Sunday, February 28, 2016

5YL: Legionnaires #13

Legionnaires #13 (April 1994)
title: "Chain Gang"
writers: Tom & Mary Bierbaum
penciller: Frank Fosco
inkers: Wade von Grawbadger, Ron Boyd
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Adam Hughes
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Alchemist, Andromeda, Apparition, Brainiac 5 (SW6), Chameleon, Computo II, Cosmic Boy (SW6), Dragonmage, Gossamer, Inferno, Invisible Kid (SW6), Kid Quantum, Leviathan, Live Wire, Matter Eater Lad (SW6), Saturn Girl (SW6), Triad, Ultra Boy (SW6)

Guests: 
Kono and her Sklarian crew (including Brita), Science Police, Dominator victim, wounded boy

Opponents: 
Grimbor, Parisian separatists, Sklarian Raiders, an angry mob, alien convicts

Recap: 
Previously... Several Legionnaires were zapped into a strange vortex emanating from a wounded boy in Acapulco Dome, while in a Med-Lab nearby, Cosmic Boy was fighting for his life after having been similarly wounded by Live Wire's stray blast of electricity. The latter's relationship with Saturn Girl is in tatters over it. Meanwhile, Matter-Eater Lad has been tagged to accompany Kono on a mission to infiltrate the Sklarian Raiders responsible for New Earth's food shortage. And another team of Legionnaires has entered the closed-off Paris Dome after xenophobic separatists have taken over and angry mobs have turned on all aliens in the city. At the previous issue's close, a Dominator girl with strange powers, hunted by one such mob, mistakenly turned her abilities on the Legion and teleported them away...

Synopsis: 
In Paris Dome, the Legionnaires are teleported into a prison filled with aliens, many of them eager to beat them up. They escape and once again run into the Dominator girl who whisked them away. This time, Inferno befriends her by showing he knows her language. She teleports them to the government center where they fight separatist troops and a cadre of villains armed with high-tech chains. As a result, all the Legionnaires are captured, and old Legion villain Grimbor the Chainsman comes out to meet them.
In Acapulco Dome, Cosmic Boy is slowly recovering, but he blames himself, not Live Wire, for what happened. Saturn Girl wonders how she could have preferred (or still prefer?) Garth to Rokk. Meanwhile, Invisible Kid investigates the strange vortex inside which his colleagues are trapped. The colorful effect has them paralyzed by their own secret fears.

In Metropolis Dome, Kono and her Sklarian crew prep Matter-Eater Lad for his mission by turning him into a woman (Sklarians are matriarchal) with the Grandin Gender-Reversal Virus and giving him the identity of "Boom-Boom". Sadly, Tenzil doesn't make a very good infiltrator and almost immediately gives himself away  by mentioning Bismoll. And his father. And not knowing anything about Sklarian culture. The Sklarians prepare to execute the spy in their midst.
Commentary: 
Six months from cancellation, we're witness to a major decline in the art. Either the normal art teams were put on other projects because the Legion was already a "lame duck" book, or the team's instability led to stead sales drops that justified a Reboot. Either way, after several Frankensteined issues, the book is given over to a first-time penciller, and while Frank Fosco would do some better work on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by the end of the decade, he's not quite ready for the "big time" here, I think. The panels are cramped, the action hard to read, the facial expressions uneven. I do appreciate the body language he gives the characters, but they're too often trapped in small panels and need to be sketched in. Two inkers at the ready, one of which gives the figures more solidity and stronger shadows, but the other really doesn't. I've always been "writing-first", but the art does need to hit a certain basic standard. Not sure it does.
And even if it did, I'm not sure the writing is that strong either. There's the zapping around of the Legionnaires in Paris, for example. What purpose does it serve? They get sent to prison, escape, find the Dominion kid with the teleportation powers again (by accident), and then get teleported to the Duke's compound. Just buying time, pushing back as much as possible the revelation that Grimbor is behind at least some of this. And is it REALLY a surprise when access to Paris was barred by giant chains?

Matter-Eater Lad's plot is amusing on the cover - a classic! - but he's such an IDIOT in the story that it serves no real purpose to turn him into a woman. I like Kono in these scenes, but Tenzil gives the game away as soon as he talks to another Sklarian. So he was badly briefed, and his assignment to this mission was wrong-headed to begin with. It's weird, because I really like the Bierbaums' Tenzil, but they've been attacking his character for several issues now. They've basically created a situation where I'm angry at THEM. I mean, has Tenzil and Inferno switched places? Because Inferno's empathy seems to come out of nowhere as well.
And the other plots are moving at a snail's pace. Saturn Girl is STILL putting her relationship with Garth into question and I'm ready very ready to move on. The Legionnaires trapped in a strange vortex thing is equally slow to get to the point. The inconsistent art from issue to issue is also painting the scene differently, with their bodies still visible, but multi-colored, and yet a vortex springing up when one approaches, with colors and tiny ghosts flying around. It might have been better to give each of these plots their own issues rather than stretch them out to the point where the reader stops caring.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The Grandin Gender-Reversal Virus was also given to Color Kid by Infectious Lass in the instant classic Legion of Substitute-Heroes Special #1.
  • Grimbor first appeared in Superboy #221 (November 1978). This is his first appearance in 5YL continuity and the first we see of his redesigned look.

4 comments:

  1. I don't remember this story at all. I think my subscription must have ended with the previous issue.
    It doesn't sound like I missed much.

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  2. If there was a gender reversal virus in the Legion universe, why didn't Shaun use that to remain as Shvaughn when Profem became unattainable?

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  3. GOOD question!

    Presumably, it only lasts a short while, then you're immune to it, like a lot of other diseases.

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  4. Because the Plot Contrivance Fairy waved her wand and said "Use Profem instead!" ;)

    Fosco might not be as good as Hughes, Immonen, and Sprouse, but he work looks much better than Gardner's...

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