Friday, June 3, 2016

Threeboot: Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #19

Recap: The Legion team is settling into a new chapter in their history. Supergirl has somehow joined the team. They are allied with the Science Police. Dream Girl is dead and an addled Brainiac 5 is trying to resurrect her. And with all that going, a robot revolution is brewing in the underbelly of the city. But who is behind this rebellion? And what are their motives?

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #19 was a perfect sort of rest issue in this series which suddenly had many moving parts. One of the things writer Mark Waid had done earlier on the book was to give a single Legionnaire something of a spotlight while the Terror Firma arc was orbiting around that character. It allowed both  plot progression and a deeper knowledge of these new Legionnaires who we were just meeting.

This issue is Chameleon's turn to get the spotlight. Last issue we learned that Chameleon was working undercover as Science Police Officer Reep Daggle. In this issue, Cham's cover is blown and he is blamed for a murder he didn't commit. The whole issue has a very classic film noir feel to it, from the innocent man framed to the femme fatale. And that different feel for a Legion book really grabbed me. Of course, Chameleon Boy was well known as an espionage agent and spy so he fits the bill of a film noir antagonist nicely.

Barry Kitson is back on art in the issue and the whole issue just pops. I truly feel that this was as much Kitson's book as Waid's. When he isn't on visuals, something is missing.

Now I am an old movie buff and I love noir. So this whole issue just crackled.

On to the book!

The book opens with Chameleon arrested and being interrogated. He is being blamed for the murder of a prisoner. It is clear that his infiltration into the Science Police is being held against him, as it should be.

But like all those good guys wrongly imprisoned in old movies, he asks to be able to tell his tale. The book then goes into a voice over retelling of the events that led up to this.

Think of William Holden in Sunset Boulevard or Edmund O'Brien in DOA or Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity, all retelling their events.

Chameleon has been burning the candle at both ends, acting as a Legionnaire by day and SciPo officer at night. He is tired and as a result isn't at his sharpest.

Two issues ago, the Legion had arrested someone who was impersonating a Science Police Officer as well. When Cham enters the police headquarters, he can tell something has happened. That criminal, potentially linked to the robot revolution, had been murdered in his cell, a cell made of inertron and Coluan force shields. It is an impossible murder ...

Cham's dialogue is straight from a Philip Marlowe novel. Heads bashed like soft-boiled eggs and cops grilling perps. Perfect.

We do break from the mystery briefly to catch up with Supergirl. Regarded as a legend, Supergirl is more popular than anyone else. She can't talk to anyone in the Legion plaza without getting mobbed.

Kara wants to find Seiss, the earthquake powered alien who we saw recruited by someone recently. Supergirl grabs psionic communicator Theena and asks her to find Seiss. Interestingly and a bit scarily, she cannot locate him.

I do like that we get some backstory for Theena. The psionic tentacles are a symbiote on her. She has a crush on Star Boy. Heck, she should be part of the main team!

Back at SciPo HQ, Officer Daggle is introduced to Titan interrogator Jerya Entinn. Entinn was in the room when the prisoner was killed. She says that a robot assassin teleported in, did the dirty work, and teleported away. There is no recording of the event.

It is now completely clear that the prisoner was somehow linked to the robot uprising. With that as a lead, Daggle and Entinn decide to head down into the robot slums hoping to get more information.

Donning some robotic faceplates and accoutrements, the two head into the undercity where ageless AI have been stewing for centuries.

These robots were banished there after the near takeover by technology in the past. With most AI destroyed, these few fled to a place of anonymous safety.

One thing I like about this bit is that it explains why there are no records of the prior millenia, only legends of heroes. Much of that knowledge was purged with the first robot coup.

The robots are hiring humans to salvage parts. They are bringing this stolen tech into the undercity so new mecha and weapons can be built. It is a conspiracy!

And look who they are building now! That has to be an homage to Robotman, Cliff Steel. It looks too much like our Doom Patroller for mere coincidence. Is Waid saying Robotman was part of this first rebellion?

With Entinn and himself imperiled, Cham has to drop his cover.

Turning into a number of crazy beasts, Cham is able to dismantle the robot pretty easily. Heck, maybe it really is Cliff Steel.

Again, Waid reminds us that Cham's powers only let him take the form of something. He doesn't get special abilities.

The two grab a human working with the robots. This alien says the robots don't have the tech to have ever teleported someone into the prisoner cell to assassinate someone. In fact he doesn't even know who is behind everything. He just gets paid.

Basically useless, Cham pulls a Sam Spade, beating the guy into unconsciousness. He followed the Handbook Of Procedures For Useless Prisoners.

Entinn isn't  shocked by the revelation that Daggle was Cham. Instead she folds herself into his arms and kisses him deeply. She then is shocked to find that Cham isn't attracted to 'single form organisms'.

Back at the police station, Cham figures it out. If the robot revolutionaries don't have the ability to teleport someone into the prisoner's cell, only one person could be the killer ... Jerya Entinn herself. He convinces the science police that it is she they are after.

When confronted, Entinn freezes everyone telepathically. She tells Cham how she hoped to frame some lowly being in the undercity for the prisoners death but Cham had to go and save the day. She knew he could be her fall guy. She even swiped his Legion ring during the kiss.

I told you there was a femme fatale in this book. Someone so good at being bad that she fooled a veteran Legionnaire.

Mentally frozen, Cham can't change into any creature because he can't concentrate enough on any form. He realizes however that there is something nearby he can concentrate on through the mental fugue ... Entinn herself. When he becomes her, Entinn's mental powers waver momentarily. It is enough for Cham to break free and knock her out.

With Entinn in custody, Cham is relieved of all Science Police duty. Kicked off the force, he has to wonder ... if he could sneak into the Science Police so easily, who else has? And maybe more chillingly, could someone within the Legion be a double agent?

Nice ending hook.

Overall, I thought this was a great and rather unique Legion issue. We still get plot progression with more information about the robots and the Seiss mystery added to the mix. But this is an old school pulp novel with Cham in the role of the gumshoe, flummoxed by the hot dame.

As a fan of film noir, I loved it. And hope you did too.

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