Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #16 Review
What Happened That You Have to Know About:
Cosmic Boy, Brainiac Five and Phantom Girl fight and defeat a monster, but Phantom Girl's flight ring is slightly damaged in the process. Starfinger uses this opportunity to try to steal it, but is foiled by aspiring Legion applicant Arm-Fall-Off Boy, whose origin we are also given.
Best issue yet.
I mean, I knew it was going to be good. A spotlight on Arm-Fall-Off Boy? Obviously a great idea. All they had to do was deliver on the promise, and they did.
And then some.
Matthew K. Manning is the writer this time around. Manning also wrote #10 and #12, both of which were strong issues. He trumps himself here. For one thing, it's a really funny comic book, perhaps the funniest Legion comic I've ever read. (Keith Giffen has also brought the funny on a few occasions, but the thing with Giffen is that you have to share his sense of humour to appreciate it. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.) There's approximately a laugh on every page here, a very high ratio.
The story itself is no more complex than is normal for this series; it's basically a look at AFO Boy's life with a couple of Legion fights thrown in. Still, Manning provides us with some interestingly interlocking images/symbols: AFO Boy's powers are echoed in the Legion fight against the monster when Cosmic Boy uses his powers on Phantom Girl's ring, to move her hand while being far away from it. Then there's the obvious premise that Starfinger would want a Legion flight rings, and of course Starfinger, like AFO Boy, has hand-related powers. (Mano would also have been a good choice as a villain for this story, but, let's face it, Starfinger's much more fun.)
Basically what I think is this. If, and it's a big if, Shooter is jumping ship, and if Geoff Johns is not scheduled to replace him, and if they don't have another replacement lined up, Matthew K. Manning has my vote as the next regular writer on Legion of Super-Heroes. I've seen work I've liked from all the LSH31C writers, but Manning has been the best of them.
He's not alone in this issue, either. Shawn McManus is the artist, and McManus (with, I think, some help from the colorists at Heroic Age) gives us a rich, rounded, layered-looking 31st century. His style does the most effective job I've seen so far of bridging the gap between the animated-series look and reality. I don't recall any standout panels or depictions; just a consistent high-quality job from front to back. I hope we haven't seen the last of him on this title. In fact, what the hey? As long as I'm putting Manning on the main title, we might as well have McManus too. (Not that I have any complaints about Manapul.) (Quick, name three comic-book professionals with seven-letter last names starting with 'M' and containing the word 'man'.)
I liked AFO Boy's moment of glory. Sure, he's got silly, next-to-useless powers, but he knew just what to do with them. I almost think he could be a Legionnaire. But, as the line goes, until he gets full control of his powers he'd be just as much a danger to his teammates as to his enemies.
Of all the versions of Starfinger we've had (purple diving suit, obese gangster, Levitz-era kill-the-messenger commander of Starlight and Starbright), animated-Legion Starfinger is the best. He's such a loser, but so gleeful about it.
One thing that struck me as interesting. The newscast about President Wazzo talking to the Durlan ambassadors mentions that 'she felt as if she were just talking to herself'. I wonder if Manning was drawing on Mark Waid's threeboot characterization of Chameleon as a mirror for whoever he's around. That'd be neat, even if it doesn't really have much to do with how Chameleon Boy was written in the cartoon. (Unless it does. Let me think about that.)
What can we do to get more Legion fans reading this comic? This is an excellent comic book!
- I wonder how Phantom Girl got her ring back
- The detail everyone will notice: on the cover, AFO Boy is 'Applicant 247'
- Nice little touches about Cosmic Boy using his powers in this issue: the metal discs from his costume at the start, retrieving the ring from Starfinger at the end
- I don't want to list all the funny lines from this issue, but my favourite was probably, "She's not really what you would call a talker"