Sunday, November 23, 2008

Super-Human Detritus of the Twentieth Century: Review of the Super-Companions, By Johnathan

From Adventure Comics No. 371 comes the most tangential Legion story ever! Well, maybe. It definitely shouldn't be billed as a Tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes, that's for sure. Maybe a Tale Where the Legion Shows Up for a Couple of Panels and Also Gets Mentioned Two or Three Times.

Enough picking of nits: time for the Super-Companions!

Yay, Super-Companions! So happy, so poorly-dressed. I was originally going to do up a separate review of each member of the group, but it was too hard to extract them from the story in order to do so. So what we're going to do here is sketch out the plot of "When Superboy Walked Out on the Legion", pausing frequently to cast a critical eye over those most super of companions, the Super-Companions.

So: our story opens in Smallville, as Clark (Superboy) Kent engages in his customary Bird Wakefulness Check (every day at 11:45, between the Manatee Continence Scan and the Deep Elephant Sniff. Superboy is nothing if not thorough). I must say, those sleeping students are fantastic. That one guy by the chalk board, for example, fell asleep so hard that he didn't have time to fall over. I just hope that if I'm ever caught up in a mysterious wave of sleepiness I have the presence of mind to at least slump forward, or even go jelly-legged and hit the deck. If this classroom represents the general state of things in Smallville then there are going to be a lot of very stiff necks once this episode is over. Gonna be a cranky, cranky tiny town.


Othar isn't really a Super-Companion, but I'm including him in the review process because he's in that splash page up there. Othar is really hard to categorize, on a couple of levels. I can't decide if he's a Benevolent Highly-Evolved Being who just happens to threaten broad swathes of a planet's population with eternal sleep in the event that he doesn't get his way or a Diabolical Alien Mastermind who doesn't have any real villainous followthrough. Either way, the guy is pretty inept.

Possibly my favourite thing about Othar is how over the top he is. All stops were pulled out on this guy to make him the very picture of impressive alienhood. Look how tall he is! check out the cape, the collar, the bulging cranium! Dig that crazy monocle, man! The Spock-esque ear/eyebrow combo is just icing on this particular cake.

Also, Othar seems to be in charge of this guy, who is among the better nameless underlings ever. About the only thing that Othar was missing was some sort of impressive facial hair, and his little buddy was all over that action, upper lip-first. Also, he seems to be filled with unearned bravado - if Superboy were to take one menacing step in his direction then I bet that he'd run and hide behind Othar.

I have no idea why the Thrannans seem to have two distinct head sizes. It's not that some of them have bigger brains, I can tell you that. The big-headed one seem to be in charge, but if they're the ones who thought up this super-hero-importation plan then perhaps it's time to give the small-heads a turn. More superheroes mean more trouble, guys.

And there you have it, folks: the only appearance of the Legion in this Tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes, outside of the cover. Not particularly worthy of note, though I do like "space-happy". I like to think that maybe it's the Thirtieth Century equivalent of "road rage", and that at some point between now and then people suffered from "undersea pneumatic people transporter giddiness".

Othar and his guys head for the horribly yellow Planet Cruxl, there to kidnap:


Liquidman is an interesting cat. There's no denying that he undergoes quite a dramatic transformation thanks to that purplish potion, and if I read his hair colour right then he's a respected elder super-hero on Cruxl... but there's no question that as far as superpowers go the anthropomorphic puddle isn't going to hold much of a candle to, say, the super-speedster. Unless of course it becomes vital to the fate of the universe that a small napkin become damp as quickly as possible.

More evidence: if you have to change back to your secret identity to deal with aliens then perhaps you should be reconsidering your career path. What was the plan once you found those crooks anyway, Liquidman? Were you going to run off and tell on them? Wait until they went to bed and then subdue them from within their lungs?

And how the hell does a puddle take a potion anyway?

Planet Cruxl is in the running for DC planet with the best buildings - check out that crazy curvy brown apartment building in the last couple of panels. Who wouldn't enjoy living in a place like that?

So: the Thrannans have kidnapped Superboy, the strongest, fastest, most invulnerable hero in creation, and Liquidman, who can become a puddle. Who's next, eh? Will there be some sort of balance of power on this team or will we be seeing a guy who can shrink his head to the size of a doorknob?


Oh, wow! It is someone with an in-betweeny power level! And a really bad costume! Really, really bad, in fact.

