Thursday, October 26, 2006

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #23 Review

What Happened That You Have To Know About:

Lots of things going on here. Simplest stuff first.

Shadow Lass and Atom Girl pay a visit to Talok VIII, where Shady is, as in previous continuities, the Shadow Champion of the planet. She defends her title against her brother Grev, and Atom Girl persuades her to run for Legion leader.

Element Lad and Triplicate Girl search the Metropolis undercity for any evidence that the robot rebellion is still active. They don't find that, but two-thirds of Triplicate Girl does discover a couple of other things: a kid with the power to make plants grow, whom they invite to join the legionnaires in the overcity, and the other one-third of Triplicate Girl sharing a tender moment with Element Lad. What we know that she doesn't, though, is that Chlorophyll Kid (which is what I'm going to call him until I have a good reason not to) is working undercover for... I'm going to guess Tarik the Mute. Somebody, anyway.

But the main plot has Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5 and Light Lass taking Supergirl to the city of Kandor on the planet Rokyn to try to get her tuned into reality. They use kryptonite (which is what Timber Wolf brought to Brainiac 5 about twenty issues ago) to keep her under control, just in case. While this is happening, Brainiac 5 seems to be exhibiting some precognitive ability, as though he had Dream Girl in his head feeding him information.

While they're there, the LSV raids a museum. It's not clear what they're looking for, but they manage to hold off the Legion okay. Among the LSV members there are Jeyra Entinn (the telepath from the Chameleon/locked-room-mystery issue), someone who zooms around pretty good and a guy with powers that suggest either Crystal Kid or Polar Boy. During the fight, Saturn Girl is distracted by a mysterious presence, revealed on the final page to be a ghostly Mon-El, hovering in front of what looks like a Phantom Zone projector, silently screaming for release.


Barry Kitson makes his triumphant return. The art in #23 is beyooootiful. In particular, his depiction of Jeyra Entinn could make a good dog bust his leash, and the new Chlorophyll Kid looks appropriately verdant.

Best thing about this issue: the Legion actually takes action on a couple of fronts. They're investigating the robots and they're helping Supergirl come to terms with existence. I've criticized the book for not resolving things fast enough in past reviews, and in fact nothing is resolved here, but at least we get some status reports on things, which is almost as good: we find that the robots were defeated enough that an investigation has to be done to find whether they're still a problem or not, and we get an idea of what Dream Girl's new situation looks like from the outside.

Other than that, this is more of a starting issue than a continuing or ending issue. This of course is because of Mon-El. We don't know what the deal is with Mon-El, but of course I'm glad to see him; I consider him to be an indispensable character for the Legion. But if this issue, as has been said, starts off a big new story arc... what was that that we just had? We're starting something new; did we just finish something old? Issues #16-22, from the one where Supergirl first showed up to last issues relationship-o-rama. It wasn't a bunch of one-shots (although there were some good one-shots in there). It wasn't a big story with a beginning, a middle and an end (although the Brainiac 5/Dream Girl storyline, even with a couple of details yet unresolved, did start and end in that timeframe). It was a lot of bits and pieces. There was some robot-fighting. There was a lot of unresolved setup (the LSV, the Dominators). There was Supergirl. So what do you call all that?

I call it unsatisfying. Not that any of it was bad in and of itself. But monthly comics are an episodic medium. You want contained stories. Contained either in one issue or several. In this title we've had no major story since Sun Boy punched out Lemnos, and only a bunch of subplots bleeding from issue to issue with no obvious end. And, again, all the ingredients were good, but they inevitably added up to less than the sum of their parts. If we're now into a good butt-kicking Mon-El and LSV story, then that's great, but I want to go on record as saying that I don't want to read comics that are only killing time until other comics come along.

I mean, I just read Harvey Jerkwater's blog, and he had some nice things to say about the Lemnos arc (scroll down to find it). He's a new Legion fan! Maybe. But what's he going to think once he gets into the narrative doldrums of #16-22? He's got no pre-existing affection for the characters to carry him through the way longtime fans do. Barry Kitson was not on the scene for a lot of that time. Are the strengths of those issues (and they did have some) enough to keep a new reader? I know they weren't for some. The book could lose him almost as fast as it won him over in the first place.

Anyway. I shouldn't dwell on it too much, because things look like they're picking up.

