Thursday, December 13, 2018

Reboot: Legion of Super-Heroes #114

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #114 (April 1999)
title: "Imperfect Strangers"
writers: Tom McCraw and Tom Peyer
penciller: Scott Kolins
inker: Ray Kryssing
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Frank Berrios
editor: Mike McAvennie
cover: Alan Davis and Mark Farmer
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Ferro, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, Live Wire; in flashback: Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl

Guests: 
Biz-Koko, Marla Latham, R.J. Brande, Superman (flashback)

Opponents: 
Biz-Brainy, Biz-Ferro, Biz-Karate Kid, Biz-Kinetix, Biz-Leviathan, Biz-Live Wire, Biz-M'Onel, Biz-Magno, Biz-Spark, Biz-Triad, Bizarro (flashback)

Recap: 
Ferro, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, and Live Wire return from a mission to find the Legion Outpost changed to a crazy, silly structure. Maybe it has to do with Brainiac 5.1's strange experiments...

Synopsis: 
The unaffected Legionnaires enter the "Legion Inpost" and are horrified by the mess they find. After some bickering, they finally set Ferro the task of licking the "Sekurity Tungskanner" so they can proceed further. But they are met by the Bizarro Legion, their teammates transformed into pale white, indestructible, completely silly and stupid versions of themselves who consider the four of them introoders.
Battle is joined, and Biz-Spark blows off Live Wire's robot arm. The rest are soon captured and forced to take part in a demented welcome back party. Ferro lays out what he knows of the Bizarro of his own time, and a helpful Biz-Koko gives Invisible Kid (or as the Bizarros refer to him, Visible Kid) Omnicoms that explain Brainy's experiment. The Legionnaires get a chance to break free when Biz-Leviathan grows so big she tears a hole through the Inpost, but her big face plugs the hole. At the notion of an emergency, the reverse heroes run away in a Bizarro Cruiser.
Left alone, Invisible Kid tries to contact Earth, but the message just bounces back at him. The others are captured by Biz-Magno however, who still has his powers and stayed behind. He turns the Bizarro Ray on them with predictable results.
Meanwhile, Invisible Kid tries to reverse engineer the Bizarro Ray and sends the light through on a communication with the cruiser. But it doesn't work. Instead, it reinforces the ray's effects, and instead of lapsing after 24 hours, it will completely overwrite the Legionnaires' DNA. He tries to reason with them (mistake) and tells them of the Legion's origin as heroes, how they formed after saving R.J. Brande from assassination. Instead of getting through to his friends, he gives them the perfect Bizarro idea: They must head to Mars to Brande's presidential estate and assassinate him!
Commentary: 
Shotgun
I think there’s nothing I don’t hate about this story. The way they speak, Invisible Kid trusting a monkey to save everyone when he’s supposedly the smartest Legionnaire after Brainiac, but what I hate the most is the Bizarros' looks. In fact, I find their look almost offensive. Why did a twisted version of the Legion have to look like punks? Why do we always associate the punk look to problematic behaviors? Having piercings, tattoos and spiked hair shouldn’t be a synonym of less educated and/or twisted minds. I guess it affects me a little more considering the different looks I've adopted in my life. Plus, I’ve interacted with so many “punks” and the ones I know are very smart and real sweethearts. It just rubs me the wrong way that the appearance of the Bizarros relay this common stereotype.
There’s not a lot to be said about the story on my part. As mentioned above, I can’t understand why Invisible Kid would’ve trusted Koko – I mean Okok – to fix his teammates just like that. Sure, the monkey seems more helpful in his Bizarro form, but isn’t it pushing your luck? There’s no way the Legionnaires are going to stay this way; that’d be the end for me if that were the case because nope... just nope! I guess even though Lyle has been captured, he might not be turned quite yet and he might be able to fix all this before they do something irreparable.
Side note: The more you know... Dominos Pizza still exists in the 30th Century!! Now I want pizza...
Siskoid
I'll agree on a couple points. One, Invisible Kid absolutely makes stupid decisions, not just in trusting Koko, but making things worse across the board. He sort of gets into the same mindset readers do when trying to figure out just how Bizarros are "opposite" (trust the monkey cuz you never would). The fact of the matter is, it DOESN'T make sense, and indeed, the plot here is bonkers, sure, but also doesn't really respect its own internal logic (the ray didn't work on the Legionnaires over screens in the previous issue, so why should it make things worse here?). Two, the look IS ugly, but that's not what bothers me (and you can play the opposite game with it, the Legionnaires are so straight-laced, they get turned into punky kids; being stupid is just another opposite effect, because they are smart). What bothers me is that there are just too many visual jokes spread through the issue and it makes the art messy. So messy you miss half the stuff, or it's just not very clear until you give it a second, third or fourth look. Is Triad turning a whole door instead of the knob, in one panel? Can't be sure. And you'd certainly be forgiven for missing the flight earrings and flight nose rings, clever an idea as that is.
But despite some important flaws, I thought it was a hoot. I'm a fan of the old Tales of Bizarro World (taken in small doses), and loved a lot of the jokes here. The Bizaroll Call. The Star Trek references. The Tonguescanner bit. Triad as Arm-Fall-Off Lass. Ferro a as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. And the final, misunderstood lesson. Just fun stuff. But like I said. With Bizarros, a lot goes a long way, so stretching this to ANOTHER issue may be asking too much. Then again, how DOES this get fixed? It's a damn good cliffhanger when you think about it.
Science Police Notes:  
  • All-inclusive Legion numbering: 1999/8.
  • Among the bric-a-brac in the Legion Inpost, we find such 20th-Century items as a Rubik's Cube, a Wonder Woman comic, a Dominos' pizza box, "Sunshine on a Stick", Twister, and a lot of low-tech besides, perhaps because the Bizarro data came from 20th-Century LexCorp. Further, Mjolnir's handle peeks out of side of page 8.
  • The credits page has both a Roll Call for the Legion and a Bizaroll Call for the Bizarro Legion.
  • What Brainiac 5.1 appears to have invented is the Bizarro Ray from the Silver Age, with one difference. The original created a Bizarro duplicate of anything it was directed at; this one transforms things into their Bizarro equivalent. Certainly, there's little in this effect that recalls the post-Crisis Bizarro process Brainy stole from Luthor.
  • Biz-M'Onel's cape clasps are smiley faces, one of them specifically the Watchmen button.
  • The female Biz-Legionnaires have flight earrings, and the male members have flight nose rings.
  • Some reverse powers include Biz-Triad splitting into three chunks as opposed to selves, Biz-Brainy being the stupidest one, and Biz-Magno still having magnetic powers. Later, Biz-Karate Kid will look more like a sumo wrestler, and the rookie Ferro will be hailed as leader.
  • Biz-Koko doesn't look or act different, but instead of "Koko", he keeps saying "Okok".
  • Another Silver Age reference: The Planetary Chance Machine which was used to elect a Legion leader on page 15, a design reused in the Reboot as the United Planets Globe (which is in fact in the deep background on page 21. The Bizarro Legion Cruiser is based on Legion cruisers of the 1970s, themselves based on Star Trek ships.
  • While on the cruiser, Triad sits in the captain's chair and adopts Captain Janeway' hairstyle from contemporary seasons of Star Trek: Voyager. Kinetix wears a VISOR like Geordi on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The Bizarro Legion seems to believe its origin is the same as Superman's, potentially a reference to the original Bizarro being an imperfect copy of Superman.

