Monday, October 12, 2015

The Lightning Saga (chapter 2): JSA (v3) # 5

TITLE: “The Lightning Saga, Part Two: Dreams and Fire
WRITER: Geoff Johns
ARTIST: Fernando Pasarin
COLORIST: Jeremy Cox
EDITOR: Eddie Berganza

Hi, my name is Myk-El, and starting this month, I'll be looking at the return of the classic, Pre-Crisis Legion, often referred to as the Geoff Johns "Retro-boot."

Now, we all have our favorite version of the Legion. For me, it was the 80s Levitz-Giffen era. So, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that the characters I fell in love with all those years ago were making a comeback.

The first stop on that road was a guest starring role in a five-part crossover called "The Lightning Saga." In Part One, the Justice League discovers that seven Legionnaires have come back from the future on a mission so secret even they don't know what it is. NOTE: The review of that issue can be found here. Onward!

In Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon and Detective Harvey Bullock have cordoned off Arkham Asylum after “some kind of riot.” The bat signal lights up the sky behind them, as they wait for The Dark Knight to show up.

Cue Splash Page: Batman—flanked by Geo-Force, Sandman, and Starman—makes his usual dramatic entrance.

Batman and Mr. Terrific had figured out how to track the metal in the Legion’s flight rings. They pinpointed it to five locations, one of them being Arkham.

Gordon briefs the heroes about the riot. Somehow people’s deepest fears are being brought to life. Based on clues provided by Sandman and Starman, Batman identifies the villain as Doctor Destiny.

While the other heroes plot their next move, Starman decides to just walk through the front door. Batman and the others follow, catching up to him in the security office.  Geo-Force worries that they are too exposed. Batman points out that Doctor Destiny won’t tap into their nightmares, not when the inmates’ fears are so much worse. And just what do the inmates at Arkham fear most…?

Cue First Double Page Spread: a bevy of Batmen appear from the shadows, and surround the heroes. While the others bring down the nightmare doppelgangers, Starman brings down the house. Literally. 
He finds Dream Girl lost in a trance, and chained to the wall of a dank cell, with Doctor Destiny standing over her. Starman charges to the rescue, only to be stopped by a nightmare version of Kenz Nuhor.  Doctor Destiny even makes Dreamy watch as Kenz beats Starman to a pulp.
Then, Starman says the magic words, and Dream Girl wakes. After predicting his wretched demise, she throws the good Doctor into a wall, knocking him unconscious. And with that, all his creations vanish. As she hugs Starman, though, Dreamy warns that the nightmare isn’t over yet. A Legionnaire is going to die.
Cut to the Arctic Circle, where Superman leads Red Tornado, Star Girl, and Cyclone through his Fortress of Solitude. They are tracking another flight ring. At first, Superman thinks they’ve simply detected his old Legion ring, which he keeps hidden away in the fortress.  Red Tornado is sure there is another ring here somewhere. They join the girls, who have stopped at a particular display
Cue Second Double Page Spread:  The heroes take in the FAN-GASMIC sight of 29 (that’s right! I counted them! So what?) Legionnaire statues.

While Superman recounts his first encounter with the Legion, Red Tornado narrows down the location of the flight ring they’ve been tracking to one of the statues. Then, Cyclone asks a rather obvious question: Why are there two statues of Wildfire?
Superman says the magic word, and the statues convulses into life. Wildfire babbles something about “The Storm.” Suddenly, Batman’s utility belt shoots out of his containment suit.  Another mystery to add to the one about why the Legion are here in the 21st  century.

Back at Justice League headquarters, Starman and Dream Girl reunite with Karate Kid.

This issue has all the hallmarks of the classic JLA / JSA team-ups from the 1960s. In order to save the day, our heroes have split up into small groups, each one dispatched to a different location in search of….flight rings? As McGuffins go, I suppose it’s as good as any other.

Another aspect of those classic team-ups is the juxtaposition of different types of characters on the same team. Batman, whose mind is like a steel trap, working next to Starman, whose mind is like Swiss cheese. Hysterical! Red Tornado having a conversation with Cyclone, the teenage granddaughter of his Golden Age predecessor. Priceless!

Now, as this is a Legion-related site, I should probably focus on the double page spread of Legion statues. And I will. But, can we just take a moment to talk about the other spread, the one with all the different Batmen? If you look closely, you can see Red Rain Batman, Dark Knight Returns Batman, TV Batman, and even the Neal Adams Batman.  How cool is that?!

But, I digress…

My main criticism of this issue was how quick a read it was. Out of a 22 page comic, there are two splash pages, and two double-page spreads. That’s a lot of page real-estate that Geoff Johns is eating up. Not to say that Fernando Pasarin doesn’t take full advantage of them, giving us some gorgeous images. One of my favorites being the aforementioned Batmen