Comic Book Review: Action Comics #864

The Revolution was less than impressed with the Legion of Super Heroes story arc. It was dull and anti-climactic. Now that Johns has concluded a major story arc, I expect him to follow it up with a filler issue in Action Comics #864. We are also getting a fill-in artist with this issue. I am not expecting this issue to be anything special. Maybe Johns will surprise me with what he in store for us with this issue. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Geoff Johns
Artist: Joe Prado

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

Synopsis: We begin with Batman arriving at the Fortress of Solitude. Batman enters the Fortress and finds Superman hanging out with Lightning Lad reminiscing together about their old Legion adventures. Batman acts like a jerk and is totally dismissive of Lightning Lad and chides Superman from wasting time re-living the days of his youth. Batman asks to talk to Superman alone.

Lightning Lad leaves the room and Batman tells Superman that Lightning Lad needs to go back to his own time. That the longer he stays in the present time the more damage he could inadvertently do to the time stream. Superman answers that Lightning Lad was not going to leave the Fortress of Solitude.

Batman says that he doesn’t trust the Legionnaires. That they lied to them during the recent Lightning Saga story arc. Batman points out that he has now run across three different versions of the Legion of Super Heroes. The first version was during the events in Justice League of America #148. The second version he met was during Final Night. The third version he met was in Brave and the Bold #5.

Superman answers that Brainiac 5 told him that the Legion came across different versions of themselves and that Brainy theorized that each Legion was from a parallel Earth. Superman asks Batman why he came to the Fortress. Batman answers that two bodies were found in Gotham.

During this scene at the Fortress we get a voice from someone off panel narrating. The voice talks about how he knows the future. The day that Jimmy Olsen takes over the Daily Planet. The day New Krypton is born. And the day Batman dies. The voice talks about how if he can’t take Superman from the Legion then he will take the Legion from Superman.

The voice says that no matter how he tries to tear Superman from the Legion they always come back together again. The voice says that he learned this trying to rid reality of the Boy of Steel. That he attacked head on and confused them with a pocket dimension and altering history. (Goddammit. It’s the damn Time Trapper who is narrating this. I hate this character with all my heart.)

The voice states how he buried the crystal tablet in time and left it for Earth-Man to uncover and inflict his damage. The voice continues that removing Superman never lasts long. The voice says that he no longer has to worry about the Batman. The voice then wonders what it is like to have friends. To have friends that aren’t friends.

We cut to Gotham where we see Una and Karate Kid’s corpses lying in an alley. The voice says that he wanted Superman to know that the two Legionnaires were dead. And that they aren’t the last. (Well with the butcher Geoff Johns in the wings for the upcoming mini-series I’m sure that they aren’t the last Legionnaires to get slaughtered.)

Superman scans Karate Kid’s body and notices that his organs were eaten away by some kind of virus. That the virus is dead. Lightning Lad then crashes on the scene screaming to know who killed his fellow Legionnaires. The cops draw their guns and Lightning Lad blasts the guns out of their hands. Batman tells Lightning Lad to stop attacking the cops. Superman apologizes to the police for Lightning Lad’s actions. Garth comments that in his century he doesn’t like human cops. Superman reminds Garth that he is now in a different world and a different time.

Garth tells Superman that they need to bring whoever did this to justice. Garth reminds Superman that he always says that justice must strike hard and fast. Suddenly, the Legion distress signal goes off on the Legion flight rings. Superman comments that only one other Legionnaire is in their time period: Thom Kallor, Justice Society’s Starman.

We cut to the sanitarium where Starman is staying. Lightning Lad is stunned that Thom is being kept here. Superman tells Garth that Thom had no mental issues when he was with the Legion because of the modern medicine in the future that he took.

They arrive at Starman’s room and we see that he has drawn hundreds of stick figures on the wall. The voice mentions how he isn’t worried about Thom, either. Thom asks Garth if he was the lightning Brainy told Thom about. Thom asks Garth if he is off to save the universe from you-know-who. The voice mentions how Thom is full of the future Dream Girl’s knowledge but is without any way to share it.

