Monday, October 3

Legion of Super-Heroes #16, Superboy #11, Supergirl #67, and Action Comics #904 (Oct 2011)


Even though the 31st-century Legion corner of the DCU is one that, along with the Bat-titles and the Lantern-titles, is supposed to change only minimally in the transition to the DCnU, this final issue of the most recent series (the fifth, even if you count just the ones that started with a #1!) brings several stories, plot elements, and characters to their “Endings.” Besides the main threat posed by Saturn Queen and her latest Legion of Super-Villains, those endings include, as I understand it, the 31st-century Green Lantern Corps and Mon-El's short tenure as another Daxamite powerhouse entrusted with a Ring. The Legion is, indeed, proclaimed by the living embodiment of the Green Energy, Dyogene, to be the “proud successors to the Corps.” But, as indicated on the cover, another plot ends with the “sacrifice” of the reluctant Legionnaire, one-time Legion Reject-become-Villain Earth Man, who in the end proves himself a hero by using the green energy of Mon-El's ring and Dyogene to connect himself to all the Legionnaires present – “We are Legion. … And together, we can take your power” – that of the blue Big Bad. But it overloads Earth Man and kills him along with the enemy. As Mon-El is covering the fallen Legionnaire with his cape, his lover Shadow Lass (Mon-El's former lover – awkward!) swoops in – “Kirt!” – “He's gone, Shady,” Mon tells her. – “He knew it,” she weeps, “ – he saw it when Dream Girl's power flowed through him – and he still went ahead. … I told you he was a champion!” Still a pretty unpleasant person, Kirt Niedrigh had come a long ways from the xenophobic bigot he was just a few years ago when he was reintroduced in Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

A couple of other notes: Brainiac 5 experiences a certain physical pleasure – when Saturn Queen protests just after Earth Man's sacrifice has destroyed her plans, “I-it's not over … I … I …,” Brainy simply responds, “Incorrect,” as he slugs her one across the jaw – THUMP. “Hmmm …,” he rubs his fist. “Satisfactory.” I also wonder what Harmonia Li's “suitable powers” are to warrant Legion membership?

“Coming in September: A New Beginning.” Again. The sixth first issue for Legion of Super-Heroes. Thank God Paul Levitz is still at the helm. Long Live the Legion!

“Rise of the Hollow Men, Conclusion: The Neverending...”

As Connor and Krypto face Tannarak before a helpless Phantom Stranger, Simon Valentine and Lori Luthor face the Parasite. Psionic Lad is still out cold. Mayhem ensues. The “hollow men” are lifeless golems made of the earth but now being infused with the souls of the inhabitants of Smallville. There's a nice bit of synchronicity as Connor shouts, “Uh-oh … Man, I don't know how to shut these mud-men off!! … When in doubt … break things!” even as Lori takes up Simon's controller thingamajig with which he'd hoped to disrupt the “seriously complex matrix of radio waves and sonic manipulations that I think are maintaining their form” and comes to the same basic conclusion – “I can't understand a thing you're saying! … Oh, screw it! When in doubt, hit buttons!” And of course both get the desired result, shouting simultaneously, “I did it!” Meanwhile, The Phantom Stranger has freed himself, and Psionic Lad has come to, and although Tannarak thinks to savor at least a small victory of keeping the souls of Smallville in limbo, The Stranger combines his magic with Psionic Lad's power to lead them back to their bodies. As Tannarak uses the energy from his lackeys the Tooks to escape, and the cavern starts coming down around them, Connor feels compelled to save all the clones of himself, but The Stranger assures him they are nothing more than empty flesh and blood, “no minds or souls.” “Yeah, but its my flesh and blood,” Connor hesitates. But Lori steps in – “That's all they are. You may have started out like this … in some lab. But that was a long time ago. You're not like them. You're real.” And they escape with the help of The Phantom Stranger. The issue … and the story of the pre-DCnU Superboy ends on a pleasant, bucolic note, as he has found contentment with friends in Smallville. “And there's nowhere I'd rather be.” The sun sets as they watch from atop the Smallville water tower.

