Mar 4, 2015

Spider-Gwen #1, Silk #1, and the Batgirl of Burnside

Spider-Gwen #1, Silk #1, and the Batgirl of Burnside
Ben Smith

“I think I’ve always been different. Maybe a little weird. Too smart.
Too driven. Even before the costume. I’ve always been Batgirl.
I’m still Batgirl.” -Secret Origins #10, by Cameron Stewart,
Brenden Fletcher, and Irene Koh.

I love female protagonists. Aliens, starring the immortal Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, was a staple of the Smith household growing up. Horror movies were big for kids of my generation too, and the female was always the last character standing in those. Princess Leia kicked much ass in the Star Wars movies, sometimes even in a metal bikini. Later on, the Matrix’s Trinity, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer would continue the trend of literal ass-kicking women in popular entertainment. Comic books themselves had Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel. Even during my teenage years, when I started to expand my musical tastes beyond the singular genre of hiphop music, some of my early favorite bands had female lead singers, like Shirley Manson from Garbage or Gwen Stefani from No Doubt, all the way up to now when Flyleaf and Evanescence are personal favorites.

But all that is a little bit of a false conclusion though. I don’t specifically like female protagonists, I like strong protagonists in general, no matter the color, gender, or species. The continual need to point out that there are some strong female heroes in comics of late only serves to highlight how badly comics needed, and still needs, to diversify their lineup. But just because it shouldn’t be significant, doesn’t mean it isn’t. From She-Hulk, to Black Widow, to Captain Marvel, to Ms Marvel, to Batwoman and more, female-led comics are exploding, and the books are really good too. I’m on record with my adoration for Batgirl, but recently two new contenders have arrived to challenge her throne. Silk, from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, and Spider-Gwen, from the Spider-Verse crossover event.

Spider-Gwen is one of the true phenomena in the history of comic books. She was introduced in the second issue (second, not even the first issue, the second) of an anthology title, and generated so much fan buzz that Marvel had no choice but to fast track a solo ongoing series. I’ve been trying to wrack my addled brain for any precedent for this in the history of comics, but I can’t come up with any. The Golden Age and Silver Age booms aren’t really comparable situations, since there were so many new characters being thrust into the waiting hands of readers, it’s difficult to pick one over another. Comic superheroes in general were the phenomenon, at both those times. Spider-Man debuted in an anthology title also, selling well enough to get his own book, but I can’t really say he was an outlier in a time when Thor, Iron Man, or the Avengers were all created. New Warriors, believe it or not, was a big thing in my neck of the woods for a little while back in the early ‘90s, but even that was planned, if I had to bet. X-23 had a big debut in the pages of NYX, worth a lot of money on the back issue market, but she didn’t immediately demand her own ongoing series. This might be the first time the internet willed a book into existence, through their enthusiasm, fan art, and cosplay pictures.

Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi picked up right where they left off in Edge of Spider-Verse #2. Spider-Gwen #1 was fun, engaging, and left me wanting more. I’m admittedly a caveman when it comes to things like coloring, but I can definitely tell that Renzi is bringing something special to the look of the book. Rodriguez continues to impress, and Latour is a writer right in line with my sense of humor. One of the things I’ve always hated about bad alternate universe stories is when everyone is just a kid of the heroes we all know, or it’s just a play on all the characters we all know and love, except now they’re evil. Spider-Gwen does a bit of that but it’s all done with such energy and skill that it doesn’t come off as rote. I’ve been in love with Gwen Stacy since I was 8 years old, but that’s not the reason I love this series, at least, not the only one. This Gwen is young and confident in her abilities, joking in the face of danger, but still insecure enough to spy on her old bandmates to see if they miss her. That sounds much more like Peter Parker than anyone else.

I didn’t care much for Silk right out of the gate. Introduced in conjunction with the Original Sins event, it was revealed that she was the second person bitten by the same radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker. I’ve never been one for playing around with, or altering, classic origin stories, so the character was going to have to win me over. I did like that whatever bond she shared with Peter Parker made them go at each other like dogs in heat, but I’m a guy so of course I would. I wasn’t that enamored with her spider webbing costume, and it was a little too close to her running around naked for my comfort level. (I love a well-drawn voluptuous female in comics, but it’s never been about sexualizing them, or wanting to see them drawn naked. I don’t like fan art that does either of those things.)

Silk #1, written by veteran Supernatural writer Robbie Thompson, was a welcome surprise. Supernatural is one of my all-time favorite shows, but I can’t even cite that as a factor, because I completely forgot that Thompson was a writer for the show until after I read the first issue. Stacy Lee has a similar style to Robbi Rodriguez, creating almost a house style for the Spider books (along with Javier Rodriguez taking over the Spider-Woman comic) which isn’t a bad thing.

