Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #3 (1984)

Legion of Super-Heroes (vol 1) #3 (1984)
A Review by Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage
title: "The Curse"
writer/plotter: Paul Levitz
plotter/penciller: Keith Giffen
penciller: Curt Swan

inker: Romeo Tanghal
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger
cover: Keith Giffen & Larry Mahlstedt (signed)

Mission Monitor Board:  
Lighting Lad, Saturn Girl, Colossal Boy, White Witch, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, Element Lad, Brainiac Five, Sun Boy, Dawnstar, Mon-El, Wildfire, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Blok, Dream Girl, Star Boy, Shrinking Violet

Guests: 
Bouncing Boy, Shadow Kid

Opponents: 
Four evil sorcerers (H'sbiah the cat, an unnamed agent of the Dark Circle, and two more who were never named), Darkseid
  
Synopsis: 
On Medicus-One, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl are about to have their baby. Dr. Lars Hanscomb pulls the expectant father aside and tries to hypnotize him. Hanscomb had used Lightning Lad before as Starfinger, and hoped to control him again. However, the Legionnaires now undergo anti-hypnotic training, and Lightning Lad easily knocks the has-been unconscious.

On Avalon, Phantom Girl leads White Witch, Cosmic Boy, and Colossal Boy to Romdur Castle, the final resting place of the dark sorcerer Mordru. Unfortunately, his body is missing...!

Outside Earth's atmosphere, Brainiac Five and Sun Boy report to Element Lad, helping him to stop a few wandering asteroids. Element Lad explains his concern, that Mordru could be behind the recent activity of the Legion of Super-Villains.

Elsewhere, four evil sorcerers assemble around Mordru's mud-encrusted body, vowing to raise him from the near-dead.

In outer space, Dawnstar is attempting to locate a trail of the LSV when Shadow Lass is suddenly pulled into a gulf of green flames. Not even Mon-El can save her, and the Legionnaires watch in shock as she disappears. 
Back on Earth, Invisible Kid, Blok, and Element Lad talk about possible motives for Shadow Lass' kidnapping. None of them have any good ideas.

At the Legion Academy, Shadow Lass' cousin, Shadow Kid, announces to Bouncing Boy that he plans to return to his home planet when he, too, is engulfed by green flames and disappears.

Elsewhere, the four sorcerers have kidnapped the heroes of Talok VIII for their shadow powers. They believe that because darkness was part of what robbed Mordru of his powers (actually Darkseid and his minions), darkness must be a part to return his powers to him, too.

On Avalon, White Witch holds a "seance" and feels Mordru's presence on The Sorcerers' World, so they head out and tell the rest of the Legion to meet them there.

Darkness begins to spread from The Sorcerers' World. It begins to engulf the whole universe, including Dream Girl and her team heading back towards Earth, and Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad on Medicus-One.  The first wave of the Legion arrives on the Sorcerers' World, breaking up the magic. When the White Witch arrives she has the power to make the whole spell collapse. Mordru falls back into his death-like coma.

The darkness disappears, and we learn that Saturn Girl has borne a son. The Masters of Sorcerers' World take possession of the four dark wizards and Mordru, and the Legion flies off, triumphant.

On the last page we learn that Saturn Girl actually had twins, and that in the darkness Darkseid stole into the hospital and kidnapped one of the boys. He then altered him, aged him to manhood, and sent him back in time, naming him "Validus."

Commentary: 
I remember when I first read this story that I had just taken some biology class and learned that twins were caused in one of two ways: two eggs being released by the mother or one egg splitting into two. Either way, no matter how much sperm the father provides, if there aren't two eggs you aren't getting twins. So I never liked that Saturn Girl *had* twins, which is the norm on Papa Lightning Lad's planet, but not on Mama's. Now, if Light(ning) Lass ever had kids, I would expect them to be twins.

Besides that minor biological quibble, this is a good mix of suspense, action, and drama. The evil sorcerers *did* seem to be defeated pretty quickly, but I guess the whole point was that they were sycophants who hoped for more power from the revived Mordru, so without that they were easy to knock down. It was nice that we got glimpses at each of the Legionnaires, even if they didn't all actually take part in all of the action. 

As for "the curse," I don't know if I'm a big fan of it. I remember reading in some letter column a few years before this story that is was odd that Validus (the giant member of The Fatal Five) had powers similar to Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl. I'm not a big fan of time-paradox "hooks" like this, though. I guess I can admit that it was clever, and leave it at that.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The cover seems symbolic of something. Any idea as to what or who? Unused drawing from something else, maybe? Or perhaps it is a mis-colored Mordru or Darkseid
  • Mordru was buried alive on Avalon in LSH (vol.2) #276 in an adventure that featured Phantom Girl
  • Brainiac Five and Sun Boy chastise Element Lad for calling them back to duty so quickly after they had returned, a sly reference to their adventures with Supergirl in Tales of the LSH #314
  • Writer Paul Levitz claimed in LSH (vol. 3) #3 that this story featured "our favorite surprise ending of our writing career!"
Status:
Addendum: I originally commented that this story has not been reprinted. In fact, it can be found in The Great Darkness Saga TPB and The Curse Deluxe Edition HC.

MILESTONE: This issue features the first birth in Legion history, as the sons of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad make their official debut. Darkseid takes it upon himself to name one of them "Validus," but the other remains nameless at this point. (He will eventually be named Graym.) 

6 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorite Legion storylines...

    http://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/legion-of-super-heroes-the-curse-of-validus/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice review there yourself, Ben! I may not agree with you on all your specific praise points for Paul Levitz, but I do agree he was a helluva writer overall.
      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  2. I thought Darkseid needed another good story after Great Darkness, something to live up to the threat he made at the end of that arc. And I think this, a much more subtle evil fits the bill.

    Besides, Validus' mental lightning makes perfect sense as the son of Imra and Garth.

    Your biology quibble is valid but I think the bigger question for me was the lack of decent medicine in the 30th century. Are you telling me no one did an ultrasound and saw 2 fetuses? That existed when this story was printed ... let alone 1000 yrs in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you. And I did like the conclusion to this storyline a few years later, when Saturn Girl stared down Darkseid...!

      I hadn't thought about the ultrasound, but you're absolutely right, Dr. Gym'll for sure should have been able to tell that they were having twins!

      Delete
  3. A very enjoyable comic. I'm not sure Curt Swan would have been my first choice for this particular story, though; I love the guy, but I don't think he was all that well suited to Giffin's vision of what the 30th century would look like.

    Also: I think this has just been (or soon will be) reprinted. The solicitation for the newest LSH trade collection, "The Curse," said it would contain Annual #3.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right. I have updated that part of the post, thanks!

      Delete