Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Back Issue Review: Superboy And The Legion Of Super-Heroes #256

We are still a couple of weeks away from new Supergirl show episodes. And we are still completely in the dark about Supergirl in the comics. Will there be a new series coming out of the Man of Steel event? Is DC just pulling the plug?

And with no Superman book on the shelf last week, I thought I would thumb through the back issues for a review. And with Brainiac 5 playing a role in the show, I thought I would take a day to look at a Brainy-centric story. So today I will look at Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #256.

One of the more interesting aspects of Brainy's character is his somewhat unstable mental condition. Whether it is obsession or social awkwardness or outright occasional malevolence, he has always walked a fine line. He has created Computo, an evil computer intelligence, and has tried over and over to look back at that programming and hope to rehabilitate it. He created Omega, a being fueled by the hate of the universe, with which he hoped to eradicate all life. And he has mourned and nearly dipped into madness with grief after Kara died. Please note that linked review was one of the first issues I ever reviewed here.

Even on the show, we have seen Brainy be a little distracted and a little awkward and even a little brusque with people. At times this comes off as narcissism or overconfidence. But you also get the sense he is simply shy and sort of bad with human interaction.

With all that in the mix, I thought this was a good issue to review.

"This is your life ... and death, Brainiac 5!" was written by Gerry Conway with art by Joe Staton and Dave Hunt. This issue takes place in the near immediate aftermath of the Omega story arc. A simple internet search will reveal the complicated creative mess of that story which was originally supposed to be in a stand-alone special, became morselized into three non-consecutive issues, and ultimately was changed so bad that artist Jim Starlin asked that his name be removed (replaced by the pseudonym Steve Apollo).

For me, the Omega story has a grand scale and should have had a more lasting impact. The finale is in issue #251. We should have had a lasting death, or a lasting major problem, or Brainy should have remained evil for some time. But here we are just a few months later and we are resolving the Brainy issue, basically removing all consequence of his actions from the character.

Here he is, as an inpatient in an asylum, in a dark room, reading.

The three founders and Superboy all head the the hospital in hopes of helping Brainy out. Perhaps the staff isn't leading him to a cure in as timely a fashion as they anticipated. This seems a bit rushed doesn't it. To think that this place hasn't 'cured' Brainy in so short a time seems like an unrealistic goal.

Also, one fallout from Omega that did last for a little bit of time was Matter-Eater Lad also going insane. In that story, Tenzil eats the Miracle Machine so Omega cannot use it to end all life. That ingestion leads to his madness.

Despite having no degrees in psychology or psychiatry, those Legionnaires still think they can get to the bottom of Brainy's issue better.

In an astonishing turn, the evacuate Cosmic World (think of it as an intergalactic Disney World) and make it off limits to patrons. They want to use the holographic technology there to nudge Brainy along.

Now one thing I do like about this is that the Legion isn't given a carte blanche to do this. The park manager calls the Science Police. And the SciPo aren't exactly happy with the Legion right now given the recent past with Omega. The officers will take back Cosmic World, by force if need be.

There is some Earthbound fallout as well. In the battle with Omega, Wildfire had to unleash all his energy and destroyed the Legion headquarters. The planet is still reeling from all the damage done. And RJ Brande is suddenly bankrupt. The Legion is going to be having some financial issues and even some shelter issues for a bit. It is enough to make the volatile Timber Wolf throw his hands up and say the Legion shouldn't help people any more.

Luckily Ayla is there to calm him and remind him of the team's ideals. I think it is all going to work out for these two!

As for Brainy, he awakens to find himself not in his cell but instead in his crib!

Between the holographic capabilities of the park and Saturn Girl's deep mental dive into his memory, the Legion is hoping to have Brainy confront his problems in the past.

So we start out with pressure placed on Brainy by his father ... even as an infant. This newborn will hold the mantle of Brainiac 5. That is going to happen.

That's a lot of weight to place on a kid.

But Querl is very smart. In school, he surpasses his classmates without effort leading to his being bullied.

Kids can be so mean ... even on Colu.

So pressure from his parents. And hatred from his peers.

That hatred leads to physical violence in the schoolyard.

And that pressure leads to anger by his father.

It seems Brainy gets no love or support from anywhere.

With the Science Police knocking on the door, assaulting the park with ships and even Kryptonite rays, Imra finally gets to the key memory.

In his youth, Brainy came across a young Coluan girl in danger on a cliff. (What is this Midvale?) When he tried to save her, she recoiled from him in fear. This time Imra reconfigures the memory so the young girl instead hugs Brainy.

For once, he is accepted for who he is, appreciated, and loved.

