Thursday, May 17, 2007

Review of the Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century, Part 7, By Johnathan

Special "Last Fight For a Legionnaire" edition.

Ah, "Last Fight For a Legionnaire". This is another of those episodes in Legion History that I was tantalized by for years, thanks to Jeff Rovin and his Encyclopedia of Superheros. As with "The Super Stalag of Space", Appendix Q or whatever of this mighty tome was crawling with entries like:

Magno Lad (C)
Powers: Identical to Cosmic Boy; from the planet Braal.
"Last Fight For a Legionnaire," Superboy #211, DC
Comics, 1974.

Four or five of these minimalist entries and I was out of my mind with speculation - what was with all of these cats with the same powers as Legionnaires being in one story? Were they replacements? Trainees? I had no idea. Eventually, I found a scanned copy of this so-enigmatic of comics lurking on the Internets and since the statute of limitations on spoilers is only 30 years I'm going to deliver unto you a plot summary:

In a nutshell, six characters hailing from planets such as Braal and Bismoll, where the entire populations are superpowered, show up looking to join the Legion but are rejected because of a bylaw stating that each member must have power that is unique and does not duplicate that of any other Legionnaire. Bitter over their rejection, the six beat the tar out of their Legion counterparts before getting tossed out on their asses by Superboy. The Legionnaires accept a challenge to a second fight due to wounded pride and this time remember that when fighting a group of evil (or at least hostile) counterparts the only way for the good guys to win is to switch up opponents. They win and then Matter-Eater Lad gets drafted.

So that's the plot. Now here's the really important part: reviewing the characters and in most cases soundly mocking them.

Magno Lad:

Here's Magno Lad with a mild case of Different Colourist on the Cover Syndrome, in that his costume's not that dark normally. It is however that bad. As Blockade Boy so wisely reminds us, long sleeves and short pants do not a good combination make. Plus that loin cloth thing kind of looks like a big spray of pubic hair. Oh, not literally, of course. You have to use your imagination. And then cry.

In any case, I started with Magno Lad for a reason: the issue begins with him getting the heave-ho from the Super-Hero Club, because of the aforementioned bylaw. He's awfully sad that he doesn't get to be a noble hero, an inspiration to millions with his upright feats of righteous derring-do -

- and so he starts in on the vandalism. And not only is he smashing a statue because he's disappointed, he's smashing a statue of Ferro Lad, who had recently died to save the galaxy. You know, sometimes I think that the Legion's a bit too harsh on applicants, that they reject them for no reason, but sometimes they're right on the money.

Here's the first fight - turns out that he's a magnetic athlete - in the Magnetic Olympics, no less! Because of this, he's stronger and thus should replace Cosmic Boy in the Legion, just like how we in Canada recently replaced all of our police officers with professional hockey players. Due to their great agility and ability to swing a blunt object with much accuracy, our crime rates have never been lower!

Here's the second fight. The result? comeuppance! Chameleon Boy whomps him good while posing as a giant needle.

Final analysis? Magno Lad is a Grade "A" jerk in a lousy leotard. Though I'm impressed that he can say "Ch- Chameleon Boy?" while getting punched in the jaw, I'm going to have to say:

NOT APPROVED

Chameleon Kid:

Chameleon Kid's from Durla, just like Chameleon Boy, and has a lousy imagination. Seriously, guy, if you're trying to stand out don't just change the last three letters of the other guy's name. Call yourself Toog the Transformer or Metamorphic Marquis or even Change-Shape Lad. Toog tries to justify replacing Chameleon Boy by pointing out that he's bigger and stronger, but it's a fair guess that he's also substantially dumber and more cowardly - check out his contribution to the big fight at the end:

He turns into a tree! He hides like a little, orange-skinned, antennaed baby until Matter-Eater Lad threatens to eat him. My guess is that his family all chipped in and sent him to the Legion tryouts to get him out of their equivalent of hair for a while. "I can shapeshift like you but I am stronger! Therefore I demand the last slice of cake!" "No matter what form you take I am mightier! Return my videos to the rental outlet!"

NOT APPROVED

Phantom Lad:

Phantom Lad is special in a couple of different ways, and both of them are awful. First, he's another member of Club "Too Lazy to Think Up a Good Name" and stole his off of Phantom Girl. Secondly and most heinously, he also ripped off her costume design, if "take a white outfit and cut slots in it" can be called a design (kidding: I actually love Phantom Girl's Seventies duds, especially as compared to, oh, Saturn Girl's). He's a prime example of the rule that states that what works on a dame doesn't necessarily work on a dude. Plus he's grotesquely musclebound.

Phantom Lad's from the extra-dimensional world of Bgtzl, just like Phantom Girl. He's a big obnoxious oaf in a white singlet, which isn't quite as cool, frankly.

Plus he's a misogynist and a hair-puller! Seriously, "a Phantom Lad is better than a Phantom Girl"? What the hell is the justification for that? If it's physical strength, think again, bucko - your power is becoming immaterial. That means that you can't touch things, so having totally ripped glutes isn't really any help. Plus, the Legion is full of folks who could rip you in two, no matter how many Cosmo-steroids you shoot into your ass.

I have to admit: this was my favourite part of this comic book. POW! Right in the kisser. Plus we got to see the Shrinking Violet Growing Uppercut, which I always enjoy.

Phantom Lad, you are NOT APPROVED

Esper Lass:

Esper Lass chose her own name, which I like. Plus her costume, flimsy as it is, is still better than Saturn Girl's. However thanks to Magno Lad I'm conditioned to equate loincloths with pubic hair, so that's a bit disturbing.