Note that while kidnapping Liquidman and Superboy will likely just lead to a few more jewel thieves and monsters roaming their respective countrysides, stealing Stormboy is actually going to cause droughts and famines and the like, unless Stormboy is some sort of unnecessary roaming nuisance. Othar does not like to share his metahumans, plainly.

I wonder: do Stormboy's storms keep on going until he shuts them off? He's clearly not concentrating on the one in the above panel but it's still going like gangbusters. I like to imagine that he left the planet without turning it off and that all of the sleeping people had a big surprise waiting for them when they woke up.

Wait, how does making it rain on a city help to fix a drought?


Tree-Man, as you might have guessed from his one-panel kidnapping scene, isn't given quite as much character development as Liquidman or Stormboy. Still, he's pretty great and comes from a planet of people who wear neither shirts nor shoes (and consequently have no restaurants). Plus, he's got an interesting twist on the stretchy-style superhero going on - when's the last time that you saw Ralph Dibney grow a couple of arms out of his chest?


Telepathy Man is a really terrible name. Also, his forehead looks like a bosom.

Like Stormboy, Telepathy Man seems to be less of a super-hero than a public service. He builds with his brain while wearing a poorly-tailored outfit. While useful, I don't know if it warrants the "hero" portion of the name. Super-service-provider, perhaps, or super-alternative-to-going-to-the-hardware-store.


Poor Shadowman gets perhaps the least impressive first appearance in this story. Othar tells us about his powers and there are no criminals or weather conditions for him to defeat or even adoring citizens to tell us how great he is... heck, I don't even think that they bothered to turn on the sleep ray in order to capture him. Othar probably just sent his mustachioed comrade out to give the universal signal to get one's ass on in the spaceship (thumb over the shoulder, impatient glare) and Shadowman marched glumly inside.

Arrival on Thrann! Seems to me that this would be a great time for Superboy and Co. to wreck all of the sleep rays and space ships and then go home, right? because they're all there under duress, and therefore not obligated to honour any agreements that they might have made, right? Evidently not.

Let's read about everyone's weaknesses! The weird-looking pictures are vestiges of the post I did not write but since I spent so many seconds slaving over a hot Polygonal Lasso to make them I thought I should use them.

Superboy is safe on Thrann because there is no kryptonite there, says Othar, and then lays out why everyone else is safe:

Man. Stormboy is weak against the visible light spectrum. Not only that but he creates the thing that he is weak against the majority of the times that he uses his powers. It's like the if Martian Manhunter burst into flame every time he turned invisible.

Eh. Fire isn't a very good weakness, especially against a guy made out of water. Because fire is everyone's weakness. Not having a weakness to fire is, in fact, a really good power. In any case, it looks like Othar interpreted that picture wrong. I'm not seeing "This fire is weakening me!" but rather "Oh no! My lab assistant threw his cigarette in the trash can again!".

No rainbows? No fireplaces? Thrann is the least romantic planet ever, it's official.

Tree-disease isn't a bad weakness for a tree-guy.

That's all I got.

Again, not a bad weakness. The best part of this panel, though, is the beret-clad bad guys. It's like Shadowman's world is bereft of funding for the arts, so troupes of avant garde artists loot the countryside to finance their massive absinthe and burnt umber habits. Also, that long radium-wrangling pole shows some amazing foresight and patience.

Stormboy is spared! This is the worst possible weakness that a superhero could have!

"I will defeat you, Evil Boy, with my mind! Just as soon as you stop being evil! Until then I shall retire to my secret lair next to the prison, where I will try for the third week in a row to make a signal booster for my wi fi!"

And, uh, Othar? Technically, kidnapping six super-heroes just for the hell of it counts as an evil act. Not Darkseid evil, but still.

So Othar manages to convince the Super-Companions not to steal a spaceship and run for it and instead has them compete to see who will be the leader of their merry band of abductees. Let's watch:

I'm most impressed by Tree-Man's extendible pants. Pretty pedestrian feats, guy. Let's see what the others are up to:

Man, I know that this stuff is very impressive on one level but I just can't care that much about prospecting and power-generation. No wonder Superboy won by building an iron castle and putting it in a low orbit.

Liquidman, by the way, didn't do anything to make the lives of his kidnappers better. Where's your Stockholm syndrome-fueled loyalty, pal?

In any case, the rest of the story was all about how the Super-Companions were ostensibly very content on Thrann but really very homesick and kind of painted them as being basically identical to one another. For example:

He had to protect his secret identity in case a disgruntled unseasonal dry spell came after his loved ones.

