5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #11 is another interesting creative choice by a team which was really pushing artistic limits of comics for the time. I have talked about visual choices like a 9 panel grid and rare splash pages. I have talked about the risks of rebuilding the universe twice, carrying on as if nothing happened, and then giving the readers 2 straight flashback issues, rebuilding the foundation of the LSH, suddenly made shaky by the universal rewrites.
So far, I have been on board with these choices. The flashback issues of 8 and 9 were needed to at least set the stage for the 'new universe'. They also had framework stories which nudged the 'team reforming' plot as well as the 'Roxxas attacks' plot. If anything, those issues stoked the fire, making me crave the next issue that much more.
Now last issue, the proverbial snowball rolling down the mountain reached avalanche proportions. Finally we were 100% back in the present and witnessed Roxxas mowing down Legionnaires with giddy ease. It was a brutal tour de force for the villain. And I wondered what would happen next ...
What happened was LSH #11, a predominantly humor issue revolving around Matter Eater Lad! The writing is done by Keith Giffen and Tom & Mary Bierbaum. And Tenzil Kem would end up being a part of this book and something of a comedic element to the cast (like Loomis and Devlin O'Ryan). But to put this book out now seemed like an odd choice. I'm not saying the pages aren't funny. It is the timing.
The Matter Eater Lad pages are drawn by Craig Brasfield and he does his best to honor the 9 panel grid, at least sticking to 3 rows per page.
To be fair, there are a handful of Giffen pages, dealing with the fallout with Roxxas on Winath. But these pages just nudge that plot along and frankly I was hoping for more.
A humor issue? In the midst of a battle? Another creative risk. And, for me, the first misstep.
The last thing we saw was Ultra Boy seemingly vaporized by a grenade lobbed by Roxxas. There were 4 other characters either dead or dying. Things were hitting a fever pitch. Who lived? Who died? Who is left to get Roxxas?
So imagine my surprise when the first page, while in the 9 panel format, is a pun-laden opening to an Archaeology show hosted by Tenzil. Amusing? Sure.
But let's face it. I was most interested in what was happening on Winath.
And as we see in this newscast, I should be interested. Cham and Ultra Boy presumed dead?? Celeste Rockfish in extremely grave condition? We just met her! At least the mysterious Bounty and Mekt are alive and in stable condition.
I do like that the reporter says that Earthgov isn't reliable. It is like the Dominion control is the worst kept secret in the universe.
But seriously ... that is a huge injury list. Should I be yukking it up with Matter Eater Lad? Should I want to be reading that?
As I said, it isn't as if these pages aren't funny in their own way.
Here archaeologists are clearly excavating the Batcave. Tenzil assumes that the 'giant penny' trophy is a manhole cover, proving that there was a time when 'Titan Presidents' existed.
Despite such silliness, the show is canceled which means Tenzil needs to move on. His assistant is none other than Calorie Queen! And she lets him know that the 'Winathian contingent' wants him to move forward with Operation Popsicle.
I do find it interesting that Tenzil has been in contact with this slowly reforming Legion, presumably Rokk and Cham's group. He hasn't been mentioned before now. But he must have been in their plans for a while.
And Calorie Queen!
What is Operation Popsicle? We'll need to wait because thankfully we head back to Winath to catch up.
First off, Roxxas was battered by Ultra Boy last episode. Here we see him seeking medical attention from a doctor who just doesn't have the skill to help. It is chilling that we see the bloodied dead nurse, tied up and slaughtered by Roxxas, as an unmoving element in the foreground. The more we see of Roxxas the scarier he becomes.
And that last panel ... we know this Doctor isn't going to survive this encounter.
And we get a rundown of the injuries in Brainy's medlab and it isn't as bad as we thought.
Mekt is stable.
Cham is in critical condition but it turns out he puts his brain somewhere other than his skull. The head shot last issue, while a critical injury, isn't lethal. (Nice advice from Brainy to have Cham hide his vital organs.)
Bounty is also stable. But Brainy wonders what she is up to. Does he also suspect she is someone else in disguise ... the way Roxxas did?
But things don't look good for Celeste. She is dying.
But after this page, this horrible news, we switch back to the comic antics of Tenzil.
It turns out Operation Popsicle is defending Polar Boy in court. Polar Boy was arrested for leading an illegal gathering in a pizza parlor decrying the Earthgov. He has been cooling in his heels for some time in jail and the date of the trial is finally set. And Tenzil is defending.
Ironically, he seems irresistible to the prosecutor who is ready to play footsie while they discuss the case.
The court room is a like a Three Stooges episode as Tenzil tries every trick in the book to get Polar Boy's case thrown out. These include things like trying to prove Polar Boy is a Green Lantern by hitting him in the face with a yellow pie. Then he tries to prove that Polar Boy is insane. Tenzil has Polar Boy dress in costumes, etc.
At last, the judge has had enough of these antics. There will be no more attempts to prove that Polar Boy is insane. Any attempt to dispute his sanity is self-evident fraud.
Nice panel here of a completely exasperated judge whose courtroom has been turned into Vaudeville.
I assume Polar Boy's trial has taken this long to get in front of a judge is because the Dominators want him incarcerated. But the legal reason that Polar Boy's trial has been hung up (at least the reason on paper) is because the court needed time to make sure he was competent for trial.
But that means Polar Boy was denied the right to a speedy trial! Being held up for competency is, by the judge's own words, self-evident fraud. Polar Boy is released on a technicality.
Talk about a Hail Mary defense save!
Okay, this was funny and cute and shows that Tenzil is quick-witted.
But Celeste is dying! Roxxas is killing!
Was now the right time for this humor issue?
This didn't have the 'pause' feel of the flashbacks. This was frustrating.
And then things end trippily.
It looks as if the grenade Roxxas lobbed didn't annihilate Jo. It teleported him. And given the psychedelic rainbow effect and the quotes from the past (a couple I recognize), this must have been a Time Bomb, teleporting Jo through time and space. We see him land on a planet somewhere in Khundian space. So at least Jo is alive, although displaced.
On its own, I would say the Matter Eater Lad story was a fun diversion and really captured Tenzil's humorous personality. We see him act like this for the rest of the series. And I don't begrudge humor in these books, especially a Giffen book. That segment felt a little like Ambush Bug, a little like The Heckler.
But putting it here, in the midst of the drama, and in the midst of rebuilding the team, it just felt off. I remember when I read this way back when, I was vexed because I wanted the read about the 'real team'. Reading it now, knowing that LSH #12 was on my night stand ready to be consumed, I was more perplexed.
What happens next???