Faced with his youth and those memories, and now seeing this memory played out a different way, Brainy is 'cured'. Okay, it is something of a naive approach to mental health. It reminds me of the Hitchcock movie "Spellbound" .... spoiler alert ... when Gregory Peck is cured of his mental issues when he remembers accidentally killing his little brother. You think that would be the beginning ... not the end of appropriate counseling.

Querl is all better. Just 5 months after he was at his worst.

I wonder if Gerry Conway didn't agree with the direction. Or liked Brainy. Or just wanted to put the Omega story and all its problems behind him.

Still, I think of this whenever I read stories where Brainy is off-kilter or a bit unhinged. He has a lifetime of what seems to be emotional trauma that he has had to work through. It may be why he doesn't interact all that well with people. He hasn't been treated well by many!

Will this sort of backdrop be part of the show? Who knows? It may just be that he is shown to be akward because of his intelligence, a sort of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory personality.

Just two more weeks. Then back to new episodes!


Anonymous said...

Poor Brainy. There was a time where he was NOT treated as the team's loony jerkass. Nowadays, "rude and snappy" is his default characterization.

It appears that many Gerry Conway's stories feature weird psychobabble. Let us remember Kandor's idea of therapy or Spider-Man's weird "Oh, this is because I'm obviously NOT a clone" reasoning. I guess Conway wanted to delve into psychological issues but his knowledge of the subject was limited. Hence, he wrote stories where the best way to deal with an issue was erasing it.

Hard to tell how much comic lore the show will bring in. As soon as the pilot it was clear the show's doing its own thing.

Slightly off-topic, I'm happy with the renewal news (although it was obvious the show would be renewed). Not so happy with the dozens of "Bring back this secondary supporting character who left the show nearly half year ago and has already signed up for another gig or we'll boycott the series! Make my favorite ship canon or you'll lose viewers!" tweets demanding the showrunners kowtow to the demands of crazy, self-entitled "fans" who, by their own admission, don't care for Supergirl at all. Jesus, give it a rest. Or stick to fanfiction.

Anonymous said...

First of all, thanks for the review anj. As someone who has trouble finding these issues, these reviews are more than welcome to me.

I am happy with the renewal news too and yes, I have seen the official Twitter account being inundated with bring Maggie back tweets as if the show is dying without the views of that strata of fandom. If that were the case then how would they explain the steady rise in ratings after Maggie left. As for the Make Supercorp Canon fans, I already consider them as batshit delusional especially after what they did after last year's SDCC. They won't take the Canon answer that Lena and Kara will only ever be friends eventhough various people have stated that to prevent any kind of baiting. They have been upfront about it but for these 'fans' these explanations are void and they consider any act on the part of the show to be a deliberate stunt to malign them. I have a lot of not-so-charitable thoughts about these subset of fans which I will refrain from spelling out but I am only grateful for the fact that the show runners continue to believe in their stories while taking constructive criticism as well. I don't want them to listen to a vocal minority and make the same mistake which arrow did with their romantic pairing.

So, all in all, here's to another season of comment section fights, annoying shippers, more great storylines and hopefully a new suit as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anj,

Did you know that The Supergirl TV show has just been renewed for a 4th season?

No, it's not an April Fools joke. The news came out yesterday, Supergirl along with ALL of the CW superhero shows have been renewed.

Gerry Beritela

KET said...

"Will this sort of backdrop be part of the show? Who knows? It may just be that he is shown to be awkward because of his intelligence, a sort of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory personality."

I suppose it depends on how the Supergirl series might develop the LSH following this season's introduction. There's certainly potential for future growth within; however, there's also a segment of fans who are hoping for a redemption arc for the Worldkillers we've seen thus far. For Season 4, the possibilities still seem wide open.

"I wonder if Gerry Conway didn't agree with the direction. Or liked Brainy. Or just wanted to put the Omega story and all its problems behind him."

I would guess that it was the latter notion....although overwhelming ambition sometimes leads to an overstuffed story scenario that may have been unavoidable.

"Not so happy with the dozens of "Bring back this secondary supporting character who left the show nearly half year ago and has already signed up for another gig or we'll boycott the series! Make my favorite ship canon or you'll lose viewers!" tweets..."

Well, that cult trolled me for a spell last night...their predictable banter was ALMOST entertaining at times, when a couple of the trolls started cracking and suddenly realized their incessant tunnel-vision was inevitably failing on them.... :)

They're getting desperate for attention.

However, here's the thing this hive-mind mob hasn't figured out yet: the shows are already blocking off their method of hi-jacking social media accounts, thus ignoring the bulk of their illogical and regressive 'demands'. Supergirl isn't the only TV show that's being attacked in this way; it's unfortunately a social media trend among a LOT of popular entertainment media at the moment....but the affected parties are already keenly aware of this trend, and are just turning the trolls off altogether.