Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 (v2) (1985)

The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 (1985)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller: Keith Giffen
inkers: Karl Kesel, Mike DeCarlo (Chapter 2), Ernie Colon (Chapter 3), Steve Mitchell (Chapter 4), Larry Mahlstedt (Chapter 5)
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger
cover: Keith Giffen & Karl Kesel (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Magnetic Kid

Laurel Kent, SP Officer Dvron, Don & Dawn Allen

unnamed murderer and his robots
On Earth,  five Legionnaires are on monitor duty while most of the other Legionnaires have gone to Takron- Galtos to help move prisoners. Bored, Brainiac 5 insists that they do something. When no one else has any suggestions, Magnetic Kid suggests that they investigate who shot Laurel Kent.

At the Legion Academy, Colossal Boy and Magnetic Kid try to interview Laurel. She does not welcome their intrusion, but they are not very seriously investigating, either. When they use an image inducer to try to follow her they run in to Dvron, who has also been following her. Laurel yells at all of them to leave her alone. At a coffee shop, the three men compare notes. From an off-hand remark from Dvron, the Legionnaires decide to visit Thanagar to try to track down the weapon. They believe that a gun capable of shooting kryptonite bullets should be easy to find.

On Thanagar, Chameleon Boy leads them to the Science Police museum. He is not surprised to find that a gun that could shoot kryptonite bullets had been stolen. He is more surprised to find that during the robbery, two Hawkguards were killed...but that one was not.

On Wynath, Shrinking Violet is investigating the only other recent unsolved murder that is tangentially linked to the Legion: the death of the private investigator who had been hired by Timber Wolf to find Light(ning) Lass while she was on a leave of absence. When Violet investigates the murdered man's apartment, she trips a detonation device. This makes her believe that his murder is related to Laurel's attempted murder.

Back on Earth, Brainiac 5 establishes with a flair for the dramatic that the tour guide outside Legion HQ is the next intended victim. Brainy uses his force-field belt to protect him, then announces that they have to hurry to Quebec to stop the next attempted murder.

In Quebec, Shrinking Violet and Chameleon Boy foil the murder attempt on Dawn & Don Allen. Cham then leeches onto the side of the giant robot assassin as it attempts to escape. He is able to learn the destination of the robot before he is unceremoniously brushed off.

At the North Pole, the Legionnaires investigate a Cold Sleep facility. Brainiac 5 has deduced that one of the people sleeping is the murderer. He believes that one of the cryogenic sleepers is an immortal who wakes up once every 30 days. At that time, he sets his giant killer robot out to murder more victims. They are not sure which sleeper is guilty but their puzzle is solved when the giant robot from Quebec attacks them. Using his magnetism, Magnetic Kid rips it apart. Brainiac 5 then explains that each of the victims was a descendant of the Justice League.

This is the first modern Legion story that I really, really did not like. From the ugly, ill-thought out cover (where is the light source?!?) to the convoluted plot, this issue just did not do it for me.

Which is a shame, because there is a lot of potential here. The shooting of Laurel Kent has been a dangling plot thread since Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #8 so it is nice that it is finally addressed. However..... Colossal Boy was going to be a Science Police officer until the accident that gave him powers, right? Yet his heavy-handed interrogation/interview of Laurel leaves a lot to be desired. Is this supposed to be a comedy? Also, it's established that Shrinking Violet has gone to Winath, but where is Chameleon Boy? Then the way the Legionnaires meet with coincidences and luck during their investigation is nothing short of extraordinary: Dvron mentions Thanagar (but didn't actually make any inquiries about the weapon at the SP Museum there?) so the Legion goes there and stumbles across another murder AND the kryptonite gun? Violet suddenly decides to go all the way to Winath on a whim....and finds a bomb that the SP hadn't found? Worst of all, by Chapter 4 you get the feeling that Brainiac 5 has solved the case, but he isn't letting any of the rest of us in on his deductions. Unlike Agatha Christie or Ellery Queen, Paul Levitz doesn't "play fair." We don't know what Brainy knows! And we never learn that the detective is a descendant of Batman (unless you read it in an issue of LSH), or that the Hawkguards are descendants of Katar & Shayera Hol. And we don't know that the murders all occur thirty days apart from each other. And lastly, how does Brainy know that Oli Queen is going to be targeted before the Allens? Couldn't the robot have targeted them first? If there was a reason, he didn't explain it to us. So while reading this I felt like Magnetic Kid did: I'm supposed to be impressed, but I am just perturbed.

The art, too, is something special....but not always in a good way. Why are several panels printed in green or blue during Laurel's story? No idea. The inks of Ernie Colon in his chapter are more cross-checking than shading, which is just weird and arbitrary.  Shrinking Violet's chapter is written with her as the narrator, and the art is such that we never see Violet herself. Sort of like the film noir classic, Laura?  And the chapter in Quebec uses silhouettes (ooh, a French word!) and large panels featuring the architecture of the city. Again, it's interesting but somewhat arbitrary.

Lastly, Brainiac 5 the great detective explains all the preceding events, but then never tells us who the murderer is, or what is going to happen to him. And actually pities him!? The Legion appears to let the man sleep, enabling him to wake up to build another robot to kill again. It is a very poor ending to a very poor story. (I do get the feeling that Ivo's name was supposed to appear in surprint in panel 4 below. Yes? No?)

Science Police Notes:  
  • The timing of this story is a bit off. Chameleon Boy references the Legion's battle with Dr. Regulus (from Legion (v3) #15), but Legion (v3) #16 picks up right where #15 ended: with an emotionally wrecked Brainiac 5. Yet this story occurs before Magnetic Kid's first mission at the Techno-Park (also in #16). So this story must have happened right after the Legion returned to Earth in #15 but before Brainiac 5 realized what day it was....a very tight window indeed.  
  • According to this story Brainiac 5 is Deputy Leader. 
  • Laurel meets up with a Denebian, a race from the Star Trek universe. 
  • The antagonism Laurel Kent shows her would-be benefactors here feels odd. Three years later, however, when Laurel's true back-story is finally revealed, her attitude here makes much more sense. 
  • Magnetic Kid is not a fan of Brainiac 5's cavalier attitude towards life and death, clearly stating his displeasure at Brainy's theatricality while saving Oli Queen's life. 
  • This is the second comic-book called Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1. This is the "Baxter" version, and the first series (which featured the debut of Invisible Kid II, the wedding of Princess Projectra and Karate Kid,  and the birth of Graym Ranzz) became Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes Annual with #4, a reprint of this story. The series ended with #5
  • The murderer is never actually named in this story. 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.


  1. IIRC, each chapter was to be written in the style of a different detective. That's hard enough to do in a novel, let alone a few pages in a comic. Chalk it up to a failed experiment on Paul's part.

    1. Right, I think I see where it wad supposed to go, but it just never got there.
      "Failed experiment" describes it perfectly.

    2. Right, I think I see where it wad supposed to go, but it just never got there.
      "Failed experiment" describes it perfectly.

  2. Failed experiment for sure. I do wonder if the story might have at least read better with some better art. But Giffen seems well on his way to the appealing style he adopted for the 5YL era, and that style doesn't do the story any favors.