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#542

Ok, this is old :stuck_out_tongue:

Adventure Comics #323

The Eight Impossible Missions

By Jerry Siegel, John Forte & George Klein

The most notable part of this story is the new member try-outs on the first page, which introduces the fan-favourite Spider Girl (unfairly rejected) and the less-favourite Double Header (thankfully rejected).

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The story itself is not much to write home about. Chameleon Boy’s sentient pet Proty II sets the team a number of challenges to solve a puzzle that will determine the next leader.

The challenges are bizarre, ranging from trivial (Jimmy Olsen puts on a puppet show!) to potentially lethal (Element Lad has to stand next to a deadly radioactive substance for ten minutes), and the actual solution to the puzzle is rather silly—and requires some extraordinarily convoluted plotting to make it work.

But the challenges give the Legionnaires a chance to show off their powers, and their brains, which I guess is the point. And we still get the random insights into the weirdness of the 30th century that were typical of this era of the comic. Hooray for Gooba!

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Despite their deplorable treatment of animals, the Legion is progressive in some areas: Saturn Girl is ultimately re-elected as leader for a second term, making her the Legion’s longest-serving leader to date, I think. Not bad for a girl! (Though it must be noted that the leadership positions seems mostly honorary, as in practice any random Legionnaire (normally Sun Boy) might take over and lead the team at any given time.)

One last thing I’ll note is I don’t think George Klein is a good inker for John Forte. The subtle facial expressions that Forte is so good at seem to be a bit flattened, and I’ve got to assume that’s due to the inking (Forte normally inks himself).

So overall, the issue isn’t without some charm, but it’s largely forgettable, definitely not a classic of the era. Let’s hope Edmond Hamilton is back writing again next issue.


#543

Oh! I know that one! Me, me, me!


#544

Adventure Comics #324

The Legion of Super-Outlaws

By Edmond Hamilton and John Forte

After last month’s rather lacklustre effort, the Legion is back on top form with an excellent story packed with action, new ideas, and a plot that works because it’s rooted in good characterisation rather than arbitrary puzzles involving, er, Jimmy Olsen performing a puppet show.

Could this have anything to do with the return of Edmond Hamilton as writer?

Well, you probably know me well enough by now to know how I would answer that rhetorical question.

There’s so much packed into this issue, where to start?

First, the villain of the piece: Dr. Marden King. He’s a new character, but has a link to the Legion’s history that provides him with a clear and understandable motivation for his hatred of them.

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Who could forget Jungle King from the classic The Legion of Super-Monsters , almost two years ago? An Edmond Hamilton story, obviously. The think that I love about this idea is that Jungle King’s real surname must have been King. I don’t know why, but that just makes me smile.

Anyway, on to the other ‘villains’, the ‘Super-Outlaws’ of the title, five young people with amazing powers who have been banished from their home world, Lallor, by the planet’s dictator, who is afraid they will challenge his power. He is clearly the bad guy here, and the ‘Outlaws’ are sympathetic characters who within the space of a single panel prove they are heroes very bit the equal of the Legionnaires:

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So the heroes go searching through space searching for a world where they can settle peacefully, when they fall under the influence of Marden King. To cut a long story short, he dupes them into thinking the Legion of Super-Heroes are villains, and they agree to help him defeat them.

It has to be said that despite their amazing powers and heroic natures, these heroes from Lallor are not the brightest tools in the box. Though to be fair to them, the Legion rises to Marden King’s bait just as readily.

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Note how dismissive of the lesser Legionnaires Superboy is. And note how bravely Shrinking Violet flies into danger despite having a power that’s ‘not much good in a fight’. Keep an eye on Violet, she’ll be important later.

So, long story short, the two groups of heroes fight, and the Legion come off much worse because of (a) the planning of the super-intelligent Evolvo Lad, and (b) Duplicate Boy, who is so powerful it’s ridiculous. He can duplicate all the powers of any other hero, including Superboy—and use several of them at the same time, making him far more powerful than Superboy. How are the Legion ever to beat such a powerhouse?

Simple. Like all good heroes, he has an exploitable weakness. No I don’t mean he’s blind or has an ailing Aunt May. His weakness is one which every good hero should have: compassion.

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So the conflict goes back and forth for several pages, with the heroes of Lallor gaining the upper hand, then the Legion bouncing back, and it could go on all day if the heroes didn’t begin to spell a rat.