 Thompson and Lee have set up a solid corner of the universe for Silk in this first issue, and I’m interested in finding out more about her missing family, and about who is watching that bunker. Plus, I’m a long-time Black Cat fan. Having her fight Spider-Man just seems wrong, but making her a foil for Silk is an intriguing prospect.

Last but not least, Batgirl continues to entertain on a monthly basis. Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr have given us a supremely capable Batgirl, that’s a bit of a mess in her personal life. She may be the greatest superhero alive when she’s in costume, but that doesn’t prevent her from saying the wrong things to her friends, or messing up her college thesis.

 The only thing that can beat Batgirl is Batgirl, so it’s pretty ingenious that they’ve had her accidentally create an algorithm based off her own brain patterns that is now causing her a lot of trouble. I can’t wait to read more of Batgirl up against digital Batgirl.

Look, I’m not much for reviews. I can’t break down the storytelling, art, or color choices the way some other people can. Mostly all I have to say is that I really liked the comics, and that Spider-Gwen and Batgirl come alphabetically before their male counterparts, so somehow that makes them better. Silk and Spider-Gwen were two of the strongest first issues I’ve read in a long time, and I felt like I had to say something about them. If nothing else, maybe you’ll pick them up when you otherwise weren’t planning to (if you can, they both sold out lickity quick).

Also, if you’re one of those fans that doesn’t like female leads, or feels like you have to pick one between Silk and Spider-Gwen, then you’re an idiot and missing out on some great comics.

Next time, things!

Mar 2, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes: Forgotten Juggernauts, Part 5

Legion of Super-Heroes – Forgotten Juggernauts
Part 5 – Deboot!
Ben Smith

The Legion of Super-Heroes is one of my favorite teams in all of comics. I’ve spent the past few weeks covering my personal introduction to the characters, which came in the pages of Mark Waid’s reboot of the franchise in 2005. With issue #16, that series was retitled Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes when Batgirl traveled to the future and joined the team (just testing you to see if you were paying attention, of course it was Supergirl that joined the team). The entire series is well worth seeking out for yourself. Tony Bedard would take over for Waid starting with #31, and Jim Shooter would return to the book that started his career as a teenager with issue #37 (spoiler alert, it was not very good, despite Francis Manapul art). The book would come to an end thirteen issues later.

The “Lightning Saga” storyline in Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America run included versions of Legionnaires that seemed very similar to the original continuity version of the team. That same iteration of the Legion next appeared in the pages of Action Comics battling against a character named Earth-Man (It is probably the best story that has ever had Superman in it).

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds would attempt to clear up all of this confusion (while also being the best thing about that terrible crossover). It would feature the post-Infinite Crisis version of the Legion that had been appearing recently, teaming up with the Zero Hour version, and the “Threeboot” version. Long story short, the Zero Hour team was revealed to be from an Earth destroyed in Infinite Crisis, while the Threeboot team is from the future of Earth-Prime, the home of Superboy-Prime, who was causing them all types of problems in this miniseries. (It’s well worth checking out for the George Perez art alone, and the returns of Kid Flash and Superboy, but it’s a little too complicated for me to cover in full just yet. Maybe later.)

The Legion would then make some appearances in Adventure Comics starting in 2009, as part of the Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton story (which I will never, ever read.) The short anthology style stories did have some great Brainiac 5 character moments, courtesy of Sterling Gates and Travis Moore. Here he is confronting his father over the legacy of his name.

Here’s a quick rundown on the history of that Brainiac legacy.

I would later come to love Vril Dox, Brainiac 2, almost as much. Read R.E.B.E.L.S.
Also, click for a larger view.

And here’s Superboy spazzing out after getting kissed by a girl.

So lame!

Which finally brings us to May of 2010. Legendary Legion writer Paul Levitz, having recently stepped down as publisher of DC, returned to the series that started his career. It would quite possibly be the greatest Legion of Super-Heroes series ever created. (The Great Darkness Saga probably has it beat, but we’ll get to that.)

Let us begin.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Writer: Paul Levitz; Penciler: Yildiray Cinar; Inker: Wayne Faucher; Editor: Brian Cunningham

Earth-Man, having successfully seceded the planet Earth from the United Planets during his xenophobic campaign is in captivity having his powers drained by a machine (he has the ability to tap into the power of anyone nearby, mimicking their powers). The two officers watching over him debate the merits of his anti-alien stance (establishing that not everyone considered him to be wrong). Meanwhile, Saturn Girl returns to her home planet of Titan, and visits with a former mentor.

