Thursday, January 31, 2019

Reboot: Legion of Super-Heroes #117

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #117 (July 1999)
title: "The Machine in the Ghost"
writers: Tom McCraw and Tom Peyer
penciller: Scott Kolins

inker: Ray Kryssing
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Frank Berrios
editor: Mike McAvennie
special thanks: Jeff Johnson
cover: Alan Davis and Mark Farmer
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Brainiac 5.1, Invisible Kid, Live Wire, M'Onel, Sensor, Spark, Thunder

Gear, Koko, Magno; Blackstar inmates

Dr. Aywebn, Dr. Deacon, Kprkrn, Lord Pernisius, Shroud-troops

Lord Pernisius is laying waste to whole planets just so he can get all the Eternium he can, a magical element spread across space when the Rock of Eternity exploded. Thunder was trying to find all the pieces when he attacked and captured both her and Sensor. She escaped, but Sensor was taken to Blackstar, a secret space prison for metahumans. As Thunder tries to breach its walls, Brainiac 5.1 and Invisible Kid watch helplessly as Anywhere Machine projections as their reptilian team mate is about to be vivisected by the sadistic Dr. Aywebn...

As Thunder uselessly rams Blackstar Prison over and over, M'Onel is on Hoxar fighting Pernisius; Live Wire and Spark have already been defeated. The Daxamite is soon smacked across a parsec but the Eternium-powered crime lord. Meanwhile, Brainiac 5.1 and Invisible Kid are horrified that Dr. Wywebn is digging around Sensor's brain, but then notice he's working on thin air. Sensor has cast an illusion and is escaping!
Brainy and Lyle contact Thunder and tell her to return to Hoxar to fight Pernisius; Sensor can take care of herself. But on Blackstar, as alarm bells ring and the Shroud-troops are sent in to capture Sensor, which they do. They do get some help from a Linsnerian boy called I.Z.O.R. and code-named Gear. His cybernetic race are living tools, and as such, have an amoral philosophy. He is simply the warden's tool, interfacing with the prison world's systems to ensure security.
When he meets Sensor face to face to put a power inhibitor on her, she asks him for help, but it's clear that Kprkrn, Blackstar's warden, is a harsh taskmaster and that Gear is just as much a prisoner as she is. Rather than send her back to Dr. Aywebn, Kprkrn sends her to do hard labor with other inmates. Gear confides in her that he's been waiting for someone as powerful as she is to make a move and break everyone one, but Kprkrn hears him through an eavesdropping device and sends his men to kill them both. When Gear is overcome and disassembled, it initiates a program hidden in the prison systems, releasing everyone and disabling security. Kprkrn escapes. Sensor hopes Brainy can restore Gear.
On Rimbor, Dr. Deacon collects a piece of Eternium that pops into existence near him and hides it from a just-arrived Pernisius. The lord's powers are waning fast and he needs more energy, especially given the Legionnaires are right behind him. He tries to fight them with his gun, but losing, uses the last trace of his Eternium energy to fire a blast at Thunder. It bounces off her hand and beheads Dr. Deacon who is revealed to be a machine! Deacon says he was built solely to guide Pernisius to power, and tells him to say the magic word... Shazam!
I didn't fear for Sensor at all.. unh-unh... no sir... not at all! You were the one panicking when the vivisection started, not me. It's clear to me why I love her so much. She's strong, smart and caring. Even when she's weak, she can achieve great things with her powers and fool both the characters and the readers. The way she talked with Gear, and will try to save him by bringing him to Brainy demonstrates how far she's willing to go to help her allies, even when she barely knows them. If Gear can survive the trip and be built anew, he would be a great addition to the Legion in the com room. Or maybe he will simply try to enjoy his freedom instead of working for another group. I'd be fine with both scenarios. I just hope he survives as he seemed very kind.
Pernisius gained incredible powers thanks to the Eternium. With the way he dealt with M'Onel, it's clear Invisible kid made the right call, as hard as it was, when asking Thunder to come back and help take care of him. I must be completely honest here, I don't care whatsoever about him and his quest for money and power. I hope they quickly deal with him and carry on with their lives. I suspect it isn't going to be that easy if he can actually summon the powers of Shazam. At least, it will probably give us some interesting action-packed panels in a fight between Thunder and whatever form Pernisius/Shazam will take.
Yeah, I love Sensor too. The threat of vivisection is, I think, more palpable because she's a non-humanoid, and evokes the mistreatment of animals, which, perverse or not, elicits more empathy from many of us than similar cruelties done to human beings. It's still pretty amazing how much we care about her given she's drawn as a dead-eyed, expressionless, giant snake. As for Gear, he's a character with potential. Legion tradition has mostly shied away from cyborgs because of its rule against Iron Man types. You need an inborn power, and that's all there is to it! But it's the Reboot! Live a little! Machine empathy is a perfectly fine power in a modern context, and yes, we should see more of him, even if "Gear" is a bit boring as a superhero name.
But names aren't McCraw and Peyer's greatest talent. Pernisius is ridiculous. Dr. Deacon sounds too human. I.Z.O.R. sounds like "eyesore". Is Kprkrn supposed to be pronounced Capricorn? And what's Aywebn all about? Lingnerian? And yet, they're also doing the kind of world-building you'd associate with Alan Moore or Grant Morrison or indeed, future Legion writers Abnett and Lanning, by throwing words together with no explanation. Overlook-1 and Shroud-troops and inmates names Strobe Boy, Fantasticus (ok, not as good), and the Living Singularity.
I guess I'm no more interested in Pernisius than you are, Shotgun, and more than a little mystified by Dr. Deacon. He's obviously addicted to silverale, but if he's a robot, how does that work? They've given him an interesting trait, and then undermined it completely. Who built him? Good thing he was a machine too, or else Thunder might have felt responsible for killing a man. And Eternium isn't flying through the universe, but instead just sort of pops in where the plot thinks it's convenient? Will it all be explained next issue? I hope so. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Legion needs a moratorium on magic stories; it's losing any sense of logic. (And yes, the Anywhere Machine counts.)

Science Police Notes:  
  • All-inclusive Legion numbering: 1999/14.

First appearance of Gear.

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