Action Comics #859 (January, 2008)
“Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Chapter 2: Illegal Aliens”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Penciller – Gary Frank
Inker – Jon Sibal
Colorist – Dave McCaig
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Nachie Castro
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.99
Was so impressed yesterday, I figure why not keep this Legion Learnin’-train rollin’?
We open in the year 3008 with Legionnaires Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl spelunking… while lamenting the fact that they no longer wear Flight Rings. Upon hitting bottom, Lightning Lad sparks up some light, revealing their destination to be… the Batcave!
We learn that they are here in search of Batman’s Kryptonite Ring… hopeful that it will provide the evidence they need to prove that the Planet Krypton existed in the first place! Hmm. Anyhoo, they do some light rifling through Batman’s things, while chatting up the differences and relationship between he and Superman… when, Saturn Girl reveals that they’ve been “found”.
Before we know it, a Superman-armband-adorned team of super-types burst into the Batcave… and proclaim the Legionnaires to be under arrest.
The Legionniares do their best to take the fight to this crew, however, it isn’t long before the numbers game catches up to them. The group-leader Earth-Man informs them that the future of the Earth no longer lay with the Legion of Super-Heroes… instead, it is with… the Justice League?!
We shift scenes to rejoin Superman whose hand-injury is being tended to by Dawnstar… and he makes it clear that he’d really appreciate some answers. They talk about not wanting to include him due to the Sun going red. They feared if he were to die while helping them in the future, it would (somehow?) undo everything good he’d ever done. I’m not sure I follow, but I’m no chronologist either. Now I’m wondering if the Legion somehow tricked Superman into forgetting them to explain the post-Crisis “pocket universe” continuity! Maybe it’s all being spelled out, and I’m too dense to make sense of it! Anyhoo… in the years after the Sun went Red, Earth pulled out from the United Planets and banned aliens.
Superman’s all “that’s all well and good”, but knows that they’re not giving him the whole story. He turns to Wildfire (whose design here looks frickin’ awesome), who agrees to share with him… the rest of the story. From here, we shift to the Headquarters of the Justice League of Earth where class is in session. A Professor asks a classfull of students where Superman was born… and the answer she receives isn’t one we’re familiar with.
So, it’s established that children are being indoctrinated with some less than true information here. Hmm. No comment. It’s made clear that Anyhoo, the “lesson” moves on to discussion of the lies the Legion told to convince the world that Superman was in fact an alien from Krypton and not the Kansan boy they believed. From the Legion… she addresses some rejects, which would go on to form the Justice League of Earth. Doing a little bit of research shows that… yeah, all of these characters were Silver/Bronze-Age Legion rejects! How ’bout that? Their Current leader, Earth-Man was once known as Absorbancy Boy… and he was actually a real thing (from Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #218 – see below). Blowin’ my mind here!
The students suddenly rush to the classroom window where they get a peek at the real-deal Justice League of Earth as they stride by victoriously. They regale their heroes with a chant of “Long Live Humans!” Well, who in their right minds can argue against something like that? We keep with Earth-Man as he enters the hallway where his super-collectible life-sized Legionnaire action figures are being delivered. Okay okay, it’s actually the Legionnaires in some sort of suspended animation. We get the impression that Earth-Man’s disdain for the Legion might be more personal than anything. Dude’s been holding a grudge since the Bicentennial!
His celebratory taunting of inanimate objects is interrupted by a report of a Superman-dressed Legion sympathizer making the scene. Earth-Man thinks it’s no big deal… until he learns that they also found pieces of a Time Bubble. He heads off, and we can see that Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl aren’t the first Legionnaires he’s captured.
We wrap up this chapter with Superman and his trio of Legion-pals following a faint trail in hopes of locating Brainiac-5. It leads them to an Alien Holding Camp… where Dawnstar reveals there might be even more Legionnaires inside to help them.
Are you kidding me? This was incredible!
Before we get into the story, let’s get some Johnsian gushing out of the way. When we talk about his work on Justice Society of America, one of the things I like to mention is his subtlety… even when he’s writing about divisive and sensitive issues (such as Mr. Terrific’s Athiesm), it’s never written as a lecture… and it’s never written from a position of superiority. He leaves it to the reader to come up with their own thoughts and opinions on the subject without interjecting his own. Here, we have a story titled “Illegal Aliens” and… there were zero a-dor-a-ble “dey turk er jerbs” references! Thank you very much for that, Mr. Johns… you saved me from a lot of uncontrollable cringing. I’m sure parallels could be made to the immigration situation in the United States… if you wanted to. But, as I said… it’s the subtlety of the thing. If you wanna go there… you can. If you’re like me, and just want a comic book story… well, you’re pretty safe here.
Now, for the story itself… we’ve got a world full of humans who have been miseducated. Again… there’s something we can delve deeper into, buuuuuut we won’t… just know that it’s there if you want it to be. The legend of Superman has been altered… he’s no longer a Kryptonian… hell… Krypton never even existed! Clark Kent was born of Jon and Martha Kent and grew up in Smallville… where around puberty, he was chosen by the Earth to have incredible powers. Hmm… across the street at Marvel, we’d call him a “mutie” and chase him down the street with torches and pitchforks!
We don’t know if the Justice League of Earth knows the actual “real deal” just yet… though, I assume they do… at least Earth-Man does. It’s a massaging of the facts to garner sympathy for their plight… and arouse suspicion to the point of xenophobia and blind hatred toward their enemies. There’s yet another thing we could delve into… but, yeah… no. It’s quite well done… to the point where I actually feel somewhat bad for spoiling the entire magilla here at the blog. This is a story I’d definitely encourage you to read… even if you have very little in the way of Legion-context.
On the most recent episode of Cosmic Treadmill, Reggie and I took a look at X-Factor #71 (Marvel Comics – 1991)… which led to a full-on X-Men discussion. I reminisced about pre-Internet comic shop chatter and speculation that fueled much of my fandom. Trying to connect dots, find “key” issues, draw conclusions… basically, just learn. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to do anything like that… however, with this Legion-Learning endeavor, I feel like I learn something new with every single issue. It’s refreshing to me in this age of “at our fingertips” digital information that I can still get satisfyingly surprised. In doing the research here and “discovering” that these JLEers were really and truly “Legion Rejects”, I feel like I’m that goofy pre-teen at the comic shop listening in on “Cable is Cyclops’ Son” chatter.
The art here is still somewhat mixed… but definitely a bit less “heroiny” than the first chapter. These characters just look so sickly from time to time… though, I suppose in these trying Red Sunned fugitive times, perhaps they have been going without basic nutritional needs. I mean, I’m grasping here… but, whattayagonnado?
Overall… definitely recommended, though I’d probably tell ya to go with the collected edition. The issues (so far) have positively flown by… and I’m sure reading it all in one “gulp” would prove to be more satisfying overall.
Absorbancy Boy… was real!
|From Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #218 (July, 1976)
Words – Cary Bates / Art – Mike Grell