Ultra Boy and Cosmic Boy storm into Science Police Headquarters, mad with rage over the conditions Earthgov just made for the Legionnaires to continue operating on Earth, along with the planet rejoining the United Planets. The Legion will be required to take on a new member, and the Science Police will share the Time Institute and its knowledge with outer worlds.

I love the little caption boxes the series uses to introduce each character, to include their real name, home planet, and power set. I’m not sure if the Legion books invented that method, but it’s an easy and non-intrusive way to identify all the characters for newer readers, something that is very useful for a series with as big a cast as the Legion. Roll calls in the title pages work too, but that adds an extra element of flipping back and forth that the caption boxes take care of much more elegantly. I’ve seen other books with larger casts adopt this method in recent years as well. In any case, it’s much better than needless introductory exposition dialogue.

At the time institute, Professor Harmonia Li and some other scientists put the final touches on their central viewing station, which will allow them to safely monitor any event in history.

Back on Titan, Saturn Girl spends some time in her former living quarters, a private place for telepaths, and tries to make sense of the anger she feels for Lightning Lad leaving her and their two children on a quest to find his brother’s twin, who may or may not exist (Lightning Lad’s people are almost always born as twins, except his brother, who was one of the rare single births, which helped lead him to a life of villainy).

(I loved Waid’s reboot versions of the characters, but having learned a lot more about the Legion since reading that series, I do love the return to the classic versions of the characters. I like that Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad are married with children. I like a lot of the original romantic pairings of the characters, because yes, I care about such things.)

At Legion Headquarters, Brainiac 5 is throwing a fit over the news that Earth-Man will be joining the team, as part of Earthgov’s deal with the team and the United Planets. Brainy decides that if they have to give him a flight ring, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an ordinary one.

Levitz appropriated Waid’s take on perpetually annoyed Brainy here, and I love it.

Returning the Time Institute, the scientists make the ultimate in bad choices by deciding to witness the birth of the universe.

Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, and Cosmic Boy meet with Earth-Man, to explain to him the conditions of the deal and his membership. Either he accepts his special ring, which Brainy has created with some “extra security features,” and his membership on the team, or he stays in prison.

Back at the Time Institute, the scientists witness the dawn of time, and of course it all goes wrong.

On the Planet Oa, the last living Green Lantern, Sodam Yat witnesses the event, and it triggers a long dormant command from the Guardians for violation of their primary commandment.

On Titan, incidentally the location of the Time Institute, Saturn Girl leaves her quarters to the sound of alarms. The energy released from the Time Institute has ripped through the Worldshield, destroying the life support system that keeps the planet habitable. Saturn Girl helps as many people as she can as chaos breaks out all around, on her way to get her children.

On Oa, a creature named Dyogene emerges from the ground of the planet and flies off. Meanwhile, Dawnstar and Ultra Boy arrive at Titan to help with evacuation efforts.

Saturn Girl returns to where she left her children, just in time for them to disappear in bursts of energy. Earth-Man contemplates accepting the Legion ring, when Dyogene comes bursting through the wall. Saturn Girl flies to the Time Institute, believing that her sons disappeared in a time-transport beam. When she arrives, she finds everyone dead, except Harmonia Li.

The rest of the Legion has arrived on Titan, working to rescue people for evacuation. However, Brainy is more concerned with the time spheres, and other equipment, maintained at the Time Institute.

He arrives just in time to see Saturn Girl take one of those remaining time spheres, off to find her children.

The Legion load up the last remaining evacuees they can, and speed away from Titan as fast as possible before it explodes. As her time sphere fades into the time stream, Saturn Girl hears the cry of every person that didn’t survive, screaming in her mind.

Dyogene attempts to complete his mission from Oa, presenting Earth-Man with a green lantern ring as the chosen representative of Sector 2814.

This was back when the Green Lantern books were still at the peak of their popularity, and it was pretty smart of Levitz to try and appropriate some of that popularity for the newest Legion of Super-Heroes series. Something that would have been unthinkable in the ‘80s, when Legion was one of the few DC books that was a strong seller, while Hal Jordan was sleeping with 14-year-olds. Speaking of Levitz, he may or may not be anyone’s favorite writer, but you can’t deny he knows how to craft an entertaining superhero comic book story. I love it when the more “seasoned” comic book writers are able to adapt and apply some of their old school sensibilities to modern types of stories. He incorporates Earth-Man from the well-received Action Comics storyline from recent years, destroys Titan, adds in the Green Lantern aspects, and uses a very Waid-like Brainiac 5. All while making it feel like classic Legion. Yildiray Cinar does an excellent job on penciling duties. I remember getting into an argument with someone about the merits of him as an artist, because they had only seen his admittedly subpar work on the New 52 Firestorm series. I have to assume that was a rush job, or maybe he just wasn’t at his best, because I loved his work on this series

Well, I think I’ve set a new personal record and only covered one single issue this week. Things should move a little faster next week without all the necessary introductions and clarifications. The first issue set up a lot of compelling situations, and you don’t want to miss where those all lead.

