Friday, April 3, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #29

Recap: The Earth is *still* in shambles after the accidental triggering of the Dominator Triple Strike. But things are coming to a head. The UP is mobilizing to square off against the Dominion over Earth. The Terran Underground (now including the SW6 Legionnaires) has teamed up with Universo's rebellion in trying to organize the efforts on the planet. This includes a small team holing up in Dominion lab with clone pods. In one of those pods they discover Dirk 'Sun Boy' Morgna, alive but in agony from null radiation. And the Legion are debating if and when they join this war, especially given their recent losses when they entered the war against Glorith and the Khunds.

Legion of Super-Heroes #29 continues the Terra Mosaic storyline and continues to juggle the multiple plot lines surrounding the efforts to repel the Dominator control of Earth. After last issue's Sun Boy focus, the creative team of Keith Giffen, Tom & Mary Bierbaum, Jason Pearson, and Al Gordon use this issue to bring us up to date on everything and everyone else.

I have talked at length about the creative decisions and risks that has been a wonderful part of this book. In looking over Terra Mosaic, I am struck again by how innovative the team was being here. I am very impressed at how this story is really wide in scope. The book might be titled Legion of Super-Heroes, but outside of their fight with BION, the actual Legion team has had very little to do in this story so far. It would have probably been easier and safer to simply concentrate on the newly re-established team and have them 'save' Earth from the Dominators. Instead, we spend as much time with the Substitutes in a lab, Jacques Foccart in his headquarters, and Universo in his camp. We have pulled back the focus because this is a war on many fronts, all of which deserve their moments. And yet, you sense that things are coming to a head. Every front has significant progression, moving closer to a conflagration.

But innovation often isn't without risk. I entered this book knowing who the Subs are, who Universo is, and what the United Planets are all about. If this was your first Legion book ... well God bless you for sticking around. Because without code names and an understanding of the history of the Legion and the politics of the 30th century, you are probably lost. And Giffen and the Bierbaums also add these subtle nuanced character moments that most likely are not recognized by new readers but that make me incredibly happy.

For me though, this is the beauty of the 5YL series. This is a continuity-heavy but incredibly rich experience. Maybe it is this discordance, a 'new Legion' that relies on a extreme knowledge of the 'old Legion' continuity that makes this book so polarizing.

We start out on Talus, the asteroid headquarters of the Legion. The team is still recovering from the vicious attack of BION, the android built on the Computo OS platform but with the powers of all the Legion.

We get two solid pages of Brainiac 5 character development. He once again has to deal with the fact that his creation, Computo, has been corrupted and gone rogue. After a solid run of being the innocent majordomo for the team, Computo is once again a villain. Despite Brainy's fondness for his creation, he thinks it is time to finally have Computo lay dormant.

And then, Rond Vidar comes up to talk to Brainy about Laurel, acknowledging that caring for her must be difficult for Brainy. But rather than opening up about it, Brainy closes himself off and walks away. He then gets romantic advice from ... of all people ... Timber Wolf.

These pages drip of both Legion history and individual Legionnaire's histories. I know why all these things matter. But did everyone?

Valor is also on Talus, telling Cham about his discovery of the cloned Legion. He even reveals his concerns that the 'current' Legion might be the clones. Who are the originals? And if not this group, then where are the originals?

This mystery, especially given the SW6 Legionnaires, was the juiciest part of the book for me. This could be a game-changer, maybe as big as the universal re-write way back in issue #4 of this book.

But still, Giffen and the Bierbaums give that one panel of Lar and Jo sparring like two school chums. These guys are best friends and were sort of the rough boys of the Legion back in the day. Tiny moments like that even in the context of this dark universe are needed to temper the grim nature of this 5YL place. This is still the Legion. They haven't changed.

For the last couple of months, we have been watching a group of rebels who have barricaded themselves into a Dominator lab complete with pods of super-beings in stasis. Composed of the Subs (working for Jacques) and Grinn and his men (working for Universo), they have been at odds with each other's tactics while trying to keep the Dominators out.

In another effort to break in and reclaim the lab, a squad of Dominators succeed in taking down a wall and attacking.

I love this scene in which Fire Lad, the lead Sub, blasts the entire Dominator troop with a massive fireball that he breathed out. All of the subs are shown to be great soldiers in this run. But Fire Lad comes out looking the best. I also like that he has more control over his breath weapon to pull this off. It was his inability to control this power that had the Legion reject him years ago.

In Africa, Jacques and the rebels debate their next steps. They could go live with the information that the Dominion is cloning super-powered slaves, reprogramming these beings.

If the forces of the galaxy knew that, it might spur them to finally come to Earth's aid. They decide to hold back because the Dominator's response might be to eliminate the evidence by destroying the labs. Until the Subs and Grinn are out, they have to sit on this information.

Back in the labs, things go briefly crazy. Grinn, who all along has wanted to open the pods, does release one of the captives. This is how we meet Sade, a teleporting assassin. After threatening Fire Lad, she then switches her attention to Grinn.

