DC Cybernetic Summer 80-Page Giant Vol 1 #1
Writer: Liz Erickson
Artist: Nik Virella
Letterer: Ferran Delgado
Colourist: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Cover: Dan Mora (pencils) & Tamra Bonvillain (inks)
Editor: Katie Kubert
Mission Monitor Board:
Saturn Girl, Superboy, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5
Lana Lang (cameo)
The story begins with Superboy and three Legionnaires (Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Brainiac 5) fighting a large-eyed, tentacled menace on the Kent Farm. Saturn Girl warns Superboy as the creature swats him with a massive tentacle, and the Boy of Steel is swatted right back into the kent house, crashing into his bedroom. Momentarily stunned by the attack, Superboy is almost snatched up by the creature before he gives it a taste of its own medicine, and hoists the creature up by its appendages and throws it through the roof and into the air. Caught in a shower of purple goo, the Legionnaires are stunned when te creature seemingly disappears. Brainiac 5 explains that they are dealing with a Moravecan, a creature capable of moving faster than the speed of light when threatened, but only briefly. This means there is a chance they can still catch him, if Brainiac 5 can track him.
Superboy decides that since he might be away on Legion business for a while searching for the Moravecan, he needs to take care of some business. He goes back to his bedroom and activates one of his robot doubles to stand in for him as Clark Kent. Superboy chooses R217 for the job, instructing it to act like its Clark on summer vacation, and also to clean up his room. The reader sees things through R217's point of view for just a moment, with four possible responses (1. Yes, master! 2. Of course, master! 3. Happy to be of service, master! 4. Regret to inform maintenance is required.). Before R217 can reply, Superboy is called back to the Legionnaires to continue the search for the Moravecan.
The next morning, acting as Clark Kent, R217 heads to the local soda shop. He's greeted by Lana Lang and several other kids, but clumsily bumps into a blonde, bespectacled young woman named Mae. For a moment, R217 goes through four different options on how to respond to the flustered young woman. (1. Gee willikers! How clumsy of me! 2. I’m so sorry, my fault entirely! 3. May I help you up? 4. Regret to inform maintenance is required.) Mae blushes, and R217 begins to stammer over what to say (its face equally red). Noticing Mae's books, R217 asks if she's studying robotics. Mae mentions it's for a project she’s doing on her own time, but nervously thinks "Clark" would find it boring. On the contrary, R217 coaxes Mae into a conversation about robots and mimicking human tasks. At that point, Mae works up the courage to blurt out an invitation for "Clark" to see a movie with her. R217 agrees to do so.
Later that night at the drive-in, Mae continues her discussion on robotics with R217. Mae worries that she's merely rambling, but R217 assures her that he loves hearing her thoughts. He tells her that he is certain she can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to. Mae admits that "Clark" is quieter than she believed he would be. R217 explains he's trying to pay attention, because everything feels new and he wants to remember it all. Mae says she wasn't sure he would accept her invitation. After all, he's Clark Kent and she' just...Mae. R217 replies that he couldn't think of doing anything better than what he's doing right now. Mae and R217 kiss.
Superboy enters the scene at that moment, and informs everyone that there's a "dangerous element" loose in the vicinity and that he needs everyone to vacate the area immediately. Brainiac 5 and Saturn Girl discuss the fact that they saw the Moravecan release its spores, but they can't figure out who, other than themselves, was exposed to the spores.
R217 tells Mae that she needs to run immediately, and follow the crowd to safety. Before she leaves, R217 tells he that she's an extraordinary person.
Superboy confronts R217, gently explaining that the robot hasn't answered any of Superboy's calls because of a bug in his programming. They just have to remove the foreign matter, and restore him to his factory settings. R217's pleas for understanding fall on deaf ears, so he fights back. He is quickly taken down by a bolt of electricity from Lightning Lad. Superboy opens R217's chest compartment to reveal that the Moravecan's spores did indeed take root inside him. As Superboy pulls the spores out of R217's chest, Brainiac 5 says it's lucky they found him in time. Once the Moravecan spores infect the native population, they can enslave whole planets. As R217 powers down, Superboy says that it's a good thing no one got hurt.
Two months later, after summer vacation is over and school begins again, Mae finds (the real) Clark and says she hasn't seen him since the drive-in. Mae tries to talk about her newest experiment, but Clark's got no idea who she is and states he has to get to class. Quietly heartbroken and confused, Mae can only say goodbye.
