Monday, February 24, 2014

Black Superheroes: XS

She's the black sheep of the Flash family*
*(Oh my god, I'm so sorry I said that)
Name: Jenni Ognats

First Appearance: Legionnaires #0 (1994)

History: Born in the 30th Century Jenni Ognats is the daughter of Dawn Allen, one half of the superhero duo the Tornado Twins, and the granddaughter of a time displaced Barry Allen, the second Flash (boooooo). Unlike other members of the Allen family Jenni showed no signs of possessing super-speed. After the murder of her mother and her uncle Jenni was left in the care of her father Jeven Ognats of the planet Aarok (a human colony). One day she and her father were kidnapped by the Dominators, an race of aliens who had repeatedly made trouble for Earth. Knowing Jenni’s heritage they purposely attempted to awaken her potentially latent powers through stress by torturing her father. The plan worked and Jenni’s connection to the speed force awoke, granting her superhuman speed just like the rest of her family. She used her new found abilities to escape with her father. After submitting herself to United Planet scientist to learn to control her new powers. Eventually she was recruited into the Legion of Super-Heroes, the premier superhero team of the 30th Century, under the codename XS. Jenni possesses all the standard powers of The Flash, including super-speed and the ability to vibrate her molecules allowing her to move through solid matter. She also possesses a ring from the legion that allows her to fly.

Beta Says: For all intent and purposes XS is the female equivalent of her cousin Bart Allen, aka Impulse (and…ugh, “Kid Flash II”) in that they have near identical origins except that Jenni was born without powers and had a normal childhood while Bart was born with accelerated aging and had to grow up living in a virtual reality world which severally damaged his ability to function in the real world. By contrast Jenni seems like a pretty normal, if shy, teenage girl. They were created in the same year so it’s a bit strange to note that Bart is MUCH more famous, relevant and popular.

You know, in superhero comics the Summers Family Tree (as in Scott Summers, aka Cyclops) is usually pointed out as the biggest example of convolution when it comes to character relationships but the Allen Family Tree is probably almost as damn bad but no one ever really talks about it. Let me put it this way; the current Flash has a half black teenage granddaughter from the future. And she’s not even the weirdest one.

More on XS after the jump.

XS-ive Force? Get it? HAHAHAHAHA!
Never change 1990s
I have a bit of a soft spot for XS as the first time I ever heard of her was when she guest starred in Impulse’s solo series and I pretty much love all things Impulse. Just as much as Jenni is a member of the Allen family but just as much, likely more so, she is associated with the Legion of Super-Heroes. Now I have repeatedly said on this blog that I am NOT a comic book historian but rather just a normal guy with a lot of useless knowledge. I do know more than my fair share about this subject but for as much as I know about superhero comics you’d be surprised how little I know about the Legion of Super-Heroes. A creation of the Silver Age of Comics the team is mainly known for three things: 1) the huge roster of active members (hence the word “legion”) which likely was the highest of any other superhero team, 2) that the entire team was made up of teenagers, many of whom having the words “Boy, Girl, Lad, and Lass” in their names, and 3) the fact that their adventures take place roughly one thousand years in the future, the 30th Century. Beyond that, a few major characters and basic knowledge on some of their major storylines I don’t have a great deal of knowledge of the group. So in this case I’m not as familiar with XS as I am with other characters I’ve profiled.

I do know that it’s odd that XS is so much less prominent in DC Comics than her cousin Bart. I guess it comes from the idea that Impulse had his own comic and was living in the correct timeline (i.e. “the present”) and thus was able to interact with more popular characters and be involved with bigger storylines where XS was trapped with the LOS which had more niche audience/cult fanbase, and thus much less known. Even in big Flash family events Jenni normally wasn’t involved.

Eventually they form a rock band. Seriously
Now that’s not to say that she played no role, but she’s never been on the same level as the Bart Allens and the Wally Wests, and it seems even more true now that Barry Allen is the only Flash. Actually does XS still even exist? Because I’m pretty sure Wally West (the One True Flash) has been missing since the Great DC Reboot 0f 2011. XS’s current continuity status is vague. There’s one last big thing the Legion of Super-Heroes that I didn’t mention and it’s that they are repeatedly rebooted, possibly more than any other DC property. Not just renumbered, not just re-focused, but flat-out “we’re recreating the universe”. This I partly because any major change in the main DC Universe will affect the LOS’s timeline and partly because the book gets canceled a lot (again, niche audience). In fact Jenni’s (and Bart’s) existence only came about due to one of these reboots. But that was two reboots ago. With many of her fellows she appeared in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, where they made major changes to her origin via a retcon. That was also the last time we saw her. DC said she’d be appearing in a then upcoming book called "Flash: Speed Force"…but that was 2010, before the Great Reboot of 2011, and it still hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t happen any time soon.

I think there’s a place XS in the current DC Universe. There have been a lot of speedsters over the years but not an abundance of female ones or anyone of color. And I wouldn’t mind seeing her in the primary universe as opposed to an alternate/future version. A solo series starring Jenni may be a pipe dream, she is fairly obscure, but a team book, or maybe even a Flash book that features several non-Barry Allen characters could be possible. Unfortunately even if they brought her in they would likely change her origin again. In fact Bart Allen’s origin was so drastically altered in the New 52 that he’s basically a totally different character and the pre-Flashpoint version I grew up with simply doesn’t exist anymore. Still XS has potential as a well-adjusted version of Impulse. I don’t know XS as well as I’d like and I wish DC would help me with that.

I assume if she had an "X" on her costume Marvel would sue
For more on XS click here. Next time we’ll be look at a character that is an example of child wish fulfillment. Except, you know, slightly racist.

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