"It was funny how they never really used it, those law officers..."

The remainder of the issue is concerned with the Super-Companions staging a big fight in order to convince the Thrannans that they were more trouble than they were worth. Superboy wears that crown the whole time.

Everyone has a big laugh and goes home, the end. On to the ratings!

Othar - a Class A tool. Only gets points for having that little sidekick guy. NOT APPROVED.

Liquidman - I like his hair but deride his power. Still, his refusal to do tricks for the Thrannans makes him JOHN APPROVED.

Stormboy - The worst dresser of them all. Not a bad power but should be hiring himself out rather than freelancing for free. Lack of common sense equals NOT APPROVED

Tree-man - He's definitely my favourite. Purple pants are always a good thing, and erupting extra limbs from your chest to foil crooks is even better. JOHN APPROVED

Telepathy Man - Not a good super-hero. Not a good dresser. NOT APPROVED

Shadowman - Didn't do much to impress me but the really important thing for me is the quality of his enemies and they are top notch impressionist painters and the like, so JOHN APPROVED

Good night!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Super-Human Detritus of the Twentieth Century: Review of the Super-Companions Preamble, By Johnathan

Adventure Comics No. 371! Super Companions! Coming soon!

I'm not going to post the whole damn comic, so it won't take three months!


Monday, November 17, 2008

I may be cursed, a review by Johnathan

So this week when I went to the local comic shoppe to fritter away my salary (ah, for the halcyon days when Canadian and US currency were at par) I learned that Blue Beetle was scheduled to get the axe. This was the last scrap of evidence that I needed to verify the fact that I am labouring under a curse at least as hideous as that of the average werewolf.

Here's the pattern: 1) I will find some neato series, or some kind soul like Rachelle or Dave will clue me in to one. 2) I'll read the trades and the back issues to get things in the proper context. 3) I'll put the book on my pull list and enjoy a couple of months of good reading. 4) The book will be cancelled.

Seriously, check out this list of books that I have had on my list over the last year or so:

Shadowpact: DOA 
The All-New Atom: died a lingering death. 
Legion of Super-Heroes (or whatever): on borrowed time. 
Birds of Prey: I spend six months catching up and then it dies. Added to my list one month before it was cancelled. 
Blue Beetle: on the chopping block. Added to my list two months ago.

You want to know why Manhunter didn't get cancelled? Sure, the fan support helped, but the real reason is that I hadn't gotten around to reading the back issues yet. If I ever do, Gord help you all.

If this were a comic book world then I'd theorize the existence of a Bizarro Johnathan - or possibly an overly-mischevious John-Mite - working at DC Comics and cancelling things based upon my approval. I'd have to hope that they didn't have enough pull to take down Action Comics or Green Lantern.

Dammit, I may have to stop reading Booster Gold.


Note: Bizarro-face is hard. I need more practice at it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

High-Tech Tomorrow: Review of The Concentrator, the Exciting Conclusion, by Johnathan

Oof. I meant to write this senses-shattering finale to the sizzling, stunning, uh, saturnine review of the Concentrator earlier this week, but ran up against a couple of stumbling blocks: firstly, I’ve been pretty danged busy at work, so those occasional slow half-hours that were good for a paragraph or two about Saturn Girl’s costume have gone the way of the dodo. Secondly, my evenings have been taken up with Hallowe’en preparation – super-hero boots require a fair amount of sewing, it turns out. If I ever develop fantastic powers you can bet that my costume is going to be off-the-rack. (I wrote this before the previous post, but am too lazy to edit out the redundant information. Instead, I use up more of your neurons with useless info! Ho ho ho! A similar principle applies to the slight overlap between this and Part 3 of the Concentrator saga)

 Home stretch!

 We find the Legion relaxing after a hard day’s being tortured. Tensions, it turns out, are high:

Actually, they probably aren’t. The Sixties Legion, as I’ve mentioned before, weren’t exactly paragons of camaraderie and trust. I’ll bet that if Chameleon Boy lost his wallet and Phantom Girl was walking up to him to give it back he’d have punched her out and had her up in front of the Legion Supreme Court before she could get two words out, though admittedly it might have been a ruse to expose Universo’s crooked law practice or something like that.

“Hey, how does Superboy know that it’s a trick? I’ll bet that he planned all this with the Chief! Get him, everyone – use the kryptonite stilettos!”