One thing for sure: It's been a very strange time for Legion fans. The release of the Bendis series has gotten, to say the least, mixed reactions from veteran Legion fans, who have complained about yet another continuity reboot starting everything over. DC Comics seems to have recognized this, which would explain why they featured a Bronze Age-styled Legion tale in the From Beyond The Unknown 100-Page Giant Vol 1, and now this Silver Age style Legion story in DC Cybernetic Summer Vol 1 #1.
This story is seemingly set during the period of the Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 run of the comic, as the masthead on the story's first page would seem to indicate, and as noted above, is a Silver Age story in both art style and feel of the writing. The Legion roster consists of Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Brainiac 5, along with Superboy naturally, but... The Legionnaires don't really play all that large a role in the tale (Saturn Girl doesn't really do anything in the story), as this is more a romance story about "Clark Kent" (actually Superboy robot R217 and the young woman, Mae. With only eight pages of story, writer Liz Erickson (who I believe is also an editor at DC Comics these days) does a pretty good job of giving us a story that has some deeper meaning to it and that fits the theme of this issue of the comic overall. That didn't make the story any less enjoyable to me, however.
The idea of a Superboy robot gaining sentience and falling in love feels very much like a Silver Age Legion story. However, if this story had actually come from the early 1960s, the larger implications of shutting R217 off would have been glossed over or ignored in the story itself. It would have been one of those uncomfortable elements the readers only consider by looking at the subtext. In this case, however, R217's emotions and eventual shutdown are treated as tragic because while the reader has seen things from his point of view, the Legionnaires have not.
If the story made me feel anything at the end, it was sadness. Mae (whose last name we never learn) is left heartbroken and saddened, left wondering at the end why Clark is now ignoring her after they shared such a tender moment at the drive-in two months before. Not to mention the role poor Mae had in this drama. She now has to wonder why Clark is supposedly ignoring her after they shared such a tender moment. At the same time, the coincidence of her interest in robotics in the story makes it doubly ironic that she became involved with a Superboy robot. I have to wonder whether Mae will show up in some form in other DC Comics' continuity as a robotics specialist or expert. However, there is something else that struck me in the story. Given that the Moravecan's spores were inside R217, did some of the spores manage to enter Mae when she kissed "Clark"? And if so, will we ever see a sequel story featuring Mae or the Moravecan spores' attempts to enslave others and conquer Earth? Probably not, since the story appears to be a one-shot set in the Silver Age Smallville, but still it would be interesting...
As mentioned, the story is a mere 8 pages long, but writer Liz Erickson did a marvellous job in terms of the story beats and pacing. It is sure and deft in its feel, knows where it's going and who its focus is on, and doesn't waver from those parameters. The dialogue is very Silver Age with a modern sensibility to to it that I rather enjoyed. I'm not familiar with Nik (Nicole) Virella's art or style, other from this story, though I did look up the artist's work and saw that she did what appears to be some good work on Marvel's "Hyperion" stuff. I really like her work here, as she perfectly captures the Silver Age aesthetic here with her own style. The Moravecan alien here has a very Silver Age feel, with the modern aesthetic of the disgusting purple goo going for it (which I believe are where the spores come from). Her facial expressions on the characters are superb in the story too, giving R217 a very human appearance and feel and making Mae's emotions clearly visible on her face. The artwork in this story really captured the essence of what the writer was doing here, and gave the reader 8 pages of pure entertainment and Silver Age Legion storytelling. Just lovely.
This story is seemingly set during the period of the Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 tales, as the masthead at the top of the first page of the story would seem to indicate...
In addition to the new Legion story by Liz Erickson and Nik Virella, there's a Batman story by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, a Wonder Woman and Platinum (of the Metal Men) story by Andrew Constant and Nicola Scott, a Red Tornado story by Stephanie Phillips and Leila del Duca, a Booster Gold and Blue Beetle story by Heath Corson and Scott Koblish, a Flash story by Joshua Williamson and David Lafuente, a Midnighter and Apollo story by Steve Orlando and Paul Pelletier, a Harley Quinn and Sy Borgman story by Che Grayson and Marguerite Sauvage, a Robotman story by Max Bemis and Greg Smallwood, and a Cyborg, Superman and Cyborg Superman story by Stuart Moore and Cully Hammer.
Next Issue: Action Comics Vol 1 #1024