Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Legionnaires: Invisible Kid II

I'm going to start doing this every now and then. I'll pick out a Legionnaire, current or former, and present the comic-book story, or part of a story, that, to my mind, explains why this particular Legionnaire is such a great character. I don't know if I'm going to be able to cover them all. Phantom Girl, for instance. Always one of my favourites, but stap my vitals if I can think of one story that shows us The Perfect Phantom Girl. So if anybody has any suggestions for what individual issues are the ultimate appearance for this or that Legionnaire, I'd appreciate it. Not necessarily a spotlight issue; it could be a nice character moment, or a cool use of a superpower, or anything. Anything that makes it clear why such-and-such a character is special.

Anyway. Our first stop is kind of an unusual one:

Invisible Kid (II), aka Jacques Foccart of Earth. Created by Paul Levitz.

Here's why I'm profiling him first. I became a Legion fan in the early '80s. The comic book that got me hooked (not the first one I read) was LSH v2 Annual #1. In this story, Brainiac 5 is trying to use his old Computo circuitry to cure a little girl's rare brain disorder. In the operating room with him are Mon-El, Dream Girl, and the girl's big brother Jacques. Well, things go wrong and Computo takes over; incapacitating Mon-El and Dream Girl, wreaking havoc all over Legion HQ and cutting the place off from the outside world. The idea is that once Computo has finished off the Legion, it'll go on to take over the world. The story had subplots going on all over, as all the individual Legionnaires tried separately or in small groups to cope with Computo's menace. In the end, Brainiac 5 and Jacques defeated Computo with a desperate plan that involved, among other things, Jacques drinking Lyle Norg's invisibility serum. The final image of the book is Brainy welcoming Jacques to the Legion as the new Invisible Kid.

It was a great comic book. It had suspense, it showed the whole Legion in action, it had excellent art... and, most usefully from my perspective at the time, it told most of the story from the viewpoint of two outsiders/newcomers (Jacques and Shvaughn Erin, who became Science Police liaison to the Legion in this story). I could pick this comic as the ultimate Invisible Kid II story; he's at his best here. But I only mention it to explain why I have this affection for the character.

Jacques never really went on to greatness as a Legionnaire. The results just weren't there. A number of storylines focused on him, but few of them showed him doing a whole lot right. He never seemed to shake off his rookie status, or reach his potential. I don't recall a time when he used his powers particularly imaginatively. But it's not like he didn't have his good qualities:

- that white streak in his hair? He got that from confronting Darkseid face-to-face. Brave, is what I'm saying.
- he's competent, too. After the Five Year Gap, we found that he was leading the resistance against the Dominator-controlled government, and served as Earth's president pro tem after that.
- he's always willing. He swigged down the invisibility serum fast enough, and not a mission came by that Jacques didn't look at as an opportunity to prove himself worthy of the flight ring.
- he's principled. A side effect of the serum was to give him some teleportation powers that he was unable to control as they were linked to adrenaline. One time a guy attacked him and Jacques reflexively teleported them both into deep space, where Jacques' transuit activated to protect him, but the other guy died. Jacques went through an operation to remove this power so that this could never happen again.

Jacques showed up briefly in the rebooted Legion, as Lyle Norg's boyhood friend, but has not put in an appearance in the threeboot, and seems unlikely to.

To spotlight Invisible Kid, I'll use the only scene in any comic book where Jacques impressed me. It happened in LSH v4 #16, where we first see Jacques in his role as resistance leader:

For the benefit of those of you not familiar with this era of the Legion, the young lady pictured here is Drura Sehpt, a former member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes (and a Legionnaire herself during the Five Year Gap). Of course, it's nice that, in the midst of a world gone mad, these two old comrades have found some happiness with each other, and I'm glad for both of them. Drura was never more than a minor character, but she always came across as brave and good-humoured, and she's kind of sexy in her alien way. So I'm pro-Drura.

But I would never ever want to get up close and personal with her.

See, Drura's code name with the Substitute Heroes was 'Infectious Lass'. She has the superpower of transmitting to her enemies any disease that exists in the universe. She commands more diseases than you can think of, and all the ones you can think of, right at her fingertips. All the bacteria, all the viruses, all the syndromes, all the fungi. And she has lost control of her powers before:

So, what we learn from this scene is that, not only does Invisible Kid have the sheer cold steel courage to entrust Infectious Lass with his genitalia on a regular basis, he can apparently do so (I extrapolate this from Drura's languorous demeanour here) without, uh, losing the moment.

Jacques, you're a better man than I am.

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