Thursday, December 1, 2016

Reboot: Superboy #18-19, 21

Superboy (v2) #18-19, 21 (August-September, November 1995)
titles: "Battle of the Century", "T-K-O!", "Making History!"
writer: Karl Kesel
penciller: Tom Grummett
inker: Doug Hazelwood
lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Chris Duffy
editor: Frank Pittarese
cover: Tom Grummett and Karl Kesel
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Brainiac 5, Chameleon, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Triad

Babbage, Doctor Haley, Dubbilex, Hillary Chang, Krypto, Miss Snibbly, Norse Fielding, Professor Potter, Rex Leech, Roxy Leech, Sam Makoa, Superboy (Kon-El), Tana Moon, Valor, kids from school, the U.S. army

Ira Gambolli (killed), Knockout, Gambolli's men

The 20th-Century hero known as Valor has been appearing as a ghost around 30th-Century Metropolis whenever there's been a big enough power surge. Brainiac 5 has built a time machine and sends several Legionnaires, himself included, into the past to find out how Valor was put into the Stasis Zone and how to pull him out again...

Illegal gambling mogul Ira Gambolli is planning the event of the century - a fight between Honolulu's Superboy and the amnesiac hero formerly known as Valor, "Champion". Superboy's agent Rex Leech has already been roped into luring the kid to the designated battleground to cover his own debts. The fight soon spins out of control when frequent Superboy antagonist Knockout joins the fray, as does the U.S. Army.
Soon after her arrival, another: Valor's A.I.-controlled ship Babbage shows up and jogs his memory, even as his lead poisoning asserts itself. Babbage is destroyed, and while Knockout heads to Gambolli's yacht and kills him and his men, Superboy brings the dying Valor to S.T.A.R. Labs where he hopes Loophole's Statis Zone portal can save him. He and and Labs' scientists manage to keep the technology working just long enough to send Valor to the other side, but their promise to bring him out once they get more of the lead serum seems unlikely to be fulfilled when the portal shorts out.
Then the Legion materializes in our time, missing one member, XS, who could be anywhere in time and space. Brainy convinces Cosmic Boy to go ahead with their mission to save Valor, since the implications of time travel are that there's no rush to find XS. They have a hell of a time reasoning with Superboy, who doesn't understand Interlac, until the telepathic Dubbilex provides instantaneous translation. The kid brings them to S.T.A.R. Labs where Brainy is frustrated by the level of available technology to fix the Statis Zone portal, so transports the team - AND Superboy! - to his workshop in the future. To be continued!
Superboy #18-19... Reading these comics gave me a good idea of the background story of how Valor was put into the Stasis Zone. I’m really curious as to how Gambolli got his hands on Valor in the first place. Also, is the lead poisoning the reason why Valor has lost his memories? Or it might be an after effect of trusting Vril Dox’s serum. The one thing that’s really bothering me is Valor’s obsession with wearing his suit. There must be more to it than just wanting to look the part… I hope so anyway. The real MVP in these two comics is definitely Babbage! Who doesn’t want a sassy spaceship companion? I want one and I know you do too! What a tragedy that I was only able to enjoy his wit for a couple of panels.
Superboy #21... I never thought about the translation problem when I learned the team would be traveling in time. That was a neat detail that I enjoyed quite a lot. Without it, the encounter would’ve been a lot less entertaining. Imagine if someone you couldn’t even understand would try to put something in your ear. Creepy!! I wonder what happened to XS. Of course having to save Valor wasn’t enough already they had to lose one member while traveling in time. She could be anywhere and that means that we’ll probably see more time travel in upcoming issues. Not against that at all! Brainy sounds like a kid today who tries to work with past technology like a walkman or a typewriter. I guess he took the liberty of bringing everyone back to the 30th Century. Let’s see how Superboy will react to this.
First of all, it was great revisiting the Kesel/Grummett Superboy run. I forgot how joyful it was. Krypto flying! Dubbilex in a Hawaiian shirt! Roxy applying to the police academy! Knockout barging in for no reason and crashing the kid's pad. The venal Rex getting everyone in trouble. Superboy trying to coast in state-imposed high school. Tana Moon. It was all great. Probably better for me than for Shotgun who was coming into the middle of things, just crazy characters that had nothing to do with her Legion journey, but great nonetheless.
Yes, I think Valor's amnesia is probably due to lead poisoning, though there's a very real dose of temporal feedback to it, I'm sure. His history hasn't made sense since the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and we're already a couple of reboots down from that. His confusing matches ours. I guess he's already seeded the planets of the U.P. by the time he fights Superboy? That seemed like something an older Valor would do; like I said, it's confusing. There's even some tortured plotting here as Kesel tries to fit what's been established in the Legion books into his narrative. The whole point of changing outfits is apparently to match Valor's look in a couple of 30th-Century panels. It's just such a strange moment. But overall, while it doesn't have the emotional resonance of the original story, in which Clark Kent found an amnesiac "big brother" in a space capsule, this is a good enough retelling, with several cute winks at past continuity.
In issue #21, the Legion finally shows up, there's an obligatory fight, which at least holds my interest thanks to 1) the art and 2) each Legionnaire getting to use his or her powers. Brainiac 5 really bungles this one, from losing XS in the time stream and dismissing it as a problem, to the creepy ear thing, to giving up rather quickly on the job of fixing the Zone portal and risking another time jump by bringing Superboy along (as what, a friendly face for Valor?). There's really no reason to keep Superboy around except to mirror Silver Age events, is there? And for all that, it's a fun issue and meant to be a tribute. You sort of have to let the creators play with the required ingredients even if they have to be shoehorned in.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story arc echoes two Silver Age stories: Superboy first meeting Mon-El and sending him to the Phantom Zone in Superboy (v1) #89, and Superboy first meeting the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics #247.
  • Superboy delivered S.T.A.R. Labs Loophole's Stasis Zone technology in Superboy #16.
  • Valor was given a serum to combat lead poisoning by Brainiac 5's ancestor, Vril Dox, in the L.E.G.I.O.N.'89 series. It finally failed.
  • Babbage, the A.I. controlling Valor's ship, was introduced in Valor #3. Apparently destroyed, it resurfaces eventually in The Legion #25 as a Legion Cadet.
  • Superboy #18 includes a sequence where his dog Krypto is made to fly telekinetically, a reference to the Silver Age (and Kryptonian!) version of the pup.
  • The Silver Age Triplicate Girl's romantic interest in Superboy is replicated here between Triad-purple and Kon-El.
  • The fate of XS is revealed in Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #75.
  • While in the presence of English speakers, the Legionnaires' speech bubbles are written in Interlac. The letters page includes a translation key.

First crossover between the Legion and a mainstream present-day DC Universe character.


  1. XS has a bad habit of getting lost in the time-stream, doesn't she? Maybe we'll see her again if the Legion ever gets another book.

  2. This "Superboy" was just one of the worst characters I'd ever read !

    Gary Coleman would have been a better Superboy.

    Tactical Telekinesis my a.. !

  3. RicG: Flash family, aniright?

    Anon: You can't burst my bubble, man!

  4. I loved the Kon-El Superboy before Johns made him all emo. Such a fun character and comic!