2 comments:

  1. The low point of the reboot Legion,no question.At this point,the creators must've learned they were being taken off the books and did this story as a protest.The Legionnaires getting poor Ferro to lick that button to gain entrance was a nadir of nastiness of their part.

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  2. I'm with Shotgun on this. Most of this just doesn't work. It doesn't respect the history of the Reboot team, and it goes on too long. Characterization is wonky. Live Wire is supposed to be hotheaded, but here he's just a jerk -- Invisible Kid too. And there's a mean burn that the Bizarros call Bizarro-Ferro the "smartest" Legionnaire -- I've never read him as dumb -- naive and idealistic, and certainly unfamiliar with the time period -- but they imply that he's an idiot and/or that the Legion thinks he is (like in that prior issue with Triad and the metal-eating bugs). It's not a good look. At least Karate Kid comes across as a relatively decent person.

    Anonymous above has a reasonable theory about this being a protest story. Knowing what's coming with the Legion of the Damned storyline and the hard shift into a dark tone, you can almost read this is as a "you want to change the Legion into something it isn't? Well, here you go" response to that.

    Okay, ending on a positive note. There are a few bits here that amuse me, like the ULTIMATE PENALTY turning out to be a welcome party. And Page 18 always makes me laugh (I think it's the panel of the bizarros staring dumbounded at the screen followed by Bizarro-M'onel's reaction of smashing the communications console in rage: "us hang up on you now! Hello!").

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