Comic Book Review: Action Comics #862

The Revolution had extremely high expectations with this story arc involving the Legion of Super Heroes from the Lightning Saga over on the JLA and the JSA. Unfortunately, Johns has failed at meeting my expectations. However, I simply have to believe that Johns has something special in store for us as we near the end of this story arc. Action Comics #862 is the penultimate issue on this story arc and I have faith that Johns will deliver a quality read. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Gary Frank
Inks: Jon Sibal

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Superman saying that it is time that they called in the Legion of Substitute Heroes. Brainiac 5 agrees. Colossal Boy scoffs at the notion of having to rely on the Substitutes. Brainiac 5 says that he has been in contact with the Subs since they went underground.

Brainy also reveals that during the Legion tryouts, Saturn Girl would probe the psyches of the applicants to see if they were mentally fit to join the Legion. That is why the members of the JLA were all rejected from the Legion since they were all psychotics. Brainiac 5 does admit to worrying that using the Subs as a contingency plan is risky since they tend to be rather reckless in carrying out their missions.

We cut to Nazi Man brawling with Yera. Nazi Man calls Colossal Boy a race traitor. (This is totally incorrect. In fact, Colossal Boy is a species traitor as Durlans and Earthlings are completely separate species and not races. But, race is always the default setting for comic book writers.) Nazi Man beats Yera into a bloody mess.

We shift to Eyeful Ethel and Tusk on the JLA satellite. They are talking about how the school shuttle is late with all the students. Suddenly, the school shuttle busts through the side of the satellite. We see Stone Boy in his inanimate stone form come crashing through the front windshield of the shuttle.

Out of the shuttle come Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid and Rainbow Girl. The Subs square off against Storm Boy, Tusk, Eyeful Ethel, Spider Girl, Radiation Roy and Golden Boy. Fire Lad uses his unstable powers to try and melt Golden Boy.

We then see Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes taking advantage of the Substitutes’ diversion and sneaking into the JLA Satellite and arriving in the room where Nazi Man is keeping all of the Legionnaires captive. Brainiac 5 inspects the crystal tablet that Nazi Man claimed to find in the Arctic that revealed that Superman was not an alien. Brainy says that the table is legitimate and is truly from the 21st century. That someone must have placed it there for Nazi Man to find knowing what would then happen.

The Legionnaires then find Sun Boy hooked up to the massive machine that is using his powers to turn the sun red. Brainy says that they have to be careful unhooking Sun Boy from the machine since he is putting out so much energy and could go supernova on them.

Yera then stumbles into the room and falls into Colossal Boy’s arms. Suddenly, “Yera” transforms into Nazi Man and he punches out Colossal Boy. Nazi Man and Superman begin brawling with each other. Nazi Man kicks Superman’s ass since he is without any of his powers. Superman refuses to give up and grabs Superman and the two of them crash through a window and fly out into space.

Comments
The Good: Action Comics #862 was a faster paced issue then the previous installments of this story arc. Of course, that really isn’t saying much. Johns does manage to keep this issue from totally dragging by giving us a rousing action scene between the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the JLA.

It was fantastic seeing the Subs in action in this issue. It was cool that the perennial losers got to strut their stuff and play a pivotal role in the Legion’s fight against the JLA. Johns certainly does an excellent job tapping into the Subs’ reckless underdog nature. And what was really appreciated was that Johns managed to show that while the Subs aren’t the pros that the Legionnaires might be, that the Subs are still heroes. Johns manages to get this point across to the reader without reducing the Legion of Substitute Heroes into a “Bwa-ha-ha” punchline like Giffen used to do.

Fire Lad, Rainbow Girl and Chlorophyll Kid all have neat well conveyed personalities considering the limited amount of panel time that they get in this issue. Fire Lad has the stereotypical impulsive hot-headed personality of a fire based super hero. However, it works very well given the Subs’ reckless nature and the fact that Fire Lad has trouble controlling his powers.

I loved the fact that Johns plays up the fact that Chlorophyll Kid delusional into thinking that he can communicate with plants. This is a neat quirky personality trait that gives a generally bland character some appeal and uniqueness. Rainbow Girl is a pretty nice obscure character that Johns decides to trot out. I have to give him credit for utilizing such a minor character. Rainbow Girl was a rejected Legion applicant way back in Adventure Comics #309.

