Adventure Comics #0 (2009)
“The Legion of Super-Heroes”
“Origins & Omens”
Writers – Otto Binder & Geoff Johns
Artists – Al Plastino & Francis Manapul
Letterer – Steve Wands
Colorist – Brian Buccellato
Assistant Editor – Sean Ryan
Editors – Mort Weisinger & Elizabeth V. Gehrlein
Cover Price: $1.00
In blogging and reviewing every day for… almost 400 days straight, I suppose it should stand to reason that I’m going to repeat myself every now and again. I can’t discuss Wild Dog or Jim Starlin Batman without begging for them to be collected, I can’t discuss a Dan Jurgens book without commenting that he is the definitive Superman writer of my lifetime, and I can’t even brush against the Legion of Super-Heroes without mentioning that I simply do not “get” them.
And if I had a nickel for the amount of times I’ve said (and written) “today we’re going to fix that”, I’d… ya know, probably have a Snapple-bottle full of nickels.
I said all of that, so I may say this… I wanna “get” the Legion, and so, today we’re going to go all the way back to their very first appearance. Folks who follow the blog know that I’m a “single issue” kinda guy… and as luck would have it, I managed to procure an issue that included the Legion’s introduction as a reprint. Let’s get right down to it…
We open with a young bookish-looking Clark Kent walking down a Smallville street. He is approached by a blonde boy in a suit… who greets and addresses him as “Superboy”. Uh-oh. And so, he heads home to change into his Superboy outfit… he leaves home and runs into another young man… this time, he’s addressed as “Clark Kent”… moments later, a young lady tells him to give her regards to the Kents. Just what in the world is going on here?
Well, that’s an easy one. These young people are just messing with the boy of steel. They are actually super-heroes from the far-flung future, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Boy (I always thought it was Lightning Lad). They inform him that he is considered the greatest super-hero of all, and that their Super Hero Club was inspired by his exploits. They offer to hop in their time bubble and take him with them to the 30th century so he can become an official member.
30th Century Smallville… dude, this is a weird place. There are space sight-seeing trips, intergalactic ice cream, and the Kent home enshrined as a historical structure. In the local school, the story of Superboy is shared with students. The real Superboy and company interrupt a demonstration of X-Ray vision via a Superboy robot. The robot is going to melt steel… with his X-Ray vision… hmm. Didn’t know it worked that way… figured it’d be heat vision that melts things, right? Oh well.
Later, the Legion discuss granting Superboy membership… however, first he must compete with the same three members that brought him here. They each have a single power, compared to Superboy just being pretty great all-around. The first trial will pit him against Saturn Girl, whose power is described as “thought casting”. The task is raising a sunken statue from under the seas.
The competitors dash out to get that statue. Superboy, however, is distracted when he sees the Superboy robot from earlier with his telescopic vision, which I’d thought would be X-Ray vision here… anyhoo, the (million dollar) robot is running away from its master. Superboy decides to eschew this round of competition to help the professor stop the ‘bot.
Elsewhere, Saturn Girl uses her thought-casting to “speak” with a giant sea creature, commanding it to help her raise the statue. Superboy is down 0-1. He does not make any excuses for his loss, and is ready for his next test.
That second test pits him against Cosmic Boy who has the power of Super-Magnetism. Their task is putting out a tremendous forest fire. Wouldn’tcha know it, while Superboy is headed out, his telescopic vision tips him off again… there’s a 20th Century satellite fallen out of orbit. He again forgoes the trial to save the planet.
While Superboy was playing cosmic basketball, Cosmic Boy fills a nearby lake with giant stones to flood the forest… and likely destroying the entire ecosystem… but, who’s keeping track of that? Once again, Superboy declines to make any excuses. He is now down 0-2.
The final contest is against Lightning Boy, and for it they must inform the Nova Express that they have a leaking fuel tank. Okey dokey… too bad Superboy notices that the Invisible Eagle of Neptune had just escaped from the Interplanetary Zoo. Being as though this bugger is invisible it could be hazardous to all spaceships… his priorities are again shifted away from the contest. He… hmm… plucks an iceberg out of the sea to make the bird visible with frost. At that same time, Lightning Boy sky-writes to the Nova Express.