The journey continues, next week.

Feb 26, 2015

Escher In Comics: Gabriel Rodriguez's Tessellated Tower

The Tessellated Tower

The recent Little Nemo in Slumberland series, by Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez, has been a fun revival of Winsor McCay's legendary early 20th century newspaper strip. Roaming about in Slumberland, the land of dreams, a new kid named Nemo goes on fantastical adventures across impossible landscapes and places where no rules of physics apply.

One of the places this new Nemo visits is The Tessellated Tower.

That's straight out of MC Escher architecture, such as in his piece, Waterfall.

So that goes in the Escher in Comics catalog. Feel free to send me more at!

Feb 23, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes: Forgotten Juggernauts, Part 4

Legion of Super-Heroes – Forgotten Juggernauts
Part 4 – Victory
Ben Smith

I love the Legion of Super-Heroes. I decided to share that love, as I have been known to do, by detailing the various plot points of some of my favorite comics, while offering my often pointless, but sometimes insightful, commentary. But one cannot get the full spectrum of enjoyment offered by a comic from a simple rundown of the most pertinent events. No, one must purchase and read comics for oneself, to appreciate the full experience that comes with reading good comics. (Except for Waid’s work for DC comics, he says steal them all, he doesn’t care.)

Last time Dream Girl died and the Legion was totally screwed, let’s find out how it ends.

Legion of Super-Heroes #11
Writer: Mark Waid; Penciler: Barry Kitson; Inker: Mick Gray; Editors: Harvey Richards, Stephen Wacker

Cosmic Boy and Sun Boy both try to communicate with each other on their separate worlds, to no success. Back on Earth, Invisible Kid and Brainiac 5 stand over the lifeless body of Dream Girl, in the wreckage of Legion headquarters. Brainy pulls the force-field generator from his belt and puts it on Dream Girl, creating a force-field around her body.

Invisible Kid tries to convince Brainy to help him stop Elysion from tearing the city apart, but Brainy, clearly in shock at the death of Dream Girl, intends to figure out a way to outthink death itself.

Invisible Kid gathers what Legion supporters are around, to see if they can do anything to stop Elysion.

On Dormir, the communications hub of the universe, Cosmic Boy and his team ironically continue to try and fail to contact the others. Beams of energy streak all around them, and purely by accident, Cosmic Boy discovers they are actually native sentient lifeforms of random data. He lets one pass through him, and it leads him to the dominant lifeform on the planet, a being of pure concept.

The being is hostile towards the Legionnaires, lashing out at Light Lass, but Cosmic Boy stops them before they can respond. They can’t risk damaging any of the equipment in the room, since it is the heart of the Public Service network.

On Ttrxl, source of the transmatter gates, Lightning Lad leads his team carefully through the chaos of the world also known as the Fifth Dimension, in an effort to locate the machines that keep the teleportational transmatters open. They are trying to regain their bearings, when a being by the name of Agent Skelter appears out of nowhere and attacks them. Skelter can manipulate the Fifth Dimension to appear out of anywhere, and the world is playing havoc with the Legionnaires powers, switching them from person to person at random.

Sun Boy uses Shadow Lass’s shadow powers to give them a chance to escape, but Saturn Girl is left behind. Imra is in a state of shock over the loss of her telepathic powers, and the other Legionnaires have just now realized that she’s mute.

Back on Dormir, Cosmic Boy keeps the team from destroying the Public Service. After all, they’re there to convince Dormir to stay allied with the United Planets. He debates with the concept, warning it about Lemnos and what he did to the Coluans, something he could surely do to Dormir.

The concept concedes and agrees to keep communications open for United Planet forces.
Ultra Boy’s team moves silently through Terra Firma’s homeworld. Unfortunately, they discover that Lemnos has a massive army at his command, ten times anything they imagined.

Brainiac 5 continues to try and think of any way to save Dream Girl, but can’t.

In a backup story by Waid and Dale Eaglesham, the Legion supporters help anyone they can in the devastation left by Elysion, mirroring old DC comic book covers.

An elastic kid tries to save what comic books and artifacts he can, believing that the Legion will want them, but eventually realizes that saving the lives of other people is more important.

Legion of Super-Heroes #12
Writer: Mark Waid; Penciler: Barry Kitson and Ken Lashley; Inkers: Mick Gray and Drew Geraci; Editors: Harvey Richards, Stephen Wacker

Ultra Boy and his team are deployed to the Terra Firma homeworld. Ultra Boy uses his x-ray vision to scope out what he can, and sees Lemnos prepping to “drop the ‘go’ flag,” and Brin Londo alive in a nearby cell.

