Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Reboot: Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #6

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #6 (1995)
title: "Deep Background"
writer: Tom McCraw, Mark Waid, Tom Peyer
pencillers: Jim Hall, Stuart Immonen, Alan Davis, Mike Collins
inkers: Tom Simmons, Bob Wiacek, José Marzan Jr., Mark Farmer, Ron Boyd
lettering: Tim Harkins, Richard Starkings, Comicraft, Patricia Prentice
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Stuart Immonen and Bob Wiacek
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Andromeda, Apparition, Brainiac 5, Chameleon, Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, Kinetix, Leviathan, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Spark, Triad, XS

Athramites, Chief Wilson, Dvron, Flash II (flashback), Gigi Cusimano, Inferno (cameo), Iris West Allen (flashback), Live Wire (cameo), Marla Latham, R.J. Brande, Shvaughn Erin, Spider-Girl (cameo), Tenzil Kem, Tornado Twins (flashback), Science Police, XS' father, Kinetix's mother

Composite Man (flashback), Dominators, terrorists

Previously, the Composite Man arrived on Earth to kill Chameleon, but only managed to maim Science Police Officer Shvaughn Erin - she got better - and leave Saturn Girl in a catatonic state.

Shvaughn Erin is assigned to the Legion as liaison, something she gets a lot of flack for and which she doesn't relish, until she reads the Legion's files and gains an appreciation for their values. In the process, she learns the origin stories of XS (her speed manifested when her father was tortured by Dominators), Kinetix (an archaeologist who absorbs the power of various artifacts, as Shrinking Violet also learns on a trip with her new teammate, on which Kinetix apparently loses her powers!), and Leviathan (irradiated by a meteor while pursuing a Durlan criminal, his powers making him a rising star in the Science Police).

The cover – Took a while to notice Shrinking Violet in that picture. I’m sorry but I can’t help it, with Kinetix crouching in a battle stance, it almost looks like… well… You know what I’m trying to say! (It’s a poop joke… come on!)

I LOVE THE INDIVIDUAL PIN-UPS! Wonder what those color circles are though. They seem random but some seems too close to the color scheme of the heroes to have been chosen completely by luck… Can I just say how I hate the height/weight description? There’s no way that these numbers make any sense! Muscles are so heavy! They’re all around the same height, which is the same as mine and there’s no way that they could have that amount of muscular mass without weighing at least 150 lbs. or more. Maybe they were weighed somewhere else than on Earth? OK rant over. Let’s forget about that detail and talk about some pin-ups.
-Saturn Girl – Wait, is that Bart Simpson at the bottom of the page right next to her right leg? And talking about her legs, wow, the drawing is wrong on so many level. It’s like they forgot to complete it and had to rush the job at the last minute.
-Invisible Kid - He developed a formula himself? That’s awesome! That kid really is something else, a self-made man so to speak. The description make it sounds like it’s only a temporary thing though. I wish we could see more of his origin story.
-Chameleon – Whoa… what’s going on in that picture? He’s way too bulky! He’s morphing back to his “normal” self (I know it’s not actually how he looks, but I prefer the orange form with antennae over the squid form) but he'd never looked that buff before!
-Brainiac 5 – Again with the hinting that some romantic interest might be developing between Andromeda and Brainy. I’m afraid that this might be a one-sided thing though since she’s such a xenophobic.
-Telepathic ear plugs – Wait… If it’s supposed to translate languages to Interlac then why doesn’t it work with Durlans? Is it that their language isn’t integrated into the system yet? It seems like their equipment is still pretty flawed and could use some improvement.
-The rest of the technical stuff is interesting too, but they pretty much lost me there. I’m glad I know more about the science behind the equipment the Legion is using, but really, a building’s a building! I’m glad they didn’t finish with these and kept Leviathan’s origin to end the issue.

Cham can change his shape, so why not bulky? But I know what you mean. Your theory about the ear plugs is as good as anything I might come up with. My personal favorite pin-up is Triad, because Adam Hughes can't draw a bad looking woman, and he effortlessly gives each of her three selves some personality. Brainiac 5's is a lot of fun too... and what's that on the HQ map? He has a secret time lab? Let's see it!

XS origins – The Flash is her grandfather! Of course he is. Her origin story is so sad. Why does it always have to be torture? I get it. The emotions, the need to save yourself or a loved one, it will trigger something in all of us. This survival instinct. But it makes the stories of these heroes much more difficult to read. Knowing very well what happened to the rest of her family when they left on missions, she must have been quite scared for her own safety when her turn came, which explains her running away. She’s doing absolutely fine now and I’m sure she’s making her grandfather, mother and uncle very proud!

