Thursday, June 2, 2016

Superman Plus The Legion #1

Superman Plus the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (February, 1997)
title: "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow"
writer: Tom Peyer
penciller: Bernard Chang
inker: Bob McLeod
letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
editor: JMike McAvennie
cover: Chris Sprouse (?)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Apparition, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Gates, Inferno, Saturn Girl, Spark, Ultra Boy, SP Officer Shvaughn Erin

Opponents: 
Black Zero terrorists, curiosity, idiocy




Synopsis: 
In Metropolis, Superman is rescuing people after a burst water main at Town City Mall has flooded the place. Then water short-circuits a transformer, which then chases its current up the elevator cables to the metal struts supporting the parking garage, causing it to collapse. Several cars start to fall on the helpless shoppers below. Suddenly, the Legion arrives to help!
Cosmic Boy tries to grab and return all of the falling automobiles with his magnetism, but he loses his confidence and his concentration. Saturn Girl tells him she has faith in him, and he manages to take care of the cars after all. Meanwhile, Brainiac 5 directs Inferno and Spark to shore up the ceiling. Gates uses his (?) teleportation abilities to save a faller from death, but his feelings are hurt when she continues to scream at his insectoid appearance.
After everyone is saved, Superman tells the Legion that he is angry at them for freeing his arch-foe, Brainiac. They apologize, explaining to him that they were after Brainiac's technology in order to try to get home. Superman offers to take them to his Fortress of Solitude so they can examine his Kryptonian computers.

At Superman's Fortress of Solitude, Brainiac 5 goes ga-ga over the Kryptonian technology. While he attempts to work with them to try to figure out a way back to the future, Superman gives the rest of the group a tour. He makes a point of telling them not to touch anything, but Apparition, newly returned from her "death," reaches out and touches one of the hologram displays, promptly disappearing.
Superman is explaining the history of Krypton, especially its earliest eras of violence, when the lights go out, then come back on brightly. Two hologram warriors come to life and attack them. Ultra Boy gets frantic when he notices that Apparition is missing, so rushes off. Superman goes after him and manages to calm him down.
When they return to their friends, everyone is being dissected and prodded with needles. Maybe. They begin to think they are under some sort of mental attack. Next they find themselves chained and suspended off the floor. The newest Kryptonian hologram tells Superman that they intend to destroy Earth just like they destroyed Krypton. Infuriated, Superman breaks himself and the others free. They battle war-bots until Superman's father, Jor-El arrives. He says something rude to Superman about Jonathan Kent, and Superman knows it is not really his father. He decks him.
This reveals the evil entity Black Zero II, which had infected the Kryptonian computers but was unable to manifest itself until it began siphoning power (energy) from Apparition and the other Legionnaires. It intends to explode a bomb to destroy Earth, and there is nothing that Superman or the Legion can do to stop it.
Suddenly, the power in the Fortress goes out. Brainiac 5 had over-loaded the computers, and they all crashed, destroying Black Zero II.
Instead of trying to access Superman's computers again, they all decide to leave, and Superman thinks to himself that he isn't going to invite them back any time soon.

Commentary: 
I came across this one-shot a few years ago, after I had moved back to the US from Japan. I had lost track of the Legion after the Threeboot and thought this would be a great "jumping back on" story.

It's not.

I haven't read anything else by Tom Peyer or Bernard Chang. And I've never heard of the editor, Mike McAvennie. On that last point, I'm not surprised. I went into this story as a newbie, not understanding or knowing anything about these characters, and....I learned absolutely nothing about them by reading this! Not only did I not find out why this group was stuck in Superman's time, but I never even figured out what Apparition meant when she said she had recently "died." Nor did we ever find out what Brainiac 5 was hoping to do with his "advanced tech." Build a time machine, I guess, but....it's never made clear, and when the power literally goes out of the story, that's it the end, no explanations or follow-up.

If the point of this story was to attract fans like me to pick this up and then maybe try issues of Legion, it failed miserably. (Okay, full disclosure, I read this years after it was published, yes, but the point is still valid: this story left a bad taste in my mouth, and I have still to this day NOT bought any more 90s Legion stories.)  The characters are dull, annoying, or, worst of all, stupid! Apparition is told to her face, "Don't touch anything," and the first thing she does is touch a hologram display. Ultra Boy is told to calm down; he goes crazy. Inferno is told to relax; she goes ballistic. These characters are idiots!! I absolutely don't want to read any more of these kids' adventures!

Speaking of the characters, we don't learn anything about them. Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy are a couple....? As an old-time fan, I would have liked some comment about that, and where Lightning Lad was. Besides those two, who get the lions' share of the spotlight, the others are all blank personalities. There is no characterization at all (unless you call Brainy's arrogance and Ultra Boy's anxiety "personalities.") Specifically, I don't know who Inferno is; I was expecting Sun Boy, and this isn't him. I don't know any of them, really, but she especially is a question mark. Gates, as the lonely but heroic insect, gets the best scene. THIS type of half-hearted story-telling is supposed to make me want to learn more about these characters?!?

And on top of all of this, the story itself is just plain bad! The catalyst of this story is Apparition, doing something she shouldn't. The solution to this conflict? It doesn't come from the heroes themselves, no, but a random power outage. Talk about your awful conclusions! Besides that, it's never made clear what is actually happening....Gates has his (?) heart ripped out by another hologram, but is then perfectly fine. Huh? It's okay to go "crazy mental" on us, but we need an explanation. Otherwise it's just a waste of time and money.

The cover artist is not listed, but it looks to me like maybe Chris Sprouse....? It's the best part of the issue.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story follows the Legion adventure in Showcase '96 #11-12, where the Legion meets up with Brainiac and lets him get away. 
  • No explanation is given for why the Legion is stuck in 1997. 
Status: 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

7 comments:

  1. It's not enough to say you don't know these things. Find someone who does and post the info.

    Incidentally, I too could not stand the Legion in the 20th century books and did not buy any of them.

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    1. "Stand alone stories" should be just that. I am not going to do homework on a comic book I randomly picked up. You're welcome to do the leg-work yourself if you are so interested in knowing. :-)

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    2. ...although, in the last week I have come across Tom Peyer's name in much better stuff than this! :-)

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  2. As a standalone issue, not good. As a part of a broader storyline -- yeah, still not that good. I was a big fan of the reboot Legion, and I reread the whole series more times than I can remember ... while this book is in my collection, it quickly ended up in the "extras" pile that didn't get read when I went through everything else.

    It really just feels like it was made to check off a box of another Superman crossover. Which always felt totally unnecessary to me given that Superman never really excited me all that much.

    Also, am I the only one who is bothered by all the one-shots being numbered "#1" in big bold letters as if there is ever going to be a #2?

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    1. Actually, I believe they are numbering it "#1" because they hope to fool people into buying it as something valuable they can later sell to collectors.

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    2. Well yes, of course. It just seems like something that doesn't fool anyone except the editors who think it's a good idea!

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  3. I agree with the review. This issue is stupid, the characters are annoying and dumb, and the story makes nothing to get a possible fan interested in the Legion.

    Incidentally, it reminds me why I never liked or agreed with the "Superman is the sole survivor from Krypton and he was never Superboy" reboot policy. Seeing Superman looking down on the Legion and treating them as idiot brats he has to put up with as he finds a way to get rid from them feels wrong. A Legion completely divorced from the Krypton Kids feels wrong (to me, at least).

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