Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Action Comics: Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes (Part 2-#859)

The review of Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #8 will be delayed. When I went to the comic shop today they hadn't unpacked it yet. If I can get it before next week I will, otherwise it'll be next Wednesday. The management apologizes for any inconvenience.

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy are exploring the Batcave, looking for Batman's old kryptonite ring. They want to use it to prove that Krypton existed, because the propaganda these days is that Superman was a good alien-hating Earthman and Krypton was just a lie put around by those evil alien Legionnaires. But the Justice League, which in this case means a bunch of Legion rejects, raids the place and captures them.

Back at their headquarters, the Justice League learns about last issue's skirmish between the Legion and the Science Police, that someone who looks like Superman was involved, and that the wreckage of a time sphere was found there. The League’s leader, Earth-Man (the former Absorbency Boy) already has a bunch of Legionnaires preserved in tubes, including but not limited to Invisible Kid, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Shrinking Violet and Blok, and it seems he’s absorbed their superpowers.

We also hear that the xenophobia on Earth has gone so far that Earth is on the verge of seceding from the United Planets.

Colossal Boy, Dawnstar, Superman and Wildfire figure they'd better track down Brainiac 5 to get some answers about what Superman's doing there and what to do next. Dawnstar only has a cold trail, but they follow it to an alien internment camp, where she says that even if Brainy isn't in there, there's another Legionnaire who is in there and who might be helpful.

Not Quite a Review:

The one thing I noticed most and couldn't stop thinking about?


Tusker is a former Legion reject and (with Golden Boy, Earth-Man, Storm Boy, Spider Girl and Radiation Roy) one of the Justice Leaguers throwing their weight around in the future. Tusker's info-caption said that his powers included an 'unbreakable skeleton'. Yet there he is with one of his tusks chipped. Which didn't bother me; maybe there's some kind of story behind that. Maybe an already-existing Legion story! I don't know. But then there was one panel on the very next page that seemed to show him with both tusks intact. Now, I don't expect everybody creating comics to get everything right every time. I know there will be mistakes. But there shouldn't be any mistakes about the things that the reader’s attention is specifically drawn to. (I’ve looked closely at it and I think it’s a colouring error.)

The other thing I’m wondering about is, whose plan is this and why?

Colossal Boy believes, and the story is presenting as a working assumption for us, that the Justice League of Earth-Born Legion Rejects (and, yes, Spider Girl was born on Earth, according to people I trust. Hadn’t known that) has engineered all this xenophobia out of resentment towards the Legion. I think Bruce Springsteen said it best when he said, “Man, I ain’t goin’ for that.” This crew of bozons, nosebleeds, weirdsmobiles and yipyops couldn’t organize a game of tag. Someone has to be behind it, someone who benefits from Earth seceding from the United Planets, maybe someone who really does hate aliens. Universo? Regulus? I suspect Regulus because of the sun thing. Alexis Luthor? It has a kind of a Luthor touch, doesn’t it?

Anyway. It’s certainly clear what it is that’s going on, even if we don’t know why, or what exactly our heroes can do about it. That’s the kind of situation I like. It’s a good premise for a Legion story, in that it makes good use of the Legionnaires’ numbers and lets them show what they believe as well as what they can do.

There have been a number of new takes on characters in this series so far—costumes mostly, although sometimes more than that—and I thought I’d go through some of them.

Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Invisible Kid: Not a big fan of the sleeveless look. Maybe it’s warmer there with the red sun?

Radiation Roy: Creepy, man. Is that better than just being a loser the way he used to be?

Saturn Girl: She must have cut her hair that short as a personal choice rather than because of the rigorous demands of being on the run. Because Lightning Lad’s is a lot longer. It doesn’t look good on her.

Spider Girl: See, I liked it when she became a Legionnaire in the 5YL stories. They even kept her as kind of a one-buttocked hero in the reboot. But I guess with this story and her appearances in the cartoon, she’s back to villainy. Sic transit.

Wildfire: I like Wildfire’s new costume. I do! He’s had some good ones over the years (and some bad ones) and this is one of them.

Dawnstar: There’s no excuse for not having Dawnstar in the original costume. That’s just what she should look like. Nothing else is quite right. Strange about Dawny: in the past she didn’t always seem completely committed to the Legion… but she is now.

Early Reaction: Haven’t seen any comment on this issue yet, but criticism of last issue has mostly centred around Frank’s wild-eyed art and Clark Kent’s characterization. One or two people have perceived inauthenticity in this Legion, but that’s very much a minority opinion. Overall this story is being very well-received.

One other not-yet-fully-formed thought. It kind of seems like Johns is implying, deep down, that the Legion is not the Legion when it’s cut off from Superman. In this sense: Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy may have been the Legion founders, but they have no access to Superman. They’re trying to get help from Batman’s symbols (a ring, specifically), and whatever Batman’s virtues are, he’s not Superman and he’s got nothing in particular to do with the Legion. And so they can be taken down by a bunch of drips whose only claim to fame is that they have Superman’s symbol on their arms. Still, it’s more than Garth, Imra and Rokk have, and the future-faux-JLEarth wins the fight.

On the other hand, Colossal Boy, Wildfire and Dawnstar are similarly on the run, but they have Superman with them and so they win their fight (last issue) and get a whole box of rings. Superman rings, sorta. They are the Legion.

As I said in the introduction to this thing, I don’t subscribe to the notion that the Legion is just a satellite concept to Superman; I think they stand on their own just fine. But I don’t deny that it’s a legitimate position to hold, and it’s producing very readable results here.

Running Legion Count: (New entries this week in bold)

Bouncing Boy*, Blok*, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy*, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl*, Element Lad*, Ferro Lad*, Invisible Kid I*, Invisible Kid II*, Karate Kid*, Light Lass*, Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad*, Mon-El*, Phantom Girl*, Princess Projectra/Sensor Girl*, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass*, Shrinking Violet*, Spider Girl, Star Boy/Starman*, Storm Boy, Sun Boy*, Superman, Timber Wolf*, Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel*, Ultra Boy*, Wildfire (31) (* only in brief flashback or non-speaking background appearance: 21)

Labels: , ,