Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reboot: Showcase '96 #12

Showcase '96 #12 (Winter 1997)
title: "Roots"
writer: Tom Peyer
penciller: Derec Aucoin

inker: Ken Branch
lettering: Ken Bruzenak
colorist: Adrienne Roy
associate editor: Chris Duffy
editor: Frank Pittarese
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Gates, Saturn Girl, Spark

Captain Comet, Inferno, Lyrl Dox, Shvaughn Erin, Stealth, Taptree, Vril Dox, Coluans


A number of Legionnaires are trapped in the 20th Century. Looking for technology he might use to build a time machine, Brainiac 5 infiltrates a secure S.T.A.R. Labs facility and comes upon his ancestor, the original Brainiac, a catatonic prisoner. Through his meddling, Brainy awakens the villain, who turns his cell into a skull ship and flies to Colu along with the Legionnaires, meaning to take over his homeworld. L.E.G.I.O.N. has been called, and its current leader, Captain Comet, has requested the help of Brainiac's son, the retired Vril Dox...

While the elder Brainiac hooks Brainiac 5 to the "SleepNet" as an advanced scout into Colu's deeper defenses, Vril Dox, now a botanist, is assigned the vegetable L.E.G.I.O.N. officer Taptree to bring him to Colo to deal with his father, just as he asked. Planetary defenses shoot them down, but they survive the crash thanks to fast-expanding seeds of Dox's design.
Meanwhile, Shvaughn Erin frees the Legionnaires by getting the guard's gun. Though Coluans are intellectually smart, they aren't very street smart. Despite many Coluans apparently bowing down to Brainiac's tyranny, some dare riot against his regime. Its in such a demonstration that the Legionnaire connect with Vril, who immediately uses their intervention to get into Brainiac's HQ, where he paralyzes the tyrant's machines by turning Taptree into a veritable interior forest with a special chemical. This awakens Brainy from his virtual sleep, but Querl is... perplexed. He nevertheless feels compelled to act, and whacks Brainiac upside the head with a branch.The Brainiacs go on to beat each other with sticks, the two younger models eventually overcoming the older and defeating him in something they would later call a "battle of wits".
Order restored, Vril is expelled from the planet once more, Coluan leaders deciding that, based on this incident, Colu should ban technical advancement in favor of pure research. Brainiac 5's suspicions are confirmed: The tech is so familiar because his planet suffered a millennium of stagnation... and it's all his fault.
From the previous review: “Hold up, Shotgun! You don't like arrogant Brainiac 5, but you're a huge Sherlock fan? Well, what if Brainy were played by Benedict Cumberbatch?”

I will address this first, if you don’t mind.  It’s not the arrogance I dislike. To be clear, I quite enjoy an arrogant personality since it often creates interesting debates and conflicts within a story. Therefore, my main problem with Brainiac 5 isn’t his attitude, but his incompetence. For someone that’s supposed to be so smart, his plan never seems to work without an unexpected turn. You can’t be this arrogant when you fail consistently. Sherlock is an ass, but he’s practically always right and can somewhat accept when he’s wrong. Also, I’m already more than fine with James Marsters playing a live action version of this guy. I did give him a HOT back then, remember?

Now to return to the comic…

What a happy family reunion full of disappointment from all generations. Isn’t it always how it goes? I must say that it is an interesting turn of events at the end. They mentioned many times that the technology was the same as the one from the 30th Century. Quite the clever build-up when it turns out it has nothing to do with time travel. Such an advanced society stopping all technical evolution because, in part, of Brainiac 5... Wow! That MUST hurt. I can see some interesting character development coming up. That will probably help.
On first reading I was annoyed by the way Vril used everyone’s powers to his advantage without even consulting them. But then, it also makes sense. It fits the character to always be a step ahead and have no time to explain his plan. Why bother anyway when they wouldn’t even understand it. Plus, he’s not the only one who manipulated others to their own advantage. Shvaughn outdid herself when she perfectly read the guard’s character. Love it! That’ll teach him to underestimate her just because she doesn’t have any superpowers!
I'm not as enamored with Shvaughn's ploy, because it seemed too easy and the Coluan guard beyond naive. But I do like the repeated panel of him looking at the gun and running calculations in his head. I would rather believe she aroused his curiosity, and that Coluans have difficulty resisting that particular temptation. He really, really, really needed to know what would happen. (But your take is probably the right one.) Was it even worth it? The Legionnaires really don't do much in this story.

I mentioned last time how much of a Vril Dox fan I man and while this issue isn't one of the great Dox stories, it does reference some of them quite humorously (in his banter with Stealth), and characterize him as a right bastard - poor Taptree! At least he seems to survive. But most amusingly, the Brainiacs have it out physically, like primitives. Nice ironies at play, since for all their intellectual evolution, these are characters stunted morally. The raw violence may have been truer to their real selves.
The final irony, of course, is that Brainy, who has chafed at his people's unwillingness to put their great minds to practical matters, perhaps one of the reasons he stays with the Legion, apparently caused a thousand years of progress. From the few Coluans we've known, that might actually be a good thing... But if Colu has what is essentially "30th Century" technology, does that mean he can use it to get the Legion home? How much was he allowed to bring back with him, if anything?

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story follows the one in Showcase '96 #11, in between Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #87 and 88.
  • There are two other stories in the issue, one featuring Jesse Quick, the other, King Faraday.
  • That Lyrl Dox (Brainiac 3) tried to kill his parents (in R.E.B.E.L.S.'95), but now appears to be a normal toddler is referenced, as is Vril Dox's Deal with Neron that resulted at the time of Underworld Unleashed, and the way Lyrl was monstrously conceived back in L.E.G.I.O.N.'89 #7.
  • The story explains why the Colu seen in 20th-Century comics isn't all that different, technologically, from the one seen in the Legion's 30th.

1 comment:

  1. Best part of this storyline was how the build-up to a battle of geniuses ended in them beating each other to a pulp with sticks, while grunting like cavemen. Brilliant.