Cosmic Boy appears before them as a communication signal transmitted from the planet Dormir, and they update him on the size of Lemnos’ army. Cosmic Boy believes that Invisible Kid was right about the three worlds. Communications and supply lines are key, but fears that they have already lost their homebase back on Earth.

Cosmic Boy could order Lightning Lad to sever transmatter lines to keep Lemnos and his army at bay, but that would mean Ultra Boy and his team would be stranded with an entire army against them. Karate Kid tells him to do it.

On Ttrxl, the team uses a combination of Shadow Lass’s shadow powers, Chameleon Boy’s shapeshifting, and Lightning Lad’s lightning to subdue Skelter. They are in the process of having Saturn Girl use her telepathy to find the location of the transmatter machines, when Cosmic Boy makes contact with them as another communication signal.

Back on Earth, Brainiac 5 has lost his mind from all appearances, and is talking to rocks.

Elysion is attacking United Planet headquarters, when Brainy arrives armed only with a rock and a slingshot. The rock plunks against his head and disintegrates, seemingly causing no damage to the earthshaper.

Suddenly, Atom Girl tears him a new hole from the inside, and finishes him off with a roundhouse kick to the face.

Lemnos addresses his followers, when they receive an intruder alarm. The Legionnaires have wandered into the deployment forces.

Projectra uses her newly inherited holographic spell powers to mask half the team as they free Brin Londo from his cell.

While outside, Ultra Boy and Karate Kid take on Lemnos’ army single-handed.
Brin and the others join the fight.

Back on Dormir, Cosmic Boy takes full command of the Public Service, which he renames Legion Channel One, to address every underager in the galaxy. At the same time, Lightning Lad shuts down the transmatter gates.

Cosmic Boy calls out to every underager, to fight back against Lemnos and his forces, to fight for freedom (wherever there’s trouble).

The message is heard, and a universe full of underagers prepares to fight back against the forces of evil.

Sometimes it actually takes me writing down the events of comics to fully appreciate some of the moments. This was a pretty good moment, if a little bit corny, but it works. When I did my initial reread, I felt like the victory was a little too quickly achieved after the odds were stacked so high against them, but I’ve changed my mind. It’s my column, I’m allowed to do that.

Legion of Super-Heroes #13
Writer: Mark Waid; Layouts: Barry Kitson; Finishes: Mick Gray; Editors: Harvey Richards, Stephen Wacker

Lemnos orders his troops through the transmatter gates, but they find out in the most gruesome ways that they have been shut down. Ultra Boy and his team fight against the army, and Lightning Lad and his team arrive through the last remaining open gate to help.
aturn Girl combines her telepathy with Projectra’s hallucination powers to take down waves of enemies at a time.

On Dormir, Cosmic Boy has the Legionnaires remove their flight rings, so they can all see that Lemnos’ forces have been blocked and captured on every planet they targeted. Yet, the battle isn’t quite over, as Terror Firma enters the fray. The two teams fight.

Cosmic Boy contacts Lemnos inside his stronghold, distracting him while Sun Boy comes from behind to deck him. Cosmic Boy and Lemnos remark over the similarity of their goals, ushering in a new era of interstellar progress, if not their methods.

Cosmic Boy picks up what information he can from Earth, that Elysion has been subdued, but also that Dream Girl died in the process.

Suddenly, members of Terror Firma come crashing through the wall, freezing Sun Boy in stasis. Before they can retreat offworld, Lemnos orders them to kill the subdued Legionnaires.

Outside, the Legionnaires continue to fight and beat the remaining forces of Terror Firma.

Inside, Lemnos’ allies refuse to put a bullet through the head of a defenseless combatant. They signed up to shake the universe up, not to fight a losing battle, and just want out.

Cosmic Boy rips into them, saying they can’t just opt out after everything they’ve done. They argue back, asking since when does anybody care what happens to they do on the outer rim. The United Planets have been dumping criminals out there for years, and generations of kids are born having to pay for crimes they didn’t even commit.

Lemnos slips away in the confusion, but Brainy teleports in out of nowhere and drags him away.

Outside, the Legionnaires finish up the fighting. Brainy arrives through his temporary transgate to take them home.

Cosmic Boy orders them to leave Lemnos’ troops behind, they can’t cause any trouble without working transmatter gates. Sun Boy has decided to stay. He’s wanted to be his own person for a while now, and he thinks he can help “Terror Firma” find their way.

While they’re all gathered, Cosmic Boy sends out one final statement, a message of celebration to everyone that stood up and saved the universe that day.

