It says issue #1 on the cover, but inside it’s number 121 of the adventures of the Present’s Greatest Super-Teens. For this isn’t the debut of a new team book, it’s the finale or, as the story title puts it, ‘Coda’.
Yes, after the Shi’ar Empire’s ‘youngest legion of the Imperial Guard’ enjoy their greatest victory, over cosmic killer Queen Deathbird, it’s time for Earth boy Hyperion’s training period with them to end.
But before Hyperion says goodbye to a budding romance, one last assignment – a hopefully easy mission to explore their defeated enemy’s hidden keep, somewhere between regular space and the Negative Zone. With Hyperion’s atomic vision opening a portal, a sub-team are able to enter the – hopefully – deserted fortress.
And if you’ve been reading Marvel books for awhile, you’ll have realised what stung lightning lad Flashfire…
And isn’t that a clever composition from penciller Michele Bandini, nicely finished by Elisabetta D’amico or Bandini herself, who share the inking credit?
‘Clever’ is certainly a word that applies to this Heroes Reborn event tie-in which, of course, is a take on Marvel’s Legion of Super-Heroes-alikes, the Imperial Guard. Seeing them as actual teens rather than the adults who regularly annoy the X-Men is novel, though, as is the addition of a young Hyperion in the Superboy slot.
It’s a shame, mind, that Hyperion, like space, is a vacuum, with no personality to speak of; he’s a tad sad that he’s leaving his pals, and very earnest, but not what you’d call charismatic. Still, Superboy was hardly Mr Personality in the Silver Age, and I enjoyed this issue as a fun time-passer, with editor’s notes calling back to non-existent previous issues (see also Crime Syndicate), feature pages bringing us up to speed as regards plot and characters, and even a straight-faced lettercol. The story rattles along nicely, leading to a classic Legion-style ending. And I’m always happy to see the Brood, Marvel’s creepiest aliens.
I’ve never been fond of the Imperial Guard beyond their fantastic Dave Cockrum designs – it’s not their fault, I just don’t like anything linked to the Shi’ar – but writer Ryan Cady does a pretty good job of making the handful of heroes here worth spending time with. And he certainly ends the book with a bang.
And Bandini and D’amico sell the story with their clean illustrations, brightly coloured by Erich Arcineaga. They don’t manage to make Hyperion’s brass trunk/belt combo look sane, but who could? Marvel mainstay Cory Petit does his usual great job with the lettering assignment.
A very clever touch with this issue is that the back-up feature previews the series that’s taking Hyperion and the Imperial Guard’s spot on the pretend production slate… Holy Brave and the Bold #200, Batman! The series in question is the Starjammers by Cady, artist Stephen Byrne – seen recently on DC’s superb Wonder Twins series – and Petit.
On the basis of the preview, Imaginary Mart won’t be buying this imaginary series – I like the Starjammers even less than I like the Imperial Guard! If the Imperial Guard are the Legion, the Starjammers are the Wanderers – a bunch of spacefaring randoms. The rewritten continuity of the Heroes Reborn stunt does allow Cady to play with the team membership, so as well as regulars Corsair and Hepzibah we get Corsair’s kids Cyclops and Havoc, and Groot and Rocket Racoon. Moving the latter from one space team – the Guardians of the Galaxy – to another seems a bit pointless, and Alex Summers without Lorna Dane always feels wrong, but this is a readable romp as a new Nova crashes the Starjammers’ party.
Byrne’s illustrations are terrific, with fine figure-work and storytelling, but I don’t think he’s his own best colourist – the facial modelling, especially, isn’t up there with what the full-timers can do.
Annoyingly, the final page grabbed me… maybe I do want to read Starjammers #1 after all.
I don’t know where, if anywhere, this comic fits in with Heroes Reborn, but who cares, it’s a fun palate-cleanser and well worth your money. Did I mention there’s a cover illo by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story and Laura Martin.
Long Live the Imperial Guard!