Thursday, March 17, 2011

Adventure Comics #524 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

The cadets, in disgrace after being caught at the end of last issue, are grounded. But Chemical Kid is worried about his dad, so he goes back to Phlon with Gravity Kid, Dragonwing, Comet Queen, and Glorith, and they end up in a confrontation with... I guess it's the Taurus Gang. Black Mace, anyway, and a few other people. And it doesn't go well.

Review:

Second-issue syndrome, but that's okay; Levitz and Jimenez have a plot in mind that's just starting to ramp up. I don't know what there is to care about with the Taurus Gang and Chemical Kid's dad, but both the villains and the planet Phlon are fairly fresh territory for Legion comics, so there's a lot of room for interesting stuff.

Characters. I hope they give Luornu more to do in this series than to be the shouty one. Seriously; she's good for a lot more than that. Also, I'm glad we got to see some of Chemical Kid's good qualities this issue; he seemed genuine in that scene where he was talking to Glorith. For a second, anyway.

Is it just me or is the legacy aspect of the Legion Academy overdone a bit? Too many of these characters have connections to the Legion. Variable Lad is Dr. Gym'll's nephew and Glorith is Mysa's student; in the past we had Laurel Kent and Shadow Kid and Magnetic Kid, all with Legionnaire relatives. Also, Chemical Kid's family is rich. I'm getting the idea that the Academy is kind of exclusive. (Obviously there are other ways in; Dragonwing seems like she's from the wrong side of the tracks, and Comet Queen and Glorith are nobody in particular.)

My Taurus-fu is not strong. I'm pretty sure I've got their other appearance somewhere, but if anyone would care to explain in the comments just which Taureans we're dealing with here and what their deal is, I'd appreciate it.

Now that we've got the Academy starring in a comic book, at least for a little while, let's think about what kind of superhero group they're going to be. I came up with ten fundamental points about the Legion here; go look at 'em and come back. Of those ten, some of the superficial ones certainly apply here (1,2,3,4,7,9, and 10). Specifically, they're trying to stress the teamwork angle, which, from a pedagogical point of view, makes sense. The differences? There aren't as many Academy students as there are Legionnaires. It's not special to be an Academy student (although see Nightwind's appearance in the "For No Better Reason" arc of DnA's The Legion series!), but it is special to be a Legionnaire, and the Academy does kind of feed on that a little.

And most of all, there's no evidence of Superman's influence in the Academy. (There was when Laurel Kent was a member, but not since then.) There's a lot of Legion influence, but nothing specific to Superman.

We could say another couple of things about the Legion that have become true since I first wrote that thing: first, that the Legion helped Clark Kent become Superman, and second, that the Legion is a beacon of diversity in a xenophobic universe. The Academy isn't really using these things either. The Academy students are overall less diverse than the Legionnaires are (do you realize how many Earthlings there are in this group?), but I suppose you could say that, as kids being taught how to be heroes by ex-Legionnaires, they're sorta playing a Superman role... except that they don't resemble Superman in the slightest. (Except maybe Jed.)

So that's how they're like and not like the Legion. Let's keep our eyes out for things we can say the Legion Academy stands for other than the obvious, that they're a way of feeding the UPs superhero systems.

Notes:
- "Since I was a snot." Way back then, huh?
- Is there a comic book character who has appeared on more covers, with less known about him, than Urk?
- I didn't realize that Gym'll was so squat compared to Variable Lad
- I have to keep reminding myself: Phlon is where Chemical King and Kid come from; Phlan is the setting of Pool of Radiance
- last panel of page 11. Is that Dragonwing or Black Mace causing that FWOOSH? If it's Dragonwing, why's she doing it?
- Michael Chiklis as Black Mace in the movie? Maybe Bruce Willis?

Art: 91 panels/19 pages = 4.8 panels/page. One 12-panel page, two single-panel pages, one case of 5 panels spread over 2 pages. 19 pages?! Hold the line at $2.99 all you want, DC, but it doesn't mean much if the comics keep shrinking.

But Jimenez does his usual fine job. I particularly like his Bouncing Boy. And Phlon looks like a real interesting place! (Despite what Chemical Kid says about it.)

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22 Comments:

Anonymous AJay said...

I kind of like the idea that Hadru's father bought his way into the Academy. That Dragonwing came from a suppressive background gives her a little more edge. I thought it was cool to see Variable Lad with his uncle being all avuncular for once. These guys all growing on me. I think Tel's name should be Gravity Guy though, There are too many "Kids".