Kinetix origins – The historian in me is flipping out! This origin story is awesome yet terrifying. Kinetix’s obsession with power is unsettling and will, and already has, put the others in danger. She’s way too impulsive and her thirst for power will more than likely be the end of her. In this story, she jumped in, without even knowing what would happen. I wonder if she really just lost all her powers. It seems strange to me that she would become “useless” to the team when she just got there.
Leviathan origins – It was pretty clear from the start that Leviathan wasn’t all that pleased with being called in to become a member of the Legion. I guess this opportunity arrived at the best possible time for him. His boss reminded me of Cosmic Boy’s agent. I think it is quite clever how they made these two a bit more similar in that aspect. They both are leaders but they have to take care not to trust everyone. The world isn’t changing anytime soon. Even in the 30th century, corruption is still very present.


It's tough to do a proper Year One Annual when the team hasn't already passed it's first year, so the origin stories are one way to do it. XS and Kinetix certainly needed more meat on their bones, since they are entirely new characters to the Legion, but I'm not sure Leviathan was the best choice for a third. It's not REALLY an origin story for more than a couple panels, and then it becomes about how he reacted to the summons, giving him a little action in which it's made clear that he's not quite as xenophobic as he seemed in those early issues. He had a beef against Cham because he was a Durlan, and it looks like he has a specific trauma about that species. His saving aliens in the story, over the objections of his racist chief (man, the Science Police has GOT to get with the program), redeems him after the fact.

XS and Kinetix do much better, in part because of the artists - Immonen and Davis respectively - though I'm wondering how these files are presented to Shvaughn. XS' is a straight up account of her origin, fine, but Kinetix feels like a separate story where she and Violet go camping and THERE she tells her friend her origin story. Is Officer Erin reading about the trip and Kinetix losing her power there? The Leviathan story also follows a different format, so it's not all that well integrated into the frame tale. And yet, I do like that frame tale, during which Shvaughn arcs and embraces becoming "Liaison Lass" (hilarious). Finally, a Sci-Cop who doesn't act like a jerk.

This was a fun way to cover up some grey areas. I imagine that the next Annual will have a similar format to tell more stories about new Legionnaires that won’t have the privilege of having a whole issue dedicated to them. In the meantime, I can’t wait to get back to the story and see how the group is coping after their fight with the Composite Man.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The Annual is part of DC's Year One initiative, with each Annual that year showcasing either origin stories or tale from their respective heroes' early career.
  • The Annual includes pin-ups of every Legionnaires by the following artists: Cosmic Boy by Jim Hall and Tom Simmons; Saturn Girl by Chris Sprouse and Jason Martin; Triad by Adam Hughes; Apparition by Lee Moder and Pam Eklund; XS by Stuart Immonen; Invisible Kid by Jason Armstrong and Rob Boyd; Chameleon by Chris Renaud and Rob Leigh; Brainiac 5 by Matt Haley and Tom Simmons; Spark by Jeffrey Moy and W.C. Carani; Kinetix by Mike Huddleston and Jason Martin; Shrinking Violet by Rob Boyd; Andromeda by Paul Pelletier and Joe Rubinstein; Leviathan by Colleen Doran.
  • The Annual also includes fact files on R.J. Brande, Stargates, Legion Headquarters (with map), Marla Latham, Tenzil Kem, Athramites, and Legion Equipment.
  • Shvaughn officially becomes Legion Liaison, or the Science Police jokingly calls it, Liaison Lass.
  • Science Police making their first Reboot appearance, but who appeared in the previous continuity, include Chief Wilson (from Adventure Comics #303), Officer Dvron (Superboy #207), and though not named, possibly Officer Quav (LSH #302), at least from his appearance.
  • The Science Police mock the Legion wondering if a team of super animals are next, evidently referencing the Legion of Super-Pets.
  • XS' mother is one of the Tornado Twins, superspeed heroes descended from Barry Allen, who first appeared in Adventure Comics #373. In this continuity, they are more closely related, the children Barry and Iris had while living in the future.

The Annual features the secret origins of XS, Kinetix and Leviathan.


