Monday, June 25, 2018

Superboy's Legion #1

Superboy's Legion #1 (2001)
writer: Mark Farmer
penciller: Alan Davis
inker: Mark Farmer
letterer: Pat Prentice
colors/separatists: Richard & Tanya Horie
logo design: John Roshell
editor: Michael McAvennie
cover: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Roll Call (in order of membership): Superboy, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, Colossal Boy, Element Lad, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Shadow Lass, Brainiac 5, Invisible Kid, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Star Boy

Cameo or Supporting Appearances: RJ Brande, reporter Lois Olsen; Triplicate Girl, Princess Projectra, Lightning Lad, Light Lass, Tellus, Karate Kid, Ferro Lad

Villains: The Fatal Five, and......?

Have you seen this mini trade book around at a comic con or at your neighborhood comic book shop, and wondered if it was worth picking up? Well *I* did, and now I'm here to review it for you....!
Synopsis: 
In 2987, RJ Brande is brought out to a distant asteroid belt by his friend Marla because Brande Induestries has found, buried beneath large chunks of green kryptonite, a life pod from the dead planet Krypton with a still living boy inside!


Flash-forward to 3001, and 14-year old Kal Brande is reprimanded by the Science Police Commissioner Leeto and his foster father for disobeying their rules against flying into space. The SP is afraid that Superboy is a danger to other space travelers.


Stung by his foster father's words, Superboy flies off into deep space and encounters his first Green Lantern. He helps the elder hero fight off space pirates and is told that the SP is not patrolling all of the universe, leaving much of it to a depleted Green Lantern Corps. Superboy begins thinking about creating his own group.


On the way home to Earth Superboy comes across a luxury cruiser being attacked by a Blister Beast. He meets two crew members, Rokk Krinn and Imra Ardeen, who help him defeat the monster. He tells them of his idea about creating a group of super-heroes, and they agree to join. Soon, the press has called it "Superboy's Legion" and Metropolis is flooded with applicants.


In the end they add six members: Colossal Boy, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, and Shadow Lass. They turn away Karate Kid and Ferro Lad, among others who decide to form their own Substitute Legion.


As the new members are introduced to Holo-News viewers by Lois Olsen, we see Triplicate Girl, Lighting Lad and Light Lass, Princess Projectra, and Tellus contemplating membership. Lois then alerts the Legionnaires to a huge asteroid heading towards the planet Rimbor. Because it is not protected by the Science Police, it is in grave danger. The Legion flies off to save it.


On Rimbor, Devil Hawk gang-leader Jo Nah is betrayed by his gang. They steal the cruiser that he was going to use to deliver a plasma bomb to the asteroid to blow it up and save Rimbor. Tinya, aka "Fairy Princess" asks him to give up the gang life-style and go straight. Frustrated that he can't save his planet, however, Jo accidentally discovers Reep posing as a chair. He tells them that he was hired by Tinya's mother, Queen Winema Wazzo, to protect Tinya. Impressed with Reep's ability to turn into anything, the three decide to the plasma bomb to the asteroid themselves.


Meanwhile, heading towards Rimbor Saturn Girl tries to explain to the new Legionnaires about their transuits and flight rings. Superboy is cocky, and Cosmic Boy is scared. Suddenly, Invisible Kid and Brainiac 5 appear. They tell the Legion that Superboy lacks the necessary mass required to shatter the asteroid. They suggest calling in Star Boy, who is patrolling in deep space looking for those responsible for the destruction of his home planet, Xanthu.


When he arrives, Star Boy gives Superboy additional mass, and then Superboy flies off to destroy the asteroid still heading towards Rimbor. He succeeds in blasting the asteroid to smaller bits, but almost kills Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, and Chameleon Boy because he did not know that they were there.

Ultra Boy is angry that the larger chunks of asteroid are still dangerous, and Superboy points out that the Legion is working to crush the chunks before they can fall onto Rimbor. Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, and Chameleon Boy agree to help the Legion on clean-up duty.

Later, Lois Olsen does a live feed from Rimbor and her camera picks up Brainiac 5 in the background. Ominously, his appearance makes someone somewhere very interested.

Star Boy believes that this was an organized attack on Rimbor, just as his planet, Daxam, and Ghek were also destroyed by "natural disasters." He believes that the Science Police know, but don't care.

As Invisible Kid and Brainiac 5 are telling Ultra Boy that his home-made plasma bomb would not have worked, the Fatal Five suddenly appear.


Superboy is afraid that he might injure someone in a fight, so is taken out quickly by the Emerald Empress. Colossal Boy takes on Validus, who has grabbed Ultra Boy. Phantom Girl gets Validus to drop her boy-friend by shorting his electrical brain. Star Boy takes on Mano, but is badly burned in the fight.


Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy try to take down the Persuader and the Emerald Empress, but the Persuader uses his atomic axe to cut Cosmic Boy's arm off. Element Lad then steps up and knocks the Persuader out. Validus uses another bolt of mental lighting, killing Colossal Boy. When Brainiac 5 tries to give medical aid to Cosmic Boy, Tharok grabs him. The Fatal Five then disappears.

Back on their ship, the mysterious boss from earlier in the story is happy with the kidnapping of Brainiac 5, and reveals himself to be Lex Luthor!? 


TO BE CONTINUED----!

Commentary: 
I am a sucker for Alan Davis art, and I had thoroughly enjoyed his and Mark Farmer's The Nail trilogy, so I eagerly picked this up when I saw it at my comic book store. I *did* notice the "Elseworlds" mark on the cover, so I thought I knew what I was getting into.

The initial idea that somehow Superboy had survived into the far-flung future was an interesting one.
Superboy as a character always struck me as being, literally, out of his own element when he participated with the Legion. So to take that "weakness" and toss it away on page one was a good idea. However, to then give him to RJ Brande as a foster son instead of to some future version of the Kents.....that just struck me as wrong. To then ban him from using his powers because...I'm sorry, some sort of reason that I didn't understand, as opinioned by the "Universo" controlled Science Police....hmm, that doesn't sound dangerous at all! Superboy being, literally, the reason the Legion forms is fine, I guess, but I still miss the "accidental" aspect of the origin: three teen-agers being in the right place at the right time.

And that brings me to my first huge complaint, the exclusion of Lightning Lad. It may be a cliche, but three IS a magic number, and I just felt the story went permanently off the tracks by only featuring Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl. Besides, if Superboy didn't exist in the past that means Superman didn't exist in the past, so who are the super-heroes that Superboy is referencing when he recruits Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl to join his Legion?

I did like the extensive Legion Try-Out scenes and I liked that basically the first 25 members were shown in one way or another. I do wonder if Mon-El will make an appearance, as he (and Supergirl) were the two members I never spotted anywhere in the story. And funny that the Legion of Substitute Heroes seems to be destined to exist in every continuity.

As we have reporter Lois Olsen telling us about some problem on Rimbor, it was cool to see that Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl were already together before there was a Legion. I did NOT care for the role of Chameleon Boy as chaperone/guard for Phantom Girl, though. That seemed contrived, especially that Ultra Boy conveniently found him out.

I also liked the introduction of Invisible Kid and Brainiac 5. Am I reading too much into it, or are they more than just friends? Slightly embarrassing when Invisible Kid is taken down by the Persuader.

Ah, the Persuader. NOW we're talking! After the made-up drama of a planet about to go kablooey, we have real drama in the personage of The Fatal Five!! I'm glad I bought this book just for the one-page spread on page 36 of them attacking! The last twelve pages of the Legion battling the Fatal Five are the best part of the book. Each Legionnaire gets a little bit of a moment to shine, which is fantastic. For too many pages everything is centered around Superboy, and I found that annoying. When the Legionnaires show their stuff, the story works well. 

On the other hand, the sudden murder of Colossal Boy, the dismembering of Cosmic Boy, and the disfiguring of Star Boy seems like a lot of violence in a little bit of time. The Legion had just saved a planet from an asteroid with no apparent loss of life, and then we get three violent bits in the space of five pages?! I've never heard of Michael McAvennie before (or since) but as editor he probably should have tried to reel this story in a bit.

Because then we end by learning that the great Fatal Five, destroyer of worlds and murderer of Legionnaires, are actually under the control of Lex Luthor? Who may be under the influence of  Universo? Interesting, but we sure did take a long time to get there.

I was expecting a sideways glance version of the Legion of Super-Heroes as an homage to the Silver Age version. I guess I got that, but I never understood the point of re-arranging the molecules of the group. I guess in The Nail Davis and Farmer imagined a DCU without a Superman. This time, they imagined that the Legion couldn't exist at all without him! This was a nice idea, especially given the true publishing history of the group, but this particular story turned out to be less of an Elseworlds Legion story and more of another extended Superboy team-up.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although they are not an integral part of the story, we see the following characters in various background scenes: Nardo (the warden of the Super Stalag of Space), a Dominator, Worldsmith, Ontiir, Stone Boy, Polar Boy, Night Girl, Chlorophyll Kid, Fire Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Dream Girl, and Wildfire. 
  • My copy of this book has a name sticker on the inside front cover for "Michael H. Maguire." Anybody out there know him? 
Status: 
This issue was reprinted with its conclusion in DC Comics Presents Superboy's Legion TPB (2011). 

4 comments:

  1. The "heroes" referenced by Superboy were probably a "Superman-less" JLA.

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  2. Also, it is a staple of the whole "imaginary story-What If?-Elseworlds" concept that a lot of folks end up biting the big one.

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  3. I enjoyed the story and the art, but I was turned off by that era's penchant for killing off Colossal Boy (the Archie Legion had done the same roughly around this time - poor Gim!).

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