In the epilogue, Brainiac 5 has Dream Girl’s body in his lab, still in his forcefield, along with the body of Lemnos on ice.

In a backup by Stuart Moore and Ken Lashley, they take us through the heartbreaking final hours of Dream Girl’s life.

Another illustrated letters column by Waid and Amanda Conner closes the issue.

Like I said before, sometimes the turnaround can seem a little quick after all that time was spent building up the formidable odds against the Legion, but this was a pretty satisfying end to the opening conflict for this series. Brainiac 5 proved he had a heart, Ultra Boy proved he had a brain, and Cosmic Boy proved that… he wasn’t a complete dick. If the Guardians of the Galaxy movie has taught us anything, it’s that nobody is one hundred percent a dick.

In the next issue, a guilty and publicly criticized (for ignoring the Legion’s warnings) United Planets offers to fund the Legion of Super-Heroes and establish them as an independent extension of Earthgov. Invisible Kid finally admits to Atom Girl that he was the one that snitched to Brainiac 5, but Atom Girl doesn’t mind keeping his secret because it helps to build the myth that is her.

That’s it for Waid’s “Threeboot” version. Supergirl would join the book with issue #16, and later on Cosmic Boy pulls one of the most badass moves in the history of comic books. But if you want to know about those, you’ll have to continue reading on your own (or maybe I’ll come back to them eventually).

Next week, it’s on to Paul Levitz, and the return of the original Legion of Super-Heroes.

Feb 16, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes: Forgotten Juggernauts, Part 3

Legion of Super-Heroes – Forgotten Juggernauts
Part 3 – The Death
Ben Smith

I love the Legion of Super-Heroes. I decided to share that love, like I’m turning tricks for a dollar down in the red light district, only I don’t get a dollar and you don’t have to get a prescription for antibiotics. Either way, it was a bad decision, and I wish I had access to a time bubble so I could go back and tell myself not to do it. (Actually, if I had access to a time machine, I’m going back and buying a stack of Action Comics #1 off the newsstand, and burying them in a sturdy airtight metal box that only I will be able to discover when I return to the present. Also, I’m making sure Duy is never born, Super Friends style.)

Embarrassing confessions aside, let’s get this ball rolling.

Legion of Super-Heroes #7
Writer: Mark Waid; Penciler: Barry Kitson; Inker: Art Thibert and James Pascoe; Editors: Harvey Richards, Stephen Wacker

Brainiac 5 is working on constructing a new galactic economic theory, when Invisible Kid triggers a hidden coded message that Brainy sent to himself that says “Colu is next.”

Brainy is on fire with his condescending insults in this issue, “you gathering of carbon.”

Later, Brainiac is on his way to Colu with a small team consisting of Light Lass, Saturn Girl, and Chameleon. Back at headquarters, Cosmic Boy tries to convince the United Planets of the danger to Colu, and Triplicate Girl talks to Sun Boy about his desire to leave the team.

Brainy and the others arrive on Colu, which appears to be deserted when they first reach planetside. Instead, the Coluan’s developed miniaturization technology to help support their large population, and Brainy shrinks them all down to the appropriate size. They head first to the central router, where they find everybody inside in a state of catatonia.

They’re suffering from some unknown form of viral corruption that leaves them a drooling mess. Further investigation of the planet finds residents burning food over a roaring fire and fighting in the streets, all atypical behavior for a Coluan. In the process of searching for Colu’s foremost researcher, Brainy takes time to explain why he is so dismissive of Light Lass, with the ultimate in backhanded compliments.

They find the researcher, but she has been infected as well (and from all indications is Brainy’s mother). Brainy loses his cool at what is being done to his people, removing everything that makes them who they are.

A throng of mindless Coluans descend upon them in the lab (a scene right out of a zombie movie, with Brainy freaking out, he’s clearly rattled).

They escape and find a clear part of the city to regroup. As they talk, Chameleon’s antennae involuntarily detect an organic lifeform nearby. Light Lass lets loose with her gravity powers, eventually forcing the hidden culprit to reveal himself.

Brainy grabs him, and once he looks him in the face, he remembers him as Lemnos. The same enemy that is behind everything, and recently visited Brainy in his lab to brag about it. It was that meeting that prompted Brainiac 5 to send the hidden message to himself, before Lemnos could use his powers to make him forget.

While Lemnos brags about how he’ll make them all forget again anyway, back at Legion headquarters Phantom Girl leads a mysterious person in shadow, inside a mysterious locked room.

Brainy is determined not to forget this time, and believes Lemnos will be too busy keeping himself from floating into the atmosphere to use his mind-wiping powers on them. Brainiac 5 was right, Lemnos escapes, but this time Brainy remembers everything. Meanwhile, back at headquarters, Cosmic Boy has finished breaking in to Brainiac 5’s lab, along with Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, Lightning Lad, and Invisible Kid.