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What doesn’t King want them to see behind a door marked ‘Records of the Super-Heroes’? Obviously, a whole room full of films of the heroes being, well, heroic (including some we’ve seen previously in the pages of this comic, such as the evacuation of the planet Xenn in #318, The Mutiny of the Legionnaires ).

The heroes from Lallor may have been naïve, but they’re not stupid. Quickly deducing they have been duped, they turn on King, capture him, and make peace with the Legion. The Legion them helps them return to their home world, where the population has overthrown their evil dictator and welcomes them back with open arms as their new planetary champions. All’s well that ends well. Even for this pair:

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Awwww.

This is another issue where everything comes together to make a perfect comic book story. If I were to recommend one comic to a new reader to show what was so great about the Legion of Super-Heroes, this issue would be very high on my short-list.


#545

I’ve still been plugging away at Spidey since BND and am now a few issues into Superior Spider-Man (I tend to get through 1, maybe 2 issues a night before my eyes get too tired).

On the whole it’s been an enjoyable run with some interesting twists. Some of the art has been a bit rough for what should be a marquee book - I love Ramos but one of the other art-team highlights was Klaus Janson inking Giuseppe Camuncoli (I don’t care for Camuncoli’s style normally) - that stuff looked amazing.

Maybe I was a bit too sleepy at one point and missed it, but there was a whole subplot about Aunt May being possessed by one of the early baddies, and then there was confirmation that it was settled but I feel like I missed the actual resolution there. Similarly with the Jackpot superheroine.


#546

I was going to put this in the trades thread, but then I realised that it doesn’t really matter that i reread them as trades and I guess they count as old now, so here it is. I reread Dan Slott’s run on Mighty Avengers recently. It’s a good lot of comics, but it has some issues.

For context, this is essentially a new Avengers book spinning out of Secret Invasion, even though it carried on the numbering of the Bendis pro-reg post-Civil War Mighty Avengers. The team is anchored by Hank Pym, newly returned to Earth after being replaced by a Skrull, and who is clearly the main point of interest for Slott. He gives Hank a bit of a kickstart, with yet another new codename (now The Wasp to honour the “dead” Janet), a new costume and a nudge into being more of, well, pseudo-Doctor Who, in a way.

I like most of this. Ok, having him be the Wasp is the kind of thing that gets a bit confusing when you look at lists of all the people who have used that name, and his other names etc. but at the time, even though Jan clearly wasn’t going to stay dead long, it felt right. The new costume is pretty good too, although there’s something about the goggles that don’t quite work.

The Doctor stuff comes from Pym’s new ideas (and eventually his new designation as Scientist Supreme), including Pymspace, which is a pocket dimension accessible through a variety of disguised doors, all over the world, leading to Pym’s lab. This is later expanded into Infinite Avengers Mansion, which is pretty much what the name suggests. It’s a cool concept for a base, it’s one that deserved to stick around longer than it did and for the “proper” Avengers. Back to that in a moment.

The other slightly Doctory thing is Pym’s “toolbot” which has thousands of his most used tools shrunk down and attached to one handle. It’s got the plot expediency of a sonic screwdriver, but doesn’t feel like a cop out. I like Pym shrinking and enlarging stuff beyond just himself, something the Ant-Man movies would also play with to great effect.

The rest of the team is the most traditional Avengers line-up of its era, but there’s a smell of the second string that the book never quite gets past, which it even tacitly admits towards the end. There’s Stature and Vision from Younger Avengers, Hercules and Amadeus Cho, USAgent, Jocasta, Jarvis and, sort of, Quicksilver. All of whom are characters I like, but it feels like there’s just something missing. Having two of the Young Avengers is a bit weird too. There’s a constant tension about them being on both teams which is addressed but never really resolved and it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. The Young Avengers really exist because they want to be the Avengers one day, so two of them getting to do that should be more momentous than it is. It’s the kind of move that starts to undermine the identity of the other team.

Speaking of identity, you have one of the main problems the book has - it’s one of at least five Avengers titles running at the time, alongside New, Dark, Resistance and Young (was Young still going at the time? The team was current at least). Mighty ends up going with the idea that, because they’re led by Pym, this is the “legitimate” Avengers team to everyone outside America, compared to Osborn’s fake Avengers. It’s an interesting idea, but one that only kinda works with meta-knowledge. Most of the heroes know that Osborn’s team is made up of fakes, but the world at large doesn’t. They’re just seeing Ms Marvel, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Ares and the Sentry led by a man who saved the world from aliens and isn’t publicly known (I think) as the Green Goblin. Scepticism of Osborn himself in the world makes sense, but why would anyone think that a team with Hawkeye, Ms Marvel and the Sentry wasn’t really the Avengers?