And that's that. The New 52 Superboy – who looks more like Super-Tron-boy in the solicits – is one of the corners of the Relaunch that I have the most worries about. In the last decade or so Kon-El/Connor Kent Superboy has gone from a character I really couldn't stand at all to one I really liked – that by the time he was killed in Infinite Crisis. I was delighted as all get out when he was brought back in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds and have thoroughly enjoyed his efforts to find – or make a way for – himself first in the revived Adventure Comics then in this his own all-to-short run of a title. I really haven't liked what I've seen or heard about what's coming, though. 
And I'm sure we're losing the little group of supporting characters that have been developed – boy genius with a dark side Simon Valentine, hot blonde Lori Luthor (I still think the prospect of Connor and her getting together is a little creepy since half his DNA is from her uncle Lex. That makes them effectively first cousins, I think … but I guess it is Smallville … [I really should refrain from those kinds of jokes, given my wife is Cajun...]), future-boy enigma Psionic Lad. Hey, I'm not even sure there will be a place for the ever-faithful Superman-and-boy's best friend Krypto in the New 52! That's a shame. It is a very nice touch to bring this volume of Superboy full circle with a cover image that is both an homage to #1 and incorporates most of his new little circle of friends. The only thing lacking is Psionic Lad. But it encapsulates the character journey that Connor has taken here. I'll miss all these characters. Farewell, friends.

“This is Not My Life, Part 3 of 3”

The confrontation with Professor Ivo continues, with Kara whupping up on first his M.O.N.Q.I.s then Ivo himself in big battle armor. “I can only hope I have time to dress for the occasion,” Ivo drolly tells her as she approaches. “Tell me … How do I look?” – “Honestly?” she asks, “Like a horny toad at a Gundam convention.” KA-THAK he slaps her, the cad. “Hey, you asked!!!” she responds, rubbing her jaw. “My turn!” BA-DOOM a roundhouse blow knocks him on his ass. Meanwhile, her friends, the Silk Pajama Society – who don't know that Supergirl is here, just worried about their friend Henry Flyte, the object of their subterranean quest, as well as their new friend Linda, who has vanished after swimming away supposedly to find help – hear the sounds of battle. The kid geniuses set about McGyvering a pump from scraps to lower the water level so they can walk through the sewer with their heads above water – and stun guns. I'm quickly growing to like these kids. Lois is caught by a student hacking into Stanhope College's financial records – but it's okay, because the student catches her because she herself had been mucking around in there and left spyware. The student has been investigating, and brings evidence to Lois that helps her put a picture together of what's going on. Ivo manages to overwhelm Kara and get “lead blinders” onwhile he starts uploading her intellect (is that what this is all about?) into the “Seed Bank Project,” but the S.P.S. comes in stun-guns blazing – “AHHHH!!– and to Ivo's astonishment, once Kara shouts to them what needs to be done, they hack into his computers and shut down the uploads and rescue their friend Henry and the other missing students even as Kara manages to struggle free of the blinders and blast Ivo's suit with heat vision – “AHHHH!!HOT! HOT! … AHHHH!!” he shouts as he sheds the armor and runs away. Kara catches him, of course – “Can't outrun Supergirl, Frogface.” … “Several key arrests later...” Kara manages to concoct a story as to where she was during all the action, and has a moment with Henry, who's bummed out. In an epilogue, she breaks the news to him three weeks later in a visit back to the college that she's decided not to start classes in the fall. He's let down, but she thanks him for “reminding [her] that the world is full of poetry and magic.” She continues to tell him she needs some time to herself, but asks him a favor – in a typically metatextual ending to a pre-DCnU series – “People like Supergirl, they have a way of sticking around. But you and me … Just … Don't forget me, okay?” – “Never in a million years,” he assures her. “I promise.” They kiss – and Henry finds themselves floating several feet off the ground – “How – ?!” – “Magic,” Kara grins. “End.”

I think this epilogue must happen after the last issue of Justice League of America. Kara's intentions to take time off, re-evaluate her life (there, maybe even explore space for a while – but she can't tell Henry that, obviously) are much the same. And I won't forget this version of Supergirl, either.

To Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle, mostly, but most lately to Kelly Sue DeConnick and ChrisCross, and others in between, thanks a million for what I consider the best couple of years in the history of Superman's cousin, Supergirl!

