Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: Convergence Superboy And The Legion Of Super-Heroes

Convergence: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #2 came out last week and was an upgrade from last month's efforts. Last month seemed like a clunky mess, especially given the rather boxy, almost simple art within. This month, with a new art team and some nice moments of heroism, is a much better issue and story.

Writer Stuart Moore gives us an inspirational Superboy here, just on the cusp of manhood, and a much better character than the guy moping around last issue talking about the Legion almost like imaginary friends. Those moments of Superman-ness from Kal elevate the book for me. Because I need those out of my Superman.

Comic veterans Peter Gross and Mark Farmer pull together the art in a much more satisfying way. 

Now there are holes to be sure. The biggest for me is trying to figure out exactly 'when' in Legion history this is. The suit on Ayla, the presence of Superboy, the white streak in Invisible Boy's hair and Shady;s slicked back hairdo probably puts this in early Baxter time when Superboy still now and then appeared. And some other plot points seem thrown in or haphazard.

But the characterization is solid and therefore I was sold.

We start out with one of my most favorite tropes in Superman/Superboy stories, old-fashioned Pa Kent wisdom.

When a chicken is significantly injured, Pa realizes the right thing to do is to put it out of its misery. He decapitates it (maybe a bit to close to Clark if the boy is caught in the blood splatter).

Clark is still a boy. He shouldn't have to worry about the tough decisions at this point in his life. He should enjoy his childhood.

It mirrors what is happening now in this Legion dome. A boy would think that the Legion was a dream-like fairy tale with perpetual happy endings. A man might have to make a hard decision about what to do when faced with war. And Clark is a young man now.

Clark might be thinking about things differently, bringing wisdom, ethics and maturity to bear regarding this dome world. But the Atomic Knights are bring an almost irrational zeal to their approach.

There leader, Knight Gardner Grayle, has clearly been psychologically scarred by the devastation of nuclear war and his life underground protecting the few survivors.

He blames the Legion for not being there to protect his world. He can't trust them or anyone because everyone made the nuclear holocaust happen.

There is no discussion. There is no diplomacy. He is here to do whatever it takes to defeat the Legion world and redeem his. The unhinged Knight is the foil to the mature Clark.

Of course, Moore needs to keep the story moving.

In one of those plot points that I guess I need to accept, the Knights in their weaponized armor defeat the Legion. There is a line about the Knights being survivors and the Legion being out of practice ... a way to explain this.

But really? Couldn't Superboy alone trash these guys? I think Ayla alone could give them a run for their money.

And then, as I predicted last month, when the dome came down, Wildfire was somehow returned to the living. He arrives in time to slow down the Knights from killing the Legion.

To paraphrase Chekov, you don't see a Wildfire suit in act one unless someone is going to fire anti-energy bolts in act three.

Still, as much as I love Wildfire, he didn't really do too much to advance the plot. I wonder if Moore put him in the book because he is a fan of the character.

After more of a skirmish which is something of a stalemate, the Knights bring out their doomsday weapon.

They have Morticoccus, the germ I know best from Countdown. If they have to kill everyone in this city, including themselves, with a biological weapon, they will. Even if the Knights die, their people in their city will live.

Gardner is clearly unhinged.

Now I can imagine a thousand different ways a pre-Crisis Kryptonian could end this standoff.

But I like this one over heat vision, super-speed, or freeze breath.

Clark talks Gardner down.

"Sometimes not killing is even tougher."
"Come up out of the bunker, soldier."

Oooh ... I got shivers.

This is such a good moment, a Superman moment. Not ended with violence. Not ended with death. But with wisdom and inspiration. The war is over. Join the living.

The book ends as all the Convergence books ended this week, with an earthquake signifying Telos' world shifting into the main universe.

With the tournament presumably over, the groups can end this as friends.

Superman shaking the hand of an adversary who he has inspired to something more than violence.

Corny? Or perfect? Up to the individual reader I suppose.

And then the moment that was toughest for me to wrap my head around. I love Lightning Lass. She is my second favorite Legionnaire. And I loved her relationship with Vi in the Legion, an important moment for comics even if it was never overtly named or depicted.

So having Ayla and Clark become a romantic item here felt weird. It seemed to downplay or erase her relationship with Vi. Of course, if this is from the earliest Baxter series time, it take place before that relationship blossomed. And Vi is nowhere to be seen here. And, I was reminded that in the later Baxter issues, Ayle flirted with Magnetic Kid.

Then I wondered if there were any other Legionnaires around that could have fit this plot point if Moore wanted to make a romance happen. Shady, Phantom Girl, and Dreamy are spoken for. Jeckie wasn't around at this point. Duo Damsel would fit the bill but she's married. That would leave Vi or Ayla.

Anyways, maybe I am overthinking this. These mini-series aren't going to rewrite continuity from three reboots ago.

So, on the plus side, great Pa Kent moment. Great Superman moment.
On the downside, the Knights are an actual threat and Ayla isn't with Vi.

I still think the pluses outweigh the minuses. The panel alone where Superboy/man says 'Get out of the bunker.' probably raises this a whole grade for me. And better art certainly helps.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

You're right, we sometimes just have to just go with the story, I don't doubt that Ayla would be able to take out a bunch of folk in metal suits, but Moore had just two issues to get the requisite Convegence beats in and tell a story with action and characterisation. I'm fine with Ayla and Clark, it seems to me to be just teenage flirtation and a bit of messing about - we could likely make it 'fit' by assuming Ayla was having the first feelings for Vi, and testing herself by kissing the ultimate boy.

Seems we agree on everything but Pa Kent. Brrrrrr. I say, if you want to protect a kid from the harsh realities of chicken production, don't make him stand there while you decapitate Clucky.

Nobile said...

I may be wrong, but the chicken scene is probably homaging Elliot Maggin's novel "Miracle Monday", which explores Superman's life preserving oath and generally how Clark sees all living beings. How do you grow up as a life preserver in a meat-consuming farmers' family? Pa knows best.

Stuart Moore said...

Glad you liked the book! I just posted this on Facebook, but it fits here too...

Yes, this story takes place after Ayla has broken up with Timber Wolf but shortly before her mostly-offpanel relationship with Vi begins. Ayla is recovering from the trauma she suffered at her brother's hands (as she discusses in the first issue) and experimenting a bit as she considers the next phase of her life. Enter Superboy...

Speaking of which: One of the really fun parts of this story was giving Superboy a Legion romance. I don't think he ever had one before; it would have meant making him unfaithful to Lana. But the unique CONVERGENCE situation—and the age Superboy was at in the story—made this the perfect opportunity.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments and for setting the time table a bit more.

As you say, Superboy never really had a Legion fling and that would make sense given his time 'stuck' in the dome and Ayla being around. And the Ayla/Vi stuff only comes around in the early 20s of the Baxter series. So this is well before that.

Loved coming back to this Legion so thanks for this issue and it's great moments.