Friday, May 29, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #37

Recap: Five years ago, the universe became a darker place, the gleam of hope and optimism faded, and nefarious political organizations and galactic empires spread the influence over the universe like a shroud. The Legion of Super-Heroes, a last bastion against that darkness, disbanded; its members scattered, back to their homeworlds or seeking other opportunities. One of those Legionnaires, Thom "Star Boy" Kallor, put adventuring behind and became a batball coach. Meanwhile, Earth has finally shrugged off the control of the Dominion. But the planet is in shambles.

I have now covered three years of the 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes continuity. One of the parts of this series that has absolutely struck me has been the creative risks we, as readers, have seen. From none-page panels, to back matter, to text pages with a single illustration, to the dense nature of the story, the actual issues have been brilliant. And from a pacing point of view, the creators have done a great job of feeding interest and then pulling back a little, keeping the reader engaged and wanting more. Rest issues and side missions have been inserted in the oddest places, at points where I desperately wanted to read more of the main plots. It has been dizzying and fabulous. And, looking back at this series, now 20+ years old, it feels ahead of its time.

Legion of Super-Heroes #37 is one of the few missteps for the series.

The Terra Mosaic storyline just ended. The Dominators are off Earth. There are two Legions running around. There are mysteries and cabals and an unstable Earth. As a reader, I was thrilled with this arc. The main Legion were almost minor characters in their own book. There were twists and turns and new characters and the introduction of the amazing SW6 Legion, the perfect foils to this universe. And while the arc may have had a "finale", this story wasn't over by a long shot. I felt like I needed to be there, on Earth, to witness the reconstruction and redefinition of Earth.

Instead, the creative team of writers Tom & Mary Bierbaum and artists June Brigman and John Dell, send us to Nallor for a Star Boy solo story about sports and organized crime.

And while it is was nice to catch up with Star Boy and Dream Girl, this seemed superfluous.

Thom is the coach of the Nallor Dreamers, a "batball" team that is in the finals. After losing a crucial game in the series, Star Boy is confronted by a violent fan who asks him why the Dreamers always lose when Starfinger bets against them.

While I think Thom is above reproach, are his players throwing games? Is there some other cheating scandal?
The fan is escorted out when the High Seer, Nura Nal, arrives with her security detail.

"Dream Girl" has become much more zaftig in the 5YL universe. And she and Thom are not together. He has married someone else, the owner of the Dreamers team, also a Naltorian.

But the old spark is still there. Dreamy tempts him, asking for a tryst after the next game and wondering why they broke up. But Thom knows the score. Dreamy gets bored easily. And she is only interested in Thom now that he is unavailable.

Meanwhile, Imra has given birth to new twins on Winath.

But we witness her being captured - "the first to fall" - by an armored intruder who escaped her mental defenses.

I immediately wondered if this would again be Universo, scheming in the background of galactic politics. He already recognized her as threat way back in the Baxter series' Universo Project.

Back to the batball game, the Dreamers lost on a walk-off home run by the other team.

The closer is flummoxed, wondering how that was possible. She can only think that the player's "handicapper" belt malfunctioned.

It turns out that in batball, a multi-species league, the players are fit with belts that reduce them to "natural abilities", evening the playing field. So hand-eye coordination is intact, but super-speed or strength is nullified.

Still, could that be part of this scandal?

I did like that we get to meet Thom's new wife Yvva, a Naltorian who confronts him about his walk in the garden with Dreamy.

He tells her nothing happened and she believes him. Because she knows he is an honorable man.

I guess feisty Naltorians are Star Boy's type?

The deciding game of the series is set to start and we see Starfinger in the crowd. He has bet on the Dreamers. We know what that means.

Unfortunately, it also diminishes Starfinger for me. I thought he was going to be a big fish in the 5YL world, another major power player trying to rule all. Instead, he is just a tawdry low-level mobster, caring about sports events and gambling and not universal domination. He looks like the Kingpin!
Now there are some nice flourishes in the book.

