Monday, March 21, 2016

Action Comics # 858

Superman And The Legion of Super-Heroes Part One
Title: “Alien World”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: John Sibal
Colorist: Dave McCaig and Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Matt Idelson
Associate Editor: Nachie Castro
Reviewer: Myk-El

In “The Lightning Saga,” seven Legionnaires travel back to the present day (or at least, to 2007) on a mission so secret even they don’t know what it is. Not until the Justice League teams up with the Justice Society to bring them all together. As it turns out, the Legionnaires intended to sacrifice themselves in order to “bring him back.” As an added bonus, they end up bringing back Wally West and his family. Their mission completed, the Legionnaires have returned to the 31st century. And now, so have we.

The opening sequence is basically a retelling of Superman’s origins—but with a twist. 

Instead of Krypton, we have an unnamed alien planet, caught in a devastating civil war. Instead of Jor-El and Lara, we have two pink-skinned, purple-haired aliens racing to save their only son by launching into space in a prototype rocket. “But why send him to Earth?” the mother asks. Because Earth will embrace him, just like it did with Superman over a thousand years ago, replies the father. 
Oh, and did I mention that this all takes place in the year “3008 AD” (according to the caption at the top of page 1)?   

In an obvious homage, the splash page features an image of the pink-skinned alien boy’s rocket escaping the destruction of his homeworld next to a full-figured pose of Supes looking all heroic and inspirational. 

The rocket makes its way to Earth. It clips a floating sign that says, “Welcome to Smallville”, and crashes into a cornfield, nearly running a 31st century pick-up truck off the road in the process. The old couple driving the truck get out to investigate. They find the pink-skinned alien baby stepping out of his rocket ship. 

And here comes the real twist. Instead of adopting the boy, the 31st century Jonathan Kent pulls out his rifle and says “We [should] kill it.” What the…??????!

Switch to 21st century Metropolis, where Perry White tells Clark Kent he needs to “make some friends your own age” and stop hanging out with Jimmy Olsen. Then, Clark’s enhanced senses detect a giant Brainiac Robot in a nearby park. This is a job for…well, you know the rest.

Superman confronts the giant robot, punching its jaw, and ripping off its face-plate. A static filled video recording of Brainiac 5 apologizes for the fake robot attack, but it was the fastest way to get Superman’s attention. Then, the robot zaps Superman in the head with a laser beam.

Cue Flashback: teenage Clark uses his super-hearing to eavesdrop on his classmates from a distance, as they gossip about him.  Hurt and lonely, he turns away and heads home, with only the birds for company. Until he hears some strange voices, first in a weird alien language (Interlac, of course!), and then in English. He turns, and there they are: Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad, in all their Silver Age glory. 

Clark’s reaction is precious. This is the first time he’s met anyone else who can fly. The three Legion founders tell Clark that they’re from 1000 years in the future, and that they’ve come to thank him for inspiring them to be heroes. Clark asks to go back with them to the 30th century. At first, the answer is no, but then Garth convinces fearless leader Rokk to let him tag along.

Cue FABULOUS Double Page Spread of the Legion, circa their Adventure Comics days, complete with the original upside-down rocket ship headquarters in the background.

Then, it’s back to Metropolis, where Superman has recovered his memories of the Legion. We get a brief two-panel recap of the Lightning Saga, the recent JLA / JSA crossover, before the robot’s torso flips open to reveal a time sphere, activated by a Legion Flight Ring. Superman takes a quick look at Metropolis before putting on the ring, and…

The robot explodes. Superman screams. The world disappears in a blinding flash of light. 

Another explosion, and Superman stumbles out of the smoking time sphere into Legion headquarters. It’s dark, evidently abandoned. Nothing but a broken statue covered in Interlace graffiti: “Aliens go home.”

Next, he’s cornered by a quartet of Science Police, who think he’s an imposter. He’s about to explain himself, when Colossal Boy smashes through the wall behind the Sci-Cops, knocking them out. Then, he shrinks down, so Dawnstar and Wildfire can follow him inside.
All three Legionnaires are stunned to find Kal-El in their headquarters. Wildfire tries to send him back to the 21st century, but the time sphere explodes, a warning shot from the Sci-Cop reinforcements who storm into the room, and order the Legion to surrender. Again, the cops think Superman is an imposter. 

Kal-El steps in to break up the violence, only to get a laser beam through his hand. Shock! Horror! Pain! What’s happening?! Dawnstar tells him to activate his flight ring—they need to get him out of there before he gets hurt. Colossal Boy provides an escape route, as they grab Kal-El and make a run for it, with several Science Police vehicles in hot pursuit

Cue Cliffhanger: “Earth’s sun is red.”


Throughout his entire Action Comics run, Geoff Johns seems determined to reference the 1978 Richard Donner Superman film. Big surprise, given that he once worked for the famous director. Now, I can deal with Clark jumping out the Daily Planet window in order to make a quick costume change (shown above). But having artist Gary Frank draw him as a Christopher Reeve lookalike—that’s just creepy. Especially in close-ups, like in the panel (shown above) right before the Brainiac robot zaps the hero in order to restore his memory.

Speaking of which, why doesn’t Superman recognize Brainiac 5?  So that Johns can introduce the Legion—that’s why. Exposition is a necessity in storytelling, especially in comics, as every issue might be somebody’s first. For me, though, Superman’s memory loss is a bit too contrived.  It’s worth noting that Johns re-uses the scene where Clark first meets the Legion in his miniseries, Superman: Secret Origins, also drawn by Gary Frank.

This issue also features three of Gary Frank’s costume re-designs for the Legionnaires.  Which are pretty hit-or-miss. Colossal Boy’s outfit is a definite hit, capturing the essence of Dave Cockrum’s classic design, but streamlining and modernizing it as well. The same goes for Dawnstar, whose Amerindian features gets emphasized in one close up. 

As for Wildfire’s new look, I’m probably going to get slammed for this, but the truth is, I’m not a fan of the transparent containment suit. Talk about too much information. I mean, do we really need a visual reminder that Drake’s nothing but a cloud of anti-energy?  

This issue has been reprinted in Superman and the Legion of Superheroes


  1. Having somehow missed the Lightning Saga storyline, this issue was my first intro to the Retroboot Legion. I must say, that I literally cheered to see Colossial Boy, Dawnstar and Wildfire. The original Legion was back, though something had changed too!

    1. How about the return of Absorbancy Boy, Tusker, Golden Boy, Storm Boy and Eye Full Ethel !

      I hadn't seen most of them since the 1960's or 1970's .

      A great concept !

  2. Oh my God, Frank's art nearly killed this whole story for me. Everyone looks like emaciated serial killers or something. And those costume redesigns! While a few were good, most were definitely not and yet we got stuck with them for the next however many years.

    And while it was nice to get the Retroboot Legion, the story had too many of Johns' awful writing tics for me to enjoy it 100%.

    1. I really liked the storyline but like you just hated Franks artwork !

      I'd have enjoyed this story more with Alan Davis and Mark Farmer doing the art or quite "Frankly" just about anyone else !

  3. Emaciated serial killers... so true! Especially when somebody tries smiling.

  4. Gary Frank really overdid the whole tracing style of art. It isn't just the faces, it's also some of the body poses. And is it just me, or is he going overboard trying to make Superman look like Christopher Reeve?

    "And while it was nice to get the Retroboot Legion"

    Yes and isn't exactly the pre-Crisis Legion, more like the Johnsverse Legion, sort of.