Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Reboot: Legion of Super-Heroes #65

Legion of Super-Heroes v4 #65 (February 1995)
title: "Breakout"
writers: Mark Waid and Tom McCraw
penciller: Lee Moder
inker: Ron Boyd
lettering: Bob Pinaha
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Lee Moder
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Apparition, Brainiac 5, Chameleon, Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, Leviathan, Live Wire, Saturn Girl, Spark, Triad, XS

Evolvo, Inferno, Karate Kid, Spider Girl, Ultra Boy

Banderkat, Brain Globes of Rambat, Bur Rac, Caress, Leland McCauley, Titanor, Planet Hell convicts and their would-be rescuers

Previously... The Legion have been sent to a prison facility inside the sun, dubbed "Planet Hell", cut off for too long by technical problems. They soon realize the warden is as mad as the inmates as he releases his prisoners and greets incoming transport ships. Meanwhile, Live Wire has joined the Workforce, a team of young heroes "owned" by Leland McCauley, who are on the trail of techno-thieves.

As ships land, the Legionnaires are forced to fight dangerous inmates, several of them super-powered, released by warden Bur Rac, who is working for an unknown mastermind in need of an army. Thankfully, the Legionnaires thought killed in the ships' initial approach and attack survived in a metal shell thrown up by Cosmic Boy and they join the twin fronts - destroying the transports and fighting off hordes of mad criminals.
One this that IS welcome is that of the Workforce, who have followed the thieves right to Planet Hell. At least, they're welcome from Apparition's point of view, hit by Cupid's arrow the moment she sees that team's Ultra Boy. The two groups are nevertheless briefly forced to fight by a Titanian mind controller called Titanor. Meanwhile, the shields keeping the sun from sublimating Planet Hell have steadily been degrading, and the electromagnetic tunnel that allowed entry has collapsed. Everyone is trapped in the prison with mere hours to live, and the heroes can't do anything about it, surrounded by armed criminals.

OK, let’s get this out of the way… What is going on with the illustrations? How can they expect us to move from such a beautiful issue full of little details to something so… chaotic. I guess…? I mean, it does fit the feel of this comic, but it’s still annoying. I can handle slight changes, but this is way too much. Everyone seems deformed, their expressions and “movements” look unnatural. All in all, the artist made everyone look like they all turned mad. Again, it goes with the theme.
Now, for the story itself. It seems I was totally wrong. Brainiac 5 tries to sound like he knew, but clearly, I overestimated his analytical skills. All hell breaks loose (I *do* see what you did there by the way, guy on page 19) as the criminals escape. I’m surprised by the decision Leviathan made. Destroying all spacecraft is a bold move. Of course, it’s the safest and most efficient way to make sure no one escapes, but considering this also includes his own team, that’s a tough call to make. After that, the whole story falls into chaos. 10 000 prisoners against these kids. They are talented, but isn’t it pushing too far? Even with the help (?) of Workforce, it definitely feels like a stretch. I was thrilled by the fact that McCauley couldn’t command them due to solar interference. It didn’t seem to help all that much though. They have destructive personalities and they don’t act as a team at all. I have to say that the developing romances were a bit unpleasant too. This is clearly not the place nor the time to flirt, guys! Don’t get me wrong, I think romance can actually contribute positively in most stories, but here, it just felt unnecessary since there’s already so much going on. One thing they did right though: I am legitimately interested in seeing how they will get out of this one.

One last thing before I leave the floor to Siskoid. With the amount of times they mentioned how the jet packs were inconvenient to them, it’s pretty obvious they’re going to move forward with another way to be able to fly around soon. I guess it serves as a way to explain the switch from these to the flight rings. They were rings, right? Anyway… the item that will give all the legionnaires the power to fly. I wish I could get my hands on one myself!

Ah yes, the jet packs. That's how the first few Legion stories, way back in the 1950s, allowed Legionnaires to fly (because THE FUTURE), which was followed by flight belts, then flight rings. Can't wait too; those are iconic. Not the only reference to Legions past, though! I'm a complete nerd, so seeing the Brain Globes of Rambat (which I was aware of back when I originally read this issue in the mid-90s) made me impossibly happy. Caress is in there too. See Science Police Notes for more.
I think one of the weird things about the art isn't so much that there are no shadows (which is how they represent the harsh light inside the sun), but that everyone must wear those shot glasses over their eyes. It looks like they're all wide-eyed and crazy, and robs them of proper expressions. The scene where Apparition falls in love with Ultra Boy at first sight looks silly because of it, but every scene kind of does.
Some of the things I do like: How Brainy just stands there amid the chaos, so sure of his calculations and the "action" quite beneath him. I think his super-power is actually being super-cool under pressure. I like Titanor and his big face tatt. Invisible Kid blinding creeps by ripping off their goggles. The complete dire straights the heroes are left in. And I don't remember at all who the secret mastermind is, but it seems like all these early issues have had a massive conspiracy manipulating events to undermine the U.P., and the Legion represents the variable that makes all those plans go awry.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The story marks the first appearance of the Brain Globes of Rambat since Adventure Comics #293 (1962), the Legion's sixth ever story. Group review Haven't appeared, that is, unless you count them as a sub-species of the Gil'Dishpan, as the comics eventually established.
  • Caress was a member of the later-day Fatal Five, first appearing in Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #25 (1986). The Planet Hell storyline marks her first and only Reboot appearance.
  • Banderkat and Titanor are new villains created for the Planet Hell storyline and do not appear beyond it.


  1. Going back and forth between Lee Moder and the Moys was always a rude shock for me too, and back in the day I strongly preferred the latter. Curiously, though, when I reread the reboot earlier this year, I found I had come to prefer Moder's take.

  2. Early Moder was really chunky. Kinda gritty. An interesting look and it works in some places but not in others. I do find it interesting that they didn't try to sign on two artists that were more alike on the two books.

    Over time, I find Moy's art just kept on getting better. He really established his style as the years went by and became very consistent. Moder got ... strangely elongated. He got weird and inconsistent. Some really awesome images, and some amazing facial expressions, mixed with some reaaally weird design choices that sometimes veered into biological improbability.

    Also, I do love the characterization of Brainy as so aloof here. Like, eh, hundreds of rampaging psychopaths? You got that. I'm more worried about us getting eaten by the sun.