There was quite a skillful pun in #23 that was done subtly enough that it may have escaped notice. As stated above, Chlorophyll Kid has just been inserted into the larger Legion community as a double agent. What better character to use as, wait for it, as a plant?

Some people like that sort of thing and some don't. I like that sort of thing.

Possible plot hole: it is stated that the Legionnaires' flight rings protect them from the harmful effects of the heavy Rokyn gravity. Fine. Then what do the LSV have to protect themselves?

Also in this issue was a bit of dialogue that I didn't think much about at the time, but which raises some interesting questions. It's Brainiac 5 saying to Cosmic Boy that he's going to need Supergirl's flight ring back, and Cosmic Boy saying that he doesn't want to rush it. And here are the interesting questions.

1. Why doesn't Supergirl get to keep it? Are they kicking her out, do they figure she isn't going to want to remain a Legionnaire, do they think they have a way to send her home, do they think she's going to want to stay in Kandor? What?

2. What's Brainy need the ring for? Give it to Dream Boy? Not likely. Build Dream Girl a new body and give it back to her? That's my idea. Or even better: download Dream Girl's 'soul' into the flight ring and let its disguise capabilities simulate a body for her? That'd be kind of cool.

Anyway. I was pretty pleased by this issue, but it also pointed out to me how frustrating the preceding six-or-seven issues had been. It's possible I've been too generous in my evaluations up to now.

Rating: LLLL

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the review, my shop did not get the S+LOSH this week.

"download Dream Girl's 'soul' into the flight ring and let its disguise capabilities simulate a body for her?"

that sound very interesting, sort of twist on Wildfire.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Kind of, I guess. Except the issue with Wildfire was containment, while the issue with Dream Girl, as I see it, is in giving her any physical manifestation at all.

My condolences about your comic shop. One benefit of this is that we may all be able to pool our information and figure out from this just which area of the country is serviced by Diamond's Memphis DC. Who knows when we'll need to know about this again?

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was always under the impression that Wildfire's containment suit was to give him a physical manifestation. That he was a blob of energy that gratefully the artist created a pictorial simulation of for the reader, but to the Legion the uncontained Wildfire was pretty much invisible.

What I find very interesting about this comic shop is that they did have two of the "variant issue" at 12 bucks a pop. Ahh, capitalism at its best.

Forgive the misspellings, its Friday night, nuff said.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yeah, you're right... but Wildfire's energy was still there. Invisible, maybe (although didn't they do something to 'colour it in' one time when he was being recalcitrant and wouldn't go back in the suit?), but something that existed in some sense, even if he wasn't matter.

By contrast, I think Dream Girl has been entirely converted to information. She's neither matter nor energy; she's just pattern. If that information is in the flight ring, which I assume is possible, then the ring can supply energy and simulate matter.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review! I agree with duck458, the Dream Girl concept is very interesting, and I had the same "Wildfire" thought.

In my own review, I ripped off your Chlorophyll Kid "plant" joke (with attribution to you, of course). That was a pretty clever observation!

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgot to ask:

You mentioned "They use kryptonite (which is what Timber Wolf brought to Brainiac 5 about twenty issues ago)".

I have memory of Brin bringing Brainy something as well. But now that I go back to look for that moment, I'll be darned if I can find the right issue.

Which issue were you talking about?

8:30 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I forget. I just remember it happened. Must have been #2, #3 or #4, because in #5 he was captured by Terror Firma. Right? Or was it much later, say, #14-#18?

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the thing. In #3, Brin's in the shadows in Brainy's lab while Brainy & Cos are talking. (Which is the scene I was thinking it was.)

But there's no mention of Brin bringing anything and then Brainy transmats him to the outer rim planet to help Irma & Garth.

Since Brin follows Terra Firma directly from that planet to their base, the scene we're thinking about couldn't have happened until after #13.

I can't find any evidence in #14 or on. There is a panel in #18 where Vi brings Brainy a "xenodust" from the renegade robots.

I wonder if we're merging those two scenes (from #3 & #18) together in our minds?

9:53 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Maybe... but I think we're just not looking in the right place.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I found it. #18, page 6.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a total idiot!! How the hell did I miss that?? (Especially since I flipped through #18 and saw the Vi scene.)

Thanks for finding it. Not being able to find it was driving me crazy, 'cause I thought I remembered it too!

11:15 PM  

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