Saturday, December 27, 2014

Review: Superboy And The Legion Of Super-Heroes #233

Justice League United, written by Jeff Lemire, has been a great title for me, mixing in the best of the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the modern age, into the current state of comics.

It certainly hasn't hurt that Lemire has brought back a Legion of Super-Heroes that I both recognize and enjoy. It has been a while since I have been able to say that. And in the big JLU/LSH crossover, the villain is the Infinite Man (renamed Infinitus).

I have been looking for the right time to review Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #233, the Infinite Man's first appearance and with Infinitus about to rise in JLU I figured the time was right. It was the middle of 1977 when "The Infinite Man Who Conquered Time The Legion" hit the shelves. Writer Paul Levitz and artists Jim Sherman and Bob Wiacek spin a fast paced action tale with a couple of interesting side scenes to create a pretty intense story.

While the story is very good, the art is spectacular! Dramatic, trippy, detailed ... as well as showing huge art where art needs to be huge. Sherman and Wiacek really shines here and make this book worth buying if you see it for the right price.

And this isn't just the first appearance of the Infinite Man! We see Sklarian Raiders for the first time as well, right here on the opening page!

Here, the Raiders are trying to steal a new 'time engine' designed by Rond Vidar. They feel that the United Planets are holding their planet back, keeping technology away from them and therefore keeping them in a sort of Dark Ages. If they need to steal the tech, they will.

Sklarian Raiders are always female, usually gorgeous, and later on obtain a yellow skin color and blue hair with a few pastel highlights. Their costumes here fit the time when Dave Cockrum's influence was still strong in the Legion leading to a skimpy bathing suit style costume with a variety of holes cut out here and there.

Kono, over in the 5YL Legion, is from Sklaria.

The Sklarian Raiders are repelled so Vidar is able to proceed with his hyper-time engine experiment.

Vidar theorizes that time is circular and that he will use the engine power a ship and send someone through time for one lap. The pilot is Jaxon Rugarth, a volunteer from the Time Institute and a fan of Vidar's.

Unfortunately, the  engine works too well. The ship travels through time a near infinite number of times. And that trip is enough to do two things to Rugarth. One, it makes him nearly omnipotent. Second, it cause him so much pain that he goes insane. And all his pain and wrath is aimed at Vidar.

Here is the first of many good pages of big art by Sherman. The design of the Infinite Man is visually grabbing - giant sphinx helmet, invisible or galactic limbs. And with power over time, Sherman gets to stretch his legs a bit showing us Viking ships, biplanes, and starships.

Levitz makes the Infinite Man seemingly unstoppable. We see him pluck things out of time to battle the Legion (dinosaurs and cavemen). We see him blast pure energy from his eyes, helmet, and hands. We see him paralyze Star Boy by freezing him in time. And we see him teleport Superboy away, sending the Boy of Steel careening through dimensions light years away. There is simple no reason why a handful of Legionnaires should defeat him.

But somehow they are able to at least hold him off. Infinite Man realizes he needs to regroup and teleports away to bide his time.

There are plenty of great panels of this early fight with Tyrannosaurs as well as Superboy in the wild visuals of the different dimensions. But I love this page. It's sort of a semi-splash but by giving Sherman room we really see the difference in size between Superboy and Infinite. And there is something ludicrous but fascinating about seeing the villain's bare feet. The shading and perspectives are great too.

And then the story takes what I would think is a left hand turn. Realizing that time means nothing to the Infinite Man and that he could return any second, the team splits up to seek help from the own races and others. So Dream Girl heads to Naltor to see if the high seer can prophesize how to defeat the Infinite Man. And Phantom Girl heads to Gendyx to ask The Timeless Ones if they can help. Neither gets anything useful.

Brainiac 5 even heads to Colu to see if the brilliant minds there can help. But even they have been unable to fully understand time. And Brainy isn't happy about it. Look at that emotion!!

Meanwhile, The Infinite Man has fully grasped his powers. He controls time and space. And he still is livid at Rond Vidar. Despite the powers the Infinite Man has, Jaxon Rugarth suffered pain for "a million million" trips through the circle of time.

He heads back to have his revenge only to once again square off against the Legion.

Despite all these powers ... beams, control of time and space, ability to teleport ... somehow Colossal Boy gets in a right cross to the kisser. I do love how the Legion simply doesn't give up. Would you even consider punching this guy as an answer?

I also think Vidar's silence is deafening. You almost wish he would surrender to spare the world this menace. My guess is once Vidar is 'punished', the Infinite Man would leave.

But the battle continues.

I love this panel. The Infinite Man decides to show the Legionnaires an instant of what he suffered during his trips through time. And we get this absolute maelstrom of a panel with swirls, a Dali-esque Star Boy, and enough Kirby Krackle for an issue.

I have always liked Sherman's work but this issue has really elevated his stuff in my mind.

The Legionnaires are basically delaying the inevitable as the deal with neanderthals, energy blasts, and trips through chaos. Finally Rond Vidar (who is thankfully protected by Brainiac 5's shield belt) comes up with an answer.

He hooks up Rugarth to the hyper-time engine again (!), sending him hurtling through time ad infinitum. This time he won't be able to escape. Instead he will endure the torture of this trip ... forever. Harsh!

And so we have the origin of The Infinite Man. There is a lot of potential for this character as his powers are varied and interesting. His design is also quite grabbing.

We see the Infinite Man again, most notably in a Crisis crossover. But the real beauty of this issue is the art!

Overall grade: A


John (somewhere in England) said...

Although no grade has been given, I would suggest that this issue deserves a grade A.

The story of the Infinite Man is also available in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives volume 13 with the artwork reproduced on top-quality paper. In the introduction to that volume writer Paul Levitz says that the Infinite Man was "perhaps my best addition to the Legion's rogues gallery". He also states that he was only 19 and 20 when the stories in that book were written.

I too am a long-time Legion fan (I started reading Adventure Comics in 1968!) and found my way to Supergirl via the Legion.

Anj said...

Thanks for comment. And I can't believe I forgot the grade (now rectified). Yes, I gave it an A.

The Legion was my introduction to comics as well, way back in the mid 70s. They have always been a part of my comic life.