Omnicommentary #9: Subplotapalooza!

Legionnaires #9: Skin Deep

Creative Team: Tom & Mary Bierbaum (writers); Chris Sprouse (penciller); Karl Story (inker); Adam Hughes (guest artist pp.16-20); Brian Stelfreeze (guest artist pp.21-22); Pat Brosseau (letterer); Tom McCraw (colorist); December 1993

Legion Roll Call: Andromeda; Catspaw; Cosmic Boy; Dragonmage; Inferno; Invisible Kid; Live Wire; Matter-Eater Lad; Lifetime Lass; and Shrinking Violet.

Miscellaneous Notes: From here on out, we'll be seeing a mix of artists for several issues.  Chris Sprouse does a little in each, however, and it's not until #12 that you get a lousy artist.  Until then, at least they all feel "of a piece" and blend well.

Summary: How boy, this is more a bunch of subplots than a single story.  First, we've got Andromeda, Catspaw, Dragonmage, Tenzil, & Vi tracking some Khunds to an isolated planet; after a crash landing, they encounter mysterious natives that resemble people beloved to the Legionnaires & that lead them to another downed ship that the Khunds are seeking.  Elsewhere, Lyle & Leviathan (who was shafted out of the roll call) learn that some much-needed food stores have been stolen by Sklarian pirates.  Finally, back on New Earth, the founders are called away from another open audition to quell a food riot in Acapulco; after Lifetime Lass is hit by a brick & his own moxie is insulted, Live Wire tries to kill a rioter - only to hit Cosmic Boy instead, who's doing what heroes do & not trying to kill civilians.  The issue ends with Lifetime Lass declaring that Cos must be dead because he's not breathing, with the thought of CPR never crossing anyone's mind, diagetically or otherwise.

Continuity Notes: The crash scene finally gives us some backstory on Catspaw & Dragonmage via their scenes with their loved ones.  Catspaw is visited by her ex-boyfriend Ansis, the man who turned her over to the Dominators for experimentation, and she is torn between her justifiable anger & her raw attraction.  Dragonmage is visited by his sorcery teacher Chu Hua; judging from his comments, she always treated him coldly, so he welcomes her warmer & more maternal treatment at their reunion.  Tenzil & Vi have some sweet scenes for my deeply-buried-Tenzil-and-Vi-shipper heart to enjoy... until he finds the real Vi passed out on a log while "his" Vi is still by his side.  If you're wondering where Andromeda is during all this, she flew off to punch the Khunds that shot down their ship.

The one-page Sklarian pirate plot will play a larger role in future issues.  Of course.
Inferno's sole role is macking on ladies again.  Though much like the pirates' plot, the Khundish girl he's wooing will turn up again in a plot that ultimately goes nowhere.

We Get Letters: Oh, hi, fellow Emerald Empress fan from Camden!  I hope you got to somewhere better.  Anyway...  This issue has a good number of international letters, which is cool.  Simon Del Monte from Queens echoes one of the elements I like - the feeling that New Earth is doomed to failure & youthful idealism will only help so much.

I Love the 90s: Anyone want a Skid Row Video Collection?  Complete with free 3-D glasses?  You can watch the video for "18 & Life" in 3-D AND on Laserdisc!  Tellingly, no prices are provided.

DC Commercial Break: There's a "Superman Trilogy" called "Spilled Blood" advertised with 3 genericky villains surrounded by too much neon yellow.  The token girl, Hi-Tech, is kind of neat - she has Rocket's haircut, a Cyberwoman's metal bikini, & what appears to be the Technarch virus from New Mutants.  If a character with that design was a hero, I'd probably love her.

Commentary: Yeah, I'm not a big fan of this issue.  It starts a run where each issue is half-main-story, half-setup.  The main story with the crash ship is good, since it's basically a character showcase in service to a mystery, but I feel its coming conclusion could easily have been done in one issue instead.  As it is, my thoughts on the cliffhanger & where it is destined to go should be clear to everyone, and I am not looking forward to that.

As much as I appreciate finally giving them a spotlight, the character of Catspaw makes me feel weirdly uncomfortable.  The Legion has a spotty record as far as diversity, and I understand that they wanted to add new non-white members that could fill a niche not already occupied on the team.  But Computo's practically an extra, and Dragonmage is swathed in really stereotypical "mystic Chinese" trappings.  But at least they're treated like actual people.  Aside from her scenes with Ansis, Catspaw is a pure joke character; she's either in "ha, ha, she thinks she's a cat, not a human" scenes or "ha, ha, she's horny for every guy she sees" scenes.  It just feels really wrong to treat one of your few black characters like an easily dismissed oversexed housepet.  It makes me really uncomfortable, and while Tom Bierbaum's LJ suggests he was aiming for a comic relief, light-hearted character, it went down an unpleasant path he probably never intended.
Let's close out on a positive note and give some props to the guest artists.  Adam Hughes has some serious fun with the background action at the audition, which makes me wish yet again he still did interiors.  And while I hate the ending scene & the forced cliffhanger, the panels where Brian Stelfreeze shows Garth's face going from concern for Pseudo-Imra to raw, irrationally murderous rage almost make up for the inherently flawed writing.  It makes something that's normally a distraction while reading - an art shift - feel enjoyable & appropriate.


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