Johns crafts some solid dialogue that has a realistic conversational flow to it. The characters interact well with each other. I find that Johns was able to create more chemistry between the Subs in this one issue than he has between the Legionnaires during this entire story arc.

Johns has a nice feel for Brainiac 5’s character. He is certainly the Legionnaire that Johns does the best job writing. John take on the rest of the Legionnaires is not the best that I have read, but it certainly is not the worst.

I loved the unexpected plot twist that Johns springs on the reader with the revelation that the crystal tablet that Earth Man found is truly from the 21st century. I was sure that it was simply a fake to go along with the rest of Earth Man’s ruse. However, Johns swerves us and teases the reader with an unknown individual who purposely left the crystal tablet in the Arctic for Earth Man to find at some point in the future. I’m interested to learn more about the identity of this individual.

Frank and Sibal deliver plenty of quality artwork. Of course, I am biased since I’m a fan of Frank’s work. Having said that, I really like the way that Frank brings to life the Legion’s era.

The Bad: Action Comics #862 is a terribly paced issue. We continue to move along at a snail’s pace. This issue is the penultimate issue and it still reads like nothing much is happening. The plotting has been generally weak during this entire story arc. This has been a slow, cumbersome and plodding story from the start.

With the majority of Action Comics #862, Johns simply retreads already well worn ground. We have been re-told Earth-Man and the JLA’s motivation a million times all ready. We also get the same tired and boring ranting speech from Earth Man that I have heard so often that I could recite it in my sleep.

It is as if Johns thinks the reader has the memory retention of a hamster that he has pounded the theme of how Legion rejects need to move on with their life and try and work hard and make themselves into heroes worthy of respect. It wasn’t that interesting or original of a theme in the first place and having to put up with Johns grinding this theme into dust over and over doesn’t make it any more interesting.

We also already knew that Sun Boy was being used to keep the sun red so that entire scene was a repetitious waste of time. Action Comics #862 and the story arc in general, have been way too repetitious.

One large issue with this story arc has been that the general concept for this story arc is somewhat lame and rather thin. The idea that the entire motivation for the villains is that the Legion had rejected them is lacking the necessary substance that makes a story arc an enjoyably thick and complex story that the reader can really sink their teeth into. And the stereotypical dystopian future lacks that this story is set in lacks originality. Also, Earth Man might possible be one of the most boring, unoriginal and uninteresting villains this side of Captain Nazi.

And I simply have to ask what in the world is going on with Johns’ bizarre fetish for dismemberment, disfigurement and death? First, Polar Boy had his arm ripped off. Now we learn in this issue that Double Header was killed and that Color Kid was blinded. Johns is getting too predictable with his disfigurement fetish and it is becoming a bit of a joke.

This fetish undermines the seriousness that Johns is trying to convey with his story when the reader simply giggles whenever the obligatory bloody death or disfigurement takes place. I think that this could actually be converted into a good drinking game when reading a Johns penned comic book. Sometimes less is more and Johns should would be well served to tone it down a couple notches.

I’m still not that impressed with Johns’ handling of the various Legionnaires. I don’t find that Johns has a particularly good feel for the personalities of the various characters. Yes, obviously Johns has the entire run of back issues at his disposal in order to pick obscure characters and themes from the Legion’s past.

However, this doesn’t mean that a writer knows how to actually write the various Legionnaires. It just means that the writers can conduct proper and quality research of the characters. It has become obvious that Johns doesn’t “get” these characters and simply doesn’t know what makes them tick. And it was only made that much more apparent since I read Action Comics #862 right after reading Shooter’s work on Legion of Super Heroes #39. Now, there is a writer who “gets” the various Legionnaires.

Johns’ handling of the Legion in this story arc has convinced me that DC should keep Johns away from ever writing a monthly Legion of Super Heroes. I have a feeling that Johns might descend back to the lows of the TMK Legion and the DnA Legion and get the title cancelled for a third time and then receive a complete and total re-boot for a third time.

Overall: Action Comics #862 was an average read. I really can’t recommend this issue to anyone outside of hardcore Legion fans. I’m a die-hard Legion fan and even I find this story arc a bit boring and plodding. I would imagine that non-Legion fans would be completely bored by this story arc. First, Johns doesn’t make this story arc easily accessible to readers without an encyclopedic knowledge of the Legion’s ridiculously complex history. Second, the story itself just isn’t that gripping of a read to entice non-Legion fans to slog their way through a continuity that they are unfamiliar with.

