Thursday, July 10, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #16 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Cosmic Boy, Brainiac Five and Phantom Girl fight and defeat a monster, but Phantom Girl's flight ring is slightly damaged in the process. Starfinger uses this opportunity to try to steal it, but is foiled by aspiring Legion applicant Arm-Fall-Off Boy, whose origin we are also given.


Best issue yet.

I mean, I knew it was going to be good. A spotlight on Arm-Fall-Off Boy? Obviously a great idea. All they had to do was deliver on the promise, and they did.

And then some.

Matthew K. Manning is the writer this time around. Manning also wrote #10 and #12, both of which were strong issues. He trumps himself here. For one thing, it's a really funny comic book, perhaps the funniest Legion comic I've ever read. (Keith Giffen has also brought the funny on a few occasions, but the thing with Giffen is that you have to share his sense of humour to appreciate it. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.) There's approximately a laugh on every page here, a very high ratio.

The story itself is no more complex than is normal for this series; it's basically a look at AFO Boy's life with a couple of Legion fights thrown in. Still, Manning provides us with some interestingly interlocking images/symbols: AFO Boy's powers are echoed in the Legion fight against the monster when Cosmic Boy uses his powers on Phantom Girl's ring, to move her hand while being far away from it. Then there's the obvious premise that Starfinger would want a Legion flight rings, and of course Starfinger, like AFO Boy, has hand-related powers. (Mano would also have been a good choice as a villain for this story, but, let's face it, Starfinger's much more fun.)

Basically what I think is this. If, and it's a big if, Shooter is jumping ship, and if Geoff Johns is not scheduled to replace him, and if they don't have another replacement lined up, Matthew K. Manning has my vote as the next regular writer on Legion of Super-Heroes. I've seen work I've liked from all the LSH31C writers, but Manning has been the best of them.

He's not alone in this issue, either. Shawn McManus is the artist, and McManus (with, I think, some help from the colorists at Heroic Age) gives us a rich, rounded, layered-looking 31st century. His style does the most effective job I've seen so far of bridging the gap between the animated-series look and reality. I don't recall any standout panels or depictions; just a consistent high-quality job from front to back. I hope we haven't seen the last of him on this title. In fact, what the hey? As long as I'm putting Manning on the main title, we might as well have McManus too. (Not that I have any complaints about Manapul.) (Quick, name three comic-book professionals with seven-letter last names starting with 'M' and containing the word 'man'.)

I liked AFO Boy's moment of glory. Sure, he's got silly, next-to-useless powers, but he knew just what to do with them. I almost think he could be a Legionnaire. But, as the line goes, until he gets full control of his powers he'd be just as much a danger to his teammates as to his enemies.

Of all the versions of Starfinger we've had (purple diving suit, obese gangster, Levitz-era kill-the-messenger commander of Starlight and Starbright), animated-Legion Starfinger is the best. He's such a loser, but so gleeful about it.

One thing that struck me as interesting. The newscast about President Wazzo talking to the Durlan ambassadors mentions that 'she felt as if she were just talking to herself'. I wonder if Manning was drawing on Mark Waid's threeboot characterization of Chameleon as a mirror for whoever he's around. That'd be neat, even if it doesn't really have much to do with how Chameleon Boy was written in the cartoon. (Unless it does. Let me think about that.)

What can we do to get more Legion fans reading this comic? This is an excellent comic book!

- I wonder how Phantom Girl got her ring back
- The detail everyone will notice: on the cover, AFO Boy is 'Applicant 247'
- Nice little touches about Cosmic Boy using his powers in this issue: the metal discs from his costume at the start, retrieving the ring from Starfinger at the end
- I don't want to list all the funny lines from this issue, but my favourite was probably, "She's not really what you would call a talker"

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i never understand the almost cult falling behind AFO boy. How many times did he appear in the comic? I only recall myself the one panel. I guess, there was the subs and the rejects of the Legion but none of them topped his powers uselessness.

I don't hate the character, in fact I'm one of those fans... And it was nice to see them making use of a character like him. I live by the rule nothing is worth 10/10 as there is always room for improvement. But dam! This issue sure came close to that 10/10.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

AFO Boy, calling himself Splitter, made an appearance in the reboot that I believe was longer than a panel. I'm certainly not part of his cult, and I'm not sure I need to see any more of the guy, but this issue was just so obviously a good idea.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep forgetting the Superman homepage reviews these issues. I'm suprised since Superman isn't really in the sotyr much lately until they hit the season 2 isue hard.

Their review was... Basically "What the hell?". Lol.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I just found it and read it... man, they didn't get it at all.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

From what I can recall, AFO Boy was a joke creation during the 70s and "appeared" in the APAs like Interlac. Here's his Wikipedia entry.

He first appeared in the Secret Origins issue of the Clubhouse as a rejected applicant, all bulked up and muscular. He was (retconned to be) the very first Reject.

Post-Zero Hour, he appeared as Splitter from Lallor, and when rejected, he joined the Heroes of Lallor.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...


The notion of a character who can kinda take himself apart so that the parts can act independently has gained a bit of traction. I myself came up with such a guy as a prepubescent superhero enthusiast in the early '80s. Then there was a villain from the first season of Angel. And, my favourite, Modular Man's girlfriend Patchwork from the Wild Cards novels.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

Arm-Fall-Off Boy's antecedent is the non-Marvel/DC Captain Marvel, who separated by yelling "Split!" There's also a late 80's character named Mr. Jigsaw, and a 90's Image character called Rubble. Another of the reboot Heroes of Lallor also falls into the same class: Konk, she of the detached head.

Ah, that Secret Origins issue. Where the Legion Clubhouse (the rocketship) is revealed to be the corpse of a Legion reject. Thank you Ty Templeton for one of the best Legion WTF's ever. Right up there with "Superman constantly hypnotizes everyone through Clark Kent's glasses".

3:20 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I suppose I should get that Secret Origins issue.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

Unquestionably you should. Most of the Legion Secret Origins stories should be obtained, of course.

Notable in there are the Ty Templeton Subs origin:
"Sun Boy gave me a flying belt as consolation for not making the team. It's the Legion of Super-Heroes home game, that's what it is!" --Polar Boy

That issue may be more expensive, though, since it's also an important step in the Identity Crisis "Something turned Dr. Light into an idiot" plot line.

And of course the Chemical King story (from the "dead Legionnaires" issue), which gave rise to the "Lyle and Condo are gay" stuff which culminated in Lyle's "secret admirer" in the reboot. (The writer apparently totally didn't intend that reading.)

12:55 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

The Chemical King one I've read electronically, as I needed it to write the 'The Legionnaires' entry on him.

I believe that the writer did, in fact, intend that reading, although it was implicit enough that nobody need insist on it.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey kids! Superheroes can be fun! Time was,they were. Then it was decided they had to grow up. Funny thing was,this only made them look just silly. Sillier than they look in this story.
Too bad McManus only did this one issue.He had the best style for this title;light and witty but not too TV toony.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Manning and McManus made it look easy. Why weren't more Legion fans reading this title? I'll never understand.

8:47 AM  

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