Legends of Tomorrow #3. “Firestorm” Gerry Conway- Writer, Eduardo Pansica- Penciller, Rob Hunter- Inker, Andrew Dalhouse- Coloris. “Metamorpho” Aaron Lopresti- Writer/Penciller, Jonathan Glapion- Inks, Chris Sotomayor- Colors. “Sugar and Spike” Keith Giffen- Writer, Bilquis Evely- Artist, Ivan Plascencia- Colorist, “Metal Men” Len Wein- Writer, Yildray Cinar- Penciller, Trevor Scott- Inker, Dean White- Colorist.
Anthology books used to be the norm in the comic book industry. Almost all the DC Characters we read about today got their start in an anthology title like Action Comics, Detective Comics, Sensation Comics, and All-American Comics. By the 1960’s those anthology books had dwindled down from 6 or 7 features to a headliner and a back-up story or two. It is very rare today to have an anthology book let alone one that has four features of equal strength and status. At $7.99 it’s a hefty price point, but in this case all four of these features are solid at the worst and delightfully unique at the best.
It should be no surprise that the first feature is Firestorm. The title of the anthology is clearly working on the recognizability of the TV show of the same name which features the Nuclear Man. That being said, it should come as no surprise that there’s some real synergy going on between this feature and the TV incarnation. When Martin Stein speaks, I hear Victor Garber in my head. And it doesn’t end there. The status quo for the character in the New 52 featured Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch in the Firestorm matrix. It only took a couple of issues to get Stein and Ronnie together. It’s not exactly like the TV show, but it does set up the dynamic between the older Stein and teenage Ronnie that echoes the Jax and Stein dynamic on the TV show. It should also be no surprise that Stein and Raymond are together again, since this feature is penned by Firestorm’s co-creator, Gerry Conway.
Firestorm is throwing down with Major Force, an antagonist from the New 52 Firestorm title. Force is following orders from General Eiling who believes Firestorm is in league with Danton Black whose been causing trouble. And he’s not far from wrong, Black was a colleague and protégé of Stein’s years ago. But, Firestorm is trying to find Black and stop him. The main thrust of this installment is Ronnie getting Stein to trust him. This is interspersed between altercations with Major Force. Meanwhile, Black has abducted physicist, Marla Cunningham and hopes to enlist her into his cause.
Stein and Ronnie reach a true growth moment which allows them to fight Force more effectively. Unfortunately, Force has reinforcements and it suddenly doesn’t look good for Firestorm.
With Conway, a veteran, the script is more dense than the usual contemporary comic story. This really works positively, as Conway is able to develop some nice character moments between Stein and Ronnie, especially his revelation about Stein’s past with Black. It was nice to see this since this episode was so action heavy.
The previous installments of “Firestorm” have really focussed on character, and while Conway was able to work it in to the dialogue during the fight, the other characters in the feature were missed, especially Jason and Tonya.
This is a solid feature. The synergy with the TV version of Firestorm should make this an easy read for any fan of the DC TV Universe. It’s a little action heavy, but it recalls comics of the past in storytelling and dialogue.
This is the first time Metamorpho has appeared since the launch of the New 52. As such, one would expect an updated origin story. And that’s exactly what we are getting in the second feature of Legends of Tomorrow. In the previous two issues we have seen Rex Mason meet and bond with Sapphire Stagg and get to understand the animosity between him and her father Simon Stagg. This episode develps the history of the Orb of Ra further and continues to build the relation ship between Rex and Sapphire.
Simon Stagg is no fan of Rex Mason outside of what Rex can do for him. And Rex is no fan of Simon, but he seems awfully taken with Stagg’s daughter, Sapphire. Rex and Sapphire have travelled to Egypt to try and learn ore about what happened in that pyramid. As it turns out the answer is bigger than they anticipated.
Rex and Sapphire are transported to another dimension, and there they learn the source of the entire Egyptian civilization. They encounter human-like entities that believe Rex to be the chosen one to save them. They even show Rex the same hieroglyphic that Rex saw that gave him the inspiration to go Egypt to search for a source for a cure to his Element Man condition.
There’s some nice character work as we see the relationship between Sapphire and Rex. Clearly Rex cares for her, but more so, Sapphire seems to be Rex’s anchor. Rex sort of loses himself when she’s in danger and it is her calming presence that brings him back. This seems to be setting them up as a team. It suggests that Rex will need Sapphire to keep himself in check and that she will be the thing that he must focus on to return to his senses if he gets lost in the elemental realm. His emotional expression certainly feels linked to Sapphire and her well being.
The newness of this series should present some obvious concerns. However, right now Metamorpho is operating on a different level. It may be subtle, but the approach is a really intelligent and emotional approach to a 50 year old character.
It’s no cliché when I say Lopresti is breathing new life into this character. While Lopresti has kept the basic elements of the feature intact, he’s managed to up the ante on the emotional spectrum and presented an intriguing take on the concept worthy of a solo title. This is one of the top two features in the Legends of Tomorrow anthology title.
“Sugar and Spike”
It’s not uncommon to relaunch a concept with a completely different take. It should come as no surprise that this iteration of Sugar and Spike bear almost no resemblance to Sheldon Mayer’s toddler version which first appeared in 1956. It’s remarkable that this concept could be revived in the modern day. But, Keith Giffen has taken only the names and friendship between the characters to produce something altogether different but reverential of DC’s history.
