Saturday, March 27, 2010

Week of 24 March 2010

(SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers. Don't read it before you've read the comics.)

SUPERMAN #698 (5/10)
"Last Stand of New Krypton Part Three: Destiny"
ROLL CALL: Mon-El, Tellus (not pictured)
CUTE BOYS: Mon-El, miscellaneous Kryptonian cannon-fodder

Superman battles Brainiac and Luthor. Meanwhile, Mon fights his way into Brainiac's ship, urged on by Tellus. The Lanothians, inhabitants of one of Brainiac's cities, telepathically moan and whine at Mon until he snatches their city away from Luthor just before Lex destroys it.

Mon, shirt ripped and muscles bulging, stands there with the Lanothian city dangling from his hand and reflects: "Can't explain the my gut, the feeling that my destiny...part of it, anyway...why I'm here on Earth now...that it just came to pass. I was meant to save this world...and boy am I tired."

Okay, ignore the fact that he isn't technically "on Earth now." And ignore the fact that all this telepathic bothering has scrambled his mind so badly that he isn't thinking in coherent sentences (although maybe all Daxamites think in similar syntax, the way Yoda speaks funny). It's pretty obvious that this feeling Mon can't explain comes from a lingering telepathic link to the writer, who's rather clumsily providing exposition.

Top that off with the fact that the rest of the Espionage Squad is nowhere to be seen, and you can see that this isn't the best chapter in New Krypton's Last Stand.

BITS OF COLUAN BUSINESS: In the old days, Brainiac had a little white monkey named Koko. Now, Koko seems to be a whole army (clones?) of big white apes, possibly gorillas.

One of the most regrettable features of the pre-Crisis DC Comics was the tendency to put large apes into stories. History does not record a single instance in which this improved a story. Quite the opposite: large-ape stories were among the worst ever published. From Congo Bill to Titano to the time Red Kryptonite turned Superboy into a giant ape, they were uniformly awful.

We might call this Get-A-Life Boy's Second Principle of Comics: Stories with large apes are always awful. [It's worse: Large apes can even negate Get-A-Life Boy's First Principle of Comics: Putting Legionnaires into a story always makes it better.]

Writer James Robinson seems to be on a one-man crusade to demonstrate the Second Principle to a whole new generation of readers. First it was Justice League: Cry for Justice, now Last Stand of New Krypton.

I wish he'd stop. (Writing comics that I read, I mean.)


"The Big Noise Part 3: Righteous Destroyer"
ROLL CALL: A time-traveling Durlan
CUTE BOYS: Possibly one of the S.T.A.R. scientists

The time-traveling Durlan is apprently from "countless millennia" in the past. So the Legion connection is a tenuous one indeed.

Besides, the story isn't that good.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Week of 17 March 2010

(SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers. Don't read it before you've read the comics.)

BOOSTER GOLD #30 (5/10)
"The Tomorrow Memory Part Three"
ROLL CALL: No Legion appearances, but Booster's Legion flight ring is much in evidence
CUTE BOYS: Drew, Rip Hunter


SUPERGIRL #51 (5/10)
"Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton Part Two: Leaders"
ROLL CALL: Chameleon Boy, Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Quislet, Sensor Girl, Starman/Star Boy, Tellus -- also: Superboy (Conner), Supergirl
CUTE BOYS: Conner, Mon-El, Assorted Kryptonian Cannon-Fodder

Zod's Kryptonian guards got the drop on the Legion. What's up with that? They knocked out Sensor Girl and Element Lad,...huh? Tellus was groggy...I repeat, huh? They even knocked out Quislet, although exactly how that's possible is a puzzler.

Come on, folks. Those last four Legionnaires could defeat just about any small number of Krytponians with their hands (or whatever) tied behind their backs. As I said last week, Element Lad could turn the surroundings to Kryptonite and/or Sensor Girl could put them into instant sensory deprivation and/or Starman/Star Boy could make them all so heavy they couldn't move and/or Quislet could do enough extreme damage to keep the Kryptonians very, very busy. And Tellus is a telepath who has already demonstrated the ability to make Mon-El ineffective. And don't tell me they could apprehend Chameleon Boy, or keep Matter-Eater Lad in confinement.

