Monday, July 30, 2018

Superboy's Legion #2

Superboy's Legion #2 (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, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Princess Projectra, Ferro Lad, Karate Kid

Cameo or Supporting Appearances: RJ Brande

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

I saw this fantastic cover at a comic convention and grabbed it up without a moment's hesitation. Unfortunately, this scene does not appear in this story. Was it worth it anyway? Read on and find out---!

Continuing the review of Superboy's Legion. I know there is a TPB that includes both parts, but the story was originally published as two separate issues. If you haven't read the review of the first part you can find it here. 

The story so far: Superboy was found as an infant in a stasis field in 2987 by RJ Brande. Brande adopted the boy and when he reached his teen-aged years "Superboy" decided he wanted to form a group of friends to patrol the universe with. Unfortunately, their first mission as Superboy's Legion (to save the planet Rimbor from a deadly asteroid) turned out to be a chance for the Fatal Five to attack them and kidnap Brainiac 5! Along the way, Cosmic Boy was maimed and Colossal Boy was killed. Now we have native son Ultra Boy angry at Superboy, who is suffering a loss of self-confidence!

Synopsis: 
On Rimbor, Sun Boy and the others are upset at the death of Colossal Boy and want an immediate rematch against the Fatal Five. Saturn Girl understands, but wants to bring Cosmic Boy back to Earth for medical attention because the Persuader sliced off his right arm. Invisible Kid tells everyone that the kidnapping of Brainiac 5 is the most important threat. Almost everyone agrees to go with Ultra Boy and Invisible Kid. Ultra Boy confronts Superboy, who is still depressed about the death of Colossal Boy. Phantom Girl gets angry at Ultra Boy because of his "petty macho pride." She decides to stay with Superboy, which means her would-be protector Chameleon Boy stays, too.
Reporter Lois Olsen is on Rimbor spreading the news of the Legion and the Fatal Five, but also secretly keeping RJ Brande up to date as to what is happening with/to his adopted son. While waiting for Saturn Girl to return to Earth, Brande readies doctors for Cosmic Boy and calls Colossal Boy's parents.

Out in space, Lex Luthor and the Fatal Five approach the area where the mythical planet Colu might be as they also continue to probe Brainiac 5's mind. He thinks himself into cyberspace and then into the data-banks of Luthor's spaceship, most of which is linked to the Science Police. Brainiac 5 reviews the history in the data, inadvertently allowing Luthor to steal in and access HIS sub- consciousness.
On Rimbor, the three remaining Legionnaires are still wondering what to do when Light Lass, Lighting Lad, and Princess Projectra arrive asking to join. Olsen confronts Superboy, telling him in no uncertain terms to grow up. Superboy whines that no one understands him, but then Star Boy shows himself. Star Boy reminds Superboy that he, too, is an orphan because the Fatal Five had previously destroyed his planet, Xanthu. He tells Superboy that *he* understands, and tells Superboy to do "what is right."
On Earth, Cosmic Boy is given a plasteel arm just as Karate Kid and Ferro Lad approach them for news on their friend, Bouncing Boy. Suddenly, Science Police rush in and arrest all of them. SP Commissioner Leeto has declared Martial Law.

Heading towards Colu, Invisible Kid explains to the other Legionnaires that he was the son of scientists studying Colu, who were killed in an accident. His foster parents on Colu created Brainiac 5 as a companion for Invisible Kid, who learned how to become invisible because of all of the "veiling" that Colu did to stay hidden from unwanted guests. Just then, Colu re-appears. Invisible Kid is sure that that means the Fatal Five has somehow used Brainiac 5 to break through Colu's defenses.
Sure enough, the Fatal Five attacks, and Ultra Boy leads the counter-offense.
On Earth, the four Legionnaires and Brande are brought to Leeto, who accuses them of sabotaging the Universo computer network on Rimbor. Saturn Girl senses a malignant presence inside the computer.

