Omnicommentary #8: The New(est) Secret Origin of Brainiac 5!

Legionnaires #8: In Heart and Conscience Free

Creative Team: Tom & Mary Bierbaum (writers); Colleen Doran (penciller); John Nyberg (inker); Pat Brosseau (letterer); Tom McCraw (colorist); November 1993

Legion Roll Call: Alchemist; Andromeda; Brainiac 5; Cosmic Boy; Saturn Girl; Chameleon; Computo; Dragonmage; Invisible Kid.

Miscellaneous Notes: I'd say about half of those listed in the roll call are just in the first two pages, which are a fan-servicey pool party.  Since there's beefcake along with the cheesecake, I don't mind (even with that last panel - Ayla should really wear more than one leaf on her lower regions if she's gonna belly-flop like that.)

Summary: Brainy & a few friends travel to Colu to watch him receive a special honor, only for him to disappear.  It turns out the Coluan chancellor had him spirited to the mountains and has asked him to choose between staying with the Legion or serving his homeworld.  When he chooses the latter, Andromeda is heartbroken and has an epic freakout, telling off Saturn Girl for a seeming lack of empathy.  This prompts her to use her powers to reach out to Brainy & convince him to listen to his heart's desire over any sense of rote obligation.  He prepares to leave with his friends, only for one of the higher-ups to drug him & force him to comply.  A rush of hormones upon seeing Andromeda again allows him to negate its effects, happily, and the Legionnaires return to New Earth.

Continuity Notes: Well, this is a humdinger.  We learn that Brainy was apparently genetically engineered from the best aspects of the Coluan gene pool.  This is literally the first, last, & only time this new origin is referenced; it is not in any other 5YL stories, nor is it in any other Legion continuity.  I rank it up there with the New Mutants' "Magma was a kidnapped & brainwashed British tourist who just thought she was from a lost Roman colony" for sheer unnecessary revisionism.  If it had stuck around, it would have been interesting, but as a throwaway, it feels like a waste.

We also get an explanation for this series' interpretation of Saturn Girl.  Basically, she just feels soooo much for everyone that she just has to shut out others' feelings and act like a total idiot.  As of the next review, I'm giving her a more fitting handle - Lifetime Lass.  Cuz that description fits zero versions of Saturn Girl I've read in any other version of the Legion, so I'm treating this one like the cosplaying twit she's felt like since issue #2.
Finally, can I point out some bad storytelling here?  We're told Andromeda's been having nightmares "before" about losing Brainy, which is why she's so upset when he resigns.  These have not been seen or even mentioned in past issues; even if there was one scene where she said, "Oh, I had a bad dream, so I didn't sleep that great", this would've felt less out of left field & more foreshadowed.

We Get Letters: There are two letters in here from places local to me.  Odd.  Anyway, Mary Pahl calls them out for Catspaw, saying "does comicdom really need ANOTHER 'semi-crazy' femme-feline?" but is otherwise digging the new Fatal Five as much as all the other writers.  In the last letter, KC Carlson tries to pimp Zero Hour while dodging whether Chris Coleman's theory is true (answer - sadly, no).  Finally, the next issue solicits for the mother book declare "Tenzilmania returns!"  Sorry, guys, in these parts, Tenzilmania never left.

I Love the 90s: Ooh, fighting games... The back cover has a Mortal Kombat ad full of reviews from the in-house magazines (Nintendo Power, Sega Visions, etc.).  In the book, there's an ad for World Heroes, a.k.a. the one Street Fighter clone crappy enough to piss off Capcom; even the art for the ad & the game box look like bad bootlegs of SFII characters.  And in non-gaming, there's an ETM (Entertainment This Month) ad cataloging Future Collectors Items... and Defiant Comics.  Anyone not related to Jim Shooter remember them?

DC Commercial Break: In what may be the most 90s thing ever, Knightfall Skycaps.  Relive all the drama & action of Knightfall in Pog form!  The subscription offer page has the Jim Balent version of Catwoman looking even more ridiculous than usual thanks to some "strategic" costume rips.  Also, there's another Zero Hour ad. Sigh.

In more serious ads, Superman asks readers to help victims of the Mississippi River floods from 20 years ago.  Closest the Sandy states got to this was Fraction's Hawkeye issue, sadly, so props to him but boos to everyone else who thought charity ads like this one are "passe" or some nonsense.

Commentary: Nope, can't stop thinking about Mr. Joyner's letter about flaws from last issue; I have a feeling it will for the rest of the series.  This didn't have the same level of disconnect as last issue did with its remorseless child death, but it helps me understand why this era isn't exactly beloved.

I mentioned how badly "foreshadowed" Andromeda's fears were earlier, and even now, I think opening with one of those instead of the pool party might have saved that.  After all, we just had an entire issue of beach bodies last month.  And the out-of-the-blue retcon about Brainy's origins is just too much.  Colu wanting to keep that legendary Dox intellect there since now there are technically two Brainies wasn't enough of a motivation?  Again, making that switch would not hurt the plot in any way.
One thing that keeps me from being totally bratty about this issue is Colleen Doran's clean, elegant artwork.  Her expressions & emotions are vivid and relatable, her landscapes are lovely, and I reiterate what I once said on Twitter - she draws some truly handsome gents.  Page 9's top panel (a.k.a. the Big Stupid Retcon panel) has a portrait of Brainy that reminds me why he's always been one of my shameful fictional crushes.  Add to it all some manga-esque emotion graphics (like excitable surprise lines & showers of hearts & such), and it's a visual delight.  Even if the story isn't serving it as well as it should, it's still damn good.  At least this issue didn't have any dead kids, after all.


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