Thursday, December 28, 2006

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #25 Review

What Happened That You Need To Know About:

Sweet Maria Sludgebucket!

Okay, first thing: the group opposing the Legion--including Jeyra Entinn's squad from Rokyn, the guy running Chlorophyll Kid (and that is who it is, although nobody uses that name), and presumably but not definitely that gang of giants and their liberators from back in... was it #17 and #18?--is called the Wanderers, and we get a lot of nuts-and-bolts info about some of them on the splash page. Their membership includes (but is not limited to) Jeyra Entinn, Polar Boy, Micro Lass, Chlorophyll Kid, Inferno, Grav, Thoom and the White Witch (!!), and they're led by Mekt Ranzz, who is of course the older brother of Lightning Lad and Light Lass. Mekt is the last survivor of an earlier Wanderers group, recruited by the U.P. to investigate a Dominators plot. Mekt is still on that same job, and has recruited some brand new Wanderers to carry on the fight. Mekt views the Legion as naive and his own more unscrupulous group as streetwise and realistic.

The White Witch throws a bunch of force fields around Legion HQ, cutting the Legionnaires off from the outside world and each other. Then she teleports Light Lass, Star Boy, Karate Kid and Ultra Boy into the middle of the Wanderers' group, where Mekt tries to recruit them.

Meanwhile, Brainiac 5 lets Mon-El out of the Phantom Zone. He's suffering from lead poisoning and is a little stir-crazy, plus, he identifies Supergirl with whoever put him in the Zone to begin with, so he attacks her. This is part of Brainy's plan; the Supergirl/Mon-El fight is wild enough that it smashes through the force fields, liberating the Legion. Meanwhile, Brainy brews up a Kryptonite-based serum to treat the lead poisoning, and the Legionnaires manage to administer it to him... but shortly after they do, Mon-El gets teleported to Mekt's recruiting session.

We get a glimpse of Dream Girl populating Brainy's thoughts. It does seem like her, and she refers to her communications with Brainy as 'visits'. No information on whether she can 'visit' anybody else. She provides Brainy with a vision of a wrecked Metropolis, and says it can't be stopped, but subsequent bad things can be if only he'll tell Cosmic Boy to... and then someone shakes Brainy's shoulder and he loses contact with Nura.


Barry Kitson drew this issue; I trust that further comment on the art is unnecessary.

But here's further comment anyway. This may say more about my personal tastes than anything else, but I am convinced that Kitson's Jeyra Entinn is the most beautiful woman ever to appear in comics. I also like Invisible Kid's superhero costume. It's understated, but the chest-symbol makes it. I'm tempted to refer to him as iKid.

The best thing about this issue is that a lot of important action happens fast. I think this is where a bunch of dominoes start to come down. It's what I've been waiting for and I hope it continues.

What's up with Sun Boy and Terror Firma? I want to know. Are they dead, or what?

The idea of the Wanderers makes perfect sense. After all, the 31st century is a time in which lots and lots of people have superpowers. So why have all the superhero groups we've seen in the various continuities (the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Legion of Substitute Heroes, the Legion Reserve, the Legion Academy, the Heroes of Lallor, the original Wanderers, the Workforce, the Uncanny Amazers) so overwhelmingly teenage in their demographics? Didn't anybody hero up to fight the good fight before those guys pulled a gun on R.J. Brande? Mark Waid has answered that question two ways: first, he's said that 31st-century society carries a strong social stigma against such activities. Second, he's said that the U.P. has nevertheless assembled exactly such a group in the past, and here they are. It's the first time in almost 50 years that Legion comics have portrayed such an obvious thing: a superhero group that predates the Legion.

Not only that, the Wanderers work. By which I mean that there are interesting things to be done with them in the story. This group is not just a vehicle for reintroducing Lightning Lord and the White Witch and Polar Boy and Chlorophyll Kid to continuity. What they are is a rival to the Legion, and a more formidable one than the Workforce or Amazers. Both the Legion and Wanderers have, in this storyline, the same motivation: defend Earth from the Dominators. The Wanderers seem better suited to the task; not only does Mekt know more about them than the Legion does, but his team is more experienced, it may be more powerful and it may be larger. And what's going to happen after the Dominators have been polished off? Are the Wanderers just going to go away? Are they all going to be killed in the battle? If the Legion is going to maintain--or, for that matter, establish--that they're the premier superhero group, which they certainly should be, they can only do it in one way: through their ideals. Look at who the Wanderers have on their team, for goodness sake. Jeyra Entinn, who telepathically forced some poor bastard to smash his own head to bits, and tried to kill Chameleon to cover it up? The Wanderers may be well-intentioned but we can't call them the good guys. This is a make-or-break deal for the Legion: they have to prove they're not dilettantes (or, for that matter, sellouts). They have to prove that their way is best, which means that they have to succeed and remain true to themselves at the same time.

If there's a problem with the Wanderers it's this. How are they different from Terror Firma? Both are large groups of only-partially-identified alien superbeings who share the Legion's goal of positively affecting 31st-century-society, but don't have the Legion's scruples. Mekt ~ Lemnos, Jeyra ~ Elysion, the Dominion ~ societal stagnation. Do we need two groups like this around? (Assuming Terror Firma is still around.)

I'm toying with the idea that there's actually more than one group at work here. For one thing, Tarik the Mute isn't mentioned at all this issue. Why not? Isn't he supposed to be important? Didn't see Seiss either, for whatever that's worth. Plus, where are all the rest of the giants? Maybe the Wanderers aren't responsible for all that stuff that's been happening recently. I'd have to go back and look at individual characters to see if there was anything to this... Oh, and the other thing. Mekt's attitude towards the Legion is that they're out of their depth, not useful to him, superfluous. But other characters, like the giants, had actual contempt and hostility toward the Legion. This isn't proof, of course, but it's something to watch as things play out.

A point I noticed... I guess it isn't important. But I spent a bit of time thinking about it, and figured I'd type it up here. In this issue, Brainy explains that the Tromites killed the entire population of Daxam with lead poisoning centuries ago, making Mon-El the last of his kind. Saturn Girl has never heard of the planet Daxam. But in issue #1, Sun Boy and some legionnaires are talking about, I guess, starting up a Legion franchise on Daxam. So, here are some explanations for how that can be. Take your pick:

1. Simple mistake in continuity; Daxam was mentioned in #1 before Waid had decided what he wanted to do with it.
2. It's a big universe and Saturn Girl can't be expected to have heard of all the planets. And, sure, all the original Daxamites are dead, but that doesn't mean there aren't other races living there now.
3. Something more sinister.

The highlight of this issue was the teamwork the Legion showed in dealing with Mon-El and getting out of the force fields. A great many of the characters got a chance to shine. Brainiac 5, Supergirl, Dream Boy, Phantom Girl, Chameleon, Shadow Lass, Atom Girl, Micro Lad, Cosmic Boy and Invisible Kid all played key roles, and it's that kind of camaraderie that the Legion is going to have to rely on if they're going to be able to cope with both the Dominators and the Wanderers.

Membership Notes: Nothing concrete to report. Mon-El seems positively disposed toward the Legion, but doesn't really get the chance to join the team. Ultra Boy, Light Lass, Karate Kid and Star Boy get the chance to quit, but it's not yet known whether they will.

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