Finally, Fire Lad is able to talk her down. They are, at least for now, all on the same side. He could have, while she held him, fried her if he wanted to. At least for now, the rebels have a new ally.

By releasing Sade in this fashion, Jason Pearson gets the chance to give us all sorts of near-nudity. Much like our first look at the SW6 Legionnaires, we see as much of Sade as we can.

Meanwhile, the SW6 Legionnaires are stuck in Universo's camp.

Even to these Legionnaires, Universo has a history of being a villain. To add to that history, Devlin has been telling the Legionnaires that despite Universo's polished exteriors, the hypnotist probably has his own interests in mind. And yet, Universo has yet to do anything outwardly villainous.

With little other choice, the Legion leader Invisible Kid asks Saturn Girl to break her own ethics and mind scan Universo against his will.

Again, this is a small moment but pretty powerful. These Legionnaires, so young, immutable and pure, have to adjust to the new times, have to become more gray. Even visually, we see Imra becoming darker. Nothing gold can stay in the 5YL universe.

But for me, this moment was the most compelling of the book. Last issue the Subs learned that Sun Boy, burned and in agony, was inside one of the Dominator pods.

Color Kid has an internal debate about euthanizing Dirk. Should Sun Boy be kept alive in this state? Should he be allowed to die? Can Color Kid pull the plug?

At first it looks like he will turn off the power to the life support pod. But in the end, he cannot go through with it.

How amazing is it that this scene, addressing the 'right to die', is in this book from 20 years ago!

I can see both sides of this argument ...

After the unsuccessful attack on the lab with Dominator infantry, the Dominion decides it is time to send in some bigger guns. They have access to their own super-powered team, a mind-wiped reprogrammed group. This 'task force' is completely loyal to the Dominion and will fight to the death if need be.

And given that this is the Subs, this group might be an even match. The only one I recognize is Flare, one of the Emerald Empress' reformed Fatal Five.

And things get even nuttier. We have seen Universo in meetings with the Dark Circle.

Now, thanks to Imra's mind read, the SW6 Legionnaires are aware of this as well.

I love these Legionnaires' reactions. The Circle is a 'tiny group on the outskirts of the galaxy.' The Legion Espionage Squad can take care of them. And why should the Legion be worried ... after all they defeated Size Lad in the past.
While inching towards an understanding of this new universe, the SW6 batch is still pretty naive.

And then things hit the fan.

With their grasp on the planet now tenuous, the Dominion puts the President of Earth in front of the cameras to give out some propaganda.

Being a slave long enough, President Wellington spills the beans about the Dominators' atrocities. She is subsequently assassinated live on the air.

Things just got very real.

An event like this has to make all the outside factions take notice. The time has come to reclaim Earth.

Just a great cliffhanger.

One of the text pages of this issue is another entry in the SW6 Shrinking Violet's personal journal. Once again we see just how sweet and innocent this Vi is. From talking about kissing Devlin, to changing her password from Ord to Devlin, to joking about Tenzil, we see how young she is. This reads like a teenager's secret diary ... a young teenager's.

And so Terra Mosaic moves forward. In case you haven't read the tea leaves, this secret war is going to bubble to the surface very soon.


  1. You mention something key here, and that is the accessibility of the title to the non-hardcore reader. This being my all-time favorite title and run, over the years I've made several people read it, and the result is always in one of two poles: either they love it and want to find out more about the things the don't or half-understand, or they are completely put off.

    I forgot how much I enjoyed Pearson and his evolution in the title, while Giffen still having a strong hand in everything: watch the SW6 Imra and Val panels: both her face and the "eye shot" are pure Keith.

    And I simply love the Jo and Lar interlude, specially how regal de former looks. This is not run of the mill Mon-El, this is galactic hero Valor.

  2. I was rooming with a Marvel guy when this came out. He decided to jump on board. I can remember after every issue he would come up to me with questions. 'Who is this?' "why is this important?" etc.

    I loved this book when it came out and I am loving it more this read through. But I have to say, it would be tough to recognize some of the subtlety if I wasn't immersed in Legion lore.

  3. One of the Dominators' task force has the power of "corporeal distortion"; that sounds like some kind of body distortion power, like stretching? Which means that the task force has people with fire powers, stretching, super-strength, and invisibility.

    Where do they come up with this stuff? :)

  4. It totally is stretching ... we see it in the issue.

    How could I have missed that connection all this time! Fantastic!

  5. "She is subsequently assassinated live on the air."

    Obviously, for plot reasons, it had to play out the way it did, but wouldn't it have been smarter to cut the live feed BEFORE killing her? Idiotic mistakes like this make you wonder how they were able to take over in the first place...

  6. "One of the Dominators' task force has the power of "corporeal distortion"; that sounds like some kind of body distortion power, like stretching?"

    Well, the code name is Elasti-Kid...

    "Which means that the task force has people with fire powers, stretching, super-strength, and invisibility."

    Its almost as if someone was re-reading "The Greatest Hero of Them All" ;)