Sunday, February 7, 2016

5YL: Legionnaires #9

Legionnaires #9 (December 1993)
title: "Skin Deep"
writers: Tom & Mary Bierbaum
penciller: Chris Sprouse, Adam Hughes, Brian Stelfreeze
inker: Karl Story, Adam Hughes, Brian Stelfreeze
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Chris Sprouse
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Andromeda, Catspaw, Chameleon, Computo II, Cosmic Boy (SW6), Dragonmage, Inferno, Invisible Kid (SW6), Live Wire, Matter-Eater Lad (SW6), Saturn Girl (SW6), Shrinking Violet (SW6)

Accordion King (and his mother), Barber Boy, Colossal Boy, Proteans, Sadi (1st appearance), Tyroc, the mayor of Acapulco

Khunds, Sklarian raiders (in the background), a drunk member of the auditioning crowd

Previously... Live Wire has grown more and more jealous of Cosmic Boy lately, on account of the attention the latter has been getting from Saturn Girl. Matter-Eater Lad admitted to having feelings for Shrinking Violet, but she would rather remain friends. After disastrous impromptu try-outs, Cosmic Boy asked Chameleon to organize proper ones. And in Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4, we learned that the Proteans are looking for the Soul of Antares, which may reside in the not-so-dead retconned Legionnaire, Kid Quantum, who was set to return to Antares the last time we saw him.

In space, Andromeda, Matter-Eater Lad, Shrinking Violet and Dragonmage are patrolling an empty sector from which a distress signal was sent. Their boredom is dispelled when a freighter full of Khunds barrels into them. Andromeda goes after them with gusto as they are the race who killed her parents, but the Legion cruiser takes a hit and crashes on an unknown planet. They survive and each meet someone from their memories. For Catspaw, it's the man she loved and who betrayed her to the Dominators. For Dragonmage, it's his teacher in the mystic arts. For Matter-Eater Lad, it's Violet who is suddenly professing her love for him (in fact, all these people are warmer and friendlier than they were known to be). But then he finds another Violet, sleeping, so who has he been talking to?
Meanwhile, Andromeda beats the Khunds up and calls the Science Police. Officer Gim Allon, the former Colossal Boy, makes the arrest and makes her realize the other Legionnaires have crashed somewhere. Another Legion patrol composed of Leviathan and Invisible Kid find a man in a life pod who puts the blame on Sklarian raiders, so not the Khunds at all!
On New Earth, the Legion is holding new try-outs, but the participants haven't been screened very well. It's just one loser after another. So Cosmic Boy is quite happy to take a priority call from President Tyroc. Seems food shortage is causing riots in Acapulco Dome and the mayor has asked for help. Cos and Saturn Girl agree to go, so a jealous Live Wire forces himself onto the team to keep a watchful eye on his girlfriend. Things don't go well in Acapulco as the riotous crowd starts throwing refuse. When Saturn Girl tries to calm people down telepathically, one drunken rioter throws a brick at her head, making Live Wire spin out of control and channel his power at the crowd. Cosmic Boy gets in the way and is zapped. Saturn Girl immediately comes to and checks on him... He's not breathing!

Even after the last two issues' break, Chris Sprouse is having trouble keeping to a schedule. He's doing the Khunds/Proteans part of the issue - and it looks great - while the rest is done by Adam Hughes (who looks a little rushed in spots) and Brian Stelfreeze (who's good on the last few pages given the electric gestures of his pencils. Still, issues drawn by committee are never as good as those that have a unifying style. So let's take each element on its own since the issue is dead set on presenting it that way.

A mystery develops in the Khund/Protean strand (and I'm spoiling it for you here, we don't yet know the Proteans are involved), but it's too early to really comment. Andromeda is certainly proving to be a loose cannon on the team, once again flying into action on an emotional trigger (but not as strident as in the previous issue). The other characters benefit from her absence, and I particularly enjoy the attempt at fleshing out the new kids on the block, Catspaw and Dragonmage. Catspaw is still a bit of a caricature, a cartoon cat who can speak, but through the more understated Dragonmage's interaction with his mentor, we get an image of a kid who was browbeaten by his teacher and whose insecurities are ingrained in his character. Tenzil is way too eager to believe Violet loves him, so there might be some kind of strange atmospheric effect at work that makes everyone believe their senses too readily. We'll see.
The page introducing the Sklarian raider problem is a bit of a throwaway, so let's immediately move on to the try-outs. While Hughes is known for his cheesecake art, he really should be lauded more often for his sense of humor. The Legion auditions are full of expression, with Cham running comically to stop Barber Boy from scalping crowd members, and Accordion King's shame contrasting well with his mother smug pride. The last try-out we see, we actually don't, so those panels seem wasted. I mean, what is this "exciting" power we're not meant to see except a silly sex joke?
I don't know what's happening there. Well, I do, but why is it happening now? Ultimately, while I have a special love for failed try-outs, this bit just feels like we're stuck back in issue 2. Cham has obviously NOT screened the applicants as he'd been asked to, so we're STILL not getting new Legionnaires out of it. And judging by Inferno's behavior, he learned absolutely nothing from the Cera Kesh incident. Playa's gonna play. One joke that soon follows that I dearly love though is this one, in which Cos asks Computo to dial down the volume on Tyroc's call. Of COURSE he's a loud talker!
As for the riot scene and the, ah-hem, shocking death of Cosmic Boy at Live Wire's hands, I'm not too worried. This will either make Garth realize he needs to reel it in, or Imra decide she can't be with him. It's part of their love triangle subplot, which I'm less and less invested in, frankly. The cover showed the moment, of course, but the way it's drawn I still can't help but see Ayla getting zapped there. Something about Cos' figure and hair could totally be Garth's petite sister, and all the electricity flying around probably helps, since I can't dissociate the Lightning Lass persona from the character, no matter what powers they give her. So... well played?

Science Police Notes:  
  • The shapes the Proteans take on in this issue include those of Ansis (who plays a part in Catspaw's never chronicled origins), Dragonmage's mentor (likewise for his), and Shrinking Violet.
  • The splash page that depicts Matter-Eater Lad finding a second Shrinking Violet has a possible coloring error, with one of them having part of her costume in green. This could actually be on purpose as a hint that she is a shape-shifter.

1 comment:

  1. Well, glad to know I wasn't the only one that thought it was Ayla getting fried on the cover, not Rokk.