beetle and Booster's plan to scam Bialya and that they had been caught, adding that nothing escapes his eye. With that, Batman shows himself scaring Max half to death and wanting to know what Lord intends to do about it. Lord suggests that they leave the two in Bialya since they have made themselves criminals by their actions. Guy tells him that he can't do that since Booster and Beetle are their friends and part of the team. Batman explains that he has a plan that Lord tries to shoot down since it would constitute an invasion. Batman then points out that it wouldn't be an invasion if they were asked to come into the country.
Batman goes on to explain his plan. First, Guy is to get them into Bialya undetected. Then Fire and Icemaiden are to slip onshore incognito and get to the Automatic Teller Machines of Bialya's bank. There they are to insert a bankcard which contains a program that will open their systems via modem to a specific program Batman has running. The program will skim funds from the villains' accounts to Harjavti's personal account. Then they wait.
In their cell, Beetle berates Booster for getting them into the mess they are in. Suddenly, an explosion rocks their cell. Harjavti, Froukes and a group of solider come in. Harjavti is enraged since either Booster and Beetle or their friends have skimmed the visiting villains' accounts and now that said villains have found out are rioting and looking to slaughter Harjavti. Upon hearing this Booster and Beetle break into laughter.
On the battlefield Tully Reed, now with GBS, reports on the riots stating that the government of Bialya has formally requested that the Justice League to step in. The League calls in their reserves and the team makes quick work of the villains. Tully then turns the microphone over to Harjavti, who reads a statement which says that he takes full responsibility for the riot and that his assistant Geoffrey Froukes should receive no blame and that he now places the government and Harjavti's torture into Froukes hands. Harjavti stops reading, takes out a gun and shoots Froukes telling him that he had instant translation of the statement he was reading. With that he makes a brief statement and walks off.
Back at the embassy Batman asks Lord what he is going to do with Booster and Beetle. Lord replies that he has turned the two over to Oberon who has put them to work as janitors to fill the staff problem the cash flow problem caused.
While cleaning the bathroom, Booster excitedly explain that he has a new plan. It involves and island named KooeyKooeyKooey.
Captain Atom muses over the concept of justice. From his time in Vietnam to being framed for treason and used as a guinea pig for an experiment that encased him in an alien metal and put on top of an atom bomb, Atom has always had a sense of justice and injustice.
The atomic blast melded the metal with Atom's body and the government employed him to be a mole among the metahuman community. At first he was to pretend to be a hero, but his time with the Justice League actually made him a hero and he broke free of his superiors to join them. Despite the fact that they had the power to change the world, the United Nations, who sanctioned the League, bound the group by being governed by what was politically feasible. Captain Atom eventually quit the group and others joined him.
The group still called itself the Justice League, and they had the power to change the world and if they had to take it to extremes to do it they would.
The team, consisting of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Amazing-Man, Maxima and Captain Atom, were battling the recently rebuilt Extremists who were the new security force for the new ruler of Bialya Queen Beatriz. Atom had met with Wonder Woman (leader of the regular Justice League) and Martian Manhunter (leader of Justice League Task Force) and the two of them had decided that as long as the Extremist stayed in Bialya that they would take no action.
Captain Atom wasn't going to give them the chance. The Extremists had taken the League down before and Atom wasn't going to give them another chance.
As the battle continues Tracer injures Amazing-Man and Maxima rips the tentacles off of Gorgon. While Beetle takes on Dr. Diehard, Booster cries that Amazing-Man is down. After making short work of Lord Havok, Cap finishes off Tracer and Dr. Diehard.
After the battle is over Booster compliments Atom on his skills. Atom tells him that there's nothing to it since he could go all out on the Extremists because they were only robots. Then the team notices that the Extremists weren't merely robots, but cyborgs. Booster notes that they may still be alive but Beetle reminds them that they have a casualty of their own. Atom orders them to get everyone to a friendly hospital stat while he finishes things.