Back on Rimbor, Lex is revealed to be a hologram who is interfacing with the network on Colu. Just then, Superboy and his friends show up to help the others fight the Fatal Five. Princess Projectra in particular is able to temporarily defeat the Emerald Empress. Invisible Kid insists that Superboy rescue Brainiac 5. Ultra Boy is happy to see Phantom Girl, and together they head planet-side.
On Earth, all SP technology has gone off-line. Commissioner Leeto demands that the Legionnaires be killed. Saturn Girl is trying to interface with the true nature of Universo, so Cosmic Boy, Karate Kid, and Ferro Lad fight off the SP to protect her. Realizing that Commissioner Leeto has gone insane, an SP sergeant takes command of the SP forces and orders them to stand-down. This allows Saturn Girl to continue her telepathic investigation. She "feels" that the Universo computer system is being controlled by Colu.
On Colu, the Luthor hologram "feels" Saturn Girl's intrusion, and orders the Emerald Empress back to Earth to kill her. When she refuses, Luthor tells her that if she does not follow his order then she will be destroyed via Cytoplasmic probes planted in her body. Reluctantly, she blasts the Legionnaires one last time and flies off to Earth. Bouncing Boy sees his friends heading towards a crash landing, so he inflates and acts as a buffer for them so that they will survive.

Superboy crashes into the laboratory to rescue Brainiac 5, but it is too late to take Luthor's ship off Colu. It morphs into Vril Dox/Brainiac and wants to re-establish a permanent link to the planet. Superboy attacks, but Brainiac and Tharok over-power him.

On Earth, the Emerald Empress arrives but before she can kill Saturn Girl, Ferro Lad steps up and surrounds the Eye with his metallic body, and Karate Kid knocks her out. Saturn Girl then tries to telepathically communicate with the Eye in order to ask it to re-boot the Universo computer system for them.
On Colu, Phantom Girl and Chameleon Boy take out the Persuader and Mano as Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, and Sun Boy, working under Ultra Boy's direction, take down Validus.
Superboy is still fighting Tharok and Brainiac. Bouncing Boy and his group arrive to help. Light Lass and Shrinking Violet take out Tharok, then Princess Projectra leads a team to take out Brainiac. Brainiac 5 uses a neural access coil to enter Brainiac's consciousness, where we learn that the real Lex Luthor died a thousand years ago when his men battled the Justice League; he was then encased inside the initial Universo computer network.
Brainiac, angry at confronting his true origin, converts itself into fissionable neutronium in order to destroy Colu and all of the Legionnaires. Superboy and Ultra Boy fly Brainiac into the sun, where it explodes harmlessly.
Brainiac 5's parents arrive, pleased that their sons' independent explorations are proving stimulating to them. They bring Saturn Girl and the Legionnaires from Earth to Colu, where Superboy has an emotional reunion with his foster father.

The story ends with the creation of the United Planets, the establishment of a permanent head-quarters for the Legion of Super-Heroes (resembling a Kryptonian rocket), and a memorial to Colossal Boy. Finally, Superboy stops using that name and becomes "Kal-El," wearing a uniform reminiscent of Mon-El's. Lois Olsen promises big things to come from the Legion in the future.


Commentary: 
As you have probably realized just by reading this truncated summary, there is A LOT OF STUFF going on here! I mean that in a good way, but on the other hand, I read this story twice and I still don't really understand what happens, haha!

So it boils down to this; Lex Luthor was a hologram used by the Universo computer and the Brainiac "being" that spent 1,000 years trying to find (or is that re-find?) Colu. Is that right?

I'm sorry, but the  story was way too convoluted for me to follow. I was really hoping that an actual "Universo" would show up to take credit for atleast the paranoid megalomaniac computer. Oh, well. And was Commissioner Leeto just crazy, and not controlled by the computer? His motivations were left unclear.

