Friday, September 4, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #50


Recap: The Legion has defeated Mordru and peace has returned to the universe ... for now. Matter-Eater Lad has rescued Saturn Queen from the grips of Evillo. Timber Wolf, who had been time displaced, was back in the 30th century but was slowly dying from addictions and maladies. And Element Lad was dying after turning all the resurrected  Trommite zombies into tsarin crystals. If there was ever a time for a 'day in the life' issue to catch up on everybody, it would be the special 'anniversary' 5oth issue.

Legion of Super-Heroes #50 is a giant-sized special issue, an issue with a higher page count, a pin-up gallery, and a short strip in the style of the Batman Animated Series in the back. It also seemed to be an issue where writers Tom & Mary Bierbaum as well as Tom McCraw decided they needed to take stock of the book's characters, trimming away plot lines that just didn't seem to be going anywhere and trying to narrow the focus of the title.


The Legion has never been an easy comic to write. With an expanded cast, the creative team needs to makes sure that all the characters are kept track of, written about now and then, and move the team forward as a whole. This book was never as bloated as earlier incarnations where Paul Levitz seemed to juggle a cast of 25 without breaking a sweat. Here, the Legion has never been more than a dozen or so main players, albeit with guest stars galore.

With Keith Giffen off the book though, some of the plot lines and characters from the earliest issues seemed to have gone missing around this time. And maybe the Bierbaums realized that focusing on 6-8 characters might be easier than trying to noodle everyone in.

This issue gives us a great overview of all the characters who have been winding their way through the book. Many of them seem to say goodbye here. The book was being trimmed for an eventual cosmic rebirth. And while I have been saying that this book feels different since the earlier issues for a while, this issue made it feel final. This isn't that book anymore. Not that this doesn't have some great moments.

The art is split between Daryl Banks thin lined sketchy style and Stuart Immonen's more thick lined organic feeling art. For me Immonen wins the show.

We start out with a sad scene. With the Mordru war over, the Legion have gathered their fallen friends who had arisen to fight for Mordru to once again bury them.

It is a brief but poignant scene again showcasing the history of the Legion and their feeling of family.

But there is a disembodied voice on the planet begging the team to leave.

It was sad to see J'onn J'onzz leave the book. With him leaving, it made his appearance seem sort of meaningless.

Meanwhile, Tenzil Kem has returned back to Titan with Saturn Queen. By returning the Universo hypno-stone to Titan, the Queen has earned the right to actually ascend to become the Queen. But there is one sticking point. She needs to marry. And Tenzil accepts.

Now this is fine for Tenzil and fun. And we see that the couple are rather randy and passionate. But it also means Tenzil is off the book. Too bad.
Now on Earth, Jan Arrah is dying. And his spirit leaves his body and goes walkabout around the universe. He checks in on his teammates as he approaches the big light at the end of the tunnel. It is a decent story trick and provides a reason for the Bierbaums to hop from one character to another. But it is clear. There is something of a checklist here. Who haven't we heard from in a while.

This is perhaps my favorite moment of the book. No surprise it involves Laurel Gand and Brainy. Remember in the Mordru War, Laurel kissed Brainy just when they thought they were about to die. It shows she still has feelings for him.

But back at their headquarters, she says all she did was think of Rond and Lauren. And sadly, Brainy overhears it and wallows in his misery.

Kono had been a big part of the earlier issues of this book but had slid to the background and her biggest part in the last year was used as a vessel for Amethyst.

Her Sklarian mother arrives at the headquarters and asks Kono to join her group of pirates. Kono agrees. She recognizes that Spider Girl is around to torment/care for Jo. She isn't needed.

Goodbye Kono. I'll miss you and your spunk.
I have to be honest, I forget how Timber Wolf ended up back here. Probably in one of the annuals I have skipped reviewing.

There is a nice scene between him and Ayla where they discuss how harsh their breakup was. Ayla apologizes. But Brin knows that he needed it to be blunt or her would have kept following Ayla around.

This is a pretty mature discussion for a comic book romance that had ended over a decade before. But it is this sort of history that makes the Legion great.

Meanwhile on Winath, Imra has delivered a new set of twins and now, a few months old, she knows they will have telepathy. They have been talking to her.

I am a big fan of the original three Legionnaires. So I am glad that Jan took time to check in on the founders. But they have really been on the periphery of this book.

What about Celeste? Or Kent? They aren't seen at all.

Just as Jan is about to enter heaven, the spirits of the Trommite dead confront him and tell him his mission isn't over. He needs to return and live.

