Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Adventure Comics #519 Review

What Happened That You Have to Know About: Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, and Shrinking Violet successfully raid Zaryan's spaceship, carrying a shipment of war robots. Meanwhile, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Brainiac 5 visit with Superboy in Smallville. They have fun hanging out and later destroy one of Brainiac's probes.

Review: The Zaryan part of the story seems to have two purposes: it gives a look at some of the Legionnaires we haven't seen much of yet, and it establishes that Zaryan has a freeze ray. Other than that, it's really just a way of keeping this storyline warm until next issue.

The other story is a little more interesting to me. Well, in one way it is. I really don't care about the Brainiac probe, and I smile politely at the whole hanging-out-in-Smallville thing. But what Levitz has done here is pick up some themes and symbols and stuff from earlier in this incarnation of Adventure Comics; this is all the same kind of stuff we saw from Kon-El in the first few issues.

That's worthy of comment, isn't it? That Levitz is picking up on some abstract threads that had to do with a completely different character written by somebody else? I wouldn't have done it if I had been in Levitz's place; it would never have occurred to me. Because I'm only interested in Adventure Comics because of the Legion; I don't really care about all the other stuff we've had in it (although I do like the Atom). So this deal with Smallville and the checklists isn't really for my benefit. It's for the benefit of Adventure Comics readers. Adventure Comics has been a patchwork kind of enterprise ever since it started, but Paul Levitz is doing what he can to fix that. Retroactively! It is admirable, I say, and skillful.

About that checklist. It draws a parallel between Brainy and Kon-El. Not something I ever would have thought of, but it works: two descendants of Superman's greatest enemies, both trying to immerse themselves in the world of his youth. Really it's comparable to the Brainy-Alexis-Superman triangle in the animated series. Even the thing about Brainy sending the Legion back to meet Superman too early in his life, by "mistake"... that's from the cartoon too! Think of it. We've got Brainiac 5 in Smallville, and just because he's thinking about the day's events in terms of a checklist, that makes Lex Luthor a presence in this story, when his name isn't even mentioned! Isn't that impressive?

I wonder how thoroughly Levitz thinks this stuff through. Does he write these stories with full cognizance of the symbolic implications and interrelationships, or does he just know that he's got characters and symbols with rich connections between them, and is confident that anytime he juxtaposes them, he'll get results that you and I can pick apart like this?

I'm curious about one thing Brainy says: the probe homed in on the Kryptonian rocket as the most sophisticated technology on the planet. Is it really? It kind of depends on how DC has their timeline set up these days; were there other heroes active during Superman's adolescence? Like, say, the Metal Men? Or Red Tornado? If you see what I mean.

Panel Count: 85 panels/20 pages = 4.3 panels/page. 1 single-panel page.

Thing about the art in this issue... on the cover it says Sharpe/Alquiza, but inside it says Pansica/Ferreira. And, looking at the art, it does seem like someone new has taken over. The key thing to look for when identifying Kevin Sharpe's art is the faces: faces that are at a distance are underdetailed, and close-up faces often don't resemble themselves sufficiently from panel to panel. When I look for those things here, I can find them... I think. But overall the art looks much better and I'm inclined to think that the Pansica credit is accurate. One thing Pansica does especially well in this issue is to make the Legionnaires look like kids. They're scrawny and gawky and very real-looking. (Not on the cover, though; they look like buff grownups on the cover. Cover art by Clark & Beaty.) Check out, in particular, mmm..., page 4, panel 2. It's a good shot of Brainy, looking very youthful, but Pansica uses a neat little cheap trick here too: he positions Brainy's head very low down in the panel to make him look short. Lots of effect from a little bit of effort and thought.

This was a pretty strong issue. I hope Pansica sticks around, and I'm definitely looking forward to next month.

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Anonymous Darrell Lawrence said...

Two things I liked this issue:

The formation/first mission of the Espionage Squad and Brainy's fascination with a nail. Got a chuckle out of that.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I can almost read Brainy's mind--"What's wrong with a screw? How hard is it to wrap some threaded metal around here; don't you realize how much better it'll hold? Barbarians!"

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The young Legion were quite the thrillseekers,weren't they? Putting themselves in the heart of a tornado because Brainy told them to? He has a force-field,and Superboy is unhurtable,but what's keeping the others safe from debris? Never mind the weather, their trust in Brainy is too extreme.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

It was a pretty stupid thing to do, all right. I found it realistic exactly for that reason.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Martin Gray said...

Best issue yet, great review!

7:17 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Thanks very much. Comparing all of Levitz's Adventure issues, I think I liked #517 best so far, but this one might have been second.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In some panels,the Legionnaires looked charmingly juvenile.In others,all the characters seemed gawky,even ill-drawn.The artist(s) show promise, but they could use more drawing time.
As to why the Brainiac probe honed in on the rocket,it probably was the most sophisticated tech on the planet at that time.After all,we all know the DCU started with Superman...Or maybe the probe was lured by its extraterrestrial nature.Or it just happened to come across it first.Any number of reasons,and none of them all that important,really.
In recent years,Brainy has gone from cranky to downright cruel. Since the retroboot,he's had a less abrasive portrayal.Yay.It beggared disbelief that his team mates would've put up with him as such a prick no matter how vital he was to them.
To finish off-topic,I like the Atom co-feature,and Superman: Earth-One looks promising,enough to give the first issue a scan. Anything that shows the Man of Steel in a different light is to be encouraged.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

In recent years,Brainy has gone from cranky to downright cruel. Since the retroboot,he's had a less abrasive portrayal.Yay.It beggared disbelief that his team mates would've put up with him as such a prick no matter how vital he was to them.

True, but go back and look at how Brainy was portrayed in the Levitz-Giffen era and especially towards the end of the Baxter series. That's still my favourite Brainiac 5, and not the same as how Levitz is writing him now.

(Note: Animated Brainy was never cranky/cruel/abrasive; that was another quite good version of the character.)

1:07 PM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

Despite the seeming treading water with the Zaryan stuff, I'm still interested in it because that is such a huge hole in Legion continuity: Zaryan killed a Legionnaire, for gosh sakes, but we know next to nothing about him and his army and his motives and what happened to him afterward. He's a big cipher.

In the Smallville section, I was royally annoyed that Brainy's eye color was green when he was disguised as human, but was blue at the end of the story. WTF?

7:16 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I missed that with the eyes. Colorist error?

As for Zaryan, I assumed that he and his guys died when Lightning Lad split his ship open. And we did learn in 5YL that he was one of the first great Khund leaders, as I recall.

I don't really mind the pace of the Zaryan stuff; it's just that I don't see how Levitz is going to pack the endgame of that story into one issue (the next issue being the last of this arc). Unless he's just going to leave Garth dead at the end of it.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt Garth will be revived next issue. That story's already been told. More likely #520 will focus on the time between his death and resurrection. Might even offer a present-day Legion's look back on that time.
Seems next month will be the last of these retro-retellings of older stories.A shame, but no surprise. These kind of comics don't do well.
Recall Untold Tales Of Spider-Man: That came out in the middle of the Clone Saga debacle.It featured a young,uncloned Spidey.And it was half the price of the regular titles!It should've flown off the shelves,right? It didn't.Sank like a stone. A good series,too.
As was this issue.Evoked the early Legion very ably.But LSH has more plotlines than one comic can hold. More space is needed. Now we get two helpings of Legion a month-and a price drop! Reminds me of the reboot's heyday.

2:59 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, one reason for showing it is to pay off the thing that's already been set up about Imra not wanting anybody else to die for her.

9:13 AM  

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