Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes #38 Review

What Happened That You Have To Know About:

The Tritonese girl from last issue, Giselle, revs up her metabolism again and rescues the Legionnaires. They keep fighting, even as the PPMs adapt to better combat the Legionnaires' powers, and manage to hold out until some Science Police reinforcements show up.

Meanwhile, Lightning Lad is trying to find a way to help the team on Triton, but is being blocked by U.P. bureaucracy, and has to audition seven new candidates for membership. They all - or the first six, anyway - do not have the right stuff, and he yells at them and sends them home, causing diplomatic problems with the U.P. It's implied that the seventh guy could have helped out, maybe, but by that time Lightning Lad just didn't want to hear it.


Francis Manapul can stay for as long as he likes. (In fact, let's assume that he does: he sticks around for fifty issues. How weird are the Calero issues going to look to readers of the future checking out back issues for the first time? Because Kitson, Jeanty, Sharpe, DeKraker and now Manapul all seem like they were working from some of the same assumptions about what this title ought to look like... but Calero was reading a whole different playbook.)

As for Shooter, I'm still adjusting to the (welcome!) breakneck pace. A story that's over, essentially, in two issues? Even Bedard and Calero didn't do that; their six-issue arc had interlocking two-issue pieces, which is not quite the same thing. Oh, a couple of the things Shooter introduced have yet to play out--Projectra's situation, Lightning Lad's problems, the source of the PPMs, more-- but the end of this issue feels like a period, not a comma.

Now let's talk about what these two issues were really about. The PPMs weren't the real antagonists; they were just the clothes the antagonists were wearing. The PPMs could have been anybody. The real conflict here was Lightning Lad's inability to lead. This manifested itself in several ways:
- in his poor choice of teams to fight the PPMs (if he had sent more formidable combat Legionnaires, to Triton or to the mining asteroid, there wouldn't have been any problem in the first place)
- in his inept dealings with United Planets bureaucracy
- in his inability to get out of his own way and solve any of the problems in front of him
In the end, Star Boy, Saturn Girl and Giselle save the situation on Triton, ending the immediate crisis and taking the pressure off Lightning Lad to rescue them.

We could draw a parallel between Lightning Lad and Shooter himself. Lightning Lad was Legion leader before, but after a long time out of the office he just can't handle the details, and everything's falling apart all around him. Shooter was Legion writer before, but after a long time out of the office he's got more than 30 years of Legion continuity stacked up around him that he didn't have to deal with the last time, and he may very well feel like the Legion is a tougher nut to crack these days.

The seven pre-approved candidates. The difference in tone between their auditions and the situation on Triton was marked enough that it's worth wondering just what this subplot accomplished. Mostly I think it got Lightning Lad and the U.P. torqued off at each other in a whole new way, which I suppose was worth doing. It introduces new characters, but I suspect a lot of them are throwaways: Fruit Boy, Sludge and Sonar are obvious non-starters, but Virus (a threeboot version of Infectious Lass?), Spy and Voice are plausible candidates for the rumoured Legion Academy (among other in-between characters like the Radiation Roy guy from a while back, Dream Boy, Wildfire, Tenzil Kem, and Giselle). As for this M'rissey guy, I'd have to know more about just what all that stuff he said means on a practical level, but at the very least he'd make an excellent grand vizier for Lightning Lad. (Of course, so would Theena, probably. Or even Dream Boy!) It also caters to old-school Legion fans whose hearts go pittipat at the thought of a new tryouts issue, so that's good for them, anyway.

The PPMs have settled into the role of cannon fodder, it seems. That's okay for now, but this title is starved for some decent villains, so I'm hoping we meet their boss, or at least their supervisor, pretty soon.

Good issue. Maybe a small step back from #37, but that's not unusual with second issues. 2008's lookin' pretty good so far.

- Florg. Zizz. Zork. Cruk. Snoog. Fake swear-word overload!
- to be fair, there was one fake non-swear-word: 'zeezeed'. To zeezee apparently means to signal someone via a flight ring.
- the new characters look good. Giselle kind of reminds me of snake-humanoid Sensor from the late reboot. Fruit Boy and Spy probably have the best costumes of the candidates, so much so that I was hoping they'd be a little more useful.
- Starry?
- I would like to know what cabowabo fruit tastes like. I would.
- nice attention to panel-to-panel continuity with Sludge's puddle of gobblygoo.
- no, really. Starry?

Membership Notes:

No changes this issue, but a couple of names to watch: Giselle, of course, looks like a comer, and our attention was drawn in particular to M'rissey of the Seven Pre-Approved Candidates. Gotta like a guy with math powers! The other six, of course, will go on to form the Anti-Legion, or something, in a few years, and we'll be able to watch them convince the population of Earth that Brainiac 5 is going to blow up a fake alien over Metropolis in order to conquer the world.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You missed the point of the tryouts a bit.

See Hannibal Tabu's thoughts:

8:37 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

That's interesting. It kind of goes with a comment I saw somewhere else, which was that it goes against the spirit of the threeboot Legion (where everyone who wants to be a member is a member) for Garth to yell at these guys and tell them to go home.