Ah, well, it's all so that Supergirl and Conner can have their turn in the spotlight.

You know, I don't think I care for these Kryptonians much. Supergirl's mother is a bitch, General Zod and his people are just plain bad, and the rest of them are pretty uninteresting. Put them all back in the bottle, I say.


(No title)
ROLL CALL: not-Brainiac-5, not-Ferro-Lad, not-Lightning-Lad, not-Phantom-Girl, not-Saturn-Girl, not-Star-Boy, not-Sun-Boy, not-Superboy (in his not-Mon-El costume), not-Timber-Wolf, not-Tyr, not-Ultra-Boy, a whole bunch of cameos by other not-Legionnaires
CUTE BOYS: Nuh-uh.

They do stuff, they fight, they shout stuff, there is much overblown dialogue, one of them dies (and wow, have a lot of them died), and it's over. Whew.



THE BOYS #40 (2010)
"The Innocents Part One"
ROLL CALL (Superduper): Auntie Sis, Bobby Badoing (not-Bouncing-Boy), Kid Camo, Klanker (not-Ferro-Lad), Ladyfold, Stool Shadow (not-Phantom-Girl)
CUTE BOYS: Black Hole isn't bad-looking, and neither is Kid Camo

Another take on the Legion by a non-DC comic company, in this case Dynamite. Check out what Legion Omnicom has to say about this one.

Warning: The universe of the Boys is not a pretty one. Definite adult language and content here.

The story continues in THE BOYS #41, due in two weeks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Tale of a Classic Cover

Variant cover of Adventure #8/511 (5/10)

Since the relaunch of Adventure Comics (#1/511), the variant covers have all been the same pattern: title above three columns, one large picture in the middle column, three smaller pictures in each of the two outside columns. Most often, the smaller pictures feature characters from the stories in that issue.

Here's the variant cover to Adventure #1/504:

And here are the variant covers from Adventures #2/505 thru #7/510:

All of these covers are homages to the iconic cover of Adventure #300 (9/1962), which was the comic which launched "Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes" as a continuing series. Here's what that classic cover looked like:

Notice that the character's names are included with each small picture. This is an element that's missing from the more recent Adventure covers. Cover labels for charcters just don't seem to fit with the modern comic aesthetic. (Although half the modern covers do identify one character - Superboy or Superboy-prime - with a label. Maybe a logo is more palatable to the modern sensibility.)

Over the decades, the creative teams behind the Legion paid homage to this cover many times. Here, for instance, is the cover of Superboy #147 (6/1968), a tenth-anniversary collection of great Legion tales:

In this case, the influence is one of inspiration, not imitation. In the center we have Superboy and the Legion clubhouse, and along the sides are Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy, Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel, Phantom Girl in place of Mon-El, and Brainiac 5 instead of Lightning Lad (yet Lightning lad is still present, in the center picture along with Supergirl, Ultra Boy, Streaky, and Krypto). There are no character names (at least not on the smaller pictures, although the center picture has characters carrying text signs).

In 1983, the cover of Legion of Super-Heroes #301 (7/1983) was more of a direct imitation:

Again the Legion Headquarters in the center along with a flying figure. The Leigonnaires are different, but notice that most of their poses and backgrounds are almost exactly the same as on the cover of Adventure #300. Timber Wolf is in a slightly different pose than Mon-El, and Shrinking Violet is totally different, but otherwise it's a remarkable imitation. The character names are back (although in this era, one would have expected that they would be in Interlac).

The same pattern recurred with Legion of Super-Heroes #24 (12/1991) and Legionnaires #59 (4/1988).


But the question is, where did this basic cover pattern come from? Was it original with Adventure #300, or did it predate the Legion?

