Thursday, February 25, 2010

Back Issue Box: Legion Of Super-Heroes #303

These Legion issue reviews seem to work better as back-to-back posts. Given that the Weber's World/Tsauron storyline pretty much wraps up in Legion of Super-Heroes #303, I figured I would follow up yesterday's post right away.

Unlike the prior issues of Legion, LSH #303 concentrates almost exclusively on the Brainy/Supergirl team plot. We just learned last issue that the Emerald Empress was working with the traitorous Science Police officer Tsauron to take over the diplomatic artificial Weber's World.

As usual, Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen do a great job on this issue with words and art flowing together nicely. For Supergirl and Brainiac 5 fans, this is a particularly sweet treat.

As stated above, the main villain in this story turns out to be the Emerald Empress, acting on her own and without the rest of the Fatal Five. It is clear that Giffen was having some fun with the character. While Levitz really plays up her regal condescending tone, Giffen has her with a variety of hair styles and always in a sort of preening pose. So last issue she sported her hair in a beehive sort of wrap. Here she has straight hair and bangs. It works very well for the character who clearly she thinks she is a strata above the grungy common man.

Even here, the Empress lords over the Legionnaires who were captured last issue. Held up by her green energy, she walk to each one and slaps their face in disdain. She even breaks Sun Boy's jaw!

She is so pompous of her purportedly royal status ... you can almost hear her saying 'let them eat cake!'

I do find it interesting that the Empress doesn't seem to recognize who Supergirl is. Even if this is the first time they have interacted personally, I was always under the assumption that Supergirl was an easily recognized historical figure.

Unfortunately for the Empress rather than simply kill the captured Legionnaires right then and there, she decides to set up a more elaborate execution. Tsauron, who is now shown to be a Dark Circle operative, sets up a firing squad for the Legion. Now I don't know the weaponry they are packing ... but I doubt they have a gun that could kill Kara, even if she is paralyzed.

And fortunately for the Legion, Supergirl knows how to use her super-breath for maximum effect. With a short burst, she is able to use her breath to activate Brainiac 5's force field belt, covering the Legion and saving them

Okay, even I admit it's a stretch. That said, I always thought Supergirl used her super-breath more creatively and effectively than Superman. The scene in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 where she blows apart the Anti-Monitor's reassembling stone creatures jumps to mind.

Now free, the Legion makes short work of the Dark Circle soldiers. I talked about it in prior posts but I love how Levitz/Giffen had Supergirl hold her cape put like a shield of sorts.

Figuring that a major plot must be brewing, the Legionnaires split up. Brainy and Supergirl will try to figure out exactly what Tsauron and the Empress have planned while the others try to capture them.

This allows Levitz the opportunity to show us Kara and Querl in a more private setting, working together.

Levitz does such a good job of conveying how the two feel for each other. It has been coyly hinted at prior, now Supergirl says it outright. She is enjoying the time she is spending with Brainiac 5.

Even better is Brainy's simple stammering as he struggles to state his feelings for her. It must be hard for a computer-like analytical mind discuss love. So to watch him squirm as he says 'We ... I ... missed you' is wonderful. You know what he is trying to say with just that handful of words.

But any more discussion of their relationship has to end as the Empress/Dark Circle plot becomes apparent. The Empress plans to ram Weber's World into the base of the United Planets' fleet, crippling the UP's defenses.

No time to exchange platitudes of love now. Now it is time for some heroics.

As we are approaching the end (but still in) the Silver Age, Brainy comes up with a very silver-y idea. He tells Supergirl to simply push man-made planet out of the way.

Levitz shows exactly why that wouldn't easily work. Rather than push the whole planet, Supergirl merely starts to burrow into it's crust. I really love that first panel showing just how deep Supergirl has tunneled. It is a nice representation of her strength.

Just in time, Brainy has a brainstorm! He asks Kara to fly at top speed and come back with a sharp banking turn.

I have said it throughout these LSH reviews but Giffen really did a nice job with Supergirl in these issues. I really love how she looks in the lower tier of panels, especially that first one.

Brainiac's plan is brilliant in its simplicity. If pushing on the planet won't work, maybe glancing off the planet will. Like striking the surface of the planet, Supergirl is able to nudge it off course just enough to save the base! Fantastic! It's like Supergirl is playing billiards with Weber's World.

Giffen's style really has evolved over his career with distinct periods. You can almost see some of his later style in Supergirl's face on the second panel. That is close to his style in the early issues of the Baxter series or even the beginning of the '5 Years Later' reboot.

With the base saved and the Dark Circle soldiers crushed, the only loose end is the Empress. Just as Supergirl is about to wrap everything up with a nice bow, the Empress pulls out the ultimate equalizer ... Kryptonite.

But before any significant damage can occur, Shrinking Violet saves the day. Long time Legion fans will know why 'Shrinking Violet' is so knowledgeable with Durlan Nerve Cruncher punches. I don't want to spoil the surprise.

With the Empress taken out, the Legion mission ends victoriously.

But what about all those unsaid words between Brainiac 5 and Supergirl.

We get some denouement at issue's end. Finally Brainy opens up a bit and says what's on his mind.

His deductive thinking has suffered because he is so distracted by Kara! And now it is Supergirl's time to stammer a bit!

I really hoped that this ending would open up more Legion time for Supergirl and more exploration of the two characters' relationship. But that didn't really happen. Outside of a few panels in Legion of Superheroes Annual #2 (which I will eventually review as part of this retrospective) and 'The Trial of Ontiir' in Tales of the Legion #314-315, we didn't see much more of Supergirl here.

Still, what we saw in those issues was a confident and heroic young woman. I love these issues. And since this issue is almost exclusively the Supergirl story, this would be the issue in this run to have. While I wouldn't say this issue is 'must have' for a Supergirl collection from a character history point of view, it is a great issue for Supergirl fans to own. She just thrived in her short time in the book.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Y'know, Levitz' Supergirl really works well as the "Aggressor" in the Kara/Querl relationship.
I mean who knew!?

Too bad Levitz never got the chance to write Supergirl's solo book seems like he had a strong take on the character.

John Feer

TalOs said...

Man how I truly loved reading this issue and seriously look forward to seeing just how Levitz handles Supergirl should she end up bcoming a part time member in the all new title due out this year! :D

Brad said...

Great review of what was a good Legion/Supergirl story.

I recall being irked on a couple of things when I first read these comics, though. For example, the old "Supergirl/boy/man is invulnerable to everything except magic and Kryptonite ... except when she/he isn't" thing. Here we have Supergirl being knocked out by the Emerald Eye's blast - which definitely wasn't Kryptonite- or magic-based. (As I recall, in fact, the Eye also has a Kryptonite vulnerability.)

Was that consistent with the Legion history as a whole? I know Superboy came up against the Eye quite a few times, and always had a tough time with it (and Validus) but being knocked out by one emerald blast? Hmmph.

Then there was the "burrowing through Weber's world" thing. A very neat application of reality/physics ... except for Brainiac 5's conclusion, which doesn't make sense:

"Kryptonian strength has never been adequately measured, so there was a chance it would exceed my calculations."

Huh? In this case Kara's strength *does* exceed his calculations! Or put it like this - she's easily too strong for the job. If she was stronger she'd just burrow into the (soft) metal of Weber's World faster.

Which makes one wonder ... Kara could have *reduced* her strength, or relative force on the planet, 'giving way' *just enough* to slow the planet down without crumpling through its skin.

So Brainiac's utterance doesn't make sense for a couple of reasons.