  1. XS's mother (not grandmother) is Dawn Allen, and Don Allen is Impulse's (Bart Allen) father.
    That little slip aside, great review, keep'em coming, you two. I really enjoy Shotgun's newcomer perspective coupled with Siskoid's long-time fan perspective

  2. My bad. A momentary brain freeze at the end there.

  3. I really didn't care for the "XS" character but understood the wanting to diversify the Legion ethnicity.

    I'd have preferred either Don or Dawn Allen in the role as I'm a long time LSH reader !

    Rather than change a characters gender or race like Star Boy in the three boot perhaps they could just make up "NEW" characters instead !

  4. I don't know how to respond to that. On the one hand, you didn't like their changing a character's race and asked they should make new characters instead; on the other, you didn't like the new minority character and wish they'd used established white characters instead. Damned if you do...

    1. The speedster's in LSH lore were the Allen twins and one of them should have been used as XS to keep continuity !

      Star Boy should have remained a Caucasian ! If DC writers wanted to add a Black character they should just create a new one ! Gravity Kid could have been Black for example as a new character but instead was a Caucasian.

      I don't care for the altering of established characters such as Thor and Iron Man becoming females for example.

      Just create another character rather than trying to milk a couple of bucks using established ones names !

      Long time Adventure Comics readers which seem to be the bulk of legion loyalists aren't interested in reboots or the altering of characters !

    2. With the dwindling of the reader base, reboots become enticing, and I liked 5YL and the Reboot well enough despite having been raised on the former continuity. By the 90s, how many readers of the Adventure Comics run were still reading Legion comics, after all? So I understand the decision to make big changes, and I went into them with an open mind. Today, there are several eras of the Legion I appreciate, even if they are mutually exclusive.

      As for using established names on diversity characters, I don't mind it. In fact, I embrace it. In standard continuities, they are usually temporary and give a new character some visibility and cred before changing names and going to their own series. Readers are more likely to go read a Steel series if he first spent time as heading one of the Superman books, for example.

      In rebooted continuities, like the movies and tv shows where diversity casting is more prevalent than in comics, it really doesn't matter what the character's race used to be unless that was the whole point of the character. We lose nothing, and gain a more accurate picture of humanity that ignores whitewashed editorial mandates from the 50s and 60s, while minorities gain representation in media. It's a win at no cost to have black actors playing Jimmy Olsen, Iris West, etc.

      Your contention that giving diversity characters established names is a cash-grab is seeing it in reverse; taking over names and titles enables the character to get VISIBILITY, because the book is already likely selling. The reader need not invest in a new title per se, just keep reading the one they already were AND get diversity content for however long it lasts.

      I feel the need for diversity is a very misunderstood issue; I hope I shed at least a little light on it.

  5. XS may have been the best of the new Legionnaires post-Zero Hour. I loved her link to the Flash legacy. Her personality did go on hiatus for a while until Abnett and Lanning brought it back but overall, she added something new. The introduction of XS was what really made me realize that the post-zero hour legion was not just a retelling of the original stories, it was going to go somewhere new and that the old stories could live on and I could look forward to where they were going to go with the new version.

    Kinetix and her obsession with power was a really interested choice that really played a large role for the first few years of the book. Alan Davis' version of her was so amazing.

  6. I also meant to write that I am loving the addition of Shotgun to these reviews. I love the perspective she brings as a fresh reader to these stories rather than filtering it through long-time fan expectations.

    It was a mind-set I had to adopt with this version and it took a while so it's nice to read that perspective.

  7. Oh, man, those color bubbles have annoyed me for 21 years now. Just enough information in some of them to imply that they are specifically related to the characters' color schemes, but not enough to clearly indicate what they correspond to. Maddening.

    XS is really my favorite character in the Reboot. I like that we get to see a bit of her story here, although I wish it could have been beefed up a little bit. Really, all three could use a little more. Kinetix got her power from an "energy pool" and Leviathan from a meteor? Classically simple origins there. I'm glad they focused on other things!

    I came to the Reboot as a kid, having only previously read the Adventure-era Legion books. So perhaps I was primed to accept transformations and alterations in a way, but I loved it. Some of what I loved was seeing pieces of those old stories reflected in a brand new way, or characters shown in a new light. Heck, even the way they evoked the old rocketship HQ design with the new one.

    Anyways, speaking as someone who loved the original Legion and discovered modern comics through the Reboot, I also love reading Shotgun's reactions to these issues. It kinda helps remind what it was like to read these for the first time!