Thursday, July 23, 2009

Matter Eater Legends: Tenzil For the Defense!

Now that Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds has finally wrapped, it looks like almost all Legion of Super-Heroes stories still “happened” somewhere in continuity, albeit maybe not in the timeline we thought they did. The original Legion that debuted in Adventure Comics #247 has been restored to its rightful place in the Earth-1/New Earth/Earth-Wherever-the-Hell-It-Is-That-All-the-Main-DC-Books-Take-Place timeline with most of their history intact, the exception being pretty much everything that happened after Crisis on Infinite Earths and the attendant erasure of Superboy from the Legion's timeline...

...You know, there's no way to write some of this stuff without sounding like a complete, gibbering loon.

Unfortunately, that means that the entire “Five years Later” Legion was wiped from the slate in favor of whatever new path the adult Legion forges from here on out. I can live with that, I guess, but it also wipes out the awesome and hilarious solo adventures of Tenzil Kem, a.k.a. Matter-Eater Lad, including “Tenzil For the Defense”.

Matter-Eater Lad was the longtime Legion member whose power was to basically eat anything. He became emblematic of the goofy nature of the early Legion of Super-Heroes era, but was hardly the goofiest thing they had going, or even the goofiest individual member. Nonetheless, his return to the 5YL Legion saw him played for laughs, and Tenzil was much needed comedy relief in the otherwise somber proceedings at the time. In his own blog, Writer Tom Bierbaum described how he wrote Tenzil as a Peter Venkman type of irreverent hero, a move that ended up being a truly inspired choice. This way, at least we're laughing with, and not at Matter-Eater Lad for a change. We first saw “the new Tenzil” in LoSH vol 4, #10 trying to get through space customs with an unorthodox form of currency:

Matter-Eater Lad had been out of the Legion picture for a long time, having eaten the reality-warping Miracle Machine in Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes #251, and subsequently being driven insane by its strange, cosmic energies. He recovered, but was drafted back into his home planet’s screwy compulsory political system, where he was an overwhelmingly beloved Senator. He returned to his unwanted political duties with a sense of freewheeling abandon, actively trying to get thrown out of the Bismollian senate by blowing taxpayer money on several increasingly-popular documentary shows, including the fact-ignoring and sanity-defying “Wild Archaeology”:

Of course, the shows are so popular that he ends up bringing in more money to his constituency than he could ever effectively piss away, therefore the people love him, and the government hates him. After awhile, interest wanes, and Wild Archaeology is canceled to make way for a courtroom drama: Tenzil for the Defense! Tenzil is only half-interested until he finds that his first case involves former Legion leader Polar Boy, arrested for inciting dissension at a pizza parlor. Remember that Earthgov was shadow-backed by Dominators at this time, so Tenzil knows that there is no way that Polar Boy is going to get a fair trial. Tenzil throws himself into Brek’s defense the only way he knows how; unapologetic, madcap stalling antics, and one of the funniest courtroom scenes I’ve read in comics:

Tenzil wins the case but wisely hauls ass off Earth with Polar-Boy in tow, still wearing his Braino costume, before anyone has too much time to think about it. This was a classic issue, with some truly hilarious moments. It also led to another couple of epic Tenzil/Polar Boy adventures, but those will have to wait for another day. As of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #5, Matter-Eater Lad is among a few still-missing characters that the Legion needs to locate, so let’s hope he eats his way back into the spotlight soon!


Dean said...

The Giffen-Biernbaum Legion had both knowledge of and affection for the Legion. It had great solutions for goofy characters, like Tenzil Kem.

googum said...

It always sounds like a stupid power, but considering he can eat incredibly fast when he wants to, it's also ludicriously dangerous. (I'm not reading Legion of Three Worlds, so please tell me some version of Tenzil took a bite out of Superboy-Prime.)

These were great issues, in a great run.

Rick said...

I loved that run also, and the Tenzil Kem stories where great!