Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reboot: Legionnaires #25

Legionnaires #25 (May, 1995)
title: "Skin Deep"
writers: Tom Peyer and Tom McCraw
penciller: Mike Collins
inker: Mark Farmer
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Jeffrey Moy and W.C. Carani
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Andromeda, Apparition, Brainiac 5, Chameleon, Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, Kinetix, Leviathan, Live Wire (vision), Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Spark, Triad (vision), XS

Science Police, Shvaughn Erin, Tenzil Kem, delivery robot

Composite Man (1st appearance)

While Triad rests after a nearly fatal attack on her by the xenophobic White Triange - which Violet thinks has ties to Andromeda - a group of Legionnaires has just returned from a deep space mission in which they apprehended Kid Quantum's killer, Tangleweb. On Durla, someone or something has just been taken out of a volcano, and immediately killed all those present...

Saturn Girl tries to learn Cham's language telepathically, but fails, her temper flaring during a rare thunderstorm on Earth. Spark has a secret admirer, while Apparition has a known one - Ultra Boy - who sends her terrible gifts and has a girlfriend anyway. Violet confronts Andromeda about her connection to the White Triangle, but only angers the Daxamite and gets no answers. Meanwhile, on Durla, Science Police officers are killed by a powerful shape-shifter who uses one of their forms to come to Earth looking for Reep "Chameleon" Daggle.
Spotted at Science Police HQ, the killer, who will later call himself the Composite Man, puts Shvaughn Erin in the hospital, and almost kills Leviathan. The Legionnaires to the rescue! They are shocked to discover that this Durlan is a living weapon who can copy the skills, intellect and powers of anyone he turns into, once exiled in a volcano as a "living sin" by religious leaders and now free. He has an axe to grind with Cham, apparently, or at least, Cham's bloodline. In a fight with the Legionnaires, the Composite Man seems to have no trouble, and then he realizes he doesn't have to settle for a single power when he can use all of them at the same time!
I like how they changed the mood for this comic. It is a lot heavier, which is far from what I expected. I imagined something a lot more joyful, a sort of celebration after the arrest of Tangleweb. Instead they give us the same tone you would find in a film noir with the narration following Saturn Girl and the feeling that something really bad is coming. Even the parts that are supposed to be light-hearted, the page keeping us updated on the romance between Apparition and Ultra Boy for example, are still heavy. Speaking of that… A cactus, really!? I guess they live longer than roses. Is that the logic behind that “romantic” gesture? You can do way better than this, Ultra. Something else: Am I the only one who’s wondering what happened to Apparition when her mother took her away in Legionnaires no.23? I find it weird that it was never addressed. Can’t believe Violet actually confronted Andromeda with the White Triangle. YOU GO, GURL!! Ok, it didn’t really get any real results this time, but Andromeda’s reaction proved to Violet that she was right to question the whole situation. Hopefully she will now bring this matter to Cos, or anyone else really.
We’re not done with the xenophobic theme. We all know how Durlans have a bad reputation and this issue won’t help them. I guess this will only increase the tension existing between the different races on Earth. This new bad guy really confused me at first. I was sure that he (let’s call him Evil Cham) would be caught right away as he couldn’t possibly fool the Science Police’s members without speaking Interlac. But then he did speak their language! That really took me off guard. Evil Cham is a really interesting villain, but my God, his smile is so unsettling. And by unsettling, I mean absolutely creepy! I really wish that Chameleon had the same power as Evil Cham does even though he would become way too powerful. If he could at least copy the language and voice. Anyway.. I’m not sure how Evil Cham will pull off his genius idea. To work everyone’s powers all at once seems like a bad plan. I expect that it’s going to be a lot more difficult to control and that’s how the Legion will defeat him. We’ll see if I’m right next week!
Equal parts character development and superhero action, this issue has a weird opener inside Cham's mind where we learn he must accumulate psychic impressions of people and creatures he needs to imitate, a slightly new take on how his powers have always worked, but also a way to explain what's going on with the Composite Man later and contrast that entity's powers. I guess it's also the start of something unraveling in the usually solid Saturn Girl. Is Live Wire's absence driving her misbehavior? Is it just the weather (love that detail, maintenance on the weather shields means a day of rain from time to time, and hey, the Legionnaires even have raincoats, or rather, ponchos)? Or is there something more sinister at work?
Don't remember who Spark's secret admirer is, but it makes me miss the Ayla/Violet couple of the 5YL continuity. Apparition resisting Ultra Boy's (gauche) advances is a new wrinkle for what many think is THE fate Legion couple par excellence. Love that Tenzil eats the bad gift. Violet vs. Andromeda, surely a David and Goliath story, but we'll have to wait a little longer for that one. Nice art throughout. And yeah yeah, I'm getting to the action bit.

The Legionnaires get to show off their powers one by one, either as themselves or as part of the Composite Man's power set, except Andromeda, sent away before the evil Durlan can steal her thunder (which is literally what he does to Spark). In this opening chapter, they don't do very well against him, but now that we know what he's about (except where we'd really need to know about the Durlan religion to decipher his motivation), the next issue will be about overcoming this overpowered villain. There's another nice futurist touch I want to mention though, and that's how Shvaughn has her back broken in the fight's opening salvo - shocker! - but then we're told she'll be on compensation for a couple days at most. The future's so bright, I've got to wear shades. Bright, except for the killer shape-shifters of course.
Science Police Notes:  
  • First appearance of the Composite Man, which in a way could be seen as the Post-Zero Hero Composite-Superman which had all the powers of the Legion as well, but in a Superman and Batman combination shell (and of course, wasn't a Durlan).

1 comment:

  1. This one came out back before I had figured out the whole "two series at once" thing, so I read part two before part one. Action-wise, the second part still stands out much more in my memory than this one -- there are some weird choices, such as C-Man breaking Shvaugn's back by hitting her with his ... chest? I dunno, it looks odd.

    All that aside, I do like the moodiness of the weather, the trip inside Chameleon's head, and Shrinking Violet challenging Andromeda. There's a tendency to write off Violet a bit, but as we saw when she was introduced, she's got a fire to her. And the whole Spark's secret admirer storyline started here? Huh. Guess they plotted things pretty far in advance. Or maybe it only seems that way given the double-publication every month.