The thing that stands out about this feature initially, is the “bad ass” take on Sugar. She’s not one to be messed with. It’s attractive and empowering. The single thing about this episode that stands out is the way it deals with DC’s history. Imagine, Wonder Woman marrying some weird creature, and it being in continuity. Now, there’s no proof that “Sugar and Spike” are in continuity, but the approach certainly suggests that it is!
Sugar and Spike specialize in cover ups. They push aside those embarrassing moments in the lives of the heroes of the DC Universe. Giffen is able to look back at some of the odder and strange episodes of DC’s heroes which provide the impetus for this feature. This story features the embarrassment from Wonder Woman Vol. 1 #155- “I Married a Monster.” This story comes from a time when Wonder Woman featured a heavy sci-fi/ fantasy influence. Clearly, she wasn’t REALLY marrying a monster, but this episode of Sugar and Spike treat it as if it happened. Essentially, Wonder Woman is being black mailed by her rejected-at-the-alter suitor. It’s not that simple though.
As Sugar and Spike investigate, it becomes clear that the rejected spouse is a shape shifting alien with ulterior motive. The motive isn’t really what’s important, though. What is important is the character moments. Sugar can seem really, um, clichéd and b****y. Spike is portrayed as slightly incompetent and verrrry slow on the uptake. But clealy, there’s a relationship here.
The suitor turns out to be an alien with an agenda and Sugar and Spike put an end to it, rather painfully for Spike. The episode ends with Sugar and Spike on the JLA satellite tying up loose ends with Wonder Woman.
This is one of those features that connects with the history of DC Comics in a way unlike any other. There have been titles that incorporate aspects of the whole of DC’s history, but nothing quite like “Sugar and Spike.” On one hand it it re-establishes a concept in a completely new way, but it also takes aspects from DC’s past and puts a new twist on those events to make them digestible for a contemporary audience. Hopefully, that audience has a sense of humor, because much of what makes “Sugar and Spike” work is the humor and satire therein.
If relationships are important to you in your comic reading, then the dynamic between Sugar and Spike should be most compelling. There’s nothing much more compelling than a strong and sexy woman. Spike is, however, a bit ineffectual and somewhat clumsy. It should come as no surprise that there’s a huge elephant in the rom when these two get together. It is truly a different dynamic than what one is used to in standard super-hero fare which is featured in the rest of the issue.
With no sense of history, I can understand how this story might be elusive. It is definitely a change of pace from the rest of the stories in the book.
Between character and history this story is exceptional. It is the best of the four features in the book. Giffen wonderfully presents characters with depth and complexity. Make no mistake that Sugar and Spike are the main characters, even if what is revealed is done through the cases they “solve.” Evely does a marvelous job of brining these characters to life and working in different genres issue to issue. This is the feature in the title that makes that $7.99 price tag worth admission.
The Metal Men are adorable. From beautiful and sexy Platinum to demure and shy Tin, they all exhibit a characterization emotive of their name. It’s a unique grouping of characters with extreme attitudes that are able to come together and do the right thing as directed by their creator and mentor Will Magnus. In the past, Metal Men has been one of those concepts that has not able to sustain itself long. The episodes into this incarnation has me feeling optimistic about its chances this time around. Fun with robots anyone?
The Metal Men have arrived at Cliff Steele’s cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Better known as the Doom Patrol’s Robotman, Cliff is an obvious choice for an ally. He and Magnus have some history and he’s willing to help out the Magnus and the Metal Men. An unknown hacker has been trying to get control of them from Magnus and the government. They’ve had to leave the military base from which they were operating. This unknown hacker has hacked another robotic character- Red Tornado. And he’s running amok at an amusement park. The Metal Men know they have to help even if it ends up destroying them. After a series of skirmishes with the Tornado, Magnus figures out how to stop him. They are able to trap the Tornado in an air-tight bell jar composed of the Metal Men. Without air, there’s nothing for the Tornado to use in a fight. He goes offline and the unknown hacker loses his connection.
The trouble isn’t over, though. The military have arrived to take the Metal Men back into custody. And meanwhile in Manhattan, a nondescript fellow in a coffee shop packs up his laptop hurriedly as he realizes he may be traceable, our first look at the unknown hacker.
These are fun characters and Wein is writing them as such. There’s humor and joy and despite the seriousness of the circumstances a fun which is missing from many comics. The fact that these are not humans, but rather robots that exhibit human feelings makes their travails a little more effective in that it helps the reader question his or her own emotions and priorities. It’s a nice touch. Lead’s depressive moment is perhaps the most revealing of this instance.
The feature so far is moving a bit all over the board, at the end of this episode, the Metal Men seem to be right where they starter, as if he first sequence was all for naught. Clearly, the next installment must launch the story in a new and different direction.
If you’ve read the first three features in Legends of Tomorrow, there’s no reason to stop now!
Metal Men injects humor and humanity into a series about robots. It is a unique concept being executed extremely well by Wein and Cinar. Just behind Sugar and Spike as the top feature in this book.
What makes this anthology work is the variety of genre in the book. While ostensibly they are all “super-hero” comics, they all utilize different styles within the individual features. Firestorm is the most straight forward Super-Hero type story. Metamorpho invokes a lot of sci-fi themes and trappings. Sugar and Spike definitely utilizes a humorous approach to tell the embarrassing moments of the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. Metal Men tries to be a fun comic with a deeper sense of emotional need. However, the one thing all these features have in common is the focus on character. None of these stories is about a single solitary individual who is alone in the world. That ensemble approach is something that is true of this comic’s TV counterpart. This anthology is a winner.