As you already know, I love perpetually annoyed Brainiac 5, and his insults were in rare form in this comic. I want to be his friend, even though I know he’ll probably just be really mean to me. I don’t care, I love a good insult amongst friends. It’s like That 70’s Show only with superpowered aliens.

Legion of Super-Heroes #8
Writer: Mark Waid; Penciler: Kevin Sharpe; Inker: Prentis Rollins; Editors: Harvey Richards, Stephen Wacker

Colossal Boy and Element Lad help thwart a couple of aliens from killing a ship of Legion wannabes they scammed out of money for transport.

At Legion headquarters, Brainiac 5 knew his lab had been broken into as soon as he returned, no matter how much Cosmic Boy tried to cover it up. Cosmic Boy uses his powers to pass through the lab’s force field that Brainy put up, to explain that he was tired of Brainy keeping secrets.From this point on, he expects total communication between all Legionnaires at all times.

Later, Sun Boy visits with Cosmic Boy, and declares he is quitting the team. Cosmic Boy declines his resignation. They argue, and Cosmic Boy loses his cool. He can’t lose his second in command with Brainy trying to undermine his leadership, and he launches into a tirade in which he criticizes most of his teammates.

Unfortunately for him, Brainiac 5 was broadcasting everything he said to everyone in the Legion, ensuring “total communication between all Legionnaires at all times.”

Cosmic Boy tears off through the building to Brainy’s lab, but this time he can’t break through the force field. Ultra Boy attacks him from behind, not appreciating his “jerkwit” evaluation.

A fight breaks out amongst the Legion, with Colossal Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Star Boy, and Triplicate Girl showing their allegiance to Cosmic Boy. The rest either side with Brainy or are stuck in the middle.

Brainy is glad that the Legionnaires are divided, if it means that some of the team will succeed following him, instead of failing following Cosmic Boy.

The chaos is interrupted by an urgent message from the United Planets. Cosmic Boy’s home planet of Braal has seceded from the United Planets. All residents must return in six hours, before they close their borders for good, leaving everyone outside in permanent exile.

Brainiac 5 really is a dick, but I love him anyway. He’s the opposite of Superman. You know, interesting.

Legion of Super-Heroes #9
Plot: Mark Waid and Barry Kitson; Dialogue: Mark Waid; Penciler: Georges Jeanty; Inker: Art Thibert; Editors: Harvey Richards, Stephen Wacker

Outside Legion headquarters, the Legion’s loyal followers are upset and argue about the recent infighting amongst the team. Invisible Kid tries to calm down one of the fights, but is accused of playing both sides, and telling Brainiac 5 about Cosmic Boy breaking into his lab.

Invisible Kid flies off to explain to Cosmic Boy that it wasn’t him, but it’s too late, Cos has already left for Braal. Cosmic Boy is at the Central Port, talking to his brother back home while waiting on his transport.

At United Planets headquarters, Saturn Girl meets with her mother to try and convince her of the threat posed by Lemnos, but the U.P.’s hands are tied, with all the planets seceding as their focus. But Saturn Girl has been telepathing data back to Lightning Lad and Triplicate Girl, who are analyzing that information to determine the world’s most in need of protecting.

Invisible Kid pops in to offer his theory, but they also dismiss him as the one that ignited the division in the team by snitching on Cosmic Boy. Chameleon tries to quell hostilities by pretending to apologize as Ultra Boy, but Ultra Boy catches him, causing another fight, and the team is more divisive than ever.

Brainiac 5 is on Planet Helegyn, the United Planets main source of liquid inertron, which is being attacked by Terra Firma. Brainy calls in a hand-picked team of Legionnaires to try and stop them.

Invisible Kid tries to follow them through the transmatter gate, but is pushed back for being a backstabber. He runs off, having suddenly deduced that three worlds can save the universe, but only if there is a Legion to show them how.

Cosmic Boy watches the fight transmission while at the port, with Brainy’s field inexperience on full display for all to see. He turns around and is shocked to see all the former Legion supporters on their way back to their homes, abandoning the cause.

Cosmic Boy tries to give them an impassioned speech to rally them, but it is too little, too late for some. Dejected, he moves toward the gate toward home, but Invisible Kid switches the coordinates, and Cosmic Boy arrives on Helegyn.

Invisible Kid says they can’t do this without him. Cosmic Boy agrees, and flies into action.

A backup by Waid and Kitson offers up the first illustrated letters page I can ever remember.

It’s a good time, with Waid poking fun at some of the continuity problems that arise out of a full reboot.