I've been prowling through archives of DV covers, and I think I have some answers.

Here's the cover to Superman Annual #2 (1/1961), which was more than a year before Adventure #300:

It's obvious that this was the direct inspiration for Adventure #300, down to the labels with character names. In fact, the Superman Annuals used variations on the same format, so this layout clearly signaled to the readers that this issue was something important.

Superman Annual #1 (8/1960) had a similar cover, but with five smaller pictures on each side:

I'm guessing that they decided that five pictures were too small, so they tried three and were happy with the result.

Still, these covers didn't spring from a vacuum. Take Superman #132 (10/1959), which was obviously derived from Batman #98 (3/1956):

These aren't direct ancestors of the Superman Annuals, but they do have a cover divided into smaller boxes...I say that counts as an influence, if nothing else.

Going further back, Superman #100 (9/1955) may be another influence:

The boxes, in this case, are facsimiles of the covers of Superman #1, #25, #50, and #75. 

However, the lineage of Adventure #300 stretches much further back than 1955. Take a look at the cover of Star Spangled Comics #13 (10/1942):

Bingo! Here we have the cover of a comic with title at the top and a large picture flanked by three smaller pictures featuring characters from the story, with character names. This seems to be based on real-world tabloid newpapers (fittingly, since this comic features the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion). [Isn't it odd that the cover which launched the LSH's first regular series traces its lineage to a comic featuring a completely different Legion?]

It would be interesting to find out if this arrangement was common in tabloids of the time, and if so, where that tradition came from. Anybody know, or want to do the research?

One last influence, from even earlier. The cover of Flash Comics #1 (1/1940), like the covers of the first seven issues of that title, features the title, a large picture, and smaller pictures of characters from the comic, along with their names:

Okay, the smaller character pictures are in circles rather than rectangles, but I think it's still clear that this is also part of the same lineage.

So there you have it. The cover of the most recent issue of Adventure bears the traces of covers from seventy years ago. It's always been known that the Leigon has a sense of history, but who could guess it went back that far?

Can anybody offer any earlier antecedants, or more information on the lineage of this iconic cover design?


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Week of 10 March 2010

(SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers. Don't read it before you've read the comics.)

ACTION #887 (5/10)
"Truth to Power"
ROLL CALL: Mon-El (mentioned)
CUTE BOYS: Chris Kent

Jax-Ur, who keeps turning into a green Barsoomian, has extracted the god essence from Nightwing and Flamebird to create Rao, a giant crystalline red Barsoomian who gets more powerful with every weapon that's used against him. Meanwhile Lois Lane, doing her best Amanda Waller impersonation, has followed leads through the deserts of Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan in her quest to tell the truth about General Lane (who, incidentally, doesn't appear to be anywhere near any of those countries)...just when her transportation gives out, Chris hears her voice and (being a dutiful son) comes to fly her into the heart of danger. Rao (or Jax-Ur) turns Chris into glass...or maybe traps him in glass...or maybe sends him into the nonexistent Phantom's really, really hard to tell. And now the Pakistani army is going to launch nukes at Rao, which will make him much stronger and (incidentally) reduce Lois to her constituent atoms. But we have to wait until next issue to find out what happens, because they had to make room for a totally pointless second story about Captain Atom and the same six-page preview of Flash #1 that's using up space in half the comics I got this week.

Confused? Trying to figure out why you should care? Welcome to the club.

To make things even worse. Chris remains fully clothed for the whole story. Bah.


"Green Arrow Unbound"
ROLL CALL: Mon-El (cameo)
CUTE BOYS: Gun shop looter whom Black Canary kicks on page 10

Mon-El appears in a single panel, in the context of a newspaper story on the destruction of Star City.

This issue takes up pretty much where JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE left off. If you didn't read JL:CFJ, then count yourself very, very lucky. Besides, you don't need to: the first few pages of this story recaps what that series took 7 tedious issues to tell. This comic has lots of things that JL:CFJ didn't: a comprehensible plot, good pacing, solid characterization, and an intriguing theme.