Oh, poo, he referenced one of basically three or four panels in this story that I haven’t posted here. In brief, Chameleon Boy was frozen or something, but his hand was still free and he shapeshifted it into something and got away. So, you know, there’s no way that Lightning Lad could ever escape as Chameleon Boy did, if the Chief means “in a similar way” when he says “as”. Fear my pedantry, Science Police Chief! It transcends time, space and relative states of fictitiousness to blast you with the full might of my withering scorn! Your wife shall sleep alone tonight, whilst you cower behind a wall composed of your crystallized tears!

I really wish that this comic had some sort of audio component. I want to hear the voice that does this to people who routinely fight electrically-charged giants with exposed brains and jaundiced Eddie Munsters and so forth. Is it super-menacing, or is it the repetition that breaks the spirit? Is the Legion’s greatest weakness its collective low boredom threshold? 

The Concentrator sounds kind of… lame. Not that I wouldn’t want to have one in my apartment, mind you – I assume that it can concentrate matter into a decent batch of chicken wings – but I can’t really see it as life-imprisonment-worthy. I mean, wouldn’t you have to know how to make a weapon in the first place to make it in the Concentrator? So... doesn’t that really just make it a faster way to get things? Not so good in the hands of a villain, I know, but I can think of half a dozen DC baddies who can do stuff like that without even trying hard. Pre-computer nerd Calculator, for instance, or the entire Sinestro Corps, even that one guy who's a hermit crab.

 The smart thing to do would be to wait until the Chief opened the door and then *WHAMMO!* Lightning to the breadbasket! I mean, the idea is that the Chief is treating them as if he were a super-villain trying to pry info out of their wee brains, so why not respond accordingly?

When she said that, it hurt Chameleon Boy’s feelings.

I can’t say it enough: disproportionate punishment. Also: isn’t there a huge abandoned fortress just going to waste on that planet? Why have the Legion locked poor Lightning Lad in a cage smaller than most bathroom stalls?* I’m pretty sure that I’d go nuts with a great quickness if I were placed in a similar situation, no matter how good the books were.

 *Speaking of bathrooms, where are the facilities in that thing? Is he sitting on the toilet whilst they scold him?

So, the Police Chief (or is he a Commissioner? It's been so long since I read the beginning of this story...), having tortured a teenager into revealing information that he and his friends said was important, orders that same teenager locked in a tiny cage on a deserted planet for the rest of his life. Satisfied after a good honest day's work, he leaves for home.

Damn, it is the Commissioner. How long have I been calling him Chief? No matter, I'll retcon it later on. 

Man, this is a good issue for facial expressions - check out the look of desperation on Lightning Lad. Good job, John Forte.

So, could it be true? Could the man who I have known and referred to as the Commissioner for lo, these many years be some sort of traitorous impostor?

Yes, it turns out. There's the real Commissioner, looking surprisingly comfortable for someone who has spent the last few days tied up in or next to a time bubble. In fact, being kidnapped and impersonated seems to have... mildly irritated him, at the most. I am now concocting a theory about the Commissioner being a worlds-weary, tough-as-nails Slam Bradley of the future, and that if the Legion hadn't caught on to the fake Commissioner's scheme then the real one would have shortly cut his space-ropes on a space-nail and administered a flurry of fistic fury on the felonious face-filcher. And also, his descriptive text is full of alliteration.

But the Legion is watching, and it turns out that the impostor is the *yawn* Time Trapper. 

Actually, this is one of the *y*TT appearances that I'm okay with - it's not really until the Seventies that the Trapper jumps the shark, or interferes with history to cause the shark to become extinct and more swiftly bring about the victory of entropy over Creation, or whatever. Plus, this panel has given me a whole new theory of who the Trapper is. Check out how he has that rubber mask crammed down over his cowl: the Time Trapper is really Batman!

Just what are you going to make, Time Trapper? Does that pistol do anything better than letting you travel through time and preventing others from doing the same? Or does it make a rubber mask realistic enough that it can be worn over a hood and still fool, like, twenty people for a couple of days? Or...

... does it possess the capability to fling what I think are possibly neutron stars around? Man, what more do you need? Dr Doom would quite literally kill for something like that! Does the pistol shoot little stars, so you can use this power on individuals instead of whole planets? Because regular guns work okay for stuff like that. Greedy, greedy boring villain.