The main story on Naltor is a standard comic, not in the nine-panel grid. But when we slip away to catch up with what is happening on Earth, the pages revert to that layout. We slip into the main continuity and plots and into the format we are used to seeing it.

Things are not easy on Earth. While things are mostly peaceful and concerned with rebuilding, Dominator collaborators are being attacked. And Brainiac 5 (the elder) has been called to Earth to assess the damages, specifically one of the self-destructed Dominator pod labs. What could be so serious that he would be called in?

Back on Naltor, it appears that the Dreamers have won when their biggest hitter, a huge gorilla being, hits a game-ending home run.

But before the celebration can start in earnest, Thom says the home run should be disallowed. He knows that his own player's handicapper belt has been tampered with. And he isn't going to win dishonestly.

I suppose this shows the immutable ethics of most Legionnaires.

Of course, we need a happy ending. The gorilla doesn't hit a home run. Instead, he hits a "dying quail" that gets lost in the lights. The ball lands in safely and the winning run scores. The Dreamers are champions.

Guess what, it also means Starfinger won a bunch of cash!

At least it was an honest win.

Meanwhile, the SW6 Legionnaires are still convinced they are not clones, but rather, time-displaced. They decide to send Valor back in time to investigate. Unfortunately, the time bubble disappears with a weird explosion. As readers, we know it meant that Valor was suddenly stranded in the 20th century. (We also know they aren't time-displaced.)

One thing I did love here was Triplicate Girl's response. She isn't married to Bouncing Boy. She always had major feelings for Superboy, and Valor is the stand-in for him in this new continuity. It's so perfect that she's unable to see him leave, turns away and silently says goodbye.

Brainy visiting Earth, Imra kidnapped, the SW6 Legion dealing with their predicament. These were the pages I craved. The "batball" story just wasn't needed.

Of course, it is another pause, setting up the next issue. But, much like the Quantum Kid issue, this seemed to disrupt more than accentuate.


  1. I barely remember this issue at all.. the only thing I do remember about it was how much I HATED what they did to Nura. She had evolved over the decades into one of the most interesting Legionnaires with a strong will and capable leadership abilities. No respect was given to her in this series and, like Sun Boy, the worst parts of her traits developed in the Baxter Series became the sum of her character in the 5YL stories.

  2. As you say, this is the series biggest misstep. Basically, a fill-in issue, and a bad one at that (this is from one of the two periods where the book went biweekly for a couple of months, and it shows).
    I love Thom and Nura, together and separately, but this makes no sense at all. And don't get me started on the cover.
    One to forget.

  3. There's a nice touch with SW6 Phantom Girl looking at SW6 Luornu. Regular Lu was out of the Legion before Levitz introduced the "join together, stick together" theme. Regular Tinya hung out with Shadow Lass, but that always struck me as a "we have to be friends because your man and my man are pals" thing.

  4. How does sports betting work on a planet of precognitives? (Actually, how does any gambling work in a universe where precogs are a known, proven fact, and probably not uncommon given that there's an entire planet of them?) (Am I thinking about this too hard?)

  5. I hated this issue, too, and mostly for the same reason TomG did....its absolutely awful portrayal of Dream Girl. Uggh.

  6. Hmmm ... one of the weakest issues in the run gets the most comments!


    You all make very good points!

  7. Well people do love to criticize ;).

  8. I suppose this gets more comments precisely because it was so bloody annoying. The sports theme was weak enough but I remember at the time fans were absolutely livid at the portrayal of Nura.

    Wasn't very happy with it myself. It was less that she'd got old and gained weight but that these things seemed very much to explicitly underline that Dream Girl was not going to be involved in the book going forward.

    It was such a pity, Nura had been taken from a minor forgettable to one of the Legion's richest characters and the idea of her as a larger woman but still a vital part of the team would have been a great area of exploration.