Who Is Sensor Girl?
I am officially on a week of vacation, for Thanksgiving. To be honest, I kind of needed the break…the schedule has been pretty demanding at school, and some time away is key.
I found myself discussing a comic book that no longer exists this weekend, “The Legion of Super-Heroes.” It was an amazingly upbeat and positive DC Comics publication from the Silver Age…and a close friend of mine agrees with me about why it can’t really exist any longer. As consumers, we just don’t have that kind of bright view of the world, or the future…so the book really fails to find any kind of audience. Attempting to “modernize” the tone for current audiences invariably makes a book that doesn’t work, so despite real attempts at “revamping,” the book has been pretty much done since the “Zero Hour” event of the early 1990’s.
The “Who is Sensor Girl?” storyline was one of the best arcs of the later days of the Legion of Super-Heroes,” just after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. I remember looking forward to it as it came out, and having heated, speculative discussions about it at the comic book stores of the time. Thinking about the Legion this weekend got me thinking about that story, and thus, this post happens.
The short form about the story is this: With its three founders having announced their intention to resign, the Legion of Super-Heroes holds its first major membership drive in years. Five new members are voted in, including Polar Boy, who FINALLY accepts the Legion’s long-standing offer of membership. The fifth new member is Sensor Girl. She keeps her powers and identity secret, but is voted in based upon a recommendation from Saturn Girl, who says that she “has the best of reasons to deserve Legion membership.” Since she’s Saturn Girl, one of the founding members, pretty much everyone is okay with that…at first.
Over the new few weeks, Sensor Girl displays a wide variety of powers. She is aware of an explosion occurring miles away before any of her teammates, illuminates the darkness with infra-red light, and displays impressive skills in straight up fighting people. She properly analyzes the glandular imbalance in one of her teammates, and is able to see and hear through walls. Brainiac 5 (the smartest guy in the Galaxy), is grieving the death of his longtime love Supergirl…and he begins to suspect that Sensor Girl might actually be Supergirl — or a traitor in their midst. Because you know…one or the other, no middle ground at all. The mystery deepens when Brainiac 5 breaks into her quarters and discovers that she has been flying without using her Legion flight ring.
The growing suspicion and so forth is brought to the team leader, Element Lad. He is pretty reluctant to ask Sensor Girl to reveal her identity, as years earlier he was also admitted into the Legion on Saturn Girl’s recommendation alone. However, as teammates grow suspicious and internal conflict develops, he is forced to raise the subject with Sensor Girl. She responds by resigning from the team. This is a pretty traditional way of dealing with disputes withing the Legion…just straight up Rage Quitting, and it was handled pretty well.
As she leaves Legion Headquarters, Ultra Boy uses his penetra-vision (it’s like X-ray vision, but can see through lead) to see through her mask, and is stunned when he discovers that her costume is empty.
While this soap opera quality drama is happening, the Emerald Empress has reformed the Fatal Five. The Legionnaires desperately search for Sensor Girl, worried that she might have accepted the Empress’ previous offer of alliance. Dawnstar tracks her to the cemetery planet Shanghalla, where the trail dissipates. Element Lad raises the subject of Sensor Girl’s qualifications with Saturn Girl. She reiterates that Sensor Girl deserves Legion membership, adding that “she was already a Legionnaire.”
On the planet Stratus, the new Fatal Five ambushes and attacks a small group of Legionnaires (who were, ironically, searching for Mentalla). Despite fighting valiantly, the four Legionnaires are way outmatched and on the verge of losing. Sensor Girl arrives defends her teammates, but she too is overcome by the Empress, who exposes the mystery woman’s true identity: Princess Projectra.
Yeah…she was Princess Projectra the whole time. You see…Projectra’s power is to make illusions. If you KNOW that, she’s not all that hard to deal with. She can’t shoot flames at you or laser vision, so you know it’s a trick, and it doesn’t really harm or defeat you. By wearing a mask and not letting anyone know what her powers actually are…she can come off as having all kinds of wacky, hard to deal with powers…entirely through the belief of the senses, and the ambiguity of not knowing what her powers are. It was a pretty smart plot turn.
Brainiac 5 finally deduces Sensor Girl’s identity, which is confirmed by Saturn Girl. A bit slow on the uptake for the smartest guy in the Galaxy. Projectra had traveled to Shanghalla to visit the tomb of her late husband Karate Kid, who tutored her in Future Karate…explaining her mega-Kung-fu. She was able to fly without the aid of her new Legion flight ring by using the one she received when she originally joined the team years earlier, as Princess Projectra. Her other seemingly endless abilities were the result of her illusion-casting powers, magically heightened by the spirits of her ancestors to include the ability to see through reality’s illusions — including those of size, distance, time and death. Right? That’s a kind of impressive list. Desiring to return to the Legion in secret, she and Saturn Girl made up the “Sensor Girl” identity.
Projectra (who immediately goes back to being the way cooler Sensor Girl) and the other Legionnaires, having escaped from the Fatal Five, are forced to fight them again. As in the previous fight, the Legion members take a vicious beating from the Fatal Five. However, they all realize that Mentalla is a mole in the Fatal Five, and has not betrayed the Legion. Using her powers, she possesses Flare and the Empress, sending out a distress call to the Legion via the Legionnaires’ flight rings.
You don’t do that kind of thing to the Emerald Empress. It’s not the “Really Nice Five,” it’s the Fatal Five. In retaliation, the Empress just plain murders Mentalla. The two teams fight again, with the Legionnaires once again being brutally housed by the villains. Sensor Girl is eventually able to single-handedly defeat both the Persuader and Flare before being beaten down. However, Wildfire and Dawnstar handily dealing with the remaining Fatal Five. Sensor Girl, with her last bit of energy, punches out the Empress, ending the battle.
If that seemed long to you…well, yeah. That was over a YEAR of comics.
It’s interesting to note that although the protagonist of Tales of Adequacy has infrequently teamed up with the Legion of Superheroes…she couldn’t possibly be a member of the team. Each member has to have a truly unique super power, that no one else on the team has…although sometimes it seems like they are stretching it a bit. With Cap’s completely Generic Set of Silver Age Alien American Powers…she just wouldn’t have ever made the cut.