Classic Legion, which I would discover much later, was much more of a big, happy family than this version. It’s an interesting way to contrast against the earlier interpretations, and fits in well with Brainiac 5’s increased Quicksilverian level of bitchiness. Of course he would assume he is the better choice to lead. Also, if you’re enjoying Brainy in this series, and you’ve never read R.E.B.E.L.S. featuring Brainiac 2, you should definitely pick up that series as well. It is highly recommended, even if you aren’t enjoying this. Everyone should buy and read everything I love!

Legion of Super-Heroes #10
Writer: Mark Waid; Penciler: Barry Kitson; Inker: Drew Geraci; Editors: Harvey Richards, Stephen Wacker

The Legionnaires return from Helegyn with Terra Firma leader Elysion as a captive. Dream Girl screams at him to tell them their plans, and to tell her why she can’t see past one hour into the future. (That’s never a good sign.)

Outside, Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5 address the crowd of Legion supporters as a united front. They have to stop Lemnos before the United Planets rounds up every underager in a military draft to fight an unwinnable war.

Inside, the field team explains to the others how they captured Elysion on Helegyn, by tricking him into following them to the polar side of the planet. Before they can start interrogating him, Projectra arrives and demands Elysion tell them what happened to Brin Londo, who had been tracking them. Elysion is wearing Brin’s coat, suggesting the worst.

Saturn Girl reads his mind, blowing past his mental defenses and getting all the information they need, or so she believes.

Karate Kid pulls Invisible Kid aside, to once again lecture him about telling Brainiac 5 about the lab break-in. Invisible Kid denies it again, suggesting that maybe Shrinking Violet/Atom Girl told on them. Karate Kid informs him that Atom Girl’s not real, she’s just a prank they pull on new Legionnaires. (That can’t possibly be important information for later.)

Invisible Kid escorts Elysion to the cells, and Cosmic Boy brings everyone up to date on Lemnos and his plan to force the universe out of its inertial malaise.

Without Dream Girl’s precognitive powers to warn them, Brainiac 5 sets up alerts to warn them of any of the large scale threats that could cause the kind of distortion that could negate her powers. (Brainiac 5 is definitely softening up to Dream Girl.)

Triplicate Girl (really Invisible Kid) has identified three worlds that are key to their resistance movement, so Cosmic Boy splits up the team into three groups to cover each world.

Dream Girl is brought to tears by Brainiac 5’s attempts to make her feel better.

In Otherspace, Lemnos launches his master plan. Elysion brags to Invisible Kid from his cell about being a strategist, and how he would know better than to leave Earth protected by only a skeleton crew of Legionnaires.

Outside in the plaza, sleeper agents activate hidden bombs strapped to their chests.

The Legion supporters panic as explosions ring out all around them. A sleeper agent makes her way inside to free Elysion with another suicide bomb.

Brainiac 5 and Dream Girl rush to find out what’s going on, and run right into Invisible Kid, who informs them that Elysion has escaped. They attempt to contact Cosmic Boy for help, but Elysion has already disabled the transmitter.

Overmatched, they retreat outside, where the Science Police has responded to the scene of complete bedlam. Elysion looks down on the chaos they have wrought from above.

The three Legionnaires try to save who they can. Brainy asks Dream Girl what she can see before her powers hit the wall. She responds that about ninety seconds from now, Brainy says something humorous and then everything goes blank.

Elysion uses his earth manipulation powers to ignite mass destruction. Brainiac 5 has an open path to Elysion, but Dream Girl demands he save Invisible Kid instead. Brainy saves him from the falling debris, but Invisible Kid may have fractured his humerus (Dream Girl’s vision).

In that moment, Elysion’s attack takes its toll, and Legion headquarters collapses in a giant pile of rubble. Invisible Kid and Brainiac desperately search the wreckage for Dream Girl.

They find her, but it’s too late.

Dream Girl has fallen, their headquarters is destroyed, and the team is divided between three worlds with no means of communication. From all appearances, the Legion has lost.

Cinematic is often used as a pejorative in comic circles, but anytime a book can portray a scene so beautifully that it unfolds like a movie in my mind, I consider it a special and rare moment. It doesn’t happen that often. The end of this comic was intense, and presents the kind of master plan scenario that is believable in its execution, unlike anything that happened in The Dark Knight movie that people like to praise for its complexity. Anyway, hateful tangent aside, the suicide bombers was a chilling touch, and is sure to resonate more with a veteran such as myself. Also, you should all know by now how much of a sucker I am for a tragic death scene, and Dream Girl’s unfolded perfectly here. It’s not a trick, or a hoax, or a misdirect, Dream Girl is dead, my friends.

That’s as good a place as any to leave you hanging. Will the Legion bounce back to save the day? Come back next week to find out!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...