Friday, June 5, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #38


Recap: The war is over. The Dominators have been defeated and have left Earth. The planet hasn't escaped unscathed. The moon has been destroyed. The "Triple Strike" had powerspheres around the planet explode. An inappropriately triggered self-destruct mechanism razed all the Dominator cloning labs around the globe. And the war and its battles have leveled areas around the planet. Still, there was victory. Let the rebuilding begin...

Legion of Super-Heroes #38 is something of a turning point for this 5YL Legion book. The cover has the words "The End" in large letters over what appears to be an unstable world on fire. And those words are appropriate for the storyline as this does represent the end of Earth.



But more importantly to me, this issue represents an ending for the tone and feel of this book. All through these reviews, I have talked about this book and the risks it has taken. I won't recapitulate all of them,but together, they have made this a dense, intelligent read... something more than your standard comic book. I feel like much of that has to be attributed to the guidance of Keith Giffen. This issue marks the end of Giffen's influence on the book. And in many ways, it marks the end of its unique nature. What followed felt much more like a "standard" comic book and less like the cutting edge title we had struggled through and loved these last three years.

Now that doesn't mean the upcoming issues are bad.

But...

There was something special about this book up to this point. It was controversial in places. It wasn't universally beloved. It was outright rejected by some. But I think it was art, pushing things forward and appreciated by those who "got it".

And that makes this an ending in both story and content. That makes it outright funereal for me.

Maybe realizing that things were going to change, the creative team takes one more big risk. This issue is written as text, a series of splash pages with prose on the side, another interesting way to present the material. We had seen similar pages way back in the earliest issues when Rokk eats with Mordru.

Given large splash pages to work with, artists Jason Pearson and Karl Story have to decide what deserves the big moment. But as much of this story requires a large, planetary viewpoint, we only get a few moments of character.

From the opening page, we see that "Requiem" is written in the form of an op/ed piece by Devlin O'Ryan.

And he opens up by saying that life isn't fair. The battle for Earth was intense. It was brutal. We saw death and destruction up close. We read how the innocent SW6 Legionnaires reacted to the horror of war. But we had victory. Earth was saved.

So what could grab defeat from the jaws of victory?

I do love how this opening panel already lets us know where this is going. Where is Devlin as he writes this? How could we see that view out of his window? What is that domed city behind him? And Devlin's body language, slumped in his chair, an almost "non-expression" flat expression, clues us in that this isn't going to end well.
We start out with some optimism.

The planet may be in ruin. There may be decades of rebuilding ahead. But there is this pioneer spirit, a feeling of rebirth, and a sense that everyone is working together to create something better from the ashes of "death and hatred".

I do wish that Pearson did something more ground level with this page, seeing people pitching in, looking at blueprints, etc. Instead it is a sort of impersonal view of a city being rebuilt.
But earthquakes begin to rock the planet. We learn what Brainiac 5 was investigating last issue.

The cloning labs housed tons of an unstable toxic waste called Proton Jelly. This waste should have been removed or stored elsewhere. But in that time, those laws were bypassed.

When Grinn blew up the cloning labs, all the Proton Jelly was released. With the jelly seeping into the ground and heading to the core of the planet, one thing is clear. The Earth is doomed! Certainly, this was a message about environmental concerns, something plaguing Earth back in the early '90s and still today.

And a better panel by Pearson here. The sight of both Brainys is a great one. And the elder Querl's grim expression speaks volumes from his character.
There is no cure for the planet. It is going to die, explode like Krypton. All that is left is trying to save as many people as possible.

Evacuation plans are made but there is no way an entire planet can be taken elsewhere. Priorities are set. Some volunteers stay behind.

But there is no rioting. No anarchy. Everyone works together as a planet to try to save as many as possible.

Again, I have to question the art choice. There is emotional punch to the dialogue. We could have been on the ground, seeing some getting on shuttles while others stay behind. We could have seen tears.
It turns out that in the 28th century, many of the larger cities on Earth were equipped with dome technology and the ability to leave the planet if necessary. 102 cities fitted with domes were intact enough post-war to  be raised in this way. Only 100 make it successfully into space.

Now this feels like a little bit of a deus ex machina. Maybe this was revealed in some prior Legion story. But I hadn't heard about this dome technology ever. So to hear about this now that the planet is imperiled seemed to be an easy answer.

The domes are equipped with linking equipment such that the cities are able to connect to create a sort of flotilla of cities.

