Monday, February 11, 2019

Action Comics #861

Action Comics #861
Title: Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes Part 4 of 6 - Chameleons
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editors: Nachie Castro and Matt Idelson
Executive Editor: Dan Didio
Reviewer: Jude Deluca aka Sarcasm Kid

PREVIOUSLY: The Legionnaires rescued Polar Boy and discovered Brainiac 5 is on his home planet of Colu. Superman meets up with several Legionnaires underneath Metropolis, then are ambushed by the Justice League of Earth. Forced to retreat, Superman, Dawnstar, Wildfire, Colossal Boy, and Polar Boy crash-land on Colu, where they discover Brainiac 5 is now in total control and plans to have them terminated!

There isn’t a lot of action in this issue (despite the title), as we mainly learn about what Brainy has been going through on his home planet. Secrets and motivations of the individual Justice Leaguers are brought to light. We also learn there’s another Silver Age Legion Reject within the League’s ranks, and the status of two more Legionnaires gets revealed in the process.

The issue does have a number of references to "The Lightning Saga," the story that ran in Justice League of America and Justice Society of America establishing this Legion's return. For those who don't recall, a group of seven Legionnaires (Star Boy, Karate Kid, Dream Girl, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Dawnstar, and Sensor Girl) were sent to 21st Century Earth to invoke an experiment involving lightning rods similar to the ones used to revive Lightning Lad. We never found out what the Legionnaires were specifically trying to do, but as a side effect they inadvertently brought Wally West and his family back to the main DCU. At the end of the story, Star Boy and Karate Kid did not return to the future. 

The issue opens with a brief look at contemporary life on Braal, Titan, and Winath, the homeworlds of the Legion founders. All three worlds are in agreement, alongside the rest of the United Planets, that Earth's xenophobic regime has to be stopped and are prepared to go to war. Everyone's waiting on Colu to finalize the strike plans before it begins.

On Colu, Brainiac 5 has Superman and the other Legionnaires (Dawnstar, Polar Boy, Colossal Boy, and Wildfire) captured. Brainy, Colu’s acting dictator, plans to terminate them stating there’s no hope for the universe OR the Legion. Clark believes the Coluans have, um, brainwashed Brainy. Brainy insists he’s acting of his own free will, claiming his people got him to realize humans are nothing but loud, volatile, STUPID creatures.

Clark says Brainy came up with a plan to fix all of this, and Brainy starts channeling the Fonz as he tries to admit he was wrong.

(SPOILER ALERT: Next issue Lightning Lad jumps over the Super Moby Dick of Space on a pair of Space Skis)

Wielding the miniature lightning rod last seen in “The Lightning Saga,” Brainy silences Clark. He reveals they will end strife in the universe by destroying Earth. Brainy orders his robotic servants to depart so he can finish off his former teammates…

And asks why the Legionnaires took so long to come get him. I will NOT be posting the page showing Brainy’s expression of relief because Gary Frank’s artwork goes STRAIGHT into the uncanny valley and it creeps me out.

Clark is relieved and the other Legionnaires begin to wake up. Brainy explains he’s playing dumb much like fellow Legionnaire Dream Girl often does. All this time, Brainy set himself up as Colu’s dictator to circumvent the U.P.'s war plans. After learning of said plans from Cosmic Boy, Brainy deduced the solution was to throw a figurative monkey wrench in the works and stall. He also adds he’s a pretty good dictator. Wildfire's not surprised.

Although it looks like Clark is gonna need some energy boosting, Brainy reveals Colu’s sun recently turned red....just like Earth’s sun and 75% of the suns connected to U.P. worlds. Someone’s clearly doing it on purpose. Brainy tried to warn Clark about Earth's sun going red in the message he sent with that Time Sphere back in Action #858. Unfortunately, the damages the Sphere sustained brought Clark months beyond his intended arrival point. At the very least, Brainy thinks that Clark’s arrival has improved their chances of winning…

And Brainy also mentions that a Legionnaire has successfully infiltrated the JLE's lair. 