“Reign of the Doomsdays: Finale”

The world watches in fear as the Superman family and allies fight against raging Doomsday clones all over – and wonder where is Big Blue himself. The answer is, apparently transformed into pure information inside the Informational Engine of the alien space station that is burrowing itself toward the Earth's core where it will detonate and destroy the very source of the Doomsdays – such is the plan of the Doomslayer. But it turns out that the alien station is a sentient relic from another universe, trapped in our own, and just want to go home. It shows Clark how to bring that about – and makes him solid again – where he goes toe-to-toe against Doomslayer. Meanwhile, The Eradicator is losing control of the Doomsday he is possessing – Zatanna mystically “[S]tropelet [the heroes] ot owt snoitanitsed!” Eradicator-Doomsday to the aid of Superman, the rest led by Supergirl against the last of the Doomsday clones on earth [I think … it's a little hard to follow, tell you the truth]. Supergirl shouts at it [well, she's pointing directly at the reader...?], “Haven't you figured it out yet?! … You don't get past me – You don't get to hurt my home – And you are going – DOWN!FWA-BLAMMMM. It goes down. So does Kara, almost. But there's no time to rest and with the aid of Wonder Girl she accompanies their allies into the pit where the alien ship is showing signs of imminent interdimensional travel – they must warn Superman! Superman is taking a beating from the Doomslayer – intentionally, running out the clock – “Hah … Old friend … taught me … He called it the 'Rope-a-Dope'!” What a way to implicitly bring Superman vs. Muhammad Ali into continuity [just in time to be “erased,” sure, but] – Oh, yeah! – Then Superman's greatest power is revealed as Eradicator-Doomsday appears and joins him against Doomslayer, to the latter's astonishment that former enemies now fight together – “I make friends easily!” Long and short, they prevail – even have enough time for Superman to get preachy – until Eradicator sacrifices himself to save Superman and assure the destruction of the Doomslayer. He tells a protesting Kal that “it has been an honor. To fight beside you – To try to live by your example – But the world needs Superman!” That shakes Clark up, and after Supergirl grabs him and pulls him free from the imploding interdimensional vortex, he questions: “You have all tried to follow in my footsteps, but that puts you in so much danger … It cost The Eradicator his life! … I don't know if that's – ” – “Of course it is,” Kara cuts him off. “Your example let him be a hero to the end. … Your example let him be a hero to the end. … Your example saved billions of people. … Of course that's a good thing.” Kara knows just what Clark needs – taking him to Lois.

The adventures of the pre-Flashpoint Superman end quietly, with Lois and Clark enjoying dinner in a fine Metropolis restaurant, reconnecting after far too long. Clark is still bothered by what The Eradicator said. “I liked having the gang along with me, but – The sacrifice of The Eradicator, what he said – I don't want the 'Superman Family' thinking like that. … I don't like people laying down their lives for me. … I'm just this … person.” – “You thinking like that – is why they think like that,” Lois tells him. She continues with a long speech that sums up perfectly what has made this Superman great. “Clark, coming from Krypton didn't make you Superman – Martha and Jonathan did. … And thanks to your doubts and your fears and your absolute refusal to be above anyone – You do them proud. Every day.” – Clark is speechless … finally, “Wow.” – “Yeah, well – You don't hear that enough. … Now shut up and take me to bed.” – As they walk toward their apartment, Clark muses, “You know, I went on a journey to find America – and with one speech from you about us all being in it together ...” – “See, now you're getting it – ” she smiles, “ – it was here all the time.” “The End.”

Wow. Couldn't sum it up better. So after a year and more of “Grounded,” what Clark really needed was a good talking to from his wife. How true to life that is!

A couple more comments: I already noted the sly Muhammad Ali reference – I love it – There's also a subtle call-back to the “Superman gives up his American citizenship” brouhaha from Action Comics #900 when Lois tells him that “The Chinese want to make Superman an honorary citizen.” – “Let's not get into that again,” Clark says wryly. There has been a lot of goodness in this final story arc of the great 1938-to-2011 Action Comics. Paul Cornell, you're wonderful. The Luthor “Black Ring” story that preceded the “Doomsday” stories was excellent as well. If it's got to go away, I'm glad the original Action Comics went out on a high note. Thanks! The art has been generally excellent as well, notwithstanding my problems with Kenneth Rocafort's (or his inker's?) interior style. He's not on this issue except for the cover, however. I just still think the oversexualization of Kara in particular – a teenaged girl – is bothersome when a large part of the readership are guys like me, well into middle-age. It's just a bit creepy. Prime example in this issue being the shot of the heroes lifting off, Kara helped by Cassie, where not only do her breasts look more like she's wearing nothing but body-paint, but the mini-skirt is riding way low and cut way short. Ahem! Other than that pandering to fan-boys' fantasies, everything else in this issue is top-notch.

It's a shame that the Lois and Clark marriage is being wiped from continuity … but maybe all that means is we get to see their love develop all over again...  As an iconic relationship there's no way it's gone for good.

Here's hoping.

Cheers, and thanks for reading!

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