Of all the super teams with long histories, The Legion of Super-Heroes has seen many reboots and retcons to the point where even those in the know may be scratching their heads in confusion. This week Matthew Peterson and Stephen Schleicher take a peek behind the covers of Adventure Comics #517 to see how the founding members’ histories have been tweaked… again.
ADVENTURE COMICS #517
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: Kevin Sharpe and Marlo Alquiza
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Cover: Scott Clark and David Beaty
Publisher: DC Comics
Previously, in Adventure Comics: When Rene Jacques Brande took an emergency flight back home, he found himself targeted by assassins who wanted to take out the galaxy’s richest man. Fortunately, his transport was also bringing three young people to Earth to find their destinies: Rokk Krinn, magnoball champion, sought to make a living. Garth Ranzz, living dynamo, sought his long-lost big brother. Imra Ardeen, mind-reader, sought out something that I can’t remember right now. Together, this threesome saved Brande, and founded something that would outlast them all: A Legion of Super-Heroes. This is one of their earliest stories…
MATTHEW: So, let’s start this off with the obvious: I have always kind of hated the times when they build a love-triangle into the founders. It never seems to work for me, mostly because Garth and Imra-Prime’s marriage took place over FORTY years ago, and it always feels like infidelity when they try to ‘ship either Lightning Lad or Saturn Girl, even in retcons.
STEPHEN: Well, they did it in the Archie Legion…
MATTHEW: Yes, and it required a character to LITERALLY be in a coma to pull it off. When you have to bust out the soap opera tropes, you best be sure it’s going somewhere with a BIG payoff.
STEPHEN: But isn’t that what the LoSH is all about – teen soap opera… IN SPAAAAAAACE! ? I think anytime you are throwing characters who have no contact with one another into a new situation, these kinds of things are going to appear – even from seasoned writers.
MATTHEW: This issue is an interesting one, taking place just before the team’s recruitment of Tom Welling (and thus, right before it’s first chronological appearance) telling the tale of how the Science Police came to respect three teenagers as equals. I like the stern SP sergeant who takes them to task, although it’s patently obvious that she’s doing the “bad cop” routine because she’s secretly a supporter of the team. I don’t even mind Imra’s feelings of inadequacy, but I don’t like the way our “hookup” was handled here. And aren’t mindwipes terrible, horrible, awful, really bad things? Or is that just when Zatanna does them?
STEPHEN: I believe we’ve had a lengthy conversation about mind control and mind wiping in regards to sexual relations on one of the Major Spoilers Podcasts (check the archives, kids!), but for me I didn’t see this issue as being “OOOOoooooo! Look who she slept with!”, rather Irma’s rookie mistakes and how the build up of her perceived mistakes shaped how she dealt with the rest of the team. There are only a handful of people who have your vast knowledge about all things LoSH, and even fewer that are below the age of 30. So while I don’t particularly like the way Saturn Girl’s character is being tweaked, for the majority of readers this is the only take on the original legion that they know as it’s been decades since their stories were told on a regular basis.
MATTHEW: This month’s Atom story, while well drawn by Dynamo 5 alumnus Mahmud Asrar, is almost painful to read for me, as the villain of the piece seems painfully obvious, and I can’t help but wonder why someone who is supposed to be as smart as Ray Palmer can’t put two and two together. Actually, both halves of the book are well drawn, although it’s tough for me to accept the classic Legion suits as from the same time period as other future fashions (notably Saturn Girl’s workout clothes.)
STEPHEN: The biggest problem for me in both of these tales has to do with the costumes. Like you, I don’t like the strange jump from ’50’s era clothing of the future to the double-naught’s take on gym shorts, but I wonder if that is because there are two different artists on the main feature? When dealing with one character as the central focus, I would have though more attention would have been placed on the face and hair, which seem to have a few inconsistencies throughout the story. But I’m just nit-picking at this point…
MATTHEW: Bottom line: I didn’t hate this issue, but it wasn’t a particularly special one for me, either. The final line about swearing celibacy struck me as particularly odd for the character voicing it, and the Atom backup… Excuse me, CO-FEATURE, was no great shakes. It’s a slightly below average issue for me, causing Adventure Comics #517 to earn 2 out of 5 Stars overall. It’s good to see more Legion material set during the big lacunas of the team’s out-of-order early adventures, but I don’t see this going anywhere awesome.
STEPHEN: I haven’t read the two or so issues before this, so I don’t know the how Levitz got us here. I’m not particularly thrilled that we’re getting an origin before the origin story, and this whole time jumping story coming up next could be a real cluster-bomb considering we just saw a Legion origin story and their first encounter with Superboy in the pages of that Geoff Johns story some time ago. As far as Ray Palmer goes, there were a lot of plot problems that had me rolling my eyes, so the less said about this story, the better. Overall, I found this issue to be average at best, but I’m also not tied to original Legion, so I’ll give Adventure Comics #517 a middle of the road 2.5 out of 5 Stars.
BOTTOM LINE: AVERAGE AT BEST
There you go, dear reader, two takes on a very old team of teens, who haven’t even traveled to meet their idol.