But this is antiquated and never-used technology. Five cities are destroyed in the attempts to link up.

This isn't easy.

And things get trickier.

Even linked, the 95 cities are still just outside the atmosphere of a planet about to explode. The cities need to escape elsewhere for the time being. A massive rift into the Bgztl subspace dimension is opened to get the cities to safety. Another city gets picked off as this slides in.

Hmm... could the Phantom Zone have been used as a rescue method? And does anyone know if there is an "Eyth incident" in Legion lore, something I don't remember?

This is a nice panel choice, showcasing the scope of this last ditch effort.
Eventually the Earth does die, exploding in space while those off planet watch in horror.

This is my favorite page of the book. First, we finally get some personal response to this tragedy. We see citizens and Legionnaires looking on in sorrow. I love seeing SW6 Violet simply unable to watch. And it matches the text beautifully as Devlin talks about regrets, how all the wrong decisions led to this horrific moment, this genocide.

But the big thing is seeing Neil Gaiman's Death overlooking the passing of the planet. At first I thought this was simply a half face of Death, the other half in shadow. But Earth's explosion is her other eye, a nice touch.

Heads up, Neil Gaiman and Death completists! Find this issue!

 And we finally see "our" Legion, still on their Talus base, watching as the planet dies.

Another strong page and panel by Pearson here. We see Violet acting as the source of strength for Ayla, a beautiful contrast to the younger Vi hugging Devlin. But the best little touch is Kono clutching Rokk's shirt as she looks wide-eyed. She acts like a tough, grizzled veteran, but Kono is still a kid. Her response is dead on.

Devlin lays it on a bit thick, talking about "what might have been" are the saddest words. So many prior decisions could have spared the planet. Whether the bad environmental choices, or the decision to let the Dominion take over, or the decision to blow up the labs... there were countless ways to stop this tragedy.

And so Devlin watches from his domed city, reporting how there won't be sunrises over Ireland. There won't be people running on fields. There won't be families walking along familiar grounds.

June 4, 2996 is the day the Earth died.

The End.

This issue was something of a gut punch. Like the Legion, I was thrilled to see Earth free once more. I was ready to see the Legion (either of them) become an inspiration for a new planet with a new sense of purpose. I wasn't expecting this at all and so was just as shocked as the characters.

There is no doubt that things will dramatically change moving forward. One of the underlying plots of these first three years is the fight against Dominator control, a fight to reclaim the planet. Now there is no planet; instead, a New Earth of individual cities exists.

We also have had a Legion title where the actual Legion have been an afterthought in their own book for about a year, sitting out the Terra Mosaic story for the most part. What will be the focus of the book moving forward? And how much of the feel, the tone, the creativity, and richness of the initial part of the book's run will continue on?

Thank you, Keith Giffen, for your input on this book making it such a success for this Legion fan.

I may delay the review of LSH #39 for a week and do my own Requiem of this series next week.

8 comments:

  1. Guess who is tearing up at the office just by reading the review? 0/

    Nothing to add, really, been loving this series of reviews as much as I love these 38 issues, my all-time-favorite run of my all-time-favorite series.

    The Talus base shot says it all.

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  2. Thanks for coming and reading! Glad you appreciate this book as much as I do!

    I love that shot. I almost wonder if they are asking themselves 'if only'. They sat out this war. Could they have made a difference?

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  3. I loved this run and I LOVED this issue. I have multiple copies and it still makes me tear me.

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  4. Really a shame that Giffen left at this point. He'd created a fantastic setup, but nobody who followed him seemed to know how to use it. The 5YL Legion never recovered from his departure, IMHO.

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  5. I have lurked and read all your 5YL reviews and enjoyed them.

    But I have never commented... until now.

    Thank you.

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  6. The Eyth system was destroyed in an untold story back in Secrets of the LSH #1, but was retconned in v4 #8 as having been saved by shunting it into the Bgtzl Buffer Zone. TMK also said in v4 Annual 2 (when are you going to get around to covering those, anyway?) that Valor spent his 1000 years in the BBZ.

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  7. Thanks for comments!
    I do have to cover the annuals! Maybe now would be the time .... A post #38 pause.

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  8. "got it"

    No please no. Not that argument. Some of us "got it" and still didn't like it or love. At best, some of us see it as a noble failure. Good idea, not so good execution.

    Yes, this run was experimental. Yes, it was unique. Yes, it was "mature". But that doesn't necessarily make it good or art to everyone.

    But please, don't use the "You just don't GET it" argument.

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