9:15 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't know about the use of the word "guy" in superhero names, except under tightly controlled circumstances. Maybe.

Of the five classic Legionnaire suffixes, "girl" is clearly the one that works best with "gravity", although I guess we can't use that. "King" and "queen" also aren't much of an improvement. We could always use an alliterative first name (a la "Porcupine Pete") such as "Greg" or "Gus", but I'm not really feeling that either. Alliteration would help us a bit, though, and I think we should stick to a one-syllable word. I can't think of anything. Really, "guy" is perfect except that it's too casual. Hadru could pull it off, but not Tel. "Chemical Guy"? I think it kinda works.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly,Jimenez and the Legion are a perfect match.If only he could do both Legion titles all year round.But,his storytelling isn't always clear:Why was Chuck kneeling whan talking with Dr. Gym'll?There were a couple of other instances where I wasn't sure I saw what I saw.
The color used in the border of this month's cover is one I can't remember seeing on a comic book cover before.Looks nice.But who's that character in the center panel of the bottom row? Is that this Urk you're talking about?
Chemical Kid should be called Charisma Kid.He seems to have no problem getting his classmates to follow his lead.Maybe he uses his power to alter their brain chemistries,making them more pliable.If that's the case,gonna be fireworks someday.
The Taurus Gang debuted in the late 60s (AD.#374).Sort of a low-rent Fatal 5.Two of the original members,Black Mace and Shagrek (with another of his race) are here.Don't know who the woman is.
New member,perhaps.Like the cadets,there's plenty of room to go all-new with these bad guys.
I don't see the need for the Legion Academy to have a Superman display.It's not like the Legion wears their own Superman influence on its sleeve.
Between this issue and the LSV special,it feels like the retroboot is finally getting into gear.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yeah, that's Urk. (I just went back and looked at the cover of LSHv2 #304 to see if he was there; I thought he was but he wasn't.)

Your idea about Chemical Kid is intriguing but I hope that's not what's happening.

I don't see the need for the Legion Academy to have a Superman display.

No, no; not a display. The Legion represents Superman's legacy ten centuries later, in several ways. First, they were specifically inspired by him. Second, they helped him become who he is. Third, their membership has included (at different times) several people who represent Superman's legacy in different ways: Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Supergirl, Kent Shakespeare...

There's nothing like that that you can say about the Legion Academy.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Prof. Lemaris Lang said...

The Taurus Gang appeared in Adventure 374, Mission: Diabolical. Members were Black Mace, Rogarth astrongman, Mystelor, with ESP, Shagrek, who has antenna thhat emit disintegration beams, Quanto, a human beam of light. Thos story is reprinted in Showcase 4 and Archives 8.

flightringvillage.blogspot.com

8:23 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Thanks!

1:24 PM  
Blogger Ben Rawluk said...

Gravity Lad would work as an alternative to Kid, if it's really bothering people. The assonance is almost as good as alliteration.

I'm still enjoying the Academy way more than the parent book, and hope the feature continues for a while--long enough to take the focus away from Chemical Kid, who I'm still very lukewarm about. Glorith needs more work, and I just want more Comet Queen. For the moment we have too much of "Chemical Kid runs around while the other kids follow" which may get tiresome.

Artwork's still mint, and more in line with what I want out of a super-futuristic Legion book. It needs detail!

Lu and Chuck have been great, and I feel like they bring something to the role of super-teachers that feels a little fresher.

I'd actually like to see some exploration of solo heroes on outworlds--it's a concept that seems slightly foreign to the 30th Century, where the only heroes who aren't in the Legion are with the Heroes of Lallor or the Wanderers (or the Uncanny Amazers depending on your continuity), and I'd love to see a storyline devoted to that.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

You'd think that there would be some solo heroes, yeah. There was Atmos on Xanthu. There was that celebrity-hero who turned out to be a faker way back when. Doesn't make sense that the Legion and the Subs are the only game in any town not named Lallor.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Jim Davis said...

Doesn't make sense that the Legion and the Subs are the only game in any town not named Lallor.

Way back in the first Adventure era during the classic sun eater/Fatal Five story the Legion made an appeal to the other super heroes of the galaxy to help fight the sun eater. The response was less than enthusiastic.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, well, you know. Silver Age.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Greybird said...

"Is it just me or is the legacy aspect of the Legion Academy overdone a bit?"

One factor in bringing "legacy" characters to bear — probably down the list, but always present — is Trademark Maintenance.

