Thursday, May 12, 2016

B & B (v3) #35: The Subs & The Inferior Five

The Brave & The Bold (v3) #35 (Aug, 2010)
title: "Out Of Time!" Part Two
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artis: Jesus Saiz
lettering: Rob Leigh
colorist: Tom Chu
asst editor: Chris Conroy 
editor: Joey Cavalieri  
cover: Jesus Saiz
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Polar Boy, Night Girl, Fire Lad, Stone Boy, and Chlorophyll Kid of The Legion of Substitute Heroes; Merry Man, The Blimp, Awkward Man, White Feather, and Dumb Bunny of The Inferior Five

Cameo appearances by Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lighting Lad of The Legion of Super-Heroes; Robot Man, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl, and The Chief from The Doom Patrol 

A black hole heading towards Earth, incompetency

On Earth in the 30th Century, the Legion of Substitute Heroes are watching a news report on how the Legion and the Doom Patrol have saved Earth from a dangerous black hole using the Hawking Theorem. Frustrated by never getting a chance at the glory, Fire Lad suggests that they go back in time to save the world instead of the Legion. After all, they know that the Earth has been saved, so they should be able to re-create whatever the Legion did.
They go to Legion HQ where they take a time bubble one hour into the future, leaving the original behind. (This is why the Legion's time bubble switched locations at the start of their adventure.) The Subs then go back in time to face the black hole, but forget to close the Quantum Gate, allowing the black hole to jump forward in time as they jumped back. (Which is why the black hole that Lightning Lad thought was far off suddenly appeared in our solar system.) 
They decide to go back to get the Doom Patrol, but their time bubble is not calibrated (it's off by one hour). Much to the consternation of The Chief, they then try a few times to arrive before the Legion, but never do. (Which is why The Chief had such a miserable day after the Doom Patrol went off into the future.) 
After the Subs try to re-coordinate the time bubble, they appear to the Inferior Five.
The two teams of misfits decide to team up, then realize that no one knows what the Hawking Theorem is. So they go in search of Stephen Hawking, but find Professor Bawking instead. (Breaking the 4th wall, Professor Bawking tells us that DC couldn't license Hawking's image, so they had to settle for him.)
After listening to him try to explain the Hawking Theorem for six hours, Dumb Bunny finally understands the concept: it's like a diet where you eat less and exercise to use up more energy than you take in.
Finally the two teams head into the future to confront the black hole. However, on the way Dumb Bunny slips and loses her fluffy tail in the machinery. This stalls the time bubble so that it won't move forward.
Night Girl and Merry Man suggest they go back in time (again) and switch with the time bubble that the Legion had been using. (This is why the Legion's time bubble switches locations *again* and why they come across her tail in *their* time bubble.) 
The Subs and the Five finally arrive in the 30th Century, but the Legion and Doom Patrol are already on the scene, and they destroy the black hole. The Subs are frustrated and tired.
They give up, refusing to continue the team-up. The Subs return the Inferior Five to the past, but not to 1972: the Inferior Five are now in the DC continuity of 2010!

For all that the first part of this story had going for it, this story drops the ball in dramatic style.

First of all, the basic idea that the Substitute Heroes would even think they could defeat a black hole just because the Legion had is preposterous. Then based on that preposterous idea, the story just gets worse and worse. The Substitute Heroes are great supporting characters who lend themselves to humor, but to portray them as incompetent is to miss the point. Atleast to me it does.

Also, this is Exhibit A when I talk about how time travel stories make my head hurt. The Substitute Heroes try numerous times to go back in time to meet the Doom Patrol, but keep arriving late. What happens to each of these groups of Substitute Heroes? They all exist simultaneously? They fade away? Hmmm....

Likewise, after so many attempts to reach the Doom Patrol, the Substitute Heroes suddenly meet up with the Inferior Both groups existed at the same time in publishing history, but the Inferior Five exist on a parallel Earth, don't they? Their parents and mentors don't exist on Earth One, anyway. This part of the story was the most confusing. Did the Subs actually think the Inferior Five were the Doom Patrol?

Last issue the characterization of the heroes was spot-on. This time, I think Straczynski missed the boat. Night Girl seems to be the only character who knows what she is doing; the others are along for the ride, literally. No one does anything important, or uses their powers at all.

On the other hand, did the Subs and the Five actually help when they appeared at the black hole? The story seems to suggest that it is their appearance that somehow speeds up time, helping the Legion and the Doom Patrol to destroy the black hole. If this was the case, I would have liked it to have been made more clear. Frankly, I would have liked to have seen the Subs realize that they DO make a difference.

In the end, I think the whole point of this story was to bring the Inferior Five into the main DC universe. That might have been an interesting concept, but this was the last issue of The Brave & The Bold. As far as I know, we have never seen the Inferior Five again.

I do like the cover, though. I think it's clever how it mirrors the previous issue's scene.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Chlorophyll Kid was drawn throughout the story without his "head spikes." 
  • The date on the newspaper that the Inferior Five picks up is July 14, 2010. 
  • Last issue it appeared that this adventure had to happen before Colossal Boy joined the Legion. However, the Substitute Heroes were not formed until Adventure Comics #306, a full three years after Colossal Boy had joined. Talk about your time paradoxes! 
  • The Inferior Five made their debut in Showcase #62 (June 1966), then appeared in their own short-lived series (1967-1968) before fading into oblivion.  
  • Merry Man was supposedly based on a young Woody Allen. 
This story has not yet been reprinted.  


  1. Addendum:
    The Inferior Five recently re-appeared in an issue of Bat-Mite.

  2. While I'm a big fan of the subs, I really get tired of them being treated only as comic relief. Occasionally - fine. But even Batman gets that treatment. They are clearly the B team. They have issues, but I think it's mischaracterization to keep portraying them as incompetent every time they appear.

    -Boston Moss

  3. The truth of it is that there are VERY VERY FEW stories where the Subs are comic relief. The trend started in DCCP 59, then there was the Special, then the Secret Origins story... and then this tale. That's it aside from a humorous reference here and there in the Reboot.

  4. It was really just Keith Giffen who wrote the Subs as incompetent, comedic boobs. Which made it that much cooler when he turned them into hard-core badasses in the 5YL stories...