Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CBR JLA: Incarnations


Remember my Justice League: Year One review?
Now's the time to dig into it's sequel, a zip through the JLA's following years and teams!

Comic title: JLA: Incarnations
Art by Val Semeiks, Prentis Rollins, Kevin Conrad, Eric Battle, Keith Champagne, Ray Kryssing
Story by John Ostrander

Published by DC
From 2001
Lineup JLA
Format: Maxi-series, published as JLA: Incarnations issues #1-7.

JLA Incarnations is a follow-up to Mark Waid's own JLA Year One.
It picks up where Year One left off, the idea behind this series was to cover various key points over the League's history in all-new adventures taking place during these "eras".

And to take on this dantesque job, it was none other than Mark Waid John Ostrander. Who, you might ask?
John Ostrander is a renowned comic book writer, best known for his classic and popular work on the Suicide Squad, the long running Martian Manhunter series and his most recent work on Star Wars: Legacy.

His style his big, epic and bold, perfect in my eyes to carry over Mark Waid's style.
This mini series serves to tell the history of the JLA during the ~10 year gab that follows the likes of JLA: Year One or Batman: Year One, the vague period of time the mid-80s Crisis event kept but retconned from Golden Age and Silver Age comics.

JLA: Incarnations issues are all double sized.
Each issue tells more or less self-contained stories, on 38-pages long issues. The story picks up fresh from the JLA's formation and first year. Through a sort of "retroactive retelling", we revisit past incarnations of the Justice League up to then-the present time of publication (that is, the JLA composed of the likes of Kyle Rayner!Green Lantern, the bearded spear-handed Aquaman, Plastic Man, etc).
We see how the League evolved, the gradual changes brought to the roster and team.

The first issues covers the "Silver Age" of the team. The roster stayed mostly the same, composed of GL, Flash, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Black Canary and Green Arrow. The League was still based in a mountain.

It's a great way to see how these stories took place in the post-Crisis DC Universe.
Subtle changes are given either to the continuity throughout the stories or the characters themselves over the course of the years.
Each issue focuses on some standalone members more than the others.  The first issue takes place around the first confrontation between the JLA and the JSA (without any silly Earth-2 aspect), the JSA seems a bit resentful against their successors at first, it's not like in the old comics when they just simply stumbled  into another world where other people filled their roles. It's your classic "villain manipulations"-plot though.
The second issue shows us how the "World's Finest" (Superman and Batman) came to  be reserve members rather than full League-status.

The third issue, one of my favorites, takes place around the "Satellite era".
When Green Arrow ends up leaving the League, feeling out of touch with the population from the space headquarters.

Ostrander plays "continuity cop", cleans up the DCU hitory and yet still manages to have fun with these overall characters arcs.
You feel invested in these characters in such few pages.

After the depart of Arrow, "thanks to fascists pigs" like Hawkman, there's a whole issue 4 dedicated to Martian Manhunter and Aquaman as they see the constant struggle to keep the team together during the time Elongated Man and Zatanna joined the JLA.
And finally even an issue 5 over a decade in the making, a Crisis tie-in!
And quite an original issue, taking place during that classic event that redefined DC Comics, but from the perspective of the actual resultant "Earth", not the old retconned Silver Age one, and from the eyes of the infamous "JL Detroit", a real team of underdogs heroes. (with the likes of Vibe, Vixen,,..)
There's also a revisiting of Barry Allen's final moments before joining the Speed Force.
And a back-up story taking place during Ostrander's own plotted Legends mini-series (glimpsed in my Blue Beetle review). When heroes became outlawed.

My favorite of the bunch is without a doubt the Super Buddies-esque issue.
Issue 6 sees Blue Beetle and Booster Gold get the Justice League International in trouble.
With some spot-on JLI-era humor, a fun (and funny!) adventure in Bialya
The same issue also offers us a extra tale during the disbanding of +the 90s Extreme Justice.
Finally, issue 7 takes place during the current League, and features the JLA's first foes, the Appelaxians! (last seen in Year One!)

JLA: Incarnations is about epic larger than life-adventures!

There's a lot of character moments, something you don't always get in these kind of action adventure comics.
This comic book series revisits and reimagines past events making they fit each other in the history of the League. There's some bigger character arcs that take place over various issues.

The book covers various classic League villains and some more obscure ones, such as Wotan, Gorilla Grodd, Kobra, etc.

The art is quite appropriate to the periods visited.
I really liked Val Semeiks' chameleon art stly,e, at times channeling John Byrne, other times George Pérez.
The art is bright, sometimes more realistic, other times more comic book-ysh. It ends up with more cartoony Superman and Batman "in the present" at issue 7.
The various inkers truly help Semeiks pencils fit the period of each issue.

There's also an on-going side story, from the perspective of Tully Reed - a reporter who is a big fan of superheroes, though he goes under some changes over the years too.
He's our entry-point into this fantastic world, and like the readers, will often cheer to the heroes, other times resent them..but in the end, he'll follow their heroic example.

Overall, it's a great enjoyable read!
Such a fun ride through the years.
It's also quite easy to get into, this is the kind of story the characters will refer to in their other comic book series.

From their golden days to the dark times and return to form.
I also loved seeing the Martian as the Justice League-constant throughout the years.
(Which, sidenote, reminds me why I just can't get into the currents New 52 League, no Martian Manhunter really? And Didio & co threw him into Stormwatch, nor JLA nor the JLI, really? booooh!!)

Loved all the little details, the mail from the fans-page designed to imitate the JLA at the time,
Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatties feel of the JLI issue...

It's truly a shame this has never been collected (as of today, as I write these lines).
Even if you only find a issue or two, it's self contained and quite accessible.

I give it:
  2.5 / 3 Plastic-trophies!

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