In the Human Cultural Center, the JLE are showing off the Legionnaires (Timber Wolf, Night Girl, Shadow Lass, and Lightning Lass) captured last issue to all the human kids attending the “Earth History” classes. It’s genuinely disturbing how the kids flock around the League, looking delighted at the captured Legionnaires and shouting “LONG LIVE HUMANS!” Before the kids depart, their teacher (Miss Niwtyn) adds they’ll soon learn about Superman’s human friends like Batman and Flash, and will discuss the very first alien invader: the Martian Manhunter.

Once the kids are gone, the League gets to business. Storm Boy’s pissed he didn’t finish off Clark and Golden Boy doesn’t want to follow the Legionnaires to Colu. Earth-Man announces they’ll anonymously tip off the Coluans that Brainy is still on the Legion’s side. As Miss Niwtyn adds the Coluans will likely murder the Legionnaires, we learn she’s ALSO an old Legion reject too.

 Eyeful Ethel seems alarmed for a moment, having apparently seen... something behind her. But it seems it was nothing. (HUH?)

Kirt declares they’ll enact the next part of their scheme: murdering every alien citizen still on Earth. Once the League is out of the hallway, one of the decorative plants sprouts a face before shapeshifting into one of the kids who supposedly left.

Is this Chameleon Boy in disguise?

The supposed kid makes her way through the HQ, at which point we get a glimpse into the everyday lives of some of the Leaguers.

Golden Boy's trying to relax in his luxurious apartment, complete with a loyal staff of servants and a huge self portrait that perfectly captures what an egotistical asshole he is. Klint is being harangued by one of his deadbeat mother’s usual entourage of lawyers and creditors hoping to squeeze more money out of his abilities. Klint decides to oblige his mother’s wish, turning the lawyer into a solid gold statue to be delivered to his darling mater for her monetary needs.

Storm Boy's seething at his ineptitude and starts ripping his shirt off. He’s surrounded by a gaggle of surgeons and demands they get to work on him. Again. Myke wants them to update the weather generating machines inside his chest, ordering for something powerful enough to kill Superman. The head surgeon pleads Myke has gone under the scalpel SEVENTY FIVE TIMES, and they’d need to remove his heart at this point in order to make room for more circuitry.

Myke screams he doesn’t care if they remove his BRAIN and wants this operation done now. The surgeons strap him down, reminding Myke they can’t use knock out gas since it might damage his machines. Myke begins to quietly sob about how the Legionnaires rejected him all those years ago, and what rejection has done to him now.

Bitch. Bitch. BITCH.

Spider Girl and Radiation Roy are reflecting on their past with the Legion of Super-Villains. Sussa declares this is a definite improvement over the time spent with Saturn Queen and the others since they have the adoration of millions AND the Legionnaires are being hunted like dogs. Roy gets a bit too grabby for Sussa’s taste, and she reminds him the only guy she’s sleeping with these days is Earth-Man. Roy opens his helmet and asks for what is essentially pity sex. Sussa lets him down gently.

I'll level with you. Sussa might've become a fascist Neo Nazi, but her troll face cracks me up every time.

Earth-Man is basking in the power he’s leeched off the contained Legionnaires, practically having an orgasm as he revels in becoming their supposed better.

Marching into a dressing room, past what appears to be the crystal tablet said to contain the “Truth” about Superman, Kirt dons a cape with the Earth’s symbol. He proposes taking the JLE’s Reich out into space once they exterminate the aliens on Earth. Upon receiving a telepathic message from Sussa, Kirt departs.

Figuring that they’re safe, the shape-shifting Legionnaire inspects her captured teammates and looks horrified. Venturing into an adjoining room, the Legionnaire discovers what happened to Sun Boy.

The Legionnaire reports this is exactly as Brainy predicted; the JLE captured Sun Boy and plugged him into some type of generator to alter the wavelengths of Earth’s sun and turn it red. Before the Legionnaire can free Dirk, she gets captured by Kirt. Kirt knew this intruder was sneaking around thanks to Saturn Girl’s telepathy, and forces her to reveal her real identity.

It’s not Chameleon Boy.