The other wrinkle is that you’ve got the New Avengers running round too, including Captain America (even if it is Bucky). I don’t know how secretive they were at that point - I’d long since given up on Bendis’ books - but it dents the idea that Pym’s team would immediately be accepted as the one true Avengers.

Slott tries to sell this by having the team do lots of international missions - they get clearance from an organisation called GRAMPA to operate everywhere but the US - but most of these are only shown in passing. Three are mentioned in one page, two-thirds of the way through the series, as “we also did all this”. It works to a degree, but it means the run starts to feel like edited highlights of a bigger run, like there’s so much more Slott wanted to do with an Avengers book, but knew he was only going to get until the next big summer event shook things up (in this case Siege) and so had to cram everything into that small space. It’s a real shame, because I like traditional Avengers books. I’d have loved to see a “throwaway” two parter with them taking on Zzaxx or whatnot.

Still, it’s not like Slott doesn’t get to do some good stories here, including one that delves into the history of the Inhumans (without really needing the Inhumans), a Cthon story and even a pretty good Ultron story. The latter exists because Slott is able to mostly sit out Siege - the team has broken up and the majority are thrown over into Thunderbolts for a cross-over, with Slott just showing enough “clips” from that to a) convince Mighty readers to pick up T-Bolts and b) give closure within the title itself anyway.

That said, there’s one bit of this book that really doesn’t work, and it’s the cause for the break-up of the team. It’s all initially brought together by Loki, posing as the Scarlet Witch, and eventually the team manage to catch him, so that Quicksilver can ask what’s actually happened to Wanda. Loki manages to get Thor to come to his rescue and there’s a stand-off over them holding Loki captive. And torturing him. Now, the torturing bit I can see being objectionable to Thor, but I’m not quite sure why it’s even there, it seems out of character for Pym to have included it in his plan. But Thor’s outrage at the situation extends more broadly to the very idea of Pym being able to capture Loki - in Loki’s words breaking down the distinction between mortal and immortal with science. Which doesn’t really make sense. The Avengers have fought Loki loads of times, to say nothing of other “gods”. The notion that Thor would believe them to be off-limits is just weird. He knows as much as anyone that Loki is an asshole that needs putting in his place, regardless of how it’s done.

The other aspect of this plot point that doesn’t really work is when Pym asks Loki to join the Avengers. Him asking doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable, although it’s out of left-field. As he said, there have been plenty of “villains” that have joined the Avengers, and with retrospect, it’s barely a year or two before a new iteration of Loki is on the Young Avengers. What really bothers me is the way the rest of the team react to the suggestion, all immediately repulsed and deciding to quit, which feels like another symptom of compression, having to come up with a reason for the team to break up very quickly.

The biggest problem the book has is with art though. Khoi Pham is the main artist on the book, coming over with Herc and Amadeus from Incredible Hercules (a mixed blessing there) and he’s pretty awful. There’s some improvement by the end of the series - I think mainly due to a change in inker - but he’s clearly not ready for a comic of this level. He wasn’t really ready for a low-level book like Herc, actually, but certainly not Avengers, even if it’s technically the Avengers B (or C) title. There’s clearly also some miscommunication/language barriers (or poor script reading) as one point of the Inhuman story describes the Alpha-Primitives as wearing “rags not the radiation suits they normally have” and yet, there they are, drawn weaing neat radiation suits, not rags. There are some good fill in artists, like Rafa Sandoval and, especially, Sean Chen. If only he’d been the main artist on the book.

Overall Mighty Avenger is a decent run of comics, with some big flaws. It’s a shame that it’s probably going to be Slott’s one go at Avengers, because it feels like he could have had a really good two or three year run in him, if he’s been given a clear go at it.


#547

Adventure Comics #325

Lex Luthor Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes

By Jerry Siegel & John Forte

The basic idea for this story is an interesting one: this is Lex Luthor before the lab accident that turns him into an evil sociopath, when he’ still a bright young scientist who admires Superboy. When he journeys to the 30th century, the Legion have to stop him from discovering he is fated to turn evil (and bald). It’s a really clever twist.

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He does find out, of course (as the teaser image above suggests), and the question then becomes: can we change history so it never happens?

