Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Adventure Comics #516

With a new Legion of Super Heroes comic out, reverting the team's history to the Baxter series continuity, it would make sense that DC would want to put out a comic that would review some of the team's history ... something to get the new readers up to speed. Writer Paul Levitz has said that he is picking up the team's continuity after his 'Magic Wars' arc from way back in 1989. That's a many years and several reboots ago.

Adventure Comics #516 tells R.J. Brande's story which intertwines with Legion history pretty closely. There is a lot of exposition here, Brande appearing after his death as a holographic story-teller, retelling his life story to the Legionnaires present. Of course, they all know this story or most of it.

In fact, that was one of my own selfish concerns here. I know most of this story too. Would this issue be worth my time? Luckily Levitz throws in some new flourishes that I enjoyed. And the overall theme, that Brande is as big a hero as any Legion because of the changes he brought to the universe, is a nice one.

The issue starts on Durla, Brande's home planet. The world has been devastated by their race's "6 minute war" (makes the Earth/Krypton 100 minute war seems like a drawn out siege) and the few survivors have adapted shape-changing abilities just to survive in that environment.

The Durlan Brande discovers a small cache of books which opens his mind to the possibility of a life off-planet. In a nice little addition to the Legion Lore, Brande is inspired by Superman to try to get off the planet. Trying form after form, he finally stumbles onto a shape that allows him to survive in space and simply leaves Durla behind.

There were a couple of nice touches in these early scenes on Durla as well. One, it is hinted (and later confirmed) that Brande laid the egg that is Reep Daggle. Brande is the mother and father. Interesting. Second, Brande discusses Durlan shape changing - sometimes you get the attributes of the creature, sometimes it is simply changing the outer form.

Brande contracts Yorrigan fever and loses his shape-changing abilities, becoming stuck as Brande.

He is able to use his knowledge of Durlan technology to create his star-starter missiles, becoming one of the richest and most influential men in the universe.

Despite leaving Durla behind, he wants to bring them into galactic community. In another nice touch, it is revealed that the usual shape we see Durlans in (orange skin and antennae) is Brande's idea! He hired xenologists to find a form that wouldn't frighten outsiders.

And he also hires more people to try to and find a role model/spokesperson to help fight the xenophobia and isolationism that is rampant on Earth. That person is Superman. Ironic, since it was Superman that led him off-world too.

What better way to get Superman to spread the word than to bring Superman to the future. Suddenly Brande finds himself sponsoring Professor Circadia Senius and Braniac 5's time travel experiments.

So this piece of the puzzle, Brande working hard to help elevate his people on Durla is a nice little new wrinkle to his back story. He could have never looked behind. But instead he tried to do what was right for his world ... his son.

When Brainy makes a breakthrough, Brande is off-world. The only way to get back is to jump on a packed flight back to Earth, the flight that Rokk, Garth, and Imra are one. The one where they foil an assassination attempt on Brande and become the Legion.

This another nice new addition ... explaining something I have always wondered. At least now we know why Brande, one of the richest men in the universe, was riding coach on a space cruiser. Still, you would think he would have a private ship.

I love it when oddities in origin stories from the Silver Age are able to be explained away by good writing. This is like when Alan Moore explained why Abin Sur was in a spaceship to begin with.

Of course, the Legion is formed, Brainy's time bubble works, Superboy is added to the roster, and the rest is history.

It is nice that Brande says that he hoped to change the universe a little at a time and that the Legion was able to help him accomplish that. He also tells Chameleon Boy just how proud he is of him. It is a personal touch added to the bigger story.

And with that there is nothing left to say but 'Long Live the Legion'.

So, it's a nice story ... a retread with some new beats for an old time Legion fan like me. Kevin Sharpe's art is fine. But the book felt a little bit like seeing a repeat on TV, or a movie remake. I would love to hear what someone hearing this story for the first time thought of it.

Jeff Lemire and Mahmud Asrar's Atom back-up story is a solid story with Ray Palmer seeking out the Calculator. I have never been a big Atom fan but this was pretty good.

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

A fine review, Anj, it made me appreciate the story a little more. I'd really like yo see a Whatever Happened to Marla Latham story - I always wondered about that guy.

valerie21601 said...

RJ Brande as both father and mother to Reep? Hmmm?

Maybe the Durlans are like seahorses. Where the seahorses mate and then the female seahorses lays her eggs into a special pouch in the male seahorse. And the male seahorses then carry the eggs until it's time for the eggs to hatch. Though in the Durlans they have one egg at a time. Just something to think about.