Saturday, February 6, 2016

5YL: Legionnaires #8

Legionnaires #8 (November 1993)
title: "In Heart and Conscience Free"
writer: Tom & Mary Bierbaum
penciller: Colleen Doran
inker: John Nyberg
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Chris Sprouse
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Alchemist, Andromeda, Brainiac 5 (SW6), Chameleon, Computo II, Cosmic Boy (SW6), Dragonmage, Gossamer, Invisible Kid (SW6), Leviathan, Saturn Girl (SW6), Triad

Allies: 
Chairman Audric


Opponents: 
Chairman Audric, Secretary Yarin, other Coluans

Recap: 
Follows directly from previous issue, in which... The Legionnaires were recovering from their battles with the Fatal Five and Mordru's undead with a little R&R.

Synopsis: 
The Legionnaires are still enjoying themselves and recovering from injuries. Brainiac 5 has been recalled to Colu however to receive an award. Saturn Girl, Alchemist and Andromeda accompany him (it's the all-blond Legion). But Brainy disappears just before the ceremony, and the Legionnaires are shocked to find him miles away, having apparently agreed to quit the Legion and stay home where he is needed. He makes clear that, because he was genetically created by his people, he is the property of Colugov and cannot refuse their request. Andromeda, facing the loss of the man she loves, freaks out.
Saturn Girl decides to use her telepathic powers to convince Brainy he is making the wrong decision, and when he changes his mind, the Coluan Secretary pumps him full of drugs to make him comply. Later, when Brainy fails to show up to the spaceport to say goodbye, the Legionnaires seek him out and ask for his final decision. Sweating profusely, he fights the drugs' effects by forcing his 12th-level brain to produce counteracting endorphins, and chooses the Legion. At which point the Coluans are shocked to find the Secretary has broken their trust by forcing Brainiac 5 to stay. Brainy and Andromeda spend the trip back to New Earth smooching.

Commentary: 
Something of a misstep. The strength of this series to date has been the characterization, but I feel like they're throwing a number of characters under the space bus in this one, most prominently Andromeda who is positively CRAZED by the news that Brainiac 5 might not be returning to New Earth. She screams, she cries abundantly, she punches mountains... It's all much too melodramatic, and Laurel has to date been a lot stronger than this. Her behavior is unbecoming of a Legionnaire, but also unearned. There hasn't been much mention of their romance to date - though obviously, she's inherited it from Supergirl - so making her go crazy over it comes out of left field.

As does the Coluan recall of Brainy for that matter. We're not sure why he has to return, or exactly what Colu needs him for. His behavior, just disappearing without explanation, was sure to make the Legionnaires suspicious, but it wasn't his plan, so it's just the plot telling him to act that way. Never good. The Coluan villain of the story, as soon as he's revealed, acts just as melodramatically as Andromeda does, and their twinned intensities are really grating. And Coluans going "hey, kid"? Totally misses the point of their culture.
Saturn Girl and Alchemist fare better, the latter lending her friendly support and understanding, but I'm not entirely sure this version of Imra really deserved to be called uncaring by Andromeda. Again, unearned. It does lead to a nice moment, in which we shouldn't read a romantic intention, though with Imra giving Cosmic Boy a kiss on the cheek before they leave HQ, it's hard not to do so. I was fine with the love triangle between Imra, Garth and Cos, but now that she's made her choice, it just feels like she's stringing Cos along for no reason. And that's her character assassinated. The scene also contains a hint that maybe Invisible Kid cares for Alchemist, but nothing will come of it.

I don't want to complain about Colleen Doran's artwork here, but it's certainly part of the problem. The EXTREME!!!! emotions and the melodrama are heightened by the art, which is otherwise quite sweet and expressive. I'm also having to say that Gossamer's bathing suit is way over the top. I know Winathians are kind of nudists, and that I hold Ayla as the epitome of Legion hotness, but this... this is too much.
I guess I don't see Comics Code Approval on the cover...

Science Police Notes:  
  • Live Wire is recovering from injuries he sustained in Legionnaires #4 when he was almost killed by the Emerald Empress.
  • According to writer Tom Bierbaum, the story was crafted to cater to guest artist Colleen Doran's tastes, including a role for Alchemist, her favorite (she drew Element Lad's Who's Who entry, and the Jan Arrah/Shvaughn/Sean Erin Romance issue of Legion of Super-Heroes v4).

3 comments:

  1. I wonder if Andromeda's portrayal here cribs a bit from Power Girl's characterization from the 90s? Hot tempered and bristly.

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  2. Think it unfairly throws Ms. Doran under the bus to say the story was crafted for her tastes when it's the writers who failed to tell it well.
    Not really a fan of the Bierbaums idea of Brainiac as a title and here it's brought right to the fore but not really explained or explored further in favour of the romance plot. For me those elements should have been balanced the other way around.
    Ms. Doran's art is lush though.

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  3. I don't think it was meant as an excuse, as the writers were clearly satisfied with the issue where I was not.

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