It's not made expressly clear whether Esper Lass is from Titan, like Saturn Girl. She's got some mental powers, sure, and she can fire ovals from her head, but that's no proof of anything. Various panels that I was too lazy to cut and paste suggest that she's the leader of this little band of rejects, which suggests that she is a moron of some sort. I mean even if they beat their counterparts into comas, these losers are never going to get in to the Legion. They'll serve some time and then have to go door-to-door in any neighborhood they move into in the future, warning everyone with superpowers that they have a history of making ridiculous challenges.

She does have a wondrously ignominious defeat, though. Just look at her spin! For that and for being just barely better-dressed than Saturn Girl she's kinda-sorta

JOHN APPROVED

Micro Lad:

I think that Micro Lad and Phantom Lad must go to the same gym, that they've been talking about coming to Earth and beating up some ladies for a while. They both like the "Lad," they both stole their costume design; they're both lame. Micro Lad seems to think, like Phantom Lad, that physical strength somehow augments his superpowers, despite the fact that his power is to get very, very small. I would wager though that by knocking down Shrinking Violet he has won his first and last fight in shrunken form - I can't honestly see a bit of upper-body strength helping out when you're the size of a dust mite.

He even gets defeated like Phantom Lad. And hey, isn't that Magno Lad's haircut? Jeez, Micro Lad, I mean, come on. Make a decision for yourself, hey? Try one that doesn't make you look like a giant tool.

NOT APPROVED

Calorie Queen:
We'll get to who Calorie Queen is in a second. First, though, I'd like to say that I like her costume - possibly because it includes bell-bottoms, or maybe because of the woad. In either case, she's rocking about a hundred times more style than anybody else on the Loser Brigade. Plus, Calorie Queen is the best name in the bunch. She does spend a lot of the issue flirting with Magno Lad, which is kind of sickening, but I'm predisposed to like her.

Okay, so she's from Bismoll and she's insulting Matter-Eater Lad...

... and she has a pretty cool power! She's like Matter-Eater Lad but with super-strength - my theory is that she was being lined up to replace ol' M-EL after he left the Legion - heck, he even recommends her to them - but that somebody said no at the last minute, which is a shame.

Another great defeat - Matter-Eater Lad chews down a flagpole and hits her with it, thus resolving a subplot wherein he was feeling like he wasn't good enough to be in the Legion, just in time for him to leave the Legion. Ah, well. Keep on eating, Matter-Eater Lad!

Hee-hee! She forgot Magno Lad's name.

I quite like Calorie Queen, especially as one of her few other appearances is in Legion of Super-Heroes No. 11 - "Tenzil Kem Takes a Bite Out of Crime" - as Senator Matter-Eater Lad's assistant. Since this is one of my fave comics of all time, anyone in it gets a

JOHN APPROVED

Bonus Material: some group shots which illustrate the rise and fall of this band of dumbclucks.

Here's everyone being disgruntled - that's Magno Lad's hand on the left.

Initial victory. Some points: Esper Lass appears to be kicking Saturn Girl while she's down, Phantom Lad and Magno Lad being asses.

The wind-up...

...and the pitch!

The second fight - Phantom Lad even runs like an idiot.

And the ignoble defeat/dose of moral superiority.

This issue was completely

JOHN APPROVED

5 comments:

Ben said...

Man, I got that one way back when I was a wee tyke, at the local volunteer Fire Department's annual rummage sale, along with an issue of the Avengers featuring the Squadron Supreme. I remember being seriously shocked at the length of Superboy's sideburns, and mildly confused as I knew his facial hair doesn't grow under a yellow sun. But what I don't remember is Esper Lass proving what a numbskull she is by getting IMRA Ardeen's name wrong, in spite of her amazing telpathic prowess. Fooey on that gal.

Michael said...

That was my very first Legion comic. That issue made me a Legion fan for the last 33 years. Well, OK, maybe not that specific issue, but that's where it started.

I do remember being confused at the end, mistaking Saturn Girl for Calorie Queen due to the similarity in costumes. I wondered why CQ was waving goodbye to "our" Tenzil Kem.

Johnathan said...

Yeah, Calorie Queen's costume is a lot like Saturn girl's plus Phantom Girl's. Somehow the coolness of the latter overrode the lameness of the former.

Ben: I think that Esper Lass might be stronger than Saturn Girl but considerably dumber. That seems to be the running theme among these guys. Man, if I'd noticed the name thing I might not have approved her.

michael: I'm sensing a trend among Legion fans - ones of our generation anyway - they all seem to have had a run-in with a Legion comic at a young age, and they get hooked, probably because they can sense all kinds of interesting backstory lurking in the wings. Or maybe it's just the bright colours, I don't know.

What I do know is that I acquired a Legion paperback featuring Timber Wolf when he was Lone Wolf, Grimbor the Chainsman's first outing and a mission by the Legion trainees, including Dawnstar and Laurel Kent. This was like candy to 9 or 10 year-old me.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

I also was first introduced to the concept of this group thanks to The Encyclopedia of Super Heroes, a book that I read and re-read until it fell apart, and which was also responsible for introducing me to the concept of the Adult Legion stories, further fanning the flames of my drive to track down old Legion tales.

Oh, and one of my earliest introductions to the Legion was that same DC Blue Ribbon Digest with the Grimbor and Laurel Kent stories, which also featured Wildfire's first appearance as ERG-1. After that, I was all about those Adventure Comics digests reprinting the earliest Legion tales.

Johnathan said...

That Rovin, he was a diligent nerd. Having those books around really helped to make up for the total lack of comic shops in my area.

The best thing about those books was the sense of history: you'd get a look at the same characters in a couple of different incarnations and know that there was a lot that had gone on in between. I was definitely hungry for more after I got ahold of that one.