Monday, September 11, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #4

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #4 (September 2007)
title: Higher Education
writer: Christine Boylan
art & cover: Steve Uy
letterer: Phil Blasman
editor: Jeanine Schaefer
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Superman, Triplicate Girl.

Villains: The Fatal Five - Emerald Empress, Mano, Persuader, Tharok, Validus. 

Summary: The Legion is guarding the final tyrillium plant left in the galaxy after the Fatal Five destroyed the others. Brainiac 5 explains that the villainous team's goal is to change the peaceful course of recent history by promoting chaos. He has calculated possible attacks by the Five and pleads with the team to follow his instructions.
Three of the Five appear, absent Emerald Empress and Tharok. The Legion is struggling in battle when Saturn Girl notices the remaining members of the Five observing. Empress explains that they do not intend to destroy the mine, but merely want to let the Legion know that they can hit whatever targets they want whenever they want.
The Legion is left in poor shape after the Five depart. Superman tries to convince Brainiac 5 that the team needs to work to secure other industrial sites, but Brainy is too wrapped up in their defeat. Convinced that it was his fault, he decides to return home to Colu to retake the Cain-Quex, an aptitude and quotient exam, to test his intelligence. Superman cannot talk him out of leaving but insists on sending back-up.
Brainiac 5 arrives on Colu with Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, and Triplicate Girl. He explains that Coluans began their eduction in utero and most finish high school by age 10, although he entered university at 5. He goes to visit his mentor, leaving the Legionnaires surprised he did not go to see family.
Brainiac 5 visits Dr. Mod, his former teacher, and shares his concern that his intelligence has devolved. Dr. Mod dismisses the idea but agrees to test his former pupil. The Legionnaires are surprised to discover how different Brainiac 5 is from other Coluans. Lightning Lad feels that Brainy has become unreliable after their recent defeat and declares himself team leader on the ground. Phantom Girl tries to reassure Brainiac 5 that his intelligence has not changed and he is not at fault, but he lashes out.
Phantom Girl waits for Brainiac 5 to finish the test. He is sure he failed and she tries again to reassure him but they are interrupted by a call from Superman. Saturn Girl has woken up for the first time since their battle with the Fatal Five. She explains that she read Tharok's mind during the battle and learned that he was aware that Brainiac 5 had hacked their computers. He fed them false information which was why Brainiac 5's calculations were flawed.
Saturn Girl also learned that their next target is the Coluan Manufactory, and the Legion arrives there just in time to meet the Fatal Five. The two teams battle and this time the Legion puts up a much better fight. Phantom Girl and Superman work together to take down the Persuader while Triplicate Girl subdues Mano. Lightning Lad distracts Emerald Empress long enough for Superman to get the Eye of Ekron, which leaves her powerless. And Saturn Girl uses her telepathy to trick Validus into quietly returning to the Five's ship.
With his confidence renewed, Brainiac 5 takes over Tharok's computer system and causes it to crash, quickly disabling the villain.
Phantom Girl and Brainiac 5 watch as the Science Police escort the captured Fatal Five away. She asks what his test score was, but with his confidence restored, Brainic 5 tells her that he does not know, and more importantly, he no longer cares.
This issue was a bit of a letdown after the high point of issue #3. The underlying idea of Brainiac 5 losing confidence in himself had potential but the story as it unfolded never really engaged me as a reader.

The biggest problem with this issue was the art. As you can see from the samples above, the art throughout the entire issue was very dark and muddy. The characters renderings were fine but the extreme darkness of every page actually hampered the storytelling, robbing otherwise decent layouts of any sense of suspense or excitement. Even the fight scenes were far less dynamic than they should be due to the dark backgrounds and heavily shadowed characters.

The approach to the art was also very much a missed opportunity given that the team was visiting Colu. The planet was barely explored and what little we do see was simply not that interesting.

Another element lacking from this issue that is usually present in this comic was humor. There were a few moments, particularly with Bouncing Boy and Lightning Lad, but it fell far short of what can usually be expected from this title. Yes, I do realize the plot by its nature is something of a downer and does not lend itself to much humor. But the absence was still notable given how much that contrasts with earlier issues.

Unfortunately, if this issue was the first one sampled by any young readers, I fear they were not likely to keep picking up the title. Fortunately, I do expect things to pick back again with the next issue!

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