Friday, October 31, 2014

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #7

Reviewer: Anj
Super-power: Super-respect for Rokk Krinn

The first half-year of the 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes has been a roller coaster ride. It is a darker universe with a disbanded Legion. The heroes seem to be suffering through difficult lives with physical and psychological wounds since the team disbanded. The history of the team and the universe has been rewritten twice over. And the small band of Legionnaires that have reunited have decided to take on Mordru.Insanity.

The book itself has been a creative tour de force with its 9 panel grids, its risky plot lines, its 'done in one' new universe issues, its text page back matter, and the grim feel to a Legion book.

Suffice it to say, the creative team of Keith Giffen, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, and Al Gordon don't pause to rest on their laurels ... or their Laurels. 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #7 continues the momentum of the first six, moving things forward, introducing us to Laurel Gand ... the first big revelation of the Glorith universal rewrite, and taking another creative and artistic risk. This risk is one that worked for me but not for everyone, so I'd love to hear people weigh in.

The art in the book continues to be strong. Giffen continues to put a lot of content into the smaller frames. And like last issue's splash page, anytime the strict grid is broken, it carries tremendous weight for the readers.

Have I convinced anyone yet to love this series?

Well, last issue my jaw dropped when a headband wearing blond woman was standing on Tharn's moon and then flew off to confront Mordru. Could she be Kara Zor-El, somehow saved from the Crisis by a timeline retcon?

Well she isn't Supergirl ... sort of ...

We learn on the second page that at the very least she isn't Kara Zor-El. She is 'the Daxamite', she who can pulverize defensive walls, the one and only 'great Laurel Gand'.

She is no newcomer; she isn't an emergency secret weapon. She is a known commodity with a reputation.

She oozes some Supergirl vibe so there is definitely a feeling that she is the Kara-analogue of this new Legion history. (In a couple of issues, it will be apparent she takes Kara's place.) But the name Laurel Gand also is key as well. Laurel Gand .... Lar Gand ... is she the Mon-El analogue in this place as well?

One thing we know is that Vrykos, Mordru's muscle and a vampire, is hungry. Mordru will not let him feed on the captured Legionnaires. But Laurel isn't in that category.

So we get to see a great brawl between these two bruisers.

Right off the bat you get a sense of Laurel's personality. She isn't shy. She seems pretty confident. And she isn't afraid to dust her knuckles a bit.

Now the artistic risk.

Remember that Rokk was able to fight off Mordru's psychic attack last issue. Rather than invite a brawl, Mordru decides that diplomacy might be the best way to repel this upstart Legion. A quiet conversation over a fancy dinner between Mordru and Rokk becomes as big a 'fight' as Laurel and Vrykos' melee. There is almost more tension here.

But rather than put it into 9 panels, the conversation is presented in a text page. We get to read more about internal monologues, what the two are thinking, and how unnerving it must be for a powerless Rokk to stare down one of the most powerful beings in the universe.

These pages work for me as we see Rokk slowly go from overwhelmed, scared, and hiding his feelings to knowing he is in the position of power. And it is just as interesting to watch Mordru sink himself as he accidentally reveals he is holding Rond Vidar.

A text page ... incredible.

As for the captured Legionnaires, they are trussed up in medieval pajamas and trapped in a mystical labyrinth. Alas, Furball (Timber Wolf) is drugged and in a stable. Brin's story, devolving into a beast, is one of the sadder of the 5YL.

But Kono remains a revelation. I love how she is irate over being put in this corset/merry widow get-up, warning people not to laugh.

The fight between Laurel and Vrykos carries into the prison. I love these panels.

The look of determination on Jo and Reep is great. There is no hesitation or surprise. Their friend is in a fight. And when you fight one Legionnaire, you fight the whole Legion.

And I love that grit and confidence in Laurel as she tells them to stay back. She wants him alone. Great.

Of course Kono doesn't listen to people. She collapses the ceiling onto Vrykos sending him through the floor.

You get so much information about these characters in these few panels. Great storytelling.

And then this sequence, as Mysa ... just damaged from her relationship with Mordru ... tries to pull it together.

She released Mordru to help repel a Khundian invasion. She hoped she could control him. But she couldn't. That third panel, all in red, a battered Mysa, is shocking.

And then the lower set. That crying Mysa trying to muster her own courage and strength. And that shot of her smiling, as the White Witch, with Blok ... but crumbling, breaking the 9 panel grid just enough to show us that she is broken ...

Again, great storytelling, using words and art together to tell more than the sum of their parts.

As for Rokk and Mordru, Rokk senses weakness in Mordru. He might be powerful ... but he isn't omnipotent. Keeping Mysa and Rond trapped, killing this group of Legionnaires, might embolden the rest of the Legion to organize and attack. It might make free worlds attack. He couldn't hold all those people at bay.

Rokk's cool calm demeanor infuriates Mordru who has to control himself. Because Rokk is right.

This is the strength of Cosmic Boy. Not his magnetism. It is his leadership. He just beat Mordru ... with words.

Meanwhile, Vrykos decides the only person he can easily feed on is Rond. But before he can sink his teeth into Vidar, he is battered back by Cham (who took the form of Rond).

So Vrykos decides that the only way he can survive this is to grab and threaten to feed on a hostage. He grabs Mysa.

The old White Witch was always in control. In control of her magic, her feelings, her relationships. Nothing showed me just how marred Mysa's psyche is than this. Threatened, she loses control of her powers, vaporizing Vrykos while letting out a primal scream.

If Brin's story is one of the sadder, Mysa's is probably the saddest.

In contrast to that fight, we see the tranquil battle of wills between Rokk and Mordru.

Rokk sees that his implied threats have worn down Mordru. There is compromise. The Legion can leave with Mysa and Rond. And there won't be any immediate retaliations.

A super-powered throwdown between vampires and Daxamites is a good thing. Rokk verbally outmaneuvering Mordru is a great thing.

So what do people think of the text pages. Good idea to convey this? I think Giffen wanted to contrast the two fights as starkly as possible. This format adds to that dissonance.

While this issue has entirely taken place on Tharn, we finally shift focus to the other big storyline brewing in this book. A second group of Legionnaires seems to be forming around Roxxas.

Jan Arrah, picked up by Celeste Rockfish, thinks the right move is to go to Winath. That is where Blok's body is. It is a good place to start. And it will allow Jan a time to mourn.

While Rokk might be the backbone of the Legion, Jan is the soul. The last panel shows he is mourning, clothed in the black of the shadows.

But maybe Rokk does have a little hubris in him. Rokk tells Mordru 'this isn't over'. Perhaps he shouldn't have jabbed one last time.

You can tell that Mordru has respect for Rokk.

And then one more new plotline is added into the mix. An odd energy cloud seems to be trailing the Legion. It left Earth, was heading to Trom, but suddenly took a 90 degree turn to Winath.

Hmmmm ... an energy cloud that seems to have intelligence? Any guesses?

What can I say? The roller coaster ride continues.

Laurel Gand is added to the cast, a mix of Supergirl and Mon-El.
We see how defeated Mysa is.
We see the teamwork of the Legion come out, like reflexes.
We see Rokk use diplomacy alone to defeat Mordru.

Add to that artistic choices of shadows, crumbling panels, and text pages.

Giffen is experimenting here, making the Legion a heavy meal of story and art.

We are 7 issues in.

What do people think???

1 comment:

  1. Although the Legion has historically had some of the strongest (and best) female characters, I'm surprised now, in retrospect, by how much they are the focus and how diverse and dynamic Laurel, Kono, Mysa and Celeste are.