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.

NOT APPROVED

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.

2 comments:

Daemodand said...

Bouncing Boy, the Bill Clinton of the Silver Age.

Johnathan said...

I hope that his life was a whirlwind of Superboy-horrifying romance up until he got fat again.