Thursday, February 28, 2019

Reboot: Legion of Super-Heroes #119

Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #119 (September 1999)
title: "Eat the Poor"
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: Phil Jimenez
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Apparition/Phase, Brainiac 5.1, Karate Kid, Live Wire, M'Onel/Valor, Triad, Ultra Boy

Captain Comet, Gear, Koko, Lobo (cameo), Stealth, Strata (cameo), Vril Dox; game avatars (not true appearances): Batman, Deadman, Demon, Doctor Fate, Enchanteress, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Phantom Stranger, Sentinel, Spectre, Superman, Wonder Woman; cover only: Garryn Bek, Lady Quark, Lyrissa Mallor

Bishop Lokke, Bishop Lode, demons (game avatars), Emerald Eye of Ekron (cover only)

The Legion has recently shut down the illegal Blackstar Prison where young superhumanoids were used as slave labor. Instrumental to that mission was a young technopath called Gear...

Prefiguring the Day of Judgment event that's about to hit the 20th Century, the Legionnaires are playing a video game version of the event. Ultra Boy is wiping the floor with Live Wire, who thinks the controls are slugging and the game rigged. Triad's about to have the same complaints as she takes her turn.
But Jo is also worried that his wife Apparition and M'Onel have been spending time together reminiscing about one of her Carggite selves' time with M'Onel back when he was Valor and she was Phase. Brainiac 5.1 walks in with Gear, giving him a tour of Outpost Allon. He prevents Gear from checking and fixing the game system, icily dismissing his colleagues' idea of fun. Gear sits down with M'Onel and Apparition and they propose to tell him about Brainy's ancestor, Vril Dox, from the days when they were in L.E.G.I.O.N. It's a story that takes them to Poraxius, the world of the First Church of Money. Dox wanted to use the planet as a bank and hoped to negotiate a high interest rate. The rest of the team, including Stealth and Captain Comet were introduced as "menials", all but Comet being sent to shop in the market place. But when they discover their tablets are empty of credits, they are arrested for the planet's ultimate crime: Poverty!
Meanwhile, Dox is bargaining with Bishops Lokke and Lode, impressing them with the billions he wants to impress, but angering them over his terms. Lunch is served, but Dox quietly tells Comet not to eat. We soon find out why. In their cell, Stealth is sprayed with tenderizer and butchers walk in. It appears the penalty for poverty is to be eaten by the rich. Valor breaks the team out along with all the poor souls currently in captivity. The commotion takes one of the Bishops out of the room so he can deal with it, but Valor, Phase and Stealth soon bust into the negotiation chamber where Comet is especially shocked to discover that not only are these people cannibals, but that Dox knew and didn't mind doing business with them anyway. Indeed, he set up the L.E.G.I.O.N.aires to create a diversion that would take the toughest negotiator off the table so he could get a better deal.
Gear decides Brainy isn't that bad in retrospect, and Jo joins the group to continue the tour, explaining that he used superspeed to beat the game because the controls were indeed abnormally slow. That night, Brainiac 5.1 sneaks into the gaming area and upgrades the game's control speed before sitting down to play, snickering at how he sabotaged his team mates.
Wait... I don’t recall anything being said about Apparition and M’Onel... Well, I mean technically it’s Phase and Valor but still. I got to say it was quite nice to get back to Apparition’s other self and to discuss the one that’s still missing. And am I glad to see Gear back in one piece and getting accustomed to the gang! I just don’t see why Brainy is interfering with the game. Especially since it looks like Jo has no part in it whatsoever (why would he have told Apparition and the others his trick if he was in on it?). Maybe it was just to feel “needed”. Or to be an annoyance to the rest of the group? Either way, it just goes to show that the gang is just a bunch of kids and that’s why, overall, this filler comic really pleased me.
The story itself isn’t that great. It’s a nice touch to revisit the past of our time-traveling members, but just so we can learn more about Brainy’s ancestor and compare, not so worth it. Plus, Gear speaks of arrogance, but really, what the story M’Onel told showed isn’t arrogance as much as selfishness. Vril Dox used them in order to gain the most out of his transaction with the Poriaxusians. I guess one can argue that it was arrogant of him to assume they would do exactly as he planned, but one could also say that it was recklessness that was truly shown when he took their money and put them in harm's way. Either way, what needs to be taken away from that flashback is that while Brainy has many flaws, Vril was worse.
Back when this was published, the Day of Judgment stuff was a cute way to involve the Legion in a DC event (before the fact, since it would start a couple months later), but it's an odd opener read out of context. Four whole pages devoted to this is a bit much. And you're absolutely right that Brainy's motivation is far from clear. After reading it three or four times, I've decided that he wants to secure his high score, but it's not set up very well, given that the game is a 2-player versus through most of the issue, but he plays solo at the end. But this, as much as L.E.G.I.O.N. flashback, is filler.
I might not say that if it weren't for the fact that we really don't learn anything about Tinya and Lar's relationship in the story they tell. Valor has a good role, but Phase is just kind of there. Don't get me wrong, I'm always up for a Vril Dox story where he's manipulating everyone, but he's not one of the stars of this title. The focus should have been elsewhere. It may also be off-putting for readers that the other heroes don't really take the cannibalism that seriously (the writers either - tenderizer?!). Sure, Valor destroys that one kitchen and frees those paupers, but he and Tinya are chuckling about it as they tell the story. What it really needed was for Dox to force a legislative change in exchange for his business. But no. We're just left with a queasy feeling.
Also, points off to editorial for allowing the artists to give us such similar, but apparently different, aliens in back to back stories. The Poriaxusians look a heck of a lot like the blue cat people just seen in Legionnaires #75, though they are most probably blue otter people. I do like the whole Venetian canal look to their city, but it had me wondering through most of the issue if, in a thousand years, they'd become those other guys. And Lokke and Lode? Somebody should have said something.

Science Police Notes:  
  • All-inclusive Legion numbering: 1999/18.
  • The video game played by the Legionnaires is a crossover of sorts with Day of Judgment, a DC event that would be published this same year. Furthermore, the game may pay tribute to the Legion's regular holographic Dungeons & Dragons games in the Levitz era.
  • Valor and Captain Comet weren't members of L.E.G.I.O.N. together, as Comet joined in L.E.G.I.O.N.'90 #21 and Valor getting fired in L.E.G.I.O.N.'90 #19. We will have to assume Zero Hour tweaked Valor's history so that he stayed with L.E.G.I.O.N. a little longer. Anothet inconsistency (which might just be part of the telling) is that Lar Gand had not yet started calling himself "Valor". One theory is that this happens during Valor #4 when Valor goes to Dox for more anti-lead serum and ship repairs; he might have been roped into a special mission then, most likely occurring between L.E.G.I.O.N.'92 #39 and #40. It's not perfect (different hair cut, for example), but it might do.
  • It is unclear if Gear is now a member of the Legion. He may just be on the Outpost for repairs, as he does not reappear until The Legion #3 (about 18 months later), at which point he is.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, "Lokke and Lode" had: a) me thinking that Peter David had written this particular story, and b) my eyes hurting from rolling so hard the first time I read it when I bought it off the stands.