Garth comments that Thom should not have stayed in this time period in this prehistoric prison. Superman answers that Starman wants to stay. Thom then says that they should not worry about Triplicate Girl. That they will have to wait to see what happens to her. But, that Karate Kid is dead, again. (Yeah, thanks Giffen. Hack.) Starman says that he signaled for Superman because he wanted to tell him that Karate Kid didn’t die in that alley. That he died trying to find a cure for his illness. That sometimes illnesses have no cure and that sometimes the dead stay dead.

Batman asks Starman who put the bodies in the alley. Starman answers that it was somebody who doesn’t like Batman. Somebody who wanted to say goodbye to him and say hello to Superman and the Legion. Dream Girl says that this person was going to start the Legion war.

Starman then says that this isn’t his fight. That his fight is here with the Justice Society. Starman says that maybe he will get a new secret identity. Maybe wear glasses and go by the name Danny Blaine and then get a sidekick. Starman then rips off the chunk of wall that he wrote all the stick figures on and tells Superman to take this and hang it in his fortress. That it is a Danny Blaine original.

We slide back to the Fortress of Solitude. Lightning Lad loads Karate Kid and Una’s bodies onto the Time Sphere. Garth apologizes to Batman for pissing him off. Garth says that sometimes he gets a little loud. But it is only because Garth cares. Garth says that Batman might want to try getting a little loud once in a while.

Garth then tells Superman that he was always more of a brother to him than Mekt ever was. Garth then hands Superman a new Legion flight ring that Brainy made. It has a cloaking setting so Superman can wear it whenever he wants to. And it has an emergency rip cord to the 31st century so if they really need Superman then the ring itself will bring Superman to them. Garth then looks at Batman and wonders what he would have turned out like if the Legion had gone to get him too. Batman whispers to himself “I don’t.”

Lightning Lad then gets in the Time Sphere and goes back home to the 31st century. Batman then comments that he is surprised that Superman ever got into trouble. Superman answers that Garth taught him that sometimes rules had to be broken. Sometimes just for fun. Superman then tells Batman that in the 31 century, they call Batman and Superman the World’s Finest.

The voice then says that they barely remember Batman. Batman then says “You have strange taste in friends. Clark.” Batman then leaves the Fortress.

We then see hand of the person who has been narrating this issue touching a screen where he has been watching Superman this entire issue. The person says that Superman is his blind spot in time and that he can’t erase him from history. We then see that the person is none other than the Time Trapper. (Dammit. I knew it.)

The Time Trapper rants that he will corrupt everything that Superman ever stood for. He says that he is the Time Trapper and that he deserves better than he has been given. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Action Comics #864 was a great issue. I try my best, not that I always succeed, in not letting my personal bias against a certain character color my review of an issue. The fact is that despite my personal dismay over the appearance of the Time Trapper, Action Comics #864 was a well written and entertaining issue. Johns pulls off a quality set up issue that does its job in properly teasing the reader into wanting to purchase the Legion of Three Worlds mini-series. I’m dreading this upcoming mini-series, but still Action Comics #864 got me morbidly excited about what Johns has in store for us. This issue gives the reader the feeling that the Legion of Three Worlds is going to be a huge event.

Johns does a fine job giving enough background information for new readers about the three different times that Batman has run across the three different Legions that we will be dealing with in the upcoming mini-series. Johns also gives a sly little nod to the pocket universe that was created the Time Trapper. Johns also delivers proper background information for new readers with the explanation of the appearances of the three different Legions in our world. Johns does his best to utilize Action Comics #864 as a way to bring newer readers up to speed on the convoluted history of the Legion in order to ensure that new readers can enjoy the Legion of Three Worlds mini-series as much as long-time Legion fans.

Action Comics #864 was a pleasantly paced issue. Johns impresses by not needing to resort to numerous action scenes in order to create tension and interest in the reader. This issue has precious little action, but still employs well crafted dramatic scenes keep the issue from dragging and at the same time pique the reader’s interest.

