Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #0

As I have said in other places, I have been pleased with the DC's efforts in this Zero Month. The issues I have bought and read for the most part have been very good, stand alone origin stories. Sometimes, the stories truly feel separate, not part of the ongoing arcs. Sometimes they have nestled in nicely to where the title is going (Supergirl probably being the best example). But overall, I have been pretty happy because (outside of Green Lantern and Legion Lost) the issues have felt like an event, something special.

Legion of Super-Heroes #0 came out last week and was a decent issue.  It felt fairly separate to what has been going on in the book (save one big reveal of a 'new' origin). And since it focused on one character, not the team, and not necessarily even someone joining the team, it didn't feel like a big enough story to warrant the zero month moniker. Just like Legion Lost #0 could have been a rest issue anywhere down the line so could this.

That doesn't mean this isn't a good issue, revealing some background elements of Brainiac 5's origins and just what his hubris had wrought. But would I call this issue a good 'jumping on' point? I don't think so. In fact, it sort of read like Legion Secret Origin #7 rather than a true #0.

What the issue does bring is good characterization of a young Legion, one just starting. These aren't the savvy and experienced heroes we know. These are brash kids, high fiving each other, flirting in battle, and just learning to fight as a unit.

Scott Kolins does the art on the issue and brings a simple throwback feel to the story. His art felt like Chris Batista's work on LSH: Secret Origin, making it feel like another issue of that title.

The issue takes place on Colu where the Legion has been called in to battle some robotic drones which have been released from a leftover Brainiac laboratory on the planet. The dragonfly/spider like mecha are relatively tough requiring Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad to work together to bring them down. These are early times so it was fun to see these heroes, who we know become best friends and co-combatants, complement each other in battle.

As I said, one of the things about this issue which is fun for long time Legion readers is seeing glimpses of the future in small moments. So when a flirty Phantom Girl asks Ultra Boy to help her rescue people (as opposed to slugging drones), I had to wonder if this is the first time Jo was attracted to Tinya.

Even Ultra Boy is shown to be a rookie here, having trouble concentrating and switching his ultra-energy in battle. Knowing the accomplished fighter he is now, seeing these moments of indecision in him is a nice bit of characterization.

It was Brainiac who called the Legion in to assist in the Coluan efforts. (The Coluans don't seem to have a military. They are fighting the drones with digging lasers.) Brainiac 5 is the descendant of the Brainiac. You can see the pain on Brainy's face for being associated with the villain, nice touch. But that said ...

So I am still trying to wrap my head around the Brainiac/Collector of Worlds creature. I thought in this current DCnU the Collector was a separate entity from Brainiac which was the AI of Krypton. Then, following its first encounter with Superman, Brainiac absorbed/possessed/became the Collector.

Here, the Coluan elders call the Collector by the name Brainiac and say he left Colu to gather worlds. So call me confused.

As in Legion:Secret Origin, Tinya is pretty open in her attraction to Brainy. I like his astonished expression (what I can see of it). This also seems to be open to a story in the future. When did she give up trying to initiate this relationship and move on.

And Ultra Boy is about as far from Brainy as you can get. Where did that come from?

As I said before, the drones have escaped from some residual Brainiac facility. The lab had been sealed for generations but now someone blew the doors off and the place has come back on line.

So a couple of things here. One, it looks a lot like the Legion of Doom headquarters, doesn't it?

But more importantly, why keep this thing intact? Maybe to remind them of Brainiac's crime, a visible lesson? But doesn't that seem dangerous? Why not nuke it? Or enclose it in a famous Coluan force field? Or do more than just put a big wall around it. There isn't even barbed wire?

The lure of ill-gotten booty is too much. A non-Coluan thief just happens to be planet-side (too much of a coincidence?) and enters the Brainiac lab to take whatever he can. The internal Brainiac AI first tries vaporize the thief but then opts to take over his body and use him. Say hello to the new Tharok!