After destroying the complex where the new Extremists were made he flies to Queen Bea's palace. Queen Bea tells him he had no right to destroy her property to which Atom retorts that he made it his right since she had no right to take innocent people and hardwire them into machines. Furious, Queen Bea tells him that the people they used were volunteers who wanted to become superhuman protectors that would make Bialya safe, respected and feared. She also asks if America is the only country that is allowed to have metahumans. Before flying off Atom informs her that if she rebuilds the Extremists again he would come back and burn the entire country to the ground.
Back in the United States, Tully Reed hosts a special edition of his television show "Meta-Vision." The special guests include Lex Luthor, Maxwell Lord, Amanda Waller and Ralph Dibney, a.k.a. the Elongated Man. After Lord points out that the League needs to reorganize under new leadership Lex Luthor makes the statement that the metahumans need to be held accountable for their actions. He goes on to say that the metahumans should be forced to register themselves with the Federal Government and make their identities known to the authorities. Both Dibney and Amanda Waller disagree before the show goes to a commercial break.
At Extreme Justice H.Q. Beetle, Booster and Maxima wonder what is to come of recent events. Wonder Woman comes in and informs them that the U.N. has withdrawn their sanctions and that the League has been disbanded. Maxima storms off wondering why she allied herself with the League in the first place.
At the Vietnam Memorial, Captain Atom stands silently in front of the Wall. A disguised Martian Manhunter joins him and reveals that he had been in Vietnam as well as a medic. Atom points out that they weren't allowed to win in Vietnam or as super-heroes. That they had all this power to change the world and they were not allowed. Manhunter points out that it's probably a good thing that they don't change the world since no two hero can agree on how it should be changed.
In Gotham City Batman waits on a rooftop for Superman to join him. Superman asks why he has been called and Batman replies the Justice League. Batman points out that while the League is disbanded for now there will be another one and the two of them need to decide what sort of League that will be. Superman questions what Batman means and the Dark Knight explains that the last League was splintered with no central focus. The League needs to gather the best and provide a clear vision and they the two of them need to be a part of it from the start. Superman agrees and the two shake hands as a toast to the League.
Story - 5: Well, this was bound to happen. Finally an incarnation of the Justice League where I have first hand knowledge of the stories involved and I get all of the in jokes and references. It was bound to happen I guess.
I have full runs of all of the Justice League books that came out from 1987 to 1996 and have read them on numerous occasions. Most people don't like them, especially the Giffen books. Too silly, they say. The characters were uninteresting and small time. The humor was crude and misplaced. After Giffen left the respect level didn't go up and the books fell into several different hands before finally going to Grant Morrison.
For my money the Justice League of this time period is highly underrated. I know I am in the minority on this one. I am comfortable with that. It's just that I think that I believe that the League of the late '80s and early '90s may have been light on super-hero heavyweights, but very heavy on characterization and development, especially the Giffen era. Another aspect of the Giffen era that is overlooked is that while the book had a very lighthearted feel it also had a good amount of heroism, which is what the League should be about in the first place. The book may have gotten silly (especially when it came to Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle) but it never lost touch with the fact that these people were the Justice League and no matter what members they had they were the ones people looked to save the day.
"Buddies" did a very good job of capturing that spirit and of getting the feel of the Giffen League without aping the style directly. He managed to get the humor right with little touches that made the story worthwhile. The promotional video to Bialya was a great example, especially the line-up of "entertainment" the country had to offer. From Killer Croc chasing a pig to the group of "entertainers" who were wearing French maid outfits and dressed as pool boys, the selections was humorous and fitting to the story.
The hare-brained scheme of Booster and Beetle fit right into the times. These two get a seriously bad rap, but as silly as they were the two were also a lot of fun with Beetle being the ultimate straight man. Ostrander manages to give a lot of cred to Beetle throughout the story. Despite the fact that Booster Gold points out the reality of his early super-hero career, Beetle comes through as a very intelligent, very crafty hero who is kind of the Macgyver of the hero set. Booster came off as a boob, which may not reflect his early career pretty much nails his role in the League.