Now, we know what's really going on: the U.P. isn't saying that they want these seven to be legionnaires; they're saying they want them to be Legionnaires, with flight rings and everything. Which is unreasonable, of course. So Garth's response is more indicative that the 'core team' of Legionnaires has become an exclusive/elite club within the movement, which doesn't show the Legionnaires in the best light but is understandable. Hannibal Tabu is right in saying that it was a blunder for Garth to tell them to go away and never come back; they're worthwhile as small-l legionnaires. But that's not what the U.P. wanted, and Garth was right not to make them full Legionnaires.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I am strangely fascinated by the name of that seventh pre-approved candidate. It's maybe a little too "on the nose" as these things go, but I'm very tickled by the idea of a character with that name (and trivia power, no less) becoming a regular cast member in a Shooter-scripted Legion book.

Also, agreed that Virus is clearly meant to be Infectious Lass and that Spy and Voice have a lot of potential coolness.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Is M'rissey a reference to something that you and Shooter are getting and I'm not? I know it's (almost) the name of the guy from the Smiths, but is there anything else?

3:00 PM  
Blogger Bill D. said...

I'm betting cabowabo fruit tastes like tequila.

If there was a reference in M'rrisey beyond any sort of Smiths thing, I missed it, too.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

In my mind it's kind of like a mango.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Richard Morrissey was a central figure in LSH fandom from the start of The Legion Outpost fanzine through to the early days of rec.arts.comics. Along the way he founded what became the first Legion APA, Interlac. Jim Shooter first met him sometime in the early Seventies, shortly after two other Outpost contributors tracked down a then-retired Shooter in Pittsburgh and persuaded him to give comics another shot.

(People associating that surname with The Smiths always cracks me up for an obscure reason. Rich had virtually no knowledge of current music -- he wouldn't recognize most Beatles songs if he heard them on the radio -- in sharp contrast with his encyclopedic knowledge of comics, books, film, and television. But he knew I was a big fan of a group whose lead singer was named Morrissey, and when I saw him at a con around the time Viva Hate came out, he greeted me by saying "I'm told I've just released a solo album!" It was just so unexpected you could have knocked me over with a feather. Okay, maybe that's one of those "you had to be there at the time" things...)

Anyway, a Morrissey in the Legion comic (thanks to Jim Shooter, no less -- though Mark Waid also knew Rich really well) is a very good thing.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Ahhh, is that what it is. Cool, thanks. This is exactly the kind of thing that there's absolutely no way I'd ever know about it; I've been reading Legion comics since about 1980 (with a big gap in the '90s) but my involvement in any kind of fandom predates the birth of this blog by only a short time, and is limited to online stuff.

But it kind of makes me think that the character M'rissey is not destined for a lot of screen time. Does one name a major character after a real person? I'm not sure that one does.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"Cabo Wabo" is a bar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, owned by rocker Sammy Hagar. It's also his brand of tequila (like Jimmy Buffett has Margaritaville brand tequila).

Does one name a major character after a real person? I'm not sure that one does.

The practice of naming characters after existing people is called Tuckerization, after an SF writer from the 1940s-50s. Here's a list that we have put together of Legion tuckerizations, ranging from the Weisinger Chambers to Gigi Cusimano (Paul Levitz's wife's name) to Flynt Brojj (for Mike Flynn and Harry Broertjes, the other two Legion fans that RAB mentioned as having tracked down Shooter).

7:02 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

"Cabo Wabo" is a bar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, owned by rocker Sammy Hagar.

All the things I don't know...

The practice of naming characters after existing people is called Tuckerization, after an SF writer from the 1940s-50s. Here's a list that we have put together of Legion tuckerizations

I knew about the tuckerizations; it's just that I think of them as being more appropriate for minor characters. Although I suppose GiGi and Thunder are sufficiently major characters as to dispel my notions.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

I was tickled by "zeezeed". It comes from the SFX made by Jimmy Olsen's signal watch. (Which then echoes the early threeboot Legion's passion for retro artifacts like 20th/21st century comic books. Language evolution at its finest, and something that could make it's way into the parlance like "grife" has. Mmm, we need to work ad "squadj" some more, too!)

As for whether the 7 should be Legionnaires or legionnaires, I think that the idea of "everyone can be a Legionnaire" went away back around #12 or so, when Garth signed the deal with the U.P. In the name of official acceptance, that should have formalized much of the structures (which were in place before that, of course, if understated).

4:52 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

As for whether the 7 should be Legionnaires or legionnaires, I think that the idea of "everyone can be a Legionnaire" went away back around #12 or so

I don't think they can get rid of it that easily. The generational stuff lapses into the background easily, but there were thousands of people casting votes in the Legion leadership election just a few issues ago.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or did anyone else think it was weird to see Saturn Girl blazing away with a gun? Would that have happened during Shooter's previous runs? Times sure have changed...

2:20 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

That's the kind of thing I just shrug my shoulders at. One could argue that this is a science-fiction comic book just as much as it is a superhero comic, and in science-fiction stories sometimes you have to pull out your ray gun and let fly at the monsters.

3:33 PM  

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