In a scene that must have been pretty daring for the time, Jan asks Sean (Schvaughn) Erin to stay by his side. Could this romance be reignited and be something new?

This book took a lot of risks. For the late 90s, this was a big one.

But this felt like a goodbye for Jan.

But let's check in on some others.
Mysa decides to stay with the Legion. Nura returns to Naltor.
Brainy has Dawnstar turned over to her people in hopes that they can help her find her way.

I always felt that Dawny, especially when she was Bounty, was wasted. How did she lose her wings? When did Bounty possess her?  Did she remember all the things Bounty did when possessed?

But we are clearing the decks a bit.

Goodbye Dawnstar.

As expected all along, BION somehow reactivates. It is time for another throwdown! Another showdown!

A complete brawl breaks out on Talus. The Legionnaires all attack BION. But as before he seems to have the upper hand given his array of Legion powers.

We are 50 issues in. I guess I can confess my love of Laurel Gand.  (swoon)

Now you might be able to intuit that my love of this title has waned over the last year. It has been a bit more difficult to get excited about this book.

And maybe the Bierbaums could tell. Because just as I am about to give up all hope, they threw me a bone.

I am a huge Wildfire fan. We never really learned why he disappeared in the 5YL universe, but the rumor had always been he died in the Black Dawn event, maybe reigniting Sol and then being forced to stay there.

Just as the battle with BION looks like it might end in a loss, Wildfire appears and starts blasting away. BION, who had split into three BIONS (using Luornu's power) merges himself and leaves.

Wildfire is my favorite Legionnaire. So it was great to see him again. Love the halo of Kirby krackle by Immonen.
With BION gone, Dawnstar gone, Kono gone, and Jan recovering, the remaining Legionnaires have a quiet gathering to welcome back Wildfire and Mysa. Maybe they can have a little peace.

Unfortunately, that peace won't come any time soon. Universo shows the heads of the UP images of when the Legion were cooperating with the Khunds during the Mordru war. He tells King John and Anton that the Legion are now working with the Khunds to conquer planets. Maybe with a little hypno-push, he convinces them to label the Legion as criminals.

Universo and his doings have been brewing in the background since the beginning of Terra Mosaic. At last we see him start to be more pro-active.

But if that wasn't enough of a cliffhanger, we get a shrouded mystery figure looking at the Legionnaires team and saying 'the event horizon' approaches.

An event horizon indeed.

I suppose that if the Bierbaums had told all the story they wanted to with Jan, Kono, Tenzil, and Dawnstar that it makes sense to give them a sort of goodbye here. It would stop people like me from complaining that we hadn't heard from them in a while. And maybe a leaner cast would mean better characterization.

But I never worried about that in the earliest part of this book. And by now, anyone reading these reviews is probably sick of me lamenting the shift in creative focus on the title.

But anytime you see a shrouded figure talking about event horizons, you know that an ending of some sort is around the corner.

2 comments:

  1. This review is the first one on this site that for me is not nostalgia. It is the of a Legion story that I had not read.

    I was a long time Legion fan. After falling in love with the team in the late 70s or early 80s, I became a Legion completest. I had gone back and bought every issue I could find all the way back to Supergirl's first attempt to join the team. I was missing only a few issues of their Action Comics run after they were bumped from Adventure Comics..but really, who can blame me for not trying harder to track them down. That run was terrible! I still have all those issues I bought, and when I visit family in the US, I sometimes look through them with fond memories...

    BUT.. The last few issues of the 5YL Legion were really terrible. I hated the Mordru Zombie Arc. That arc, combined with a revelation in one of the annuals about Proty I, was the final straw. MY Legion was not coming back. I tried reading the other title featuring the Legion clones, but it was not the same and I didn't buy many issues. I remember feeling a very deep sense of loss knowing that I wouldn't be reading about my old 'friends' anymore. It was definitely a 'childhood's end' moment.

    I only picked up one issue after that-- the final issue of the run where they were wiped from existence. I then tried the first three or four issues of the Reboot Legion,, but that couldn't keep my interest. I guess thirty years later, DC restored the Legion's original continuity.. but it was much too late to get readers like me back.

    Anyway, I will be looking forward to these reviews more than ever. I really wonder what I missed out on by giving up on the book.

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  2. Thanks so much for the comment.
    My time is growing short as the true 5YL era is nearing its end.

    Glad you have been around and hope to fill in this gap. After the ultimate ending of this reboot, I left the Legion for years. That's how much this ending got to me.

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