Friday, October 23, 2015

5YL: Legion of Super-Heroes #56

Recap: The Legion has suffered a bit in the wake of a battle with Glorith. Some have been aged. Some have been de-aged. To add to personal issues, the United Planets have been duped by Universo into thinking the Legion are traitors. Branded as outlaws, the Legion members take on new looks and new code names and head to Rimbor to hide out. Before getting too settled, they get sucked into a gang war on the planet, with one gang, The Dragons, being led by Jo Nah.

Legion of Super-Heroes #56 continues a radical new direction for the book, a title already known for its radical directions. Writer Tom McCraw took over 6 issues ago and had truly changed this book.

Now I am a Legion fan and I may be about to commit heresy. The Legion can feel boring at times. Now not boring to me who loves the characters and the mythos. But to outsiders, there is a feel that the property is frozen into the image of a rosy future or inscrutable with its ponderous history of never-ending parade of planets, races, and stories. To get new readers, the Legion occasionally needs to be shaken up a bit.

The problem is, shake it too much and you get something that alienates Legion fandom.

One might say that the beginning of the Five Year Later run was the perfect blend of a new direction with an understanding an respect of what came before. But that was heady stuff. What came after Giffen left felt like a more standard Legion book but that isn't going to sell books. So why not try a 'Hail Mary' pass and shake the book to its foundations?

I won't say this is one of my favorite arcs of the Legion. But one thing is for sure, especially on rereading it for the first time in years, it feels different. Different! The names and the faces are familiar. The back story is still there. But we are in new territory.

The art remains superior and Stuart Immonen and Ron Boyd continue to just bring beauty to this book.

Last issue, Jo had kidnapped the Legion to ransom them off to the gangs of the planet only to then release them and have them fight the gangs.

This issue, we are dropped into the action. But I have to admit I was a bit confused. It wasn't 100% clear if the Legion was in on this trap that Jo had sprung. It didn't feel like it. But here they seem to fall into line, fighting along side the Dragons and fighting the dominant Rimbor gang, the Broncs.

But here they are fighting in the sewers, gang members shooting guns at their side.

And I understand that the Legion is in hiding and so costumes are different. But Ayla's Pulse costume is pretty hideous.

As I said, McCraw does do a good job trying to tie in this new direction by harking back to early issues and dealing with some of the plots that have lingered.

Remember waayyyyy back before Terra Mosaic, Spider Girl had stolen a cylinder. No one knew what was in it. No one could open it or look into it. It felt important when it was introduced as a plot element. And then it was forgotten.

We finally get some answers. While raiding the Legion headquarters, the Science Police discover it. And a Daxamite/Braalian is able to use his powers to finally open it.

It turns out that this isn't a cylinder; it's a funeral urn. There are remains in it. Whose remains?

I love me a mystery. This certainly grabbed me.

Meanwhile, Mysa's vamping with the Rimborian official has given Violet enough time to raid their computer files. And Vi has discovered who is truly behind the Rimborian gang structure. It is time to get out.

I will say that this young, uninhibited Mysa is also an interesting character study. Mysa before this had led something of a repressed life. And she certainly has suffered her share of physical and emotional abuse. I'm not surprised that she would do things completely different. Here she practically giggles as she says that flirting with this man is fun.

And yet, I wonder if she is overcompensating.

I do like her code name. Jewel ties in nicely with the Gemworld origin.

She isn't the only one who has changed recently.

Rokk now wears power gauntlets and has his magnetic powers back. He also has lost his position as team leader. And both of these changes seem to have unhinged him. He is surly, brusque, and pretty quick to violence.

Here, as Polestar, he is about to kill a gang member until Laurel steps in.

While I find the Jewel changes interesting, I find the change in Rokk sort of odious. This is too far afield for me to accept.

Meanwhile, the wheels of the United Planets continue to crush the Legion spirit, both the formed team and those in the periphery.

We learn that the Ranzz farm is practically shut down from red tape. The UP is choking off their exports and as a result the business is failing. This just reeks of Universo and his manipulations.

What I like is that not all the Legionnaires are being attacked. Invisible Kid is right there. It seems less calculated if not all the Legion is being targeted.

We do know that someone is pulling Universo's strings. So who is the big bad here?

The main team, which had been split up, finally unite.
The 'captured' team has been freed and talking to Jo.
Meanwhile, the other members, a newly formed Espionage Squad, track down the team (using Wildfire's unique energy signal). Having an Espionage Squad is another throwback.

Finally together, the team has a talk with the distraught Jo. Ultra Boy saw the disarray of his home, how gangs were running things. He felt he needed to do something. So he came up with this crazy plot, becoming 'The Dragon', and trying to unite the Gangs against the Broncs.

To be honest, this is my biggest issue with this story. It seems unlike Jo to try to pull off something like this. This Legion team had been through so much, just in the prior few years. You would think he would trust the team enough to go up to them with this problem. As it was, he endangered everyone.

It turns out that Rimbor's Ambassador Trombi has been in bed with the Khunds.  That is what Vi discovered on the government database.

Even the Broncs, who Trombi was funding, were unaware they were working for the Khunds.

Unfortunately, a complete skirmish breaks out. All the Gangs are there. The Legion is there. The UP Science Police show up. Then everyone starts fighting. But who is fighting who?

Celeste, now called Neon, sums it up best. "This is crazy!"

I will say, I have reread this part of the book and it is a bit haphazard. Jo and Vi break into Trombi's office to confront him. Jo has to fight the robot he fought in the second issue of this series. The Dragons team up with the Legion.

But it is a mess. The Legion telecasts a video of Trombi working with the Khunds on the planet's airwaves. And then they take off, hoping the Dragons will be able to keep Rimbor in line.

As I have said, this is a very different Legion. And there are parts of it that I really like.

One thing that I felt was a long time coming was Vi (now called Virus) becoming the leader of the team. That just feels natural.

Here we see her do what leaders do after a mission. She debriefs with her team. She chastises Jo for hatching this crazy scheme. But she also promises to help him find Tinya. And then she hears the beginning of some news about Ayla. Something is happening to Pulse ...

I have always been a big Violet fan. I loved this progression in her character.

But the book ends rather ominously.

On Naltor, Dreamy has a nightmare that 'he' is coming back. And that would be impossible.

The hints have been there. The defeat of Glorith. An impossible return. It has to be the Time Trapper.

So all in all, despite my standard lament that this isn't the same as early 5YL, you have the give McCraw and Immonen some respect. As if this version of the Legion wasn't different enough, they really upset the apple cart.

I find myself rather impressed with their willingness to try something different to try to save this book from yet another reboot. Alas, history lets us know how this ended ....

1 comment:

  1. "The problem is, shake it too much and you get something that alienates Legion fandom.

    One might say that the beginning of the Five Year Later run was the perfect blend of a new direction with an understanding an respect of what came before."

    One might say the Giffen/Birnbaum run is what alienated a large chunk of Legion fans in the first place ;)