Basically, Green Arrow is so freaked out by the destruction of Star City, the maiming of Red Arrow, and the death of his granddaughter, that he went and killed the buy what done it. And so begins a tale that strikes to the morality of super-heroes, the use and abuse of power, the corrupting power of revenge, and other great questions.

It's good to see this. There was a time, not long ago, when such questions were considered quaint and naive in the DC Universe (and many other comics). So-called "heroes" were torturing and murdering so-called "bad guys" all over the place (Lobo alone killed more people than any ten super-villains), and even Superman turned executioner. But since KINGDOM COME, traditional morality has been creeping back, so that now readers can feel the shock of heroes like Green Lantern and Flash when they contemplate what Green Arrow has done.


R.E.B.E.L.S. #14 (5/10)
"In the Flesh"
ROLL CALL: Adam Strange, Amon Hakk, Captain Comet, Ciji, Tribulus, Vril Dox, Wildstar, Xylon
ROLL CALL (Omega Men): Broot, Darkfire, Doc, Elu, Tigorr
CUTE BOYS: Adm Strange (especially with his helmet off), Captain Comet, Darkfire

The Starro storyline comes to a satisfying end, narrated by Adam Strange. Notice that the title, which appears at the end, contains a major clue.

Now Dox is triumphtant, L.E.G.I.O.N. is back in business, and the decks are cleared for the upcoming meeting of the Three Brainiacs. Be afraid. Be very afriad.


"Part One: Invaded"
ROLL CALL: Chameleon Boy, Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Quislet, Sensor Girl, Starman/Star Boy, Tellus
HONORABLE MENTION: Superboy (Conner) and Supergirl
CUTE BOYS: Any number of cute Kyrptonians, Conner, Jan, Mon-El, Tenzil

Brainiac attacks New Krypton. General Zod loses it. Kal goes back to being Superman. Superboy arrives with the Legion in tow. Supergirl and Mon go off to help the Kryptonians, and Zod orders his guards to arrest Superboy and the Legion. Meanwhile, Superman discovers that Brainiac and Luthor have joined forces, which we've known since, what four issues of Adventure ago?

The Legion explains the nature of Brainiac's threat to the future. Concerning the cities that Brainiac has stolen, "...we have information that these cities need to be rescued and restored to their places in the galaxy so worlds can grow from them and exist in the future. We're certain the fate of that future depends depends on it."

BITS OF LEGIONNAIRE BUSINESS: Zod thinks that some super-powered Krytponian guards with blasters can arrest the Leigon? It is to laugh. Let us count the ways the Legionnaires could fight back:
  1. Sensor Girl can render them blind and deaf
  2. Starman/Star Boy can make their blasters too super-heavy for even Kryptonians to hold
  3. Tellus can use telekinesis to push the guards away and/or shield the Legionnaires
  4. Cham can turn into a Three-Eyed Babootch and scare them all away
  5. Quislet can poop into their guns and make them explode (wait, that didn't come out right....)
  6. Superboy can use freeze breath to...uh...freeze them
  7. Element Lad can turn anything and everything around them into Kryptonite
Mess with the Legion...ha!


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Week of 3 March 2010

(SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers. Don't read it before you've read the comic.)

ADVENTURE #511/8 (5/10)

This one has two covers, and Legion completists will want both.

The standard cover (left) is a really cool picture split down the middle between the 21st and 31st centuries. On the left side, flying over present-day Metropolis, are Element Lad, Sensor Girl (and her boobs), Star Boy/Starman, and Tellus. On the right side, flying over future Metropolis, are Brainiac 5, Dawnstar (and her boobs), Lightning Lad, and Timber Wolf. In a really nice touch, the Daily Planet globe spans both eras: on the left the word "DAILY" is in English, and on the right "PLANET" is in Interlac.