Well, let’s start by showing him his future. I can’t think of any problems with that approach, can you?

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Lex, it’s ok! Just ask Cosmic Boy what exact date that occurred on, then when you return to your own time line you can mark it on your calendar with a big red circle, and make sure that you’re at a convention in Albuquerque that day. Simple!

Here’s Brainiac 5 to do some science and tell us why that can’t work:

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I actually love this sequence, because it shows Brainy doing ‘real” science, which we don’t get to see very often. As a long-time reader of pulp SF, I’m totally buying F-type karmatics complicating Lex’s negative id elements. I know that’s exactly how science is supposed to work. Really, Brainy needs to do more of this stuff, it would make his character immeasurably more interesting and help differentiate him from the other Legionnaires.

So I guess what Brainy is saying that being in Albuquerque on that day isn’t going to work. Pity.

All this is fascinating, and I find myself wishing they would delve more into this idea of pre-destination, but sadly they don’t. Instead, the ‘big reveal’ (actually given away by this issue’s cover) is that this has been evil Lex all along, fooling them by wearing a wig.

It all goes downhill a bit from here. Lex has a convoluted plan to eliminate the Legion by using a Phantom Zone projector disguised as a disintegrator ray. It’s a bit unclear why he had to pretend to disintegrate them, as they would basically realise the truth as soon as they found they were, well, not disintegrated.

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I’m sorry to say it, as it seems like I’m always knocking Jerry Siegel in these reviews, but this is another example of him having a great idea and then, well, loses the plot.

Anyway, the Legion escapes the Zone because Mon-El is an expert on it (and basically, the Zone is dead easy to escape: over in the pages of Superman Siegel is having Kryptonians do it every couple of months).

So it’s a bit of an anti-climax to what starts off with a really interesting premise.

What is nice is that we see pretty much the entire Legion in this story, something that doesn’t happen often. Some of them are only there to stand around and get ‘disintegrated’, but some of the lesser-used characters, such as Matter-Eater Lad and Triplicate Girl, get some good time in the spotlight.

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But anyway, a mixed bag of a story, some very nice parts but ultimately let down by an unnecessary ‘twist’ ending.


#548

SVK

This is a book that I’ve been meaning to get hold of for a while. In fact, I ordered one when it first came out in 2011, but the book sold out and the publisher, BERG, didn’t ever schedule another print run.

Which is a shame, because this is one of the more interesting and innovative Warren Ellis books that I’ve read.

It’s a book based around a gimmick, and that gimmick is that it comes bundled with a UV torch that you can shine on the pages to reveal “invisible” words and images that appear completely blank in regular light.

It’s a cool idea, and it’s one that the book makes good use of, tying the idea closely into its story by making the plot revolve around a spy who has to retrieve a mcguffin that allows someone to see other people’s thoughts.

The basic story is pretty much Ellis-by-numbers, and the archetypes that crop up are the kind that you’ve seen a million times before in his other stories. But it’s solid stuff, it uses the UV gimmick well, and the line art by Matt Brooker/D’Israeli is as slick and tangible-feeling as you’d expect from him.

It’s a book that’s quite difficult to photograph, because you have to use the UV torch in relatively low light - but I’ve tried to take a couple of pictures to illustrate the effect with the hidden messages.

You can see the effect a little more clearly in my photo of the illustration that accompanies the foreword by William Gibson.

In all honesty, while it’s a clever gimmick it’s also one that serves as a distraction - as soon as you turn to a new page there’s a temptation to scan the whole thing with the UV torch to see where the hidden messages are, which regularly breaks up the flow of reading and takes you out of the story a little bit.

But Ellis handles it cleverly, using the premise fairly sparingly, and also deploying it in a variety of different ways. Sometimes that means being able to read the thoughts of all the passengers in your train carriage:

And sometimes it’s something far more personal and tender, like the standout scene in which the secret thoughts of an arguing couple betray their true tender feelings for each other.

Ellis also has a bit of fun slipping in some hidden messages into the early pages of the book, before the lead character discovers the SVK device in-story and before the reader is encouraged to use it. But any readers like me will have seen these messages from the off, because the temptation to use the device is pretty immediate, even before it becomes relevant to the story.

Even without the UV gimmick, this would be an interesting and worthwhile story, with standout art that combines simplicity and clean lines with an insane level of detail at times:

But with the torch, it becomes a fun experiment that tries something new with comics, and actually manages to make the gimmick feel like an important part of the story. Even the ads in the comic make use of it, with some fun creative uses that unlock hidden areas of the page.

