Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Review: Adventure Comics #518
One of the hard things about trying to run this blog is realizing when something has slipped through the cracks. Adventure Comics # 518 came out 2 weeks ago and here I have been remiss in reviewing it. I think with this review I will finally be up to date on the comics that I want to give an in-depth look. Thank goodness, new comics come out tomorrow!
Adventure continues to turn back the clock and look at the earliest stories of Superboy and the Legion. As I have said since this renaissance of the title, it is an interesting concept for a number of reasons. I think one of the major problems with any Legion reboot is the fear of isolating or offending the continuity-rabid older fan base of the characters. This title's concept is probably heaven-sent for that crowd, allowing the more seasoned Legion lovers to enjoy a look backwards. But this title also allows Paul Levitz to further define and refine this early period of the team while, in essence, teaching any new Legion fans what the team was all about back in the day. We haven't seen any frank re-telling of Legion stories but we have danced around some of the big events in Legion Lore. And outside of, in my opinion, one major gaffe (having Saturn Girl sleep with Cos and then mind wipe him), it has accomplished those goals nicely.
For newer fans, this book also helps to build a foundation for the team which has a lot of history to cover. And it allows the reader the ability to look at a character closely from where they have been (in Adventure) and where they are now (in the Legion main book). Certainly the Saturn Girl in the main book is different than the one here, so contrasting those portrayals helps the reader see just how much these characters have grown.
My one concern as an older fan as I read this book is that I may not appreciate the context of the story if indeed it is meant to embellish a sliver of the Silver Age. I consider myself a huge Legion fan but my knowledge of their earliest history is okay ... not encyclopedic. So maybe Levitz is hinting at a story I just don't know about.
The issue continues the plot of the Legion tracking down the tech-marauder Zaryan.
I have been enjoying the story's focus on the early Saturn Girl and her growing confidence. She bears a grudge against Zaryan. After all, his men nearly killed Saturn Girl last issue, killing the SciPo liaison instead. Imra feels responsible for that death and blames herself for her weakness in combat.
This issue she seems more confident, less antsy in battle, dropping her enemies telepathically while hounding Zaryan. She is able to procure some information about his whereabouts and his next target. It is a small victory but you can see how proud Saturn Girl is. Now the Legion can be proactive.
I know the polished, strong, self-reliant Saturn Girl the best so it is nice to see these early missteps. It makes me appreciate to current strong Legionnaire more.
Back at the LSH headquarters, Brainy, Phantom Girl, and Superboy are investigating a mystery. Some of the Legionnaires have been hearing voices in the headquarters. With some concern that the voices are spectral in nature, Phantom Girl has been left behind to pursue any ghostly leads.
I am still a bit surprised at how forward Phantom Girl is here in Adventure. I don't recall that being part of her usual personality.
She even invites Superboy to inspect the .. ahem ... personal quarters. Not surprising is Superboy's shyness and his awkward rebuff of her advances. He practically trips over himself to get out of there. It is funny to see Clark squirm a bit here.
And call me crazy, but I've come to like the throwback 'P' costume Phantom Girl sports here.
In what has to be a monumental bonehead play, Zaryan has plans to raid Naltor. Isn't it a bit foolish to think you'll surprise a planet of precogs?
And while the planet might not have a strong army (Zaryan says they are 'only Naltorians'), they are forewarned and therefore forearmed.
Didn't Zaryan realize that they might have called in some muscle?
The Science Police are already there and thanks to Saturn Girl's prior discovery, the Legion is there as well.
Among the Naltorians is a young and very fetching Nura Nal, who already senses where her destiny might be. One day she'll be Dream Girl.
And given the mystical nature of Naltor, I thought it was a nice touch that the Naltorian leader calls the Science Police the planet's dark sword. It is a nice flair of local color.
Dream Girl's premonitions don't end there. She also gets a vision of a dead Legionnaire. Given the whole feel of this story, the emphasis on Saturn Girl, and prior hints, my guess is it's Lightning Lad who will die (and then be resurrected by Proty's sacrifice).
But that is part of the problem here. I don't recall enough of the Legion history to place this story in any concrete time period. Despite some information (Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl not an item, Ultra Boy on the team), I don't know if the Lightning Lad death is historically imminent or not. For all I know, this is a premonition of Ferro Lad or Invisible Kid. Maybe I shouldn't let it bother me. Maybe I should just read the stories. But it is sort of mildly annoying.
Superboy meanwhile has fled from Phantom Girl straight to the Superman wing of the Legion trophy room/museum.
In a nice progression from Dream Girl's vision of a dead Legionnaire, Superboy faces his own death in the face of Doomsday. Here is a destiny he can't escape. I like how he acknowledges that is 'better to go out fighting'; he already has the courage of Superman. He looks away without even learning of his eventual revival.
This idea of destiny permeates the issue. How tough must it be for Superboy to already know how you will be killed.
But Superman can't dwell on the future for too long. He hears the ghostly voice warning him that he can't stay. Why is it warning Superboy to go back to his own time? Is it a threat here in the future he needs to avoid? Or a threat in the past that Superboy needs to attend to?
As for the voice itself, it has to be Mon-El right? Communicating from the Phantom Zone?
With no easy answers, Superboy's visit ends and he is brought back to his own time. When he returns there will be a new Legion leader as Cosmic Boy has decided to step down. Again, the book is building on Legion history, fleshing out older stories. So is this change in leadership something that should be jogging my memory? In some ways a little knowledge is a bad thing. Am I trying to hard?
In the end, Adventure ends up being a 'nice' comic. I am enjoying them for this retrospective look at the Legion. But I'm not floored by them. I really would love to hear how the extremes of Legion fans are receiving this book: the hard-core fans and the brand new readers.
The art by Kevin Sharpe is a nice fit for these stories. He has a pleasing style, organic and rounded, not angular and frenetic, which really works for these stories. I am pretty happy with his work here.
Overall grade: B