Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tenzil for the defence!

This is one of my favorite comic book issues ever. Despite the fact that I've read it about 78 times, it still makes me crack up whenever I flip through it. This is definitely the comic I would bring to a deserted island, along with a suitcase filled with knives and a backgammon set.

This was issue 11 of the TMK or "5 Years Later" Legion. Basically, the storyline jumped ahead five years into the future after the Legion had disbanded and all the former heroes were miserable grifters, broken losers and tortured has-beens. Like many superhero books of its day, the new Legion was supposed to be darker and grittier than its earlier incarnations. It was a modern (meaning late 80's/early 90's) interpretation of superheroes as tragic figures rather than happy go lucky demi-gods that got into wacky adventures and spent the majority of their free time playing pranks on their friends.

However, I didn't even start reading comic books until that period, so this version of the Legion is the one that created my foundation of what the 30th century was supposed to be--despite the fact that it was really just one long imaginary tale in the grand scheme of DC history.

While this particular issue tied into the events going on in the regular comic, it was more of a stand alone story--a brief respite from all the serious and gloomy melodrama happening. Basically, Matter Eater Lad has become an attorney/senator/archaeologist that stars in his own reality show. He is summoned to the Dominator controlled Earth to defend Polar Boy, who has been arrested for causing political dissonance at a pizza place. Pretty straight forward, right?

Although Matter Eater Lad is possibly the most awesome superhero invention of all time, I think a lot people regard his existence as the greatest example of stupidity in the Silver Age. This issue acknowledged that in a lighthearted way. In fact, that's one of the reasons that this version of the Legion was so interesting--because it wasn't a complete reboot or overhaul. While the writers were forced to make necessary changes to the Legion's history, such as erasing Superboy and Supergirl from existence and replacing them with the Daxamites, they never tried to deny the fact that the Legion's history was inherently silly and campy.

But enough about why I think this Legion run was one of the amazing comics of its time. This issue is my favorite for the simple fact that it still makes me laugh--even upon its 79th reading.

I love the dated Dan Quale joke. I mean, I barely get it. I vaguely remember people thinking that the Vice President of that time was a total moron, but I can't remember why. I think it had something to do with him mispronouncing words.

Anyway...amazingly enough, the ratings on "Wild Archaeology" are pretty low, so Tenzil is reassigned to star in a courtroom show. He discovers that Polar Boy, former founder of The Legion of Substitute Heroes, has been imprisoned by Earthgov and decides to take the case, much to Polar Boy's chagrin...

I always really liked the dynamic between these two in this issue. Also, it's sort of a funny pairing because, in retrospect, Polar Boy must have really hated Matter Eater Lad. I mean, Polar Boy got rejected from the Legion of Superhero tryouts because his ability to control a powerful force of nature was regarded as being a worthless super power while Matter Eater Lad, a guy who could just eat stuff, was admitted for membership.

Anyway, Tenzil displays some pretty impressive legal skills in the courtroom.

And then there's this defense, which I am completely prepared to use if I'm ever arrested for inciting a riot at a pizza place...
Incidentally, this is just as good a time as any to point out that I always really dug the whole futuristic Enlightenment Era style of dress going on in this version of the Legion.

Oh, and if you were wondering about that whole "Green Lanterns not being allowed on Earths on Mondays" thing, for some reason that I was never quite clear on, Green Lanterns were banned from Earth in the 30th century. As Matter Eater Lad is sure to make note of in his defense:
The culmination of Tenzil's amazing legal superpowers is coming up next.

Anyway, the comic concludes shortly after this. In true deus ex machina fashion, Matter Eater Lad is able to get Polar Boy off on account of his not having access to a fair and speedy trial. And the prosecutor, who you get the impression has the hots for Tenzil, concedes.

After this, Matter Eater Lad didn't get a whole lot of attention in the new Legion. Then again, he was really only a peripheral character to begin with. I think there was another issue devoted to him later on in this run, where he marries the reformed ex-Legion of Super Villain Saturn Queen. I'll have to break that out one of these days.

But for now, I'll leave you with this.

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