Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Justice League Detroit Redux - JLA Incarnations

JLA INCARNATIONS #5, written by John Ostrander with art by Val Semeiks, Kevin Conrad and Prentis Rollins.

As seen last week, the Justice League Detroit's original run came to an end with Justice League of America #261. By the end of that issue, Vibe and Steel were dead, Gypsy had reunited with her family and Vixen had resigned. While both women would continue adventuring over the years (Gypsy even re-joining the Justice League in the form of the Task Force) it would be fourteen years or so before the full Detroit League were seen again.

In JLA Incarnations, John Ostrander wrote single issue tales of the Leagues various line-ups and, in #5, he dealt with the Detroit League during the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The issue begins just after Aquaman quits the League, prompting the more senior members to question the need for its continued existence:

While J'onn's reasons sound noble, we've already seen that in the Crisis... issues proper, the League played a very small part, let alone led the other heroes. But to reinforce their point, when J'onn tells the others he is taking over, their doubts are justified:

Sorry, Ralph, did you say they'd be all right if you "don't go up against anything major"?


As a quick aside (and pardon me for boasting) I thought I'd mention that I own the original art for that page:

which was bought from Val Semeiks's website as a birthday present from my wife a couple of years ago. Anyhow, back to the story . . .

As happened in the original Crisis... the heroes are transported to the Monitor's satellite where Harbinger tells them what's happening. Unlike the original Crisis... though, it appears that the Anti-Monitor is crashing time together in an attempt to destroy everything. Remember that this retelling of the Crisis is actually post-Crisis and in this version there never were multiple Earths hence the substitution of a threat to time. To my knowledge this is the only full explanation of what the post-Crisis Crisis event actually was.

If you're confused by that, you're not alone:

Events follow a similar pattern to the original story after that. The Monitor's satellite is destroyed and the various heroes are sent to the tuning forks he's placed in various time zones which, if they were working correctly, would prevent the time zones collapsing in on each other. As most of the Detroit League battle an old League enemy, Gypsy runs off and hides but is found by someone she doesn't expect:

It's her older self from when she was in the Justice League Task Force and, in a paradox-inducing moment, the older Gypsy tells her younger self how to save the day. Armed with the knowledge, Gypsy runs off and finds Vibe, instructing him on how to use his vibrational powers to get the tuning fork up to speed. Once he's done that for one, it will feed through to the others. But while Vibe starts to work on the forks, Batman arrives demanding to know what's going on leading to Vixen facing him down:

This being a story set in the 80's, can we all take a moment to admire Batman's shoulder pads?

Thankfully, the League manage to pull it off and Vibe brings the Monitor's tuning forks on line, settling the time zones down, allowing the heroes time to regroup and work out where they go from there. In a nice little coda and rebuttal to their eventual fate and reputation among fans, the team head off with J'onn singing their praises.

Despite the concerns voiced by Zatanna and Elongated Man about the younger heroes, none of the Detroit Leaguers are anywhere near as lacking in confidence as they were in the original series. Vibe is still something of a goof but while played for laughs, he still gets to save the day. Gypsy may be a scared teenager but her older self proves she can be a hero. Both Steel and Vixen and strong and self-assured, working as a team and leading other heroes by example.

You can't help but wonder if they'd been written like this back in the late 80's whether things may have been different. Oh there would always be those who resisted change but if the Detroit League had been as strong as Ostrander portrays them here, I might not have written a few weeks' worth of articles on them.

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