Action Comics #864 was a well plotted issue. That is to be expected as Johns almost always displays excellent long term vision. Johns simply has a knack for weaving a complex and detailed multi-issue story arcs like few other writers can. Johns dishes out some solid dialogue. I still much prefer Shooter’s Lighting Lad compared to what Johns gives us, but still I have to give Johns credit for delivering a well developed and easily identified personality for Garth.

Johns does a nice job handling the tension between Batman and Garth. I know that Johns isn’t a fan of Batman, but he does a solid job giving us a Batman who is still a bit of a jerk without being a total raging asshole. I like how Johns contrasts Garth’s emotional personality with Batman’s reserved demeanor. Gath and the Legion are clearly patterned after the much more positive and traditional style of hero like Superman than the anti-hero that is the Batman.

Johns also does a wonderful job cultivating the strong bond that exists between Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes. Johns contrasts the almost professional “friendship” that Batman and Superman possess from both being founding members of the JLA with the feelings of true friendship that exists between Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes. Superman views the Legion as his family and has a tight bond with them that he simply doesn’t have with his fellow JLA’ers. Johns has picked up on that fact and really driven that home to the reader.

Johns knows that it is important for newer readers who identify Superman with the JLA only to fully understand that the Legion was Superman’s first team and is the team that is closer to Superman’s heart. Johns also does a fine job with the final scene in this issue between Garth and Superman. Johns crafts genuine feelings of respect and love between the two men that is palpable to the reader.

I liked the little touch in the final scene where Garth openly wonders what would have happened to Batman if the Legion had come for him like they did for Superman. Batman’s under his breath response of “I don’t” emphasizes the loner nature of Batman. Batman simply is not wired to have friendships like the Legionnaires have with each other. Batman is a broken person who simply cannot sustain close friendships with other people.

I enjoyed the scene with Thom. I dig the fact that Thom has all of Nura’s knowledge of the future in his mind, but that he is incapable of conveying it to anyone due to his mental issues. Starman is such a neat and bizarre character who is a wonderful literary tool for Johns to employ in order to supply the reader with cryptic hints about future story arcs. I am also glad that we have evidently not seen the last of Triplicate Girl.

Johns properly utilizes the Time Trapper’s narration throughout this story in order to give the reader some back-story as well as create some tension in the reader and pique their curiosity about what is to come. We learn that the Time Trapper has been responsible in some manner for the creation of the three different versions of the Legion that we will be dealing with in the upcoming Legion of Three Worlds mini-series.

More importantly, we learn that Time Trapper was the person responsible for planting the crystal tablet so that Earth-Man would find it in the future. That was a pretty cool twist. And out of all the Legion villains, Time Trapper makes the most sense to be the one behind such an elaborate plot involving time travel. This move also seamlessly joins the Action Comics story arc with the upcoming Legion of Three Worlds mini-series.

Usually fill-in artists are not that impressive. However, that isn’t the case with Prado who certainly does a fine job filling in on this issue. Prado provides the reader with a nice looking comic book. I also dig how Prado draws Lightning Lad.

The Bad: My only complaint with Action Comics #864 is the revelation that the Time Trapper is the one behind the recent troubles for the Legion and that the Time Trapper will be the main villain in the upcoming Legion of Three Worlds mini-series. This is just a personal complaint that most readers will not share. I simply loathe and despise the Time Trapper. I hate his character like poison.

My dislike for the Time Trapper stems from the original Crisis on Infinite Earth when DC absolutely butchered the Legion’s continuity with no remorse. The infamous pocket universe is what DC had to resort to in order to patch up the Legion’s continuity that was ripped asunder when DC retconed Superman’s past in the wake of the original Crisis with the junking of Superman’s past adventures as Superboy.

The Time Trapper created the pocket universe from a slice of time in the distant past. Time Trapper altered events in this reality so that an Earth resembling the pre-Crisis one was formed, complete with its own Superboy. The Time Trapper then further manipulated the time stream so that whenever the Legion would travel into the past to visit the 20th century, or Superboy visited the Legion’s future, the two would be directed into each other’s worlds. Unfortunately, the pocket universe failed to possess a Kryptonian Supergirl so it was definitely not a perfect literary construct to patch up Legion’s decimated continuity.