So, finally, we get to see the awesome might of the Concentrator. I mean, the narrative practically demands it - I think that if a Silver Age reader had reached the end of this story without seeing it they'd have spontaneously combusted (whereas a modern reader in a similar situation would use all of that energy to write a really scathing blog post).

I like that the Concentrator is visually unimpressive. Oh, it's big, I'll grant that, but stramlined and futuristic it ain't. The Legion's ultimate weapon is far too secret to have the boys down in R&D gin up a really impressive outer casing for it, after all - this is the bare-bones mechanism. But what does it do?

Jeepers? All the power in the Universe? Really? But it's safe, right, due to the fact that you're going to turn it off in a second. But, uh, but what about the electrical impulses in your brain (or whatever - the closest I've come to being a doctor is dating one, and she's long gone)? Don't they count as power, for the purposes of your super weapon? This could interfere with your plan, really.

"And all of the heat energy in the air, and the chemical energy  that powers our bodies, and," *horrible moment as every lifeform in the Universe dies*

But if it was just things like suns and cars and such, extended use of the Concentrator would be pretty amusing: whole planets and galaxies flickering on and off like a city in a movie blackout and entire planets of ticked-off citizenry and the like.

I'm betting that Brainiac 5 invented this thing, as he just can't bear to stop mentioning the "all power from everywhere" thing, possibly as practice so that he can brag about it the next time he tries to pick up Supergirl. 

Now, as much as I'm not fond of the Time Trapper, I've always been partial to the Iron Curtain of Time, especially as the Legion never actually got past it - it just wasn't there, eventually, as far as I remember. Of course I may be wrong, but even if I am I like to think of that Iron Curtain hanging out somewhere with the Source Wall (as depicted in Ambush Bug, Year None), having a drink and talking over old, good times.

Man, the Concentrator... it's possibly the most powerful sci-fi weapon ever conceived-of, really. No contest on a Concentrator/Death Star fight, and the Enterprise would be cinders. But that's the problem - realistically, the Legion should from this point forward be unstoppable. There appear to be no consequences to the use of this thing other than the chance that it'll fall into the wrong hands, so why not bust it out every time the fate of the known everything falls into question? 

Great Darkness Saga: "Oh, shit, it's Darkseid!" *building sounds* ZAPPO!

The Magic Wars: "The disturbances seem to be stemming from that planet." ZAPPO!

The Infinite Man, Mordru, Glorith, Dr Mayavale, etc: "I will rule/destroy creation in mere seconds!" ZAPPO!

The Legion is too big and competent an organization to fall prey to minor threats, and when the Concentrator is there to solve the really big ones that give them the dramatic trouble that we love so much then the whole concept is broken. Legion + Concentrator = no fun, unless the plot involves Brainiac 5 going insane and using the thing to hold the Universe hostage.


This story is JOHN APPROVED, though - it's pretty damn delicious.

Post script!

When the Legion gets back to Earth, they find:

Oh, lord. I love Superboy's lack of impulse control. Big green Iresa simply horrifies him, unless it's his inexplicable resistance to the idea of getting some that's flaring up here. Either way, the Man of a Million Super-Powers has not one iota of tact in his blue-clad body. Man, that Iresa does have a square head, doesn't she?

The only better end to this comic would be Bouncing Boy revealing that he picked Iresa up by impressing her with tales about Legion stuff and asking if he could show her the Concentrator, because he's told her so much about it.

Review of Revelry, By Johnathan

Hallowe'en is done, and I was so cool. As I may have hinted to some people out there (unless I hinted that I was going to be Parade Hater Horace), I went as Matter-Eater Lad. Here's the best picture I was able to produce with my feeble little webcam:

Legions of all worlds must bow to the awesome power of my mighty jaws!

Luckily, Rachelle over at Living Between Wednesdays was at the same party as my matter-eating self, so there are much better photo-recordings of the costume here. Please note the awesomeness of the other costumes in attendance, including a mysterious and amazing Captain Cold.

And she let me steal one away to post here! Drunken Matter-Eater Lad meets the Flash! Later, the Flash played drums in a game of Rock Band! Truly an awesome spectacle.

Those boots are the reason I didn't post anything last week, by the way. The rest of the costume was sewn up by my homework-avoiding roommate over the course of an evening (I was totally okay with this. The costume would not have been half as good if I had done it) but those damn boots required a buttload of hand-sewing. I'm going to eat those things.

Hallowe'en? JOHN APPROVED,