On Colu, Colossal Boy is outraged Brainy sent his wife, Yera, to infiltrate the JLE. Brainy states Yera volunteered and the other Legionnaires try to calm Gim down. Except Wildfire. Brainy accuses Drake of piggybacking on someone else’s opinion, but Drake doesn’t care. He refers back to “The Lightning Saga” and how Brainy sent Legionnaires back in time for some experiment with that lightning rod. Drake adds in the process they lost Star Boy AND the recently resurrected Karate Kid. Not only that, they still have no idea WHY Brainy needed that lightning rod in the first place.

Clark steps in to play peacemaker once again. He argues everyone is counting on them and trusts Brainy’s plan (confusing though they tend to be). Dawnstar agrees, adding her power to sense and discover pathways indicates all hopes of winning rest on Brainy. Brainy tries to be sympathetic to Gim and adds he never would’ve sent Yera on a mission if he didn’t believe she couldn't handle herself. Gim relents, and gives Brainy a flight ring.

As the Legionnaires prepare to leave Colu, Brainy says he has to stay with his people for the time being. Polar Boy is fawning over how awesomely Clark handled the situation, causing Drake to refer to him as a Sub.

The good mood is immediately spoiled when a group of Coluans burst into the lab, declaring that Brainy is a traitor and must be eliminated. Thrown for a loop, Brainy doesn’t know how his cover got blown. With no other options, the Legionnaires are forced to retreat inside Brainy’s rocket to get back to Earth. Brainy says they have to hurry, because if he’s not holding the U.P. back, he estimates the universe will go to war in about four hours.


We get a bunch more nods to Legion continuity in this issue:

Brainy refers to Dream Girl playing dumb in her relationship to Star Boy before musing on the stupid things people doing for love. Completely ignoring the stuff HE did for Supergirl.

Miss Niwtyn, the teacher at the Human Cultural Center, is none other than Ethel Lynn Niwtyn, a.k.a. Eyeful Ethel.

This is the first time we’ve ever seen Ethel truly implement her ability to grow extra eyes. In all her other appearances, said extra eyes were permanently fixed around her head. It also looks like she’s still in a relationship with fellow reject Tusker and she has had a LOT of work done.

As a bonus, here's a con sketch of Ethel I snagged from Jeff Lemire at New York Comic Con many years ago. Did I give him the inspiration to create "The Quantum Age?" Who can say...?

Spider Girl refers back to being in the Legion of Super-Villains with Radiation Roy. The two were semi-mainstays back in the Pre-Crisis stories, and she has a point. Sussa and Roy were nothing more than background characters at best whenever they were in the LSV. However, she refers to Saturn Queen being a member when, to my knowledge, Sussa and Roy were never on the team at the same time alongside Eve Aries.

It bothers me that, somehow, Roy’s powers have taken a greater toll on his body to the point he’s losing teeth and growing tumors. Yet his hair grew back despite previously being totally bald. Is it a wig or something?

But the biggest point this issue makes is the inclusion of Colossal Boy’s wife as an official Legionnaire. As Chameleon Girl, Yera’s filling in the spot for the Legion’s shape-shifter since Chameleon Boy is absent. And, like Radiation Roy, Yera’s now sporting hair despite originally being bald. I’m still not ready to discuss why Yera’s presence bothers me so much and would like to save that for a separate article.

During the opening page, the military personnel on Braal and Winath are wearing uniforms containing the symbols for Cosmic Boy and the Ranzz twins. I really hope this was for the sake of solidarity with the Legionnaires since, I don’t know, it bothers me to think Rokk’s costume is standard garb on Braal. It’s perplexing in the case of the Winathian military, since Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass’s abilities are NOT unique to their people.

All in all, there really isn’t much for me to say about this specific issue. It feels like the spotlight on the JLE is mainly there to pad the Legionnaires reconvening with Brainy. I’m more excited for the next issue, which is my favorite part of this arc besides the epilogue in Action #864.

1 comment:

  1. I wish Spider-Girl had been a plant in the JLE, and had gained Legion membership at the end. I loved her character growth in 5YL. And I agree: poor Roy - a ghastly fate for anyone (one's body turning against itself). And drawn a bit too gruesomely.