Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #51

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #51 (Oct, 1988)
title: "The Trial of Brainiac 5"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller/co-plotter: Keith Giffen
inker: Mike DeCarlo
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Saturn Girl, Polar Boy, Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Tellus, Dream Girl, Quislet, Blok, Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid, Shrinking Violet, Lightning Lass, Magnetic Kid, Sun Boy, Wildfire, Dawnstar, Timber Wolf, Sensor Girl, Shadow Lass, Ultra Boy; cameo of Mon-El

Cosmic Boy, Rond Vidar, Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy

the Legion Constitution, arrogance, the threat of Starfinger

At the Legion HQ, we open on the trial, already in progress. Polar Boy charges that Brainiac 5 is responsible for the death of Professor Jaxon Rugarth, aka The Infinite Man. His claim is that when Brainiac 5 planned to have the Infinite Man face the Time Trapper this was premeditated murder because Brainiac 5 knew that Rugarth would not survive the encounter. Cosmic Boy serves as Judge Advocate, and Saturn Girl is Brainiac 5's counsel.
Saturn Girl objects to Polar Boy's interpretation of the Legion Constitution. She claims that Rugarth's mind was gone already, and that the Infinite Man was not a human; therefore, there was no murder. Polar Boy's case is that to kill the Infinite Man was to kill Rugarth, and since Rugarth did not volunteer to fight the Time Trapper, it *was* murder.
Meanwhile, Phantom Girl talks to Shrinking Violet and Invisible Kid as the remaining members of the Legion Espionage Squad. She wants to go after Chameleon Boy again. She also asks Dawnstar to help track him. She then kisses Ultra Boy good-bye and they head off.
At the Interplanetary Zoo, a Khund warrior named Garak of the Glow steals a Bismollian Puffer in order to get Science Police attention. Magnetic Kid & Lightning Lass capture him, not knowing that his plot is to get brought to Labyrinth in order to see his "beloved."
During a break in the trial, several members are concerned with Brainiac 5, but he brushes them off. He tells Shadow Lass that Mon-El cannot be cured on Earth, so she takes him off to Daxam.

Later, Brainiac 5 makes a statement (reproduced here). Rond Vidar beams in a statement to back up his friend. With the Defense resting, the Legionnaires begin voting on whether to expel Brainiac 5.
Eventually, Brainiac 5 is cleared, 11-7 with 5 abstentions. Brainiac 5 hugs Saturn Girl for the first time ever, which disturbs her.
He then appears at the Legion Academy to say good-bye to Duo Damsel and leave his force-field belt with her. Lastly, he resigns from the Legion and returns to Colu.

The story in this issue has a nice idea in theory, but I don't really like how it turned out. The idea that super-ideological Polar Boy would be upset with Brainiac 5 for causing the death of Professor Rugarth is a good one. The scene where he and Saturn Girl argue over the Legion Constitution is one of my favorite Legion "down-time" scenes ever.

However, the idea that many of the Legionnaires find the trial a waste of time seems disturbing to me. Is this another example of Polar Boy not being a good leader? Couldn't there be a bit more of the morality brought out for us to consider before Brainiac 5 makes his self-righteous defense speech? Maybe it's just me not ever really liking his character, but Brainiac 5 comes off here as manipulating and calculating....and the idea that he is, in fact, friendly (by hugging Saturn Girl and by giving Duo Damsel his force-field belt) seems too little too late. It's telling, I think, that we don't actually get to SEE the hug between the old friends, except in a far deep pan shot, in silhouette. We likewise don't SEE Brainy being nice to Duo Damsel; he's a hologram, and the "camera" remains on her while he is talking.

Besides this complaint, my one other comment is regarding the clothes of the Legionnaires. They have existed as an institution for more than 30 years, and have not really been known to hang out in civilian clothes. Suddenly, they ALL are in civvies. What if there was an emergency? Shouldn't somebody have stayed in uniform?

I also didn't like the exclusion of Lightning Lad from the story. I was thinking that he would have had some words with his wife about her attempted suicide. I would have liked to have seen that.

And as a final thought, Shrinking Violet really comes off as harsh in this story. She not only tells Invisible Kid to be faithful to his morals or to "suck up" to Brainiac 5, she then tells Phantom Girl that they were never really close friends. She is clearly trying to be a bitch.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Phantom Girl and Dawnstar both wear new uniforms in this issue. 
  • Ultra Boy pines that Phantom Girl never leaves him behind. However, there have been dozens of cases where they did not both go on the same mission. 
  • This is how the Legionnaires voted: Guilty (Element Lad, Invisible Kid, Magnetic Kid, Phantom Girl, Polar Boy, Shrinking Violet, Wildfire); Not Guilty (Blok, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Lighting Lass, Saturn Girl, Sensor Girl, Shadow Lass, Sun Boy, Tellus, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy); and Abstained (Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Mon-El, Quislet, White Witch)
  • Shadow Lass complains that it is obvious how Mon-El would have voted, but because he is still in a coma Polar Boy will not count his vote.  
This story has not yet been reprinted.  

Brainiac 5 becomes only the second Legionnaire to be tried for expulsion for murder (after Star Boy). Although he is not expelled, he resigns anyway. 


  1. We generally only see the Legion wearing casual clothes when Giffen is drawing the book.

    While Mon-El might have voted not guilty, I think Cham, Gim and especially the White Witch would have voted guilty.

    And the Lightning Lass/Magnetic Kid flirting is still a little creepy.

  2. It's been a while since I read this issue; do they explain why White Witch abstains, or do they just state that she did? Given that she was arguing with Brainiac 5 over the very thing Polar Boy was charging him with - with essentially similar arguments - it would seem somewhat odd that she wouldn't participate. (Or was she still gone after said argument, and her absence counted as an abstention?)

  3. She had left before the vote and by virtue of being gone she was counted as an abstention. Same with Cham & Gim (and Mon-El since although present, he was unable to vote himself).

    Hasn't Wildfire been mad at Brainac for awhile now? I don't understand why he voted guilty otherwise.

    One of my favorite scenes in memory is that image of Dawnstar mucking with her boots while talking with Tinya. It struck me as very Dawnstar: graceful, beautiful, strong, and no-nonsense all at once.

  4. It makes no sense that Polar Boy is being so gung ho against Brainy for using Jaxon against the Trapper, when the previous issue had him justifying to Mysa why using Jaxon was ethical - even going as far as telling her that this is what Jaxon would have wanted.

    Also, how can be sure that Querl knew that Jaxon was going to die or did die? 1) Jaxon was essentially brain dead anyway 2) there was no corpse to prove death and 3) is it even possible for an entity like the Infinite Man to die?