The 1-in-10 variant cover (right) is done in the style ADVENTURE #300. On the left are General Lane, Element Lad, and Car-Vex (boobs partly hidden). In the middle, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar (and her boobs), Lightning Lass (and guess what), Timber Wolf, and Wildfire. Right side: Brainiac 5, Mon-El & Conner Kent, and a really sweet shot of Tellus & Krypto. My hubby, Thomas, points out that this cover also echoes the infamous nine-panel grid, which makes me wonder if that, too, was inspired by the cover of ADVENTURE #300.

Whatever the cover, there are three stories in this issue:

ADVENTURE #511/8 (5/10)
"Superman: Last Stand of New Krytpon: Prologue Part One: The Future is Prologue"
ROLL CALL: Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Lightning Lass, Timber Wolf, Wildfire
CUTE BOYS: Brainy (young & old), Brin, Rokk

All right, this is more like it! The Legion in action (well, technically, in Adventure, but the idea is the important thing). First, a brief flashback to Brainy's childhood, where the other Coluan boys beat him up because his father named him after great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Brainiac). Then we cut to the present, where the Legion is on a mission to rescue scientists from a space outpost menaced by a chronal rift. The team rescues the scientists, while Brainy finds out that such rifts are popping up all over.  It seems that they have their origin in the 21st century, and they were created by the original Brainiac. It turns out that Brainiac's scheme is to destroy the future and use the power from that destruction to kill Superman.

This story continues next week in SUPERMAN: LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON #1.


Young Brainy, studying the original Brainiac, sees a list of "Worlds Destroyed." They are:

  • Arkheon (origin uncertain)
  • Auros (uncertain)
  • Blight World (maybe a reference to the Blight from the Earth-247 "Legion of the Damned" storyline?)
  • Calufrax Major (a Doctor Who reference)
  • Cundiff (uncertain)
  • Durla I (Chameleon Boy and his people come from Durla. In classic continuity, Durla went through a devastating atomic war centuries ago. Is it possible that this event is replaced by Brainiac's destruction of "Durla I," and that survivors went on to populate Durla II?)
  • Imsk (Shrinking Violet's homeworld. In classic continuity, the whole planet went though periodic shrinking episodes. Since shrinking is Brainiac's thing, it would be only natural to link this odd planetary behavior to an attack by Brainiac.) 
  • Krop Tor (uncertain, although it's "Rot Pork" backwards. Maybe Zatanna had something to do with this world?)
  • Larroo (uncertain)
  • Landthia (uncertain)
  • Lexor (pre-Crisis, Lexor was the one planet in the universe where Lex Luthor was considered a hero. In that continuity, Lexor was destroyed by Luthor himself.)
  • Rimbor (Ultra Boy's homeworld. Rimbor has been important in the history of various versions of the Legion. Last time we saw, Rimbor was doing fine, not destroyed by Brainiac...unless we interpret "destroyed" in an economic sense.) [I can't find a good link for Rimbor.]
Brainy's ancestry: In classic continuity, Brainy was the great-grandson of a Coluan boy adopted by the original Brainiac; that is, Superman's foe was Brainiac 1, his "son" was Brainiac 2, and so on. Pulsar Stargrave may (or may not) have been Brainy's father, presumably Brainiac 4.

Post-Crisis, L.E.G.I.O.N.'s Vril Dox was Brainiac 5's great-grandfather. In the Earth-247 Legion, Brainiac 4 was our Brainy's mother, not his father. Presumably, Vril Dox was still Brainiac 2.

Now, it seems that Brainiac 5 is eight generations removed from the original Brainiac. Over in R.E.B.E.L.S., Vril Dox is being called Brainiac 2 and his son, Lyrl, is Brainiac 3. After that, the "Brainiac" name fell out of favor (isit any wonder?) until our Brainy's father revived it, calling himself "Brainiac 4."