Superboy has lost all three contests. The Legionnaires mock Superboy pretty harshly… they’re really being jerks here… even causing li’l Clark’s eyes to water. He collects himself quickly, and decides to be a good sport about the thing.
It’s now that the Legionnaires share a secret… all of the weirdness that occurred during the contest was… their own causing… and was actually part of the contest! They wanted to see what choices he would make! Superboy is officially made a member of the Super Hero Club!
At that moment, another alarm goes off. Superboy takes care of it all by himself… however makes sure to use powers of magnetism, lightning, and mind-reading to do so. I guess what’s good for the goose… right?
We close up this classic tale with Clark Kent returning home to share the story of his day with his father.
Our backup begins with a reading from the black book by rogue Guardian of the Universe, Scar. She thinks for a bit on Lex Luthor’s “better” qualities.
Speaking of Lex, we join him as he attempts to leave a government facility with a captive and unconscious Brainiac. Guards attempt to stop them… which doesn’t work out all that well, because Brainiac has woken up.
Lex takes Brainiac to his classic skull ship, which looks pretty cool. Brainiac informs Luthor that they will not be leaving… and that he’s now the one running the show. He grabs Luthor by the throat and begins to give him the terms of their new working arrangement.
We wrap up with Scar, still reading… being as though this is a Blackest Night dealie, she understands that since Lex is alive… she cannot control him. There is, however, another Luthor… who is dead. That Luthor… is Superboy, Conner Kent.
It’s always a bit of a surprise to me just how much they used to fit on a page back in the Silver Age. I mean, we have the complete introduction of the main movers and shakers of the Legion on a single page! That would require a six-issue arc nowadays. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of depth here… but, ya know… it works.
This is probably the second or third time I’ve read this story (I’ve got the Showcase Presents), which was pretty silly… but still quite fun. I like Superboy displaying more intrinsic heroism rather than “playing along” with the Super-Hero Club. That just feels right. The pay off, where we learn that the Legion was tricking him, is also a neat surprise. I mean, we knew that things were going to work out, but the way in which they did it was a bit more interesting than I’d have thought. Plus Superboy was able to get the last laugh, which was pretty cool.
The 30th Century is such a silly place… such a strange mixture of contemporary (for the time) machinery juxtaposed with ridiculous far-flung architecture, so great! I love how the teacher with the Superboy robot… first of all, had a Superboy robot rather than a Superman one. Second, how the arrival of the real-steel-deal didn’t even make him blink. He was just like, hey… it’s the kid from a millennia ago that my entire syllabus is based around… no biggie.
As for the Origins & Omens bit… this hit at a bit of a comics-blackout for me. This was post job-loss, post-foreclosure Chris… who didn’t really do the comics thing for a little while. I probably should think about starting a “reading project”, as if that’s anywhere near feasible, time-wise, to catch up on some of that stuff. The New Krypton stuff seems especially interesting to me… though, perhaps for the wrong reasons.
Anyhoo, the few pages we get “in the present”, were decent enough… though I’m really not sure how we got here… or where we’re going next. It was fine… and it had Manapul art, which is never a bad thing. Plus it ended with the reintroduction of what I’d long considered my Superboy, Kon-El… and that was pretty cool.
I am going to try to cover a bit more of the Legion here from time to time… work on my Legion-Education. I might have to sit under a fair amount of “learning trees” for context, but I’d really like to give this team a fair shake. That being said, the only reason to chase this bugger down is for the Superboy (Kon) reveal at the end. If you’re down to check out the early days of the Legion of Super-Heroes, there are a ton of ways to do so… but, this single-issue is inexpensive and likely easy to come across. I think the first appearance of the Legion is definitely worth checking out, in any way you can. This issue itself is not available digitally, however the original Adventure Comics #247 is.