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Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes #19

Posted: Saturday, July 1, 2006
By: Ray Tate

for Supergirl Fans

for Legion Fans

Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Barry Kitson(p), Mick Gray(i), Nathan Eyring(c)
Publisher: DC

Issue nineteen is easily the dullest of Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes. The cover would have you believe that the Legion will be solving a murder mystery. Instead, just one member of the Legion crosses genres.

The mystery takes the form of a hard-boiled detective story, but despite the Legion-specific science fiction trappings, it doesn't veer even a half-degree from formula. Anybody who has seen or read a private-eye noir should know the solution by page twelve. If you discount the page featuring the Legion Omnicom (The Role Call), the four advertisements and and the two of three pages in which Supergirl appears. The answer really should hit you like a sledge hammer on page five.

Some of the pages are devoted to Mark Waid's attempt to fuse Chameleon Boy's narration with that of a Mike Hammer wannabe. He tortures the reader with lines such as:

"It could have been the dampness in the air. The humidity was thick enough to drown a Venusian Halrog."

"The upper levels of Metropolis are esthetically speaking. About as warm as the glaciers of Pluto."

"The moment their newest robot god came on-line. It called us out like a bacteria in a med-ward."

Other pages give reader unwanted insight into continuity that makes one's head hurt:

"Centuries ago, during the Singularity Wars. The human race voluntarily entered a dark age in order to cleanse the galaxy of a corrupted--and, at the time, dominant--race of artificially intelligent robots."

The whole robot beneath the city thing seems to be a theme in Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes, and it's far from engaging. I'd still like to know why humanity didn't take a refrigerator magnet to each of the robot criminals. Waid also for some reason finds the concept of garbage fascinating. In a previous issue, it served as an inane segue to shift the scenes to the bowels of Metropolis, and in this issue garbage becomes the core for robot philosophy:

"Material culture, they argue, is not sustainable. Resources aren't renewable--therefore, earthlings--flesh or metal--cannot afford to continue to turn everything into obsolete trash."

Trash has absolutely no meaning in a future society that has zap guns. If you've got a zap gun, why not zap the trash to atoms? Too easy? How about you ship all the trash to planet Bismol home of Matter-Eater Lad? Haven't introduced Bismol yet? Here's a thought, drop the trash in a sun. Spacecraft exist in Legion continuity. The economic factors that prevent us from doing that now do not factor into a future society that has an infinite budget. This whole idea of old robots in the future picking through discarded parts is intrinsically flawed.

As usual only one Legion member glows with a vivid personality. That Legionnaire is Supergirl. This is another thing I just don't understand. Waid is capable of writing characterization that has depth, characterization that doesn't just serve the plot. The other Legionnaires though have the same personality, and that personality is unbelievably bland. All they do is react to the plot, and it's not a particularly good plot.

As soon as Supergirl flies through the panels, things look brighter. She sounds absolutely charming and nice, just as you imagine Kara would sound and behave. Theena, an informant for the Legion, also sparkles. Kara and she engage in a well-written conversation, and without clunky exposition, the conversation hints at Theena's history. I would love to read a book centering on just the adventures of Kara and Theena. Why can't Waid characterize the Legion like he characterizes these two characters? Why can't he give each Legionnaire a distinctive personality and have them interact on a human level? If he did this Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes would be an extraordinary comic book, one in a series of many extraordinary Legion incarnations. Instead, Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes is just something that's just barely good for those desperate to see Kara drawn well and written well.

In summary, Supergirl soars in only three pages this issue. Her super-feats include flight, using her x-ray vision and being super-nice. The rest of the Legion are as shallow as a small puddle, but a newer character named Theena exhibits more depth than expected. Barry Kitson is up to his usual excellent level of artistry, but despite these assets, I really can't see anybody having feeling anything for the Legion, as they are portrayed in this newest incarnation of their book.



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