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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