Justice League Incarnate #5 review

It’s the final issue of the dimension-spanning mini-series and the threat of the Great Darkness is growing. The primal force that wants to wipe out the light of not just one, but two, multiverses is ever encroaching. Hope comes in an unlikely form.

As Darkseid struggles against agent of Darkness the Gentry, Justice League Incarnate members Flash, Superman, Dr Multiverse and Mary Marvel face their corrupted comrades Thunderer, Mary Marvel, Aquawoman, Dino Cop, Orion and pet dog Sturmer. Happily, Dr Multiverse comes up with a plan.

Everyone is soon fine again, but there’s still a doomsday device with which to deal. Deciding it’s simply too much for them, one hero suggests using their powers to just destroy the thing… and the world with it. But first, a rescue mission is mounted. Barry Allen, the Flash of Earth-0, recently vanished, but Avery – the Flash of that world’s China – can lead her team to him via their linked vibrations. Having spent so much time journeying between dying planets, the team members are not prepared for where they find Barry.

This series began with the recovery of Barry as the main mission, and finally he’s found. But he refuses to come home. The other big aim was to stop Darkseid and his horrible offspring, Grail and Kalibak, using a crack in reality to gain ‘unimaginable power’. As it turned out, Darkseid and co were pawns in a bigger game, so everyone winds up on the same side. ‘The enemy of my enemy’ and all that.

The series doesn’t conclude, sadly. It stops, with writers Joshua Williamson and Dennis Culver pointing us towards the continuation of the story in the upcoming Justice League #75, in which most of the current team comic-book-dies.

This issue is OK for what it is, but with Barry still in Ben-Day dot heaven at the end, it’s ultimately just a lot of vamping and so very frustrating. The supposedly incredibly powerful Justice League Incarnate team declares itself not up to the task of eliminating the Great Darkness, feeling that only the League of Earth 0 can stop them now. Such a move isn’t so unusual, teams are always joining forces to combat the biggest threats, but this is Justice League Incarnate’s first series, they really should get a big triumph.

As it is, we don’t even get to see all the members in action. While Thunderer finally gets something to do, Dino Cop, Aquawoman and Mary Marvel remain firmly on the sidelines. Admittedly, Aquawoman does get her biggest moment yet after Orion accepts a field promotion.

But it’s not much, is it?

As for Dino Cop, he has a few lines of dialogue, Mary Marvel too – but once again, writers fail to acknowledge she has the wisdom of Minerva and might actually have a few good ideas. The three heroes are just set dressing.

And we still don’t learn why the team is called JL Incarnate.

There were moments I really enjoyed. The look of Earth-Flash.1. Teamwork that’s reminiscent of the Silver Age JLA. There’s really nothing wrong with Williamson and Culver’s script other than it failing to wrap up the Barry business… but that fact makes things feel pretty darn flat.

We have two artists. Andrei Bressan is back for the bulk of the book and he delivers sinewy storytelling, with an imposing Darkseid and that spread of Dr Whatever You Need, Sport curing the brainwashed heroes being especially nice. Then there’s this cracking Captain Carrot moment.

When was the last time Rodney Rabbit got to act like an actual cartoon? The panel is likely described in the script, but Bressan nails it.

The scenes of suburban Flash are the work of Jesus Merino and they’re delightfully mundane until Pariah, the LVP of Crisis on Infinite Earths, shows up and gets very on the nose.

What a terrific shot, splendidly coloured – as is the whole issue – by the formidably talented Hi-Fi. While the colour dots of olde world comics were never quite as prominent as those here, there’s a lovely Pop Art charm (and I say that as a hater of Roy Lichtenstein). The other Hi-Fi highlight is the imprisonment of Darkseid in a world of blackness, as composed by Bressan.

The scene similarly spotlights Tom Napolitano’s letters; the variety and clarity of fonts used shows real creativity.

Gary Frank’s cover illustration, ably coloured by regular partner Brad Anderson, will surely grace the front of any collected edition. It’s a rather cool visual.

I’ve enjoyed this series. It doesn’t rate all the stars due to its incompleteness, but it’s entertained me. I do feel a little led on, though, like a Peggy or Janie in an old DC romance book. Benday dots and all.