Being out-of-print means that SVK can be a fairly expensive book to get hold of, but if you wait around then you might be able to snag one as I did at the cover price of about £10. That might still sound a bit pricey, but once you factor in the slightly longer-than-usual story (around 30 pages, I think) and the extra material (as well as the Gibson foreword, there are a couple of text articles that revolve around the ideas explored in the book and also cover the history of hidden messages in comics), as well as the cost of the torch itself, it feels like pretty fair value for what you get.


#549

If nothing else, that Gibson portrait is amazing.


#550

I’m reading The New Teen Titans. I have the first two TBPs, but can’t find my copy of volume two. Hoping it will show up, but reserved it, volume three, and the second omnibus from the library.


#551

And I still can’t find it, even after using the charm for lost objects four times!


#552

Have you tried putting fresh batteries in the charm?


#553

It’s a kind of white magic called a segulah, where doing a certain action can resolve a situation.


#554

Found a solution- downloading the ebook.


#555

Now I have up to The Judas Contract.


#556

It’s been a while since I’ve read some physical comics. So I busted out a couple.

Marvel Comics Graphic Novel #1: The Death of Captain Marvel - With the Captain Marvel film on the horizon, I thought I would give this book another read. I’ve been a fan of these magazine sized books Marvel did in the 80’s. What I didn’t think about was that I’m not a huge Starlin fan. I actually ended up glossing over most of the book (a rarity for me) and not really finishing it. It’s far from my favorite in this series.

Superman #165 - I mentioned not long ago that this is one of my favorite Christmas issues. I forgot that this issue was right after Lex was elected President of the United States and not long before Our Worlds at War which is hinted in the beginning. As Superman visits his Justice League buddies to talk to them about his frustration with Lex being elected, he leaves each of them with funny idiosyncratic Christmas presents from Lois and himself. Each interaction with the different League members is illustrated by a different amazing artist. Some of the highlights are Rob Liefeld, Arthur Adams, Joe Madureira, Mike Wieringo and series regular Ed McGuiness. The whole thing is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it.

After all of this, I have a confession to make. With apologies to my LCS brethren, I really prefer digital comics (especially through the ComiXology reader) to physical comics anymore. I prefer the vividness of the colors, not having to worry about the fragility of the paper, the ease of flipping the pages, not having to worry about bags and boards and so many other things. I think this might be the point where I transition completely to digital. I don’t know that I will repurchase everything in my collection and there will always be books unavailable in digital but I think I’m finally all in on digital.


#557

Adventure Comics #326

Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires

By Jerry Siegel & John Forte

Wow. This is one messed-up story.

For a start, there’s much too much kissy stuff going on. But apart from that, it delivers a pretty terrible message.

The premise, as you might guess from the title, is that the female Legionnaires decide they will take on the male Legionnaires and prove they are better than them. That could make a good story with a positive message. The girls’ powers, with the exception of Supergirl, are all in the lower leagues of the Legion. A story where they prove that through intelligent use of their ‘weaker’ powers they can beat their male comrades would be great.

But that’s not what we get.

Instead, the scheming females each pick one boy for a romantic liaison, and while engaged in all the kissy stuff (yuck!) they trick the poor, innocent boys into defeat. Because, as we all know, that’s what girls are like, and sensible boys will have nothing to do with their kissy ways.

It’s amusing to compare Superboy with the other male Legionnaires. While the rest of them can’t wait to grapple with the girls, he’s only manfully stepping up so as not to offend Saturn Girl. What a guy!

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After the boys are defeated, the girls get a call from the evil mastermind behind the scheme: Queen Azura of the cunningly named planet ‘Femnaz’ (see what they did there?). We learn that when the girls visited Femnaz recently, they were brainwashed into defeating the boys, because on Femnaz they hate men.

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But inevitably there’s a twist! Queen Azura has repented and now loves men! And it’s all because of Mon-El and Ultra Boy, whose mighty powers have just saved the planet from destruction (a near-destruction brought about by the women’s silly and frivolous ways, naturally).

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The dual moral of the story is that women need the protection of men, even if they think they don’t, and that men should beware of kissy females because they are usually up to no good.

Good grief.

I think I’ll go back to reading Golden-Age Wonder Woman instead.


#558

Wow. That’s a lot to unpack.


#559

Now I’m reading Crisis on Infinite Earths