Speaking of motivations, I'm just not sure what the point of this story was. Mark Farmer and Alan Davis wanted to tell a Legion of Super-Heroes story, I get that. But instead of adding depth to the origin of the Fatal Five or even the origin of the Legion, they come up with a "sleeper" Brainiac wanting to get back at/to Colu. It was pretty, so....sure. But....still mostly MEH.

I think my least favorite bit (besides the callous murder of Colossal Boy last issue) is the appropriation of Mon-El's identity by Superboy on the last page. Where did THAT come from? His classic uniform and "S" shield are traditional Kryptonese, so why is he giving those up? Plus, I'm sorry, but Superboy in Mon-El's uniform just looks stupid.

Don't get me wrong; there were certain bits that I did like. Phantom Girl taking down Mano was wonderful. Her reunion scene with Ultra Boy was also great. Bouncing Boy saving the lives of the others was good, even though I am not a fan of the characterization of Bouncing Boy with low self-esteem. And my favorite scene was the return of Star Boy to Rimbor, just long enough to talk some sense in to Superboy. It seems like Starboy was always considered something of a non-thinker, so it was nice to see that he had some strong  feelings. 

Still, the good scenes couldn't overshadow the sheer weight of 1,000 years of plot contrivances.  Over all, I was disappointed by these two issues.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The last page "poster" features every Legionnaire known to continuity through Blok but also featuring White Witch and Tellus, without featuring the second Invisible Kid, Polar Boy, or Quislet. 
  • The poster also features Nemesis Kid, whose in-continuity membership lasted less than a week.
  • It appears that after Colossal Boy, no Legionnaire lost his/her life, as Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Chemical King, Karate Kid, Nemesis Kid, and Shadow Lass are all shown alive. Tyroc and Matter-Eater Lad are also shown members at the same time, which never happened in-continuity.  
  • Gates, Monstress, and Thunder are also shown in this "poster" pin-up, although none of them were in the Silver/Bronze Age version of the team.  
  • Besides four silhouettes in the group shot who are obviously indistinguishable, there is an unidentified woman flying between Triplicate Girl and Cosmic Boy
Status: 
This issue was reprinted together with its first part in DC Comics Presents Superboy's Legion TPB (2011). 

5 comments:

  1. "It appears that after Colossal Boy, no Legionnaire lost his/her life, as Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Chemical King, Karate Kid, Nemesis Kid, and Shadow Lass are all shown alive." OK, now I know about the others, but when (and how) was SHADOW LASS killed?!

    Also, the woman flying behind Triplicate Girl reminds me one of Lori Morning's H-Dial superhero-identities from the Reboot Legion. Don't ask me which one, though.

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  2. "His classic uniform and 'S' shield are traditional Kryptonese, so why is he giving those up?"

    I'm pretty sure that the "S" shield as a comics-canon traditional Kryptonese thing wasn't established consistently (key word there) until AFTER this story was published in 2001.

    Shadow Lass has never been killed, AFAIR.

    Yes, that is Lori Morning in the H-Dial identity as Slipstream. She was aparently one of Alan Davis' favorites to draw. She is in his late re-boot poster of the entire membership at least twice, possibly THREE times (can't find a link).

    I don't think is is reasonable to expect an explicitly out-of-continuity book to follow continuity. There are so many changes to concepts and character histories, there is no way you can expect that other membership lineup particulars are going to follow original or reboot stories.

    In short, he's was just having fun and throwing in everything he liked. This is the first or only large cast image he did that wasn't explicitly tied to a continuity, so this was his first opportunity to include a lot.

    My particular favorite added detail (among many) is that Shadow Lass was drawn as African-American in her features. Also, Light Lass' power change was particularly interesting to me.

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  3. I just meant that she was supposedly doomed to die per that Silver Age Adult Legion story. I would have thought she would have died before Colossal Boy did....

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    1. Oh, right. Though if you go with the reboot timeline (which is a heavy, heavy influence in the story), Gim died pretty early on and, AFIAR, none of that Silver Age list died, at least by 2001.

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  4. I actually liked this series as an alternate Legion.

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