Whenever I see the Time Trapper I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that DC is once again to going to butcher and rape the Legion’s continuity and history. I have this dreaded feeling that this upcoming Legion of Three Worlds mini-series is just another overly convoluted and poorly plotted attempt by DC to further “clean” up the Legion’s continuity by hacking it to pieces once again.

Now I am a battle scarred long time Legion fan so the vast majority of comic book readers will not have the same reaction to the Time Trapper that I do. And that is exactly why I didn’t penalize Action Comics #864 when I rated this issue. This was still a well written issue and I know that the vast majority of fans will find this an exciting read.

Unfortunately, the fact is that DC lost any and all faith that I might have in them when it comes to the Legion of Super Heroes. DC has continually shown an inability to properly handle the Legion’s continuity and history and will probably use the Time Trapper to bludgeon it once again. Based on the past handling of the Legion of Super Heroes, DC has done nothing to merit my trust and confidence.

Overall: Action Comics #864 was an excellent read. This issue does its job by laying a proper foundation for the Legion of Three Worlds mini-series and hooking new and old readers into wanting to purchase the upcoming mini-series. I think that Action Comics #864 will appeal to a majority of fans. This is definitely an excellent jumping on point for the Legion of Three Worlds mini-series. There is no doubt that this is going to be a huge event that I would recommend readers giving a try.

4 Comments

  1. As I’ve said before, I’m not familiar with the Legion as a reader, but I’ve read up on their history (Wikipedia is such a delightful place to kill an hour or two), and basically they exemplify DC’s tendency to pick at scabs; they rebooted the universe with COIE, and the perfect solution to the Legion issue would have been to just say that the Legion was inspired by Superman. But DC couldn’t leave well enough alone, and felt the need to go back and explain all past stories in the new context, instead of just going forward. And they keep rebooting, causing more errors, as if the perfect reboot that will fix the problem is just one reboot away. Comparatively, Marvel has some bad stories/arcs/whatever, but for the most part they just ignore them and go on from there; like how nobody in the Spider-books ever mentions the Clone Saga.

    I’m not surpised at Johns using the Time Trapper, since, as with “Infinite Crisis”, he likes to involve people who were key to whatever the ‘problem’ was as part of the ‘solution’.

  2. Having the Legion be inspired by Superboy instead of him joining the Legion in its past, is what led to the v4-era Valor/Mon-El thing, in which Valor and Andromeda took the place of Superboy, Mon-el, and Supergirl.

    I took the full-page “Batman and the Legion” explanation as a shout-out to my “Multiversal Retconitis” post on the Omnicom last summer.

  3. The Legion has never been a favorite part of the DC Universe for me but Johns continues to make everything he touches pure gold. I do have to disagree with you about the art. I was not at all impressed with Joe Prado. Backgrounds and figures were decent enough but the faces were…horrible ( it reminds me of why some artist created masks for their heroes; they were weak on facial expressions and wouldn’t have to do as many if the main character was hiding his!) Now granted Prado was filling in and probably had to rush it but there were several times I found myself pausing and saying “ugh, this stuff is not good”. It looks like DC is serious about getting their books out on time this year. This issue was solicited with Gary Frank and undoubtedly, he couldn’t meet the deadline (DC has said it will now pull artists and writers off issues if they can’t meet deadlines). Despite my criticism ,I will still take an “on time” issue with passable art and well crafted story over great art but crippling delays. Last year’s delays on Action Comics and Superman Confidential ruined some great stories
    (actually, the long delays on the horrible Wonder Woman reboot helped! It made me forget I was still getting it!)

  4. i would say i’m very optimistic about the story simply because it’s being written by johns and he has an ability to take other peoples bad stories and continuity snaffus and make them pignant and give them logic and purpose. if anyone is going to clean up the legion and superman’s past i can’t think of anyone other than johns that i would want to head it.

    my only qualm with this issue was that it maybe should have taken place in the superman/batman book

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