Sunday, January 24, 2016

5YL: Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) Annual #4 (1993)
title: "Jamm"
writers: Tom & Mary Bierbaum
pencillers: Stuart Immonen, Darryl Banks, Joe Phillips, Christopher Taylor, Nick J. Napolitano
inkers: Terry Austin, Wade Von Grawbadger, Ron Boyd, Dan Davis
lettering: Bob Pinaha
colorist: Tom McCraw
editors: K.C. Carlson, Eddie Berganza, Mike McAvennie
cover: Stuart Immonen
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Andromeda, Apparition, Brainiac 5 (SW6, only in pin-up), Cosmic Boy (SW6), Dawnstar, Dragonmage, Invisible Kid, Kent Shakespeare, Matter-Eater Lad (SW6), Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy (SW6), Valor

Daxamites, Harlak, Infectious Lass, Jamm (1st appearance), Lauren Gand, Loomis, Night Girl, Pol Krinn II, Rond Vidar

Angon (a Bloodline Parasite), Mordru's undead army

Vol.4's fourth Annual came out in July of 1993, between issues 47 and 48 of the main series, and Legionnaires #6 and #7). Previously, Timber Wolf had been sent back in time to the late 20th Century, where he established himself as a minor hero, thinking he would never get home. Also in the 20th Century, alien "parasites" have reached Earth and are getting busy drinking their victims' spinal fluid. Those that survive have their metagene activated and become "New Bloods". And in the 30th, the universe is reeling as Mordru has attempted total domination via a near unstoppable zombie army. The battle still rages.

In the late 20th Century, prodigious skater-dude "Jamm" is cruising San Francisco's righteous hills, helping chicks with dead bodies in the trunk of their cars, and getting into traffic accidents, when he's attacked by said babe, it reality a gross "Bloodline parasite" called Angon who sucks out his spinal fluid. She's interrupted by Timber Wolf, who had been tracking a serial killer no one was expecting to be an alien monster.

In the 30th Century, the Talus installation acting as Legion HQ and as Brainiac 5's lab is overrun with Mordru's undead army, and a small group of Legionnaires and their friends fight them off. In the wake of the violence, Jacques Foccart the second Invisible Kid accidentally activates Brainy's time cube, primed to extract Timber Wolf from the time stream.
This brings the lost Legionnaire forward in time, along with Angon and the still-living Jamm. In the fight that ensues, Jamm wakes up and tells the creature to go back to where it came from and it miraculously jumps back into the time cube. While an injured Timber Wolf recovers in a tube of healing liquid, Jamm is prescribed some bed rest. The Legion would send him back, but he asks to stay and it seems no one can say no to him. His metagene has been activated.
He uses his new power to force the Legion to take him around the universe and to take off their clothes, eventually making his way to Daxam which Valor and Shadow Lass are clearing of zombies before they can leave the system and gain great power. But Jamm wants to hang with a great hero, so they're roped into his shenanigans. On an Amazon planet, Jamm makes fun of Shadow Lass' power, so she gives him a nasty taste of it. He orders her to never again use her power, which will come back to bite him in the ass, of course. Wanting the company of Legionnaires closer to his age, he's taken to New Earth where he disrupts the SW6 Legionnaires' own handling of the undead army, making Apparition and Andromeda where terrible clothes from his time and playing in a band with Matter-Eater Lad and Dragonmage.

Eventually, Valor's sermons about responsibility give Jamm the (wrong) idea to make himself president of the universe and fix everything he doesn't like. With all his new "friends" in tow, he flies the Legion cruiser to the "Leader World", right into a squadron of undead Daxamites. Jamm ditches Valor and Andromeda so they can fight it while he angles the ship towards a sun. To only way to escape its gravity is for him to release Shadow Lass from his command to never use her powers so she can cloak Night Girl in darkness, allowing her to push the ship so it can slingshot around.
Then they finally convince Jamm to return to his time - it's either that or leave him on an uninhabited planet - with a warning that if he ever tries to cause trouble again, Shadow Lass, whom he is deathly afraid of, will go after him.

Let's not mince words. The Bloodlines crossover event was TERRIBLE. Repetitive Annuals where wannabe Xenomorphs create AWFUL new characters, the vast majority of which have been completely forgotten. The one true exception was Hitman, who would have been great anyway, who is still saddled with a bogus origin story. Now Jamm? He may just be the anti-Hitman, and I haven't actually done the research here, but could easily win the title of WORST NEW BLOOD EVARRRR.
He's the worst of 90s cartoon clichés. He's POOCHY! Quite beyond his dated-the-minute-it-premiered look, his "character" is just a collection of slang words I don't remember anyone actually using, and an obtuse "comedy" 'tude even Bill & Ted would be shaking their heads at. Throw in a game-breaking power used in rapey ways, and you have a recipe for disaster everyone involved should have seen coming. His ride across the galaxy is supposed to be amusing, but there's only one time I thought it was - when he kept calling Tasmia "Shadow Lass" Mallor "Tasmania". And by then, I was too sick of the character to even crack a smile. I mean, the character is so terminally STUPID that even after releasing Tasmia from his commands so she can save his LIFE, he still resents her for making him do it. Given that the Bierbaums have been excelling in their character work in the Legion books, I can't help but think they're phoning it in here. Even the Legionnaires describe themselves as power sets here. Shadow Lass and Night Girl get a nice share of the action, but they're not exactly deep characters.

