Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reboot: Action Comics #741

Action Comics (v1) #741 (January 1998)
title: "A Cautionary Tale"
writer/penciller: Stuart Immonen
inker: José Marzan Jr.
lettering: Bill Oakley
colorist: Glenn Whitmore
separations: Digital Chameleon
assistant editor: Maureen McTigue
editor (troubadour): Joey Cavalieri
cover: Stuart Immonen

Mission Monitor Board:  
Apparition (cover only), Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy (cover only), Ferro, Gates, Saturn Girl (cover only), Spark, Triad, Ultra Boy (cover only)

Ashbury Armstrong, Ben Hopkins, Carrie Axelrod, Dan Turpin, Jack (a journalist), Jane (a news anchor), Jimmy Olsen, Julianna Berkowitz, Koko, Lena Luthor, Lois Lane, Maggie Sawyer, Mayor Buck Sackett, Misa, Miss Roche, Scorn, Shvaughn Erin, Superman, Susan Berkowitz, the WGBS helicopter team

C.O.M.P.U.T.O., Lex Luthor, Tu-Pock
Brainiac 5 has created C.O.M.P.U.T.O., a sentient machine able to calculate and open a time rift to the future. But fearing it will now be deactivated, it rebels and decides it must wipe out humanity to protect itself. The Legion just can't leave such a mess behind them...

Synopsis (omitting non-Legion subplots): 
Tanks are causing destruction in downtown Metropolis, though at least it's the weekend and this part of town is mostly empty. And so are the tanks, as Superman - in his electric phase - finds out to his surprise. Then the Legion shows up and tells him about C.O.M.P.U.T.O., who they deem responsible for the havoc. Through the Metropolis SCU, they are told an auto plant outside of town has gone crazy and they head there together.
The auto plant crisis is solved between panels, but Brainiac 5 tracks C.O.M.P.U.T.O. to his next target, an air show. Though most of the planes are older models with no electronics aboard, the computer mind takes over a participating combat jet and makes it dive dangerously. Only with the help of the Legionnaires does Superman manage to get the plane on the ground, its pilot safe.
Funny thing is, Brainy's triangulation calculations show that C.O.M.P.U.T.O. wasn't directing the tanks at the start of the story. The signal was coming from LexCorp Tower. The heroes confront Luthor, who denies everything. Superman asks Shvaughn whether Luthor is known in the future, and she confirms she'd never heard of him. Superman is satisfied that, at least in the long run, Luthor doesn't have a lasting legacy, but Lex, not aware that the Legion comes from the 30th Century, continues to think he will, through his daughter Lena and beyond.
Superman has gone all Doctor Manhattan in his look, except with more clothes. Does it have something to do with the events we saw in the Final Night run? Or is it even during this time we saw him without his powers…? It’s so easy to get confused when guest stars are popping in and out like that. Anyway, I actually quite like the look. It’s so far from his classic style. He looks badass and much more menacing, if you were to ask me. I particularly liked how he asked Shvaughn about Luthor’s name. It’s a very subtle way to get satisfaction from their encounter.
Now for the Legionnaires' part, we start with a recap of what’s been happening in the last couple of issues, so nothing new there. Two things got my attention though. First, the way Ferro still addresses the team like he isn’t part of it and talks like he isn’t going to follow them to the future. Second, I liked seeing Spark get more and more accustomed to her new power. Are they going to stick, or will she get her electric powers back? Your guess is as good as mine… No wait! Your guess is probably way better than mine because you know this universe a lot more than I do. Going blind, I’d say that she’ll be fine either way. Instead of letting this condition affect her morale, she decided to learn to control the powers and make them useful to the team. I feel like this demonstrate a great strength of character, she’s grown on me a lot lately.
The Electric Superman is the result of a wizard zapping him, and... let's not get into it. Lasted about a year. It's not always fondly remembered. But it's kind of neat that both he and Spark (or should I just call her Ayla at this point?) are dealing with a new power set. And you're right. Though I prefer her to be Lightning Lass to Light Lass, the writers are really doing good work making her useful and confident regardless. It's a more subtle power that could easily sideline her, but good superhero writing often requires a good handle on how powers can be used in interesting ways. We get that here. And since Ayla is one of my very favorite Legionnaires, I'm happy about that.
One last mission with Superman though? Yeah, why not. On the one hand, he was their first friend in our time. On the other, Stuart Immonen gets to draw the Legion again. Everybody wins. But while, the Luthor confrontation was a cool use of the Legion's future knowledge, his isn't exactly an important piece of the story. The problems C.O.M.P.U.T.O. causes are small potatoes (shouldn't he be trying to hack the world's nuclear arsenal by now?), and issue 100 could have easily implied the JLA call. Perhaps if the issue could have put its subplots on hold. As is, there's an entire sequence alluded to but not shown, and the real villain that got the heroes together in the first place turns out not to have been C.O.M.P.U.T.O.!
Science Police Notes:  
  • These events take place immediately after Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #99.
  • Several Legionnaires appear on the cover that do not appear in the issue itself.
  • Triad's two bodies not controlled by C.O.M.P.U.T.O. are here erroneously seen merged as a single entity.
  • These events take place during the "Electric Superman" era, in fact just before he splits into Superman Red/Superman Blue.
  • The Legion asks Superman to call in the Justice League, and they do indeed appear in Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #100.


  1. Yeah, I vaguely recall reading this one a few times, but it quickly dropped out of my collection. Doesn't really add much to the real storyline... not that it's bad, and Immonen's art is basically always gorgeous, but really. I don't feel like, reading Issue No. 100, that I've missed anything at all if I skip this one.

  2. I don't remember: did Luthor interact with Brainiac 5 at sll, here or in Final Night? That would make the legacy bit sting even more, no?

  3. Brainy was part of Lex's think tank in Final Night, yes! :D

  4. This is entirely unrelated, but I’m posting b/c it’s amusing: this evening, my 5-year-old son picked up my copy of “The Curse” TPB (, stroked part of the cover, and said, “Oh my God... [he’s very dramatic]’s the Legion of Super-Heroes!”

    Turns out he recognized Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad at the foreground of the “group shot” — he probably knows them from a cartoon they appear in. I explained that the *entire group* on the cover were the Legion, and those three were the founders... He seemed to lose interest at that point, and wandered away.