I always had mixed feelings about Comet Queen. When she appeared in the Eighties, the first thing I noticed about her was the visual, and I was rather taken by her smooth lines, that weird flaming head, the big grin.
Then she opened her gob and I wanted to reach for the duct tape.
Comet Queen's Valley Girl lingo seemed outdated and it annoyed the heck out of me. In 2011, relatively speaking, a character in 3011 wittering on like that is barely more silly than it was then. Actually, it's almost charming.
Probably I'm looking more kindly on Comet Queen because she was unseen for decades, as the Legion endured reboot after reboot. Now she's back, a regular cast member of the Legion Academy strip, and it makes me smile just to see her.
The question longtime readers have been asking since the series debuted last year is, why the heck is Comet Queen in the freshman class? Surely if she hasn't graduated, she'd at least be on the verge of moving up to the big leagues?
The answer is revealed here, as she recaps her origin for student spellbinder Glorith. For those who came in late - you lucky youngsters - Comet Queen was born Grava of the planet Extal. A Legion groupie, she did what any of us might do were the Legion real ... figured out which members' origins might be reproduced. They numbered just two - Ultra Boy (swallowed by a space whale) and Star Boy (passed through a comet's tail). It was the latter opportunity which presented itself first (yes,it's amazing either of these scenarios arose, but the United Planets are likely peppered with unhappy fans frustrated by the paucity of space whale and comet appearances. And dead fans dissolved by space whale stomach acid or cremated by comet heat).
Grava didn't gain the original, Kryptonian-style powers of Star Boy, but she did wind up with an orange body, fiery hair and the ability to generate gases and fly in the vacuum of space. Not too shabby, and she won a place at the Legion Academy despite sexually harassing the hapless Bouncing Boy. She also managed to graduate, but was more than a little dismayed to be placed not with the LSH, but with the LSH - the Legion of Substitute Heroes. We're not told why, but her fannish enthusiasm likely counted as a point against her. Who knows? Love the Legion as I do, I'd never deny that they can be a mercurial, even snotty, lot. Still, she did her bit, helping out on minor missions, until one recent day, when she was called in to help out against telepathic villain Saturn Queen.
And got her brain fried. The mentalist wiped her mind, for fun, and it was weeks before Tellus, one of the Legion's own telepaths, could put poor Grava together again; and then not completely. Memories were missing, setting Comet Queen back to Square One.
One thing that hasn't changed, though, is her determination to be a hero. Comet Queen has a second chance to earn a place in the Legion of Super-Heroes, and I wouldn't be at all surprised were she to take down Saturn Queen - still battling the LSH in their own book - while she's at it.
Writer Paul Levitz gives much-needed depth to Grava here, by adding a layer of tragedy, motivating a determination to succeed that's much more than fannish enthusiasm. And even when she was a daft kid, she was a good kid who took life's knocks and made the best of them. That makes her Legion material - I just hope the Legion notices this time.
The recap of Comet Queen's origins is pretty much as I remember, though I don't recall that she could fly even before diving through the comet. That would make sense, making it easier for her to hit the comet. Anyway, to quote the great Leslie Nielson, 'That's not important right now'.
What's important for review purposes, is mentioning that this issue isn't simply recap; it also has Glorith endure - definitely the word - a training session with her fellow students. Unlike Grava, she's not a natural flier, so has problems using her Legion flight ring to negotiate some scary-looking beams. Happily, she gets a demonstration of teamwork, as Gravity Lad saves her, then Comet Queen guides her to safety. Grava also gives Glorith some useful advice, unlike the ratbag Dragonwing, who merely abuses her. Also on hand are Chemical Kid, grounded for recent naughtiness, and Variable Lad, who is chastised by instructor Night Girl for ... actually, I have no idea. His costume is burnt, but I can't see him in the actual training sequence. Either the creative team dropped the ball for a moment, or his constantly changing powers made him invisible.
Speaking of Night Girl, her hair's back to black this issue, as requested by some reader in the lettercol. Nice one, DC, now put Bouncing Boy's back to inky black, rather than light brown. That apart, everything's rosy on the colouring front, as Hi-Fi Designs gives us some tremendously toned pages. Comet Queen's bright body contrasts well with the inviting blues of outer space, while Legion Academy is surrounded by fabulously dreamy skies and seas.
The illustrations are by Geraldo Borges on pencils and Marlo Alquiza on inks, a gratifying pairing. Characters, settings, power displays - all look tremendous. They capture Comet Queen's innate joy, but also the sadness caused firstly by coming so close to her Legion dream, then falling at the last hurdle; and secondly, by the recent mindwipe. John J Hill's letters deserve a mention too, being as stylishly readable as ever.
Heaven knows where this creative team will land once DC's post-Flashpoint reshuffle takes hold, but I'd be pretty darn happy were it on a Legion Academy strip. This issue's lettercol hints heavily that the series will be continuing, somewhere if not in Adventure Comics. If anybody wishes to write to DC and nag them ...
I like the cover by Eduardo Pansica and Eber Ferreira a lot - it may not be the smiley Comet Queen we know and (I admit it) love, but the pained expression makes sense for this story.
All in all, a very good issue. Or, as Comet Queen would say, glaxified!