What's worse is that quite beyond the fact that Jamm never made it as a character (thank the Lords of Luck!), the whole Annual is a waste of time and entirely skippable. It's just something happening in the margins of the larger Legion story about Mordru's army, not important to the main action. The only plot point of note is Timber Wolf's return to the fold after a lackluster attempt to turn him into the mainstream DCU's Wolverine, and that's quickly set aside so we can go gallivanting across the universe with Jamm. We get just a hint of what he's lost, but he's just left groaning inside a giant test tube. Even within the context of this one-off story, things don't matter. If you're going to show that Jamm's powers don't work on androids, for example, then that's got to figure later in the resolution. It doesn't. Dumb. Dumb and half-assed.
Same with the art which is all over the map; five pencillers and three inkers will do that to an issue. So it's just got this rushed quality (ha! quality!) and seems to degrade as you turn the pages. A complete miss from the creative team, so you should probably miss it too.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The Annual is part of the loosely-connected Bloodlines crossover, which introduced a new character, created when anyone survived an attack by an alien "parasite" feeding on human spinal fluid. Jamm was this issue's New Blood. He only appeared once more, in Bloodbath #2 (1993).
  • Timber Wolf returns to the 30th Century in this issue. Presumably, his solo mini-series failed to get the proper momentum for him to stay in the 20th.
  • Shadow Lass has been perfecting her powers; it can now give someone an upsetting sensory deprivation experience.
  • Jamm refers to himself as "Jamm the Unconquered", a reference to the fantasy feature Claw the Unconquered.
  • The Bloodline Parasite Angon is also responsible for activating the New Bloods Ballistic, Edge, and Prism.
This is the first time the 5YL Legion participates in a line-wide crossover at DC. The Legion hasn't, in fact, participated in a crossover event since Millennium in 1987. It would next participate in the Elseworlds "event" (though only two of the participating Annuals were actually connected between them), and of course, Zero Hour where this era of the Legion would end.


  1. If nothing else, Bloodlines proved just how hard it is to create new heroes on command. Still, a 1/27 success rate is pretty staggering (although in fairness, a few more might have succeeded has DC committed to them, rather than run away in denial...)

  2. Yeah, I didn't dislike Argus or even Loose Cannon, not coincidentally characters they actually pushed, but the common origin basically tainted each of the characters, made them all the same though different, and ignoring it entirely was the only way to go (as Hitman did).

  3. I think Marvel's "introduce a new character in each annual" gimmick might have worked a little bit better than Bloodlines, although that was a pretty low bar to clear (and it's not like they cleared it by that much). At least Marvel didn't force a common origin, or even have a connecting story between the annuals, and they introduced new villains as well as heroes.

    Not that any of Marvel's new characters really ended up becoming prominent, either, though I think a few might have made more appearances than most of DC's. (But I really don't feel like researching that, particularly because it would force me to be reminded of some of those new characters...)

    But, yeah, Jamm was probably the worst new character introduced by either company's gimmick, even beating out Adam X the X-Treme. *Shudder*

  4. I did not read this issue when it came out, fortunately, but from your description it sounds like the creature activated Jamm's Anti-Life Equation. It's a good thing he was projected into the future, otherwise Darkseid would have gotten hold of him and gained control of the universe.

  5. My only meaningful question I had when reading this review was....who is Pol Krinn II? Do you mean the son of Cos & Lydda?

  6. The most shocking bit of the entire BLOODLINES crossover is that DC just announced they are bringing it back in 2016!?!? Insane!! Maybe we'll be "lucky" enough to get Jamm back! Bwah-ha-ha!

  7. Didn't mind many of the BL characters as much as some people, but Jamm...

    There is nothing good about this character, from the dialogue to the way he seems to be working up to properly sexually assaulting the cast.

    As much of a bad fate many of them, such as Anima, received during the worst of DCs gore phase I would have cheerfully read something where he gets his throat slit.

  8. Anima had potential. She might even be the second best New Blood. But when you look at those who made a go of it - her, Hitman, Argus, Gunfire... - their stories had such disparate styles, it's hard to reconcile that they all had this crappy, crappy origin.