6 Comments

  1. Rokk,

    Regular visitor, first-time commenter. [Your insights are great. I find so much info and have added several titles based on your suggestions. Plus, I love the leftist angle! Too many of the folks at my LCS are weirdo neocon maniacs.]

    I don’t know much about the Legion (sorry, sorry) and I’ve never been a Superman fan (I’m the DD/Batman/X-men kinda guy), but I’ve really been loving this Action Comics arc. It has been really exciting to me and I feel like tons of stuff has happened. I’m sure that’s partly because almost all the Legionnaire info is news to me. Guess I should pick up LoSH #39, huh? See how it’s done right?

    And, man! I love Frank, too. I almost don’t care what’s happening in the story! Like Leinil Yu, but sharper and more focused.

    Viva la revolucion!

    -harryhausen

  2. I’ve been loving this story arc as well, and especially this issue. These issues have ‘inspired’ me to buy some of the old Legion issues (Levitz,LaRocque,Giffen) in the back issue bins of my comic store.

    I loved that the substitutes got some panel time. I laughed as Stone Boy crashed through the car flicking off the JL, and continued to flick them off throughout the fight. The substitutes might have issues, but they’ve got ‘chutzpa’ and a blast to read about them.

    I think Rokk might’ve been a little harsh on this issue. The Legion has added a lot to this Superman title, that I don’t mind if John’s drags it out for another 6 more issues. Frank’s art isn’t too bad on the eyes either.

    Though I agree that this storyline is dragging out a wee bit, it feels it has become an industry standard to drag their storylines to be easier to tradepaperback them later. I’m not a fan of this. To buy 4 – 6 issues to read 1 story when years ago each issue had a full story.

  3. I am also a regular visitor and a first-time commenter.

    I think there is some possibility that Earth-Man’s crystal tablet has some connection to General Zod, as the “Last Son” conclusion has not yet been published. The words “crystal tablet” make me think directly about Kryptonian technology.

  4. The Subs action made the whole book for me. I enjoyed this issue a lot, though I can understand your problems with the arc.
    I think I would like Earth-man (Or better yet, if he were called Terra-man),more if this was a much smaller arc. He’s a nice throw-away villain, but really! Six issues is a long time to ask when the villain is first rate.
    Decompression is killing comics, in so many ways.

  5. While I coincide with the criticism on the tendency to decompress stories nowadays (old comics used to deliver more in less page spage), I confess I’m getting a kick out of this story.

    You see, I’m catching up with the Legio, and I confess that I’m more fond on the old Curt Swan, Dave Cockrum or Paul Levitz eras than I get when coming across any re-boot ot tri-boot Legion series… I just don’t seem to find in the “new” versions that the old versions had. That is, excepting the cartoon series, and this Geoff Johns story which seems to reference both the pre-re-boot era and the cartoon origins (That is, the modern, no “Superboy” but “young Superman” version)

    If we could only see back Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eatter lad as they were originally powered (yes, as in the TV series!), who have been ostracised in all teh late eras because of having “silly powers”… Now, “silly suerpowers” IMHO, is an oxymoron, any comics “Superpower is sort of silly, if you give it a close, rational look. What gives strenght to a character is not the power but the personality, and the cartoon proves that both Chuck and Tenzil have lots of it.

    I suppose that’s why I loved seeing the subs in action: the attitude, not the power, is the key to heroism, Johns seems to be saying (hence the de-powered Supes, too). Amen to that.

  6. Hi Rokk, I gave a try to Shooter’s Legion after reading your positive reviews of it, and I think that it is worth following it. I couldn’t possible get hooked on Waid’s version, much as I love Waid in other places (I still treasure at home his dinamic take on Captain America)… But Waid’s Leggionnaires I found… I don’t know how to put it… Too Brat-Pack-ish?

    Shooter’s version has a nice texture: you can tell every legionnaire from another. I find it interesting that Lighting Lad, who has the marks of a good lieutenant in the battlefield, somehow gets lost as a General in HeadQuarters (with all the red tape issues). So far I quite like his charactherizations (but then I recently got an old Legion Archives volume written by Shooter years ago, and he really got a hold of the characters back then, too!)

    Now, If Shooter just makes Chuck and Tenzil return, I’ll become a subscriber! Honest, I believe that a legion without them lacks something

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