In classic continuity, five generations across a thousand years implied a Coluan lifespan of 200+ years. Now, eight generations implies that Coluans live 125+ years. Interesting.

Time-Travel: Brainy explains that Brainiac is "the reason we've had trouble with time travel the last year. The reason it's been locked off from us. He's tearing our universe apart from a thousand years ago, and he's somehow stopping us from going back." This is why Superman hasn't been able to get into the future ever since Mon-El emerged from the Phantom Zone.


ADVENTURE #511/8 (5/10)
"Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton: Prologue Part Two: The Future is Now"
ROLL CALL: Chameleon Boy, Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Quislet, Sensor Girl, Star Boy/Starman, Tellus
CUTE BOYS: Conner, Jan, Mon-El, Tenzil (looking particularly cute, if you ask me, and no crude jokes about "I've got something here he can eat"), hell, even Cham looks cute here.

Conner finds oout that his chemistry teacher, Mr. Janson (get it?) is really Element Lad, aka Jan Arrah. Continuing from SUPERMAN #697, Conner brings Mon to meet the Legion in the Kent's barn. Mon trusts them, and Cham reveals that they must travel to New Krypton to fight Brainiac.

Best...Line...Ever: "This is a job for Element Lad!"

This story, too, continues next week in SUPERMAN: LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON #1.


R.J. Brande gave separate instructions to each of the members of the Espionage Squad, instructions that they have not shared with one another. The Metropolis contingent were supposed to guard Mon-El and help him to grow into the hero he's destined to be. Element Lad and Tellus, in Smallville, were supposed to do the same for Conner, although Conner is "further along in doing the whole hero thing." "All we know is the future is's in danger and [Mon is] a part of what fixes it."

In the post-Crisis "Five Years Later" (aka Giffbaum) universe, Lar Gand had a 20th century career as the hero Valor, who seeded human worlds throughout the galaxy and then disappeared, eventually to wind up in the 30th century. It looks like they're setting up Mon-El to have a big heroic career in the 21st century before (presumably) going back into the Phantom Zone and emerging in the 30th.

My guess? Among the cities that Brainiac stole are cities from Durla, Imsk, Rimbor, and all the other worlds mentioned above. Like Krypton, those worlds were destroyed. Mon will be responsible for freeing those cities and putting them on new worlds, which will become the Durla, Imsk, Rimbor, etc of the Legion's time.


ADVENTURE #511/8 (5/10)
"Awake Part 1 of 3"
ROLL CALL: No Legionnaires, but there are some Dominators and a Khund or two
CUTE BOYS: It is to laugh. General Lane doesn't recruit any cute boys. Stupid General Lane.

This story in this issue shows Car-Vex enlisting in General Lane's corps, although she's really an undercover agent on a dastardly mission from General Zod. If you ask me, she ought to just off Lane right now and spare us all a lot of grief. In fact, why didn't someone off Lane a long time ago?

In a flashback to Invasion, we see some Dominators and Khunds, and we learn why Lane hates aliens so much. (Actually, we don't really learn anything, and his hatred for aliens might just be jealousy over Supes stealing his daughter.)

This story is continued, but they don't bother to tell us when & where. Perhaps they knew that we wouldn't care.


BOTTOM LINE: Wow, what a comic! This had everything. The Legion in action in the 31st century. The Espionage Squad in the 21st. Superboy meeting with the Legion on the Kent farm in Smallville. Lots of Legion background, lots of answers to things that have been puzzling us, lots of hints about what's coming up.



Mon-El and the Legion are apparently going to be appearing all through this "Last Stand of New Krypton" crossover storyline, so keep an eye on the Superman books as well as the SUPERMAN: LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON miniseries.

Also, there's an ad for a Justice League crossover storyline that features Mon-El. Look out for JUSTICE LEAGUE RISE AND FALL SPECIAL, THE RISE OF ARSENAL 4-issue limited series, and "The Fall of Green Arrow" in GREEN ARROW #31 and #32.