Action Comics #861 (March, 2008)
“Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Chapter 4: Chameleons”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Penciller – Gary Frank
Inker – Jon Sibal
Colorist – Dave McCaig
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Nachie Castro
Editor – Matt Idelson
We’re past the halfway point… and we’re on to the “cheapest” chapter of the arc. I say that because, anytime I see a “this era” copy of Action Comics in the quarter bins… it’s this issue. Like nine times out of ten… not sure why, maybe it was over-ordered? Maybe all the Legion purists already dropped out by this point? Couldn’t say!
Also, I try not to talk about my personal life here… but today is moving day! The house is a mess of boxes (more so than usual), and I’m using a mixture of lamps and the often unforgiving Arizona Sun to get through this one… so, apologies for some potato-quality (more than usual) images that might follow. Also, apologies for perhaps a less-deep post-synopsis section… though, c’mon… who sticks around here that long anyway?
We pick up where we left off… Superman (and the Legion) are stood captive before Brainiac-5 (who is flanked by some Brainiac-bots). I was unaware that the Legionnaires came along… I’d have bet Superman made the trip solo. Let’s hear it for reading/art comprehension! As this is going on, various races (Races? Sure, why not?) of aliens are discussing that weird ongoing Earth situation.
On Colu, Brainiac-5 reiterates that he’s going to terminate the good guys… and reveals his plans to eliminate the Earth! He also reveals that he has that lightning rod from the end of The Lightning Saga.
He continues… instructing his Brainy-bots to leave the room so he might attend to the termination of his former friends himself. Once they’re out of earshot, however, we get a glimpse of the real Brainy!
Turns out he’s playing the Coluans in order to make use of their technology… and keep universal peace. What better way than becoming a dictator, right? He notes that Superman looks tired… and I’ll try to resist making a “I just flew in from…” joke. Dawnstar tells Brainiac about the Red Sun epidemic, and we learn that it’s also hit Colu… so, Superman will remain depowered on this planet as well. Apparently, Brainy’s plan had Superman arriving before the Sun went red… but the Time Bubble had a hiccup. He also informs his friends that he’s got someone “on the inside” of the Justice League of Earth.
Speaking of whom, we join the baddies as they are showing the students of Earth their two latest alien acquisitions… Shadow Lass and Light Girl. The children comment how scary these aliens-under-glass are. We learn here that Earth-Man knows all about Brainiac’s plan… and suggests they inform the Coluan governing body of his ambiguous loyalty… whoops. It’s also revealed that the teacher is actually Silver-Age Legion reject Eyeful Ethel… whose power grants her the ability to sprout extra eyeballs… and it’s pretty gross. Anyhoo, she thinks she catches something in (one of) her peripheral vision(s), but shakes it off. Turns out her intuition was right on.
From here we get to know our Justice Leaguers a bit better… starting with Golden Boy. He’s, well… a complete jerk. His power is akin to King Midas… and we watch as he turns a fella to gold, while demanding to be “polished” by his attendants.
Next stop, Storm Boy… and boy howdy is he a mess. We learn that he was rejected by the Legion because his powers weren’t “natural”… and so, he’s over-indulged in sorta super-power “cosmetic surgery”. For so brief a scene, it’s really rather deep and tragic. He blames his surgery-addiction on his rejection… just as he lays down for another go-round… minus anesthesia.
Elsewhere, Radiation Boy and Spider-Girl are chatting… and it’s made pretty clear that ol’ Roy has a thing for Sussa. It’s even alluded to that, at one time, she seconded that emotion. Here, however… he’s pretty deformed, and she’s promised herself to Earth-Man.
Speaking of whom… we join him as he dances victoriously around his life-size Legion of Super-Heroes inaction figures collection. He also displays that he has the powers of those he’s taken captive. His dance party is interrupted by a call from Spider-Girl… and so, he heads out. When he’s out of sight, a young girl reveals herself as having been watching.
She finds a window that is glowing red, and decides to peek inside. She finds our old friend Sun Boy is being used as a sort of solar engine… very likely responsible for the interuniversal Red Sun outbreak. She proves to not be the greatest spy, as she almost instantly tips off Earth-Man to her presence… and we learn that things might not be exactly as they seem with our tiny spy.
Meet Brainiac’s gal “on the inside” Chameleon Girl!
Speaking of Brainiac… we pop back over to Colu, where Colossal Boy is slapping him around with his giant mitts. Ya see, Colossal Boy is married to Chameleon Girl… and isn’t at all pleased that Brainy would put her in any danger. Superman plays peacekeeper, and gets them to settle their tea kettles.
Colossal Boy tosses Brainiac-5 a Legion Flight Ring… just in time for the Coluans to revolt against their “leader”. As they fight off the baddies, Brainiac reveals that without him as leader, Colu will charge into Universal War within the next four hours… uh oh!
Another chapter that just pulled me right along. Really enjoying this ride. In my social media chats about this arc (and The Lightning Saga) I find that it had a pretty mixed reception in the Legion-fan community. Some proclaim it to be the arcs that brought them back to the fandom, while others mark it as their jumping off point. I suppose that’s fair enough… being a life-long X-Men fan, I know a thing or two about divisive new takes on my favorite characters. Sometimes they work… other times, not so much.
I feel like my main takeaway from this issue were in those single page vignettes where we got to “meet” the Justice League of Earth members. It didn’t overstay its welcome… I feel like sometimes Geoff Johns gets a bit overindulgent when it comes to (pardon the pun) humanizing his villains. I mean, who could possibly hate Captain Cold after he gave him that Rogue Spotlight issue in Flash? Hell, he even managed to make Sinestro somewhat sympathetic for a bit. These Leaguers are, at their core, tragic and broken figures… rejected from the Legion, and were never able to make their peace with that. It’s easy for us to identify with them… perhaps even (in part) explain away their less-than-noble actions.
Worth mentioning… I’ve given Gary Frank a bit of guff over the past few issues for his odd facial proportions… ya know, somehow chipmunk cheeky, and heroin slim at the same time… however, I really enjoyed his work here… especially during those JLE vignette pages. The facials there were really amazing!
Outside of that… we learn that Sun Boy might be (unwittingly) responsible for the Red Sun Menace, which is pretty cool… and sets the table for a great “turn of the tables” later on, and feels organic. The inclusion of Chameleon Girl might feel like a bit of a cop-out… I mean, shape-shifters are only second to clones when it comes to meta-human espionage… but, ya know… Durlans are shape-shifters, so why not use it?
Overall… if you’ve read the first three chapters, I couldn’t think of a reason why you’d not return for this one. It’s still a fun ride… and quite the education. Worth picking up so check those quarter-bins!