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


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


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?

STORMBOY


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


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


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.

SHADOWMAN


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!

8 comments:

adriana said...

oh. my. god. i like how superboy can't think of anything bad about smallville except lana. meanwhile, the dude punches the ground and fucking dinosaurs come out. AND there's a crazy old bald man trying to kill him on a daily basis. but it's that nosy red head that bugs him.

BEST REVIEW EVER

Johnathan said...

Hey, Superboy has his priorities in order.

If he let down his guard for even the tiniest instant he might *get some* for heaven's sake.Insanity!

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. Dear. Lord. The evil pink beret wearing artist is from that gang who were going to use garbage can Chameleon Boy in a found objects piece!!! 0_0 WHO IS HE?!

Johnathan said...

He's a thousand-year-old man on the cutting edge, circa 1950. He will make art out of an old bicycle and some tin cans and it will blow your mind.

And then he'll steal the crown jewels of the planet Nardor and claim it as a conceptual piece.

Anonymous said...

Whoa...^._^

Michael said...

For what it's worth, this was a fill-in issue. The "Legion" story (and I use that term loosely) had just those panels because it was originally a regular Superboy story reprinted here with a couple of new panels to justify Neal Adams' new cover. It originally appeared in Superboy #101 (six years prior to this issue).

Johnathan said...

Well, I suppose that that's fair.

But it will not stop me from pointing and laughing.

Michael said...

Isn't pointing and laughing what the internet was invented for?

word verification: sursess, which looks like a word but it's really not