10 thoughts on “Justice League Incarnate #5 review

  1. Williamson again succeeds at copying he worst writing tics of Geoff Johns. No ending but a TBC to another dark and depressing tale. Pariah as an inexplicable villain. How does his curse and personality even fit here?

    I think I’m done with DC as a whole. Didio and Johns’ march away from the hope and optimism baked into the DCU has been taken up by Williamson. We have avoided Didio’s horrifying 5G but we got Future State and whatever bullshit name WIlliamson’s drek is getting (it made so little impression on me when I’ve read about it and it’s not worth Googling). I may have even been done with DC for some time I realize as I write this. I already won’t touch a comic that ties to Future State, have long ago given up on Batman, recently dropped Superman, have never been able to stand the Harley Quinn version of Suicide squad, Hal ,or Ollie, am hit or miss on Wonder Woman (merchandising power should not make her part of a Trinity IMO), had the last Teen Titans series turn me off of the Franchise and Robin specifically, and consider Russel and King series toxic. Not much left, eh? JL has seen the last issue I’ll touch and I don’t think I’ve read more than two issue of a DC Event this decade.

    Where was I? Oh right. This series has been a tease for another story, one I won’t be reading but at least it looks pretty while it spins wheels that are essentially flat tires.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Gladiator or sci fi space hero Superman isn’t to my taste and Jon to me feels like Superboy going by the wrong name. ‘Sides, with Jon all the social lecturing is wasted on me since I believe and act according to a good number things that Taylor is uncharacteristically being ham fisted about. I just skip comics like that and normally keep my mouth shut so someone who does need the topics spoon fed them doesn’t skip the book too. At least he isn’t as excruciating to read as a Denny O’Neil socially conscious script.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If Jon felt like Superboy by another name to me I’d be a little happier; to me, Superboy stories mean fun, whether it’s young Clark, Kon or original flavour Jon. This version of Jon is just so very dull…


      3. I’ll learn about it in your reviews. Bendis’ last JL will be mine as well. Avengers and Justice League haven’t interested me much through the years unless the writer excited me.


    1. I can’t really argue with your decision, I’ve dropped a lot of books too. Maybe I’ll finally get to cracking open my Sandman Mystery Theatre trades, rereading Starman, trawling through the various Silver Age Omnibuses. So much great stuff I need to enjoy.


  2. I’ve been liking this series less and less as it’s moved forward, and this one, well… it just wasn’t for me. (Two panels aside, that is — the eye-popping Captain Carrot panel and the shot of Aquawoman grumbling about Orion.) Everyone who has a personality or motivation– and precious few characters in this book actually do — has been bent to fuel the engine of another big, daft multiversal mess. It’s ridiculous and stupid, and doesn’t really pass the low bar of entertainment provided by pro wrestling. It’s all “mutiversal energy” gobbledygook that can handwave or propel any plot development.

    I compared this series’ treatment of characters to Human Target’s in the review of that recent issue, and the difference comes down to this: Previous characterizations are ignored in both stories, but I want to see how that one turns out; I’m invested in those characters as presented, whether or not they conform to how they’ve acted in previous stories. In this? None of the heroes does anything distinctive, the only one who wants anything definable is Avery (she wants to rescue Barry Allen), and we get Darkseid — the personification of ultimate, authoritarian evil — acting like a ray-blasting mook. And it’s the multiverse, so anything that happens can UN-happen in the wave of a hand. There are literally no stakes. We know the Justice League is coming back to life, and they haven’t even died yet.

    And I’m someone who WANTS to see the next generation take over for a while. I want to see them work together, form a team, have disagreements, get things done. But as much fun as I was having with Infinite Frontier when Williamson first started telling the story, so much of it has drained away. Just like his run on Flash, it promises an incredible story, but ends up producing a whole lot of sparks and nothing more.

    I’m going to pick up the Death of the Justice League to wrap this up, but Dark Crisis is starting to look more and more like a pass for me — despite it supposedly starring the younger set.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eloquent arguments as ever!

      I really did think this was going to turn out to but significant, but no dice. Could it be that Williamson knows everyone was going to be cynical about the Death of the JLA business that he’s actually playing a different game, and he’s doing to blow our fanboy minds?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think any writer could do a “Death of” storyline at this point and not realize how that plot point would be received. I definitely think he’ll do some things to subvert the old expectations. But whether they’ll be clever enough to blow our minds, I can only hope.

    Liked by 1 person

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