Monday, August 7, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #3

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #3 (August 2007)
title: The Powers That Were
writer: Scott Beatty
penciller: Sanford Greene
inker: Nathan Massengell
letterer: Mike Sellers
colorist: Heroic Age
editor: Jeanine Schaefer
cover art: Steve Uy
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Superman, Timber Wolf, Infectious Lass.

Special Appearances: Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid, Double-Header, Night Girl, Polar Boy, Porcupine Pete, Son of Vulcan, Stone Boy.

Summary: This issue opens with a great splash page. Superman is punched by an unknown figure, while close-ups of the Legion surround the scene. But something is not right. The Legionnaires look familiar but different. And there is a new face among the team...Infectious Lass!

As Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl look on, Superman is punched so hard he is thrown out of the enviro-field that surrounds the planet. Gloating that anybody who can do that to Superman is definitely Legion material, Lightning Lad rushes to sign up the "new kid," Invulnera-Boy. 

Lightning Lad reaches out to welcome the new hero, but is thrown back. Superman arrives and realizes that Invulnera-Boy is unable to turn off his power. Invulnera-Boy explains that the twelve inches of personal space around his body is like a force field that repels everything. His inability to completely control his power prevents his admission to the team but Superman assures him that there will be other tryouts. 

Saturn Girls tells the other applicants that being able to wield powers safely is important to being a Legionnaire, and they need to ask themselves if they have what it takes to join the Legion of Super-Heroes.

This is a fun panel for fans of the Legion of Substitute Heroes because we see that the applicants are Porcupine Pete, Double-Header, Night Girl, Polar Boy, Color Kid, Chlorophyll Kid, Stone Boy, and Son of Vulcan. Sadly, we also soon learn why these heroes are not quite ready for membership.

The failed recruits depart, and Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl argue over the need for new members. It quickly escalates and soon the whole team is fighting over which of them has the most impressive power. They are interrupted by a loud sneeze, and the team turns to see a young woman asking if she is too late for tryouts.

The boys are smitten and trip over themselves trying to welcome her. She introduces herself as Infectious Lass and a flirting Lightning Lad asks if its because of her infectious smile. She kisses him on the cheek and he learns the hard way why she has that name as Practian lava-pimples appear all over his face. Phantom Girl and Saturn Girl instantly become fans. 

Superman admits that she could sicken one or two of them at a time, but asks if she can incapacitate an entire group of foes. She says it would be tough, and that it would have to be a bug that is not dependent on individual susceptibilities of various species. She  recalls a rare Durlan antigen that negates superpowers. After warning them of some hyper-vertigo, she blows them a kiss. 

Everyone is disoriented and we see that each Legionnaire has switched powers with another. Bouncing Boy is lean and muscular, while Lightning Lad is, um, swollen. Superman's skin and eyes have changed and he can hear everyone's thoughts. Saturn Girl feels powerful and can see through things. Timber Wolf looks human again and is intangible, and Phantom Girl is horrified finding herself covered in fur. Brainiac 5 is trying not to release any illnesses and Infectious Lass is flooded with new realizations thanks to her 12th-level intelligence,

Before they can recover, Infectious Lass picks up a message from the Legion Cruiser that a warship is approaching. A small Khund army appears, prepared for the Legion and their powers. Bouncing Boy tries to fight but cannot control Lightning Lad's abilities, and is knocked down by a Khund.

Infectious Lad reaches out to Superman through his telepathy, and convinces him to surrender. The Legionnaire are placed in inhibitor bonds engineered for each individuals' power. Once they are locked up aboard the Khund ship, Superman explains that Infectious Lad used her 12th-level intelligence to deduce that the Khund's had something like this in mind. Some of the team is slow to catch on, but Infectious Lass reminds them that the bonds were prepared for their powers that were, and not for their powers as they are now. Saturn Girl uses her heat vision to snap her bonds, which sets off the alarm.

By the time the Khund's arrive, everyone is free. This time the Legionnaires help each other use their new powers. Bouncing Boy tells Lightning Lad that when he gets a gassy, expanding feeling to hold it like, well, we all have at times. Lightning Lad tells him to do the exact opposite...when he feels a charge, just let it out.

Superman has read the mind of Gyr, the Khund leader, and knows that if they succeeds in defeating the Legion, the Khunds plan to attack Earth. Phantom Girl is learning to enjoy Timber Wolf's power but he is having a harder time controlling hers. The battle abruptly ends when Brainiac 5 releases a strain of Tiburian Ptomaine into the ship's ventilation duck, giving the Khunds a powerful stomach flu.

After returning to their own ship, the team offers membership to Infectious Lass. She thinks she almost got the team killed, but Superman reassures her that switching their powers was the only way they could have beaten the Khunds. She declines, explaining that she should probably wait until she is better at controlling her abilities. But she does offer to serve as a substitute Legionnaire in the meantime. Superman asks when they will all be back to normal and she says the virus gestates within 48 hours. Although, with a sly look at Lightning Lad, she warns that it could be longer for victims of greater weight and mass.

This is one of my favorite issues of this series. The opening scene of Invulnera-Boy being rejected because he cannot control his powers was a great introduction to the concept of Legion try-outs.

It was fun to see the recruitment process and the cameo by Legion of Substitute Heroes! Polar Boy, Stone Boy, etc...Sanford Greene did a great job portraying all of them in the animated style. And the brief run-through of why each of them was not ready for membership was amusing. I am not the biggest fan of the Substitutes being treated as a joke in comics, but for an animated series adaptation it works well.

This was a great design for Infectious Lass. And she was very endearing. She is given the opportunity to convey a range of emotions throughout this fast-paced story, from innocence, enthusiasm, strength, and guilt.

And the art. This was one of the strengths of this comic. Greene had to find a way to represent various pairs of Legionnaires switching powers and he succeeded with flying colors. The look for Brainiac 5 and Infectious Lass was a particular favorite, followed by Lightning Lad and Bouncing Boy. Seeing Bouncing Boy as a lean, cockier hero, and Lightning Lad struggling in his new form was great fun.

There were a lot of humorous moments throughout the issue that I think both young and old readers would enjoy. The story lends itself to that. But personally, my favorite moment was when they worked together to help each other master their powers at the end. Yes, it was corny and there was a fart joke...but putting that aside, it was a great teamwork moment.

Overall, a really fun issue and one of the issues of this series I would most recommend for Legion comic fans who either never saw the animated series or who were not necessarily fans of it.

Animated Series Notes
Elsewhere on this website, Glenn Walker covered episode 9 of the first season of the animated series, which featured many of the same characters, including Infectious Lass.

This comic is difficult to fit in continuity-wise with that episode. The designs of the characters are very similar though, which makes me wonder if Greene based them on concept art for the series.

Special Bonus
As a special feature, I have to thank fellow Legion Blogger Jude Deluca for passing this sketch along from Sanford Greene based on Lightning Lad from this episode. A great sketch by a great artist!

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