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 comicscube@gmail.com!

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!