If Glorith, say, is copied by someone else, and DC challenges it on trademark grounds, they have firmer ground to stand on if she's actually shown up in some DC book during the previous 10 years.

(I don't think the asserted trademark rights to unregistered characters have been rigorously tested. Registered ones like "Superman" need proof of use and, in some cases, re-registration.)

10:50 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, if that's it, I'm against it.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the Legionverse,it's no secret that the Legion was inspired by the legend of Superman.It's in their charter,after all.Since the Legion Academy is affiliated with the Legion,the public would infer that the Academy is similarly inspired just by their association with the Legion.
As for any Super-descendents,three words:Death Of Superboy.The fallout from that lasted for years.Let's not court trouble again.Keep the Super-links a matter of inspiration rather than issue.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Since the Legion Academy is affiliated with the Legion,the public would infer that the Academy is similarly inspired just by their association with the Legion.

Oh, sure, but I'm not worried about what the public is thinking; I'm talking about the themes and symbols in the stories themselves.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I don't follow you.Superman does good and fights evil,and the Legion does the same.Unless you're talking about something more specific like restoring the Fortress of Solitude or terraforming a new Krypton,I don't see what more the Legion could do to honor Superman's legacy.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

No, what I mean is, there is a lot of evidence in the history of the Legion, in the specific characters chosen as Legionnaires, and probably some other stuff, that the Legion represents Superman's legacy.

However, the Legion Academy, as distinct from the Legion, isn't carrying around any of the same Superman-flavoured baggage. I'm sure if anyone asked the Academy staff and students if they honoured Superman, they'd say yes, but that's not the same as having Superman's legacy be a theme of any Legion Academy stories.

It's not a good or bad thing that the Legion Academy doesn't represent Superman's legacy; it's just a point on which Legion Academy comics differ from Legion comics. I was just mentioning it because, while we have the chance, I'd like us to start noticing just what kind of thematic stuff is going on in Legion Academy stories that regular Legion stories don't have.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous stile86 said...

The old Taurus gang from Adventures 374 was secretly led by Science Police Chief Zoltorus, masquerading as R.J. Brande to use his funds. The SP secrets and Brande's fortune gave them a lot of clout so it will be interesting to see how this new gang works.

Black Mace was one of 5 super-powered Taurean enforcers and appeared later in a solo fight against Timber Wolf (Superboy #213). Levitz used him in a flashback story in LSHv3#31 against the newly-joined Princess Projectra, Karate Kid and Ferro Lad. Black Mace was also mentioned in a couple of v4 stories. This is the first time we have seen him with the double barbell mace.

The two orange guys resemble Shagrek but don't use his ability to fire disintegrator beams from his antennae. They seem to be pure muscle. (He too made a brief appearance in v4). They are also interesting because there were indications that Shagrek was the lone representative of an alien species.

Apart from a brief appearance by Quanto in another Levitz flashback story (LSHv3#59) none of the other super-powered Taureans have been seen again. The apparently chemical-powered female is new.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous stile86 said...

Oops! Just realised Black Mace was also a member of Superboy-Prime's LSV in Legion of 3 Worlds. Just a bit player, although he did get to take out Timber Wolf this time, but wielding two maces which we hadn't seen before. Seems his mastery of his weapon or the technology behind it is improving.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Thanks.

11:15 PM  
Blogger karl said...

Great stuff, this issue. I rea;;y started to get into the Academy students here; theyr melding together quite nicely, and I lovelovelove Chemical Kings home planet, very stylish and suitably alien-looking.
Great to see the Taurus Gang again and God yes...Michael Chiklis!!
Only thing I didnt like...Llournu in a permanently angry mode. Understandable after Chems capers last issue ,yes, but she seemed unlikeable here. Chuck, on the other hand is far too easy going!!
Fine issue overall.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I was also struck by the fact that almost all the academians were from Earth, but then I remembered that it has been only months since the xenophobic Justice League's control was broken. Remember how close things were to an alien coalition going to war on Earth? There should be some reluctance for non-Terrans to enter the Academy, and hence we only have Chemical Kid (legacy with money), Glorith (legacy), Comet Queen, and Urk (who is so non-human that he could have slipped under the xeno radar, maybe). CQ may well have been in Medicus One for months while the JL was in power (and she's a legacy of sorts, too -- got her powers trying to imitate Star Boy's comet accident, as I recall).

2:50 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I guess that depends on who controls the Academy. I wonder who does. Brande Industries? The Legion, directly? Earthgov? Science Police? United Planets? Some combination of these?

Now you've started me wondering.

3:30 PM  

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