Tuesday, April 16, 2013

LSH 2010 Reread, part three

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 6 # 8-10, Annual # 1 and Adventure Comics # 522-524, 2011)

Major developments:

*The Legionnaires capture three of the Durlan conspirators.
*Mon-El is elected team leader. Before anybody gets word to him, he defeats the murderous Sun Killer, who attempts to rescue Saturn Queen on her way to prison.
*The planet Orando has returned to our universe. There, the Emerald Eye of Ekron takes a new Empress, an insane girl named Falyce who was fleeing from one of the planet's criminal feudal lords. A small team of Legionnaires defeats Falyce, and Jeckie remains behind on Orando again.
*Blok and Mysa Nal, who has become the Black Witch, have been training a teen magician named Glorith on the Sorceror's World. They enroll her in the Legion Academy, where several familiar faces (Power Boy, Comet Queen, Lamprey) and some new kids (Dragonwing, Chemical Kid, Gravity Kid, Variable Lad) are learning their powers.
*Wait... Gim's wife Yera is in the Legion now? When the heck did that happen? Anyway, she's on board when the last of the Durlan conspirators is apprehended.
*The underclassmen at the Academy join Chemical Kid in swiping a training cruiser and returning to his homeworld, where his trillionaire father had been abducted by the supervillain Black Mace.

I suppose that in the first of these Reread chapters, I should have clarified that RJ Brande, the super-rich Durlan industrialist who decided to shape-change into the body of an ageing and overweight human and got stuck, memorized as many Yiddish-American words as possible, fathered Chameleon Boy, financed and bankrolled the Legion, and basically spent about a decade as one of the book's regular players, got himself killed sometime in the Wilderness Years. The Durlan terrorists who venerate his name took their anger out on another regular player, Science Police Chief Zendak, before their gang is finally captured by the Legionnaires.

So, with two of the supporting cast gone, Levitz apparently decided that many more were needed. Now, I honestly never cared all that much for the old visits to the Legion Academy, and didn't care for those characters. It seems like a badly broken concept anyway. How many years in comic time have passed since we first met Power Boy, Nightwind and Lamprey? Six or seven? They've been running drills under Bouncing Boy's tutelage for an awfully long time. And yet here they still are, doing training exercises in the Danger Room - er, that is, the gym - their underdeveloped selves still hoping to be called up to the majors.

Phil Jimenez is the new artist for Adventure Comics as the Legion Academy becomes that book's main feature. I think he's a completely terrific artist - I've enjoyed him since volume two of The Invisibles - and he really nails all the characters who make it into this book. (Speaking of which, here's another Wilderness Years change: Last I saw Luorno, she was down from three bodies to one. Now she can split into limitless duplicates. Wikipedia informs me that this was revealed in the final issue of the forgettable Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds miniseries, which makes sense. I can just imagine writer Geoff "All the action figures in the bathtub" Johns screaming "She can make a MILLION BILLION duplicates of herself!!") Anyway, while the art is completely wonderful, the story is as unnecessary as can be. Ten issues in and the title is still surprising and baffling readers - Where is Thom? What's happened to Mysa? Why is Yera a Legionnaire now? - and badly needing some kind of supplements to provide some background to help things out. I suggest that Adventure should have continued with flashback adventures, but "Wilderness Years" flashbacks rather than "early days of the team" stories. Alternately, simple spotlight issues like Levitz and Giffen used to do in the 1980s would have been terrific. Dumping another half-dozen new characters on us - and making them the leads! - was not the right answer.

Compounding this problem, the head boy of this new gang is Chemical Kid, who has similar powers to the long dead, and rarely used, Legionnaire Condo Arlik, Chemical King. I admit that I always liked that character, but I'm not sure why. He had the interesting power of Element Lad-lite. He could not transmute elements, but he could change chemical reactions, causing metals to rust or power pack energy to deplete. So apparently Chemical Kid's rich dad also thought that was a neat power and paid scientists to screw with his son's genetics so that he could do it, too. Of course. Never mind his eyebrow-raising origin, the character is a complete jerk and a blowhard, and it's just not entertaining watching him. Brainiac 5 had the sense to be written sympathetically for decades before writers started making him amusingly sarcastic and nasty. You've got to earn reader loyalty.

Lastly, a few words about the annual, which sees Levitz reteamed with Keith Giffen. I've said before that I really admire Giffen for his ability to keep changing his style, and this work is incredibly interesting. It is very, very Jack Kirby. The planet Orando and its inhabitants look just like some minor fiefdom on Apokalips, with big hats and strange beasts of burden and ruined castles. Vi, as befits somebody who decided years ago that nobody was going to imprison her again, has been working out and now has the muscle mass of Big Barda. It's a fascinating evolution in his style. The story's really good, too.

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