Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: Adventure Comics #517

I wish I had a better sense for the overall response to Adventure Comics. The comic has become sort of a flashback title for the Legion, looking back at the earliest days of the team, trying to rebuild and refine the group's history.

Who is this title's demographic? Old timers like me, hoping to rekindle our passion for the team, while updating the early part of their timeline? New Legion readers, who may be having a hard time grasping the current title and might need this book to build up a back story? Both?

The comic market has barely been able to sustain any Legion book for the better part of 2 decades. Can it sustain 2 books? And does having two titles at two different points in time make it more confusing for new readers? I suppose there are a ton of X-books out there at different times so maybe I am overthinking things.

As for me, I am enjoying this title more than I thought I would. I feared that this book might end up reading like reprints of stories I have already read. What Paul Levitz is doing is adding nuance to well traveled Legion stories and themes, bringing new perspective for the older Legion readers while building a history for the newer readers. In some ways it reminds me of Geoff Johns and his ability to reintroduce Silver Age elements of the Superman mythos while updating them enough to feel fresh.

Adventure Comics # 517 continues that 'best of both worlds' feel, bringing us one of the earliest Legion adventures back when the team consisted of only the original three, but adding some characterization to Saturn Girl.

Saturn Girl has always been portrayed as a steely strong and confident member of the team, a leader both by example and in title. When I started reading the Legion, she was already entrenched as a veteran, almost a legend on her own team.

This issue shows a very different Imra Ardeen. With the Legion just having been formed, she realizes that she cannot rely solely on her telepathy. She needs to be able to wade into battle and she doesn't have the luxury of ranged based kinetic powers like Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad. She needs to be able to 'keep up' with the other Legionnaires.

It is an interesting take. In the end, Saturn Girl ends up being probably more powerful than either of them, her telepathy being a better weapon than magnetism and lightning. So to see her sweating in the gym, worried she won't make it as a Legionnaire unless she can throw a mean right hook gives some new insight to her character. And given the time period of this story, it feels natural even though it is 'out of character' for the Saturn Girl we see in the main title.

The Legionnaires are all new though, certainly with no reputation. They are reluctantly enlisted by the Science Police to help stop some technology pirate raids. The SciPo have no love for the Legion, feeling they are kids who don't have the training or the fortitude to do real police work.

And it turns out they are kind of right. We see the Legion struggle against a handful of robots, a clear sign of their inexperience. In fact we see Cos struggle to use his powers throughout the issue. First he can't budge the robots because of their mass. Then he ends up attracting himself to a ship rather than dragging the ship towards him with his powers. I imagine the current Cos would crush these bots like a tin can ... but he is essentially a rookie here.

Saturn Girl continues to train under the guidance of the SciPo, learning weak points and martial arts throws. Again, I am impressed but not surprised at Imra's tenacity in this training. She simply refuses to stop even to take a rest. She needs to be the best. That sounds like the Saturn Girl I know.

It seems like she is doing the right thing. With a couple of targets for the pirates discovered, Garth and Rokk try to keep Imra at home ... for her own protection of course. Saturn Girl will have no part of it. She is coming along.

And she recognizes that the Legion has a supporter in the Science Police.

I wonder how ostracized the sergeant is within the force for helping the Legion as much as she is.

Unfortunately, we will never know.

As if confirming Saturn Girl's lack of confidence, the Science Police officer needs to save Imra's life by jumping in front of a laser blast. The officer dies in Saturn Girl's arms.

It both infuriates and saddens Saturn Girl. Intensifying her resolve, she swears that no one will die in her place again. If anything, it explains how driven Saturn Girl is as a character in the future. She is traumatized by this tragedy.

But Saturn Girl also needs to deal with the realization that, in essence, she is responsible for the death of a friend. Cosmic Boy thinks she needs a drink ... something harder than Kono juice.

And then we have the big reveal ... something dramatically new for old time readers.

After a few drinks with Rokk, the two fall into each other's arms. That's right! Imra and Rokk slept together! Now that is news.

Fearing that this tryst may endanger the future of the Legion, and therefore somewhat regretful of this romantic escapade, Imra takes matters into her own hands. She cannot have this episode 'happen' and so she mindwipes it from Rokk's memories.

I have to say, while Rokk cannot remember this having happened for 'current continuity' to remain intact, this just felt wrong. Even if she ends up thinking this was a mistake, it doesn't give Saturn Girl the right to manipulate Rokk like that.

Making another ethical stand, Saturn Girl states she will keep her distance from other Legionnaires in terms of romance. The team is bigger than her feelings. It is another way to show how the activities of a young Saturn Girl led her to become the leader and hero she is today.

I did like the ending of the story, as Imra bemoans meeting her school girl crush Superboy just as she swore celibacy. I like when life throws curve balls.

So, I don't know where I fall on this. As a Legion fan, I don't know if I needed to see Saturn Girl sleep with Cosmic Boy. While the story leading up to it made it feel natural for them to have slipped into bed together, it is something of a big speed bump in the character's histories, especially since Imra has carried it alone. In my mind, I don't want them to have slept together. It brings up the old 'When Harry Met Sally' argument ... can't a man and a woman simply be friends?

The art by Kevin Sharpe was good this issue. The Legionnaires 'feel' young. His art has a sort of organic aspect, everything rounded, nothing sharp or angular.

In total though, I have liked this look backwards at the Legion. It is interesting to compare how Levitz feels they would be then as opposed to how he wrote them back in his heyday and how he writes them now. It isn't flooring me ... but it is entertaining me. And I can't say that about every comic I read.

Overall grade: B/B+


valerie21601 said...

According to the Legion of Substitute Podcasters, in this weeks podcast, Paul Levitz these Adventure issues introduces the LoSH to new readers, while re-building background stories of the Legionnaires too. Also the next three issues of Adventure will be background material for something that will come back years later in their adult Legion days.

Diabolu Frank said...

I don't mind the Cos/Imra fling,seeing as I never cared much for Lightning Lad/Live Wire, but dig the other two. Also, I give a lot more latitude to the Legion when it comes to stuff like mindwipes, since there's a thousand years of evolution to impact their ethics versus our modern view. Mostly though, I'm just glad to hear this issue won't suck as bad as the last, when I get to read my copy. No such luck with the Atom, I hear...

Jimmy Havok said...

That mindwipe was pretty creepy, especially given that DC has already explored the ethics of mindwipes in Identity Crisis. I suspect Levitz is not going to just let it lie there, it's too big an ethical lapse. There's more story coming.