So if anyone needed a new origin it was Tharok as the 'half disintegrated' story felt dated. Heck, even the half-robotic look felt off ... surely there are plastic surgeons and skin grafts in the future. Anyways, it will be interesting to see what the new Tharok looks like (I hope some homage-like feel to the Silver Age one) and what a Coluan make-up does to his character.

Another new reveal in the issue is Cosmic Boy able to make a sort of magnetic energy 'grenade' which he tosses towards the Brainiac lab, destroying the outside robots.

Now I am all for more 'Dragon Ball Z' like moments in comics and this looks like a Kamehamha or maybe more like a spirit bomb. But since we haven't 'seen' this power. I don't like 'new powers' being introduced in flashbacks because then I wonder why we haven't seen them before.

In perhaps the most bizarre ending to a threat, Ultra Boy literally throws the Brainiac lab into space. So ... I don't know ... isn't an orbiting self-running Brainiac lab just as much a threat as a land-based one?

The Tharok reveal was a nice one for a zero issue.

Another reveal, the Coluans rarely reproduce. They were doing their best to protect a new Coluan infant, the first child since Brainiac 5. I would love ... love ... to read more about this. How do they reproduce (I don't recall seeing female Coluans)? Do they try? How does that effect their culture? I hope Levitz examines this some time soon.

But the last and maybe best reveal (not that it was too surprising) was that it was Braniac 5 himself who opened up the facility. He has been harboring a big secret. He has released his ancestral evil. He is responsible for Tharok. Does he feel guilt? Did this motivate him to leave Colu and join the Legion, to eradicate the sins of the Pandora's box he opened? If he does feel guilt, is that what has made him veer towards insanity? Nice ending.

So overall, a nice little flashback story which sowed the seeds for some future inspection. With the Fatal Five story just around the corner, I suppose the Tharok reveal will bear fruit sooner.

But was this an 'event'? Did this feel 'big enough' for this month? I almost wish this story ended with Brainy's decision to join the Legion as that might have felt like an deal to validate the issue. But I think if someone who never read Legion before picked this up that they would be either unimpressed, lost, or both.

Still, as a long time Legion reader, I thought this was a nice look at this Brainy's beginnings.

Overall grade: B


valerie21601 said...

It also occurs to me, this could just as easily also be a new origin for Pulser Stargrave.

I wonder if the female Coluan baby is the future Shurn Nux?

Dave MULLEN said...

That's a reaally good review, it echoes my own thoughts on the book and it seems like a missed opportunity, but it's not alone in this as several of the other Zero issues I've read so far seem missed opportunity's. I think Action Comics and Supergirl are the best I've read as they offer an expansion on the origin story and seed events for the future, all while being a self contained issue. The quality and depth of writing was an important ingredient too.
I still think this LSH issue was a success as it gave a welcome glimpse of the early days of the Legion and set up Tharok and the links to the Brainiac legacy.

Some brief thoughts and Comments based on your review:

*I was surprised too to see Levitz incorporate the original Brainiac and actually flag him as Coluan in origin. None of that was present in Action Comics but then that was a very strange story as it refused to even call him Brainiac.
I salute Levitz for tidying it all up.

*The threat of Brainiacs reactivated technology struck me as a little odd as it's a thousand years old - surely obsolete by now in terms of Coluan technology and knowledge? Or is it the case this is stuff Brainiac developed much later in his travels off Colu and merely stored as a reserve cache on a later return trip?

*Brainy has Jo throw the Vault into space, which let's admit was a deservedly cool feat for Jo! I got the impression it was done as much to remove the 'evidence' as to stop the threat...

*I had no idea this issue would use the Brainiac motifs set up in Morrisons very successful Action Comics run, nothing in the solicits or promotional material said this would be an element and it seems an awful waste as it would have brought a few extra curious readers in to check it out. That was the entire purpose behind these books after all.

LSH isn't a bad book, but as I've said before it's always missing that 'Something'... I hope things pick up.

Anonymous said...

In space the base could be easily destroyed at a safe distance by a spaceship, avoiding any more damage to the planetary surface or inhabitants.