There were other nice touches. This story takes place when Ice was still Icemaiden and before Adam Hughes changed Fire and Ice's costumes. Guy is still in his "nice guy" phase after Batman punched him in the face (one of the classic moments in comic book history) which is always fun. Batman himself remains true to form with his participation with this League with his arrogance and ability to come up with a brilliant plan on the spot. The plan he came up with was interesting and made for some good reading.
Overall I liked "Buddies." It captured the flavor of the era and gave it a certain degree of respect, which it seriously lacks with fans these days. Sure it was silly and sure the plotline may be a tad far-fetched, but it was fun, which was the point of the book in the first place.
Aside from having a very ironic title, "Authority" did an equally respectable job of getting the sense of what the stories were like. Five years after the stories were published and it feels like I'm right back there reading Extreme Justice.
To be fair, Extreme Justice had some serious flaws primarily due to the fact that the creative team changed three or four times. The art was overdone which didn't help things. What the series did have for it that, like the current JSA, the series cleaned up bits and pieces of continuity that had been either ignored or forgotten. The book was a bit more violent as well and while it didn't always help the story it separated the series from the other Justice League books.
"Authority" had a very strong narrative, which helped the story. The concepts Captain Atom brought up were interesting and thought provoking at the same time. The content of the story was violent, which, as mentioned, fit the tone of the stories that were originally published. The Martian Manhunter's rebuttal was appealing as well and brought up the valid point that while the heroes have the power to change the world no two heroes can agree on how it should be done. I liked this and it makes sense considering the various types of super-heroes that populate the DC Universe and the differences in the methods. Captain Atom and Martian Manhunter are both heroes but both have radically different ways to get what they want done.
It was nice to see the Extremists again too. This group was one of the most dangerous to come out of the Giffen era and it was cool to see how Ostrander brought them back. The cyborgs angle was pleasing. I guess the only problem I had here was that the original Extremists were very hard to beat and this team went down relatively easy. I know this is a new team, but I always found the Extremists to be a malicious group and this didn't live up to that.
I also had one major fanboy continuity problem with the story. While it was good to see Tully get his own television show it was the characterization of his guests that tripped the fanboy response. A good group, to be sure and it was ironic to see Amanda Waller disagree with Lex Luthor given her current job in his administration. Lex, though, is the sticky point. If I'm right, and I'm pretty sure I am, Lex was still in hiding at this point and in much better shape. This story took place not long after Lex made his deal with Neron and got his body back after suffering the effects of the clone plague, which resulted in Luthor destroying Metropolis. At this point in Superman continuity Lex was romancing the Contessa and trying to keep a low profile. I have a hard time thinking that he would have put on all that weight and still been respected in the public mind, at least not enough to be on a panel of experts.
Overall the story was great, especially the ending. There was a very iconic feel to the epilogue and it flows nicely into the next incarnation of the League. It, and the story itself, gives a good sense of why the League changed over to the big guns in the DC Universe. I mean I know sales were the main concern for DC Comics itself, but as far as continuity goes we never got a clear reason for the change. A good ending to a good story.
Art - 4: What can I say about Val's art that I haven't said in my previous reviews? He has a nice style and a good sense of layout but some of his figure work leaves a lot to be desired. Between the Jay Leno chins to the curtain rod Batman his people tend to be very blocky and stiff. His Batman has an almost Brian Bolland look to it, but the shoulders are way too big.
I will say that his Blue Beetle was very nice. A real solid interpretation of the character and there was a real difference between him and Booster in terms of physique, which makes sense. Booster was a football player and Beetle was a martial artist. This was a nice touch.
Val did a nice job at throwing in a lot of villains into a short amount of space as well and that made the art a little more palatable than the previous issues.
Eric Battle has a nice style, but his faces are very weak. He did a nice job with Captain Atom's origin and the battle sequence with the Extremists. The Maxima portion of the battle was particularly appealing and did a good job of making the violence very subtle.
The final page is where he shines. Superman's entrance, like the segment itself, was iconic. There were some problems with the faces but it really brought the story together and complimented the writing well.
Cover Art - 5: Best cover of the series, so far. It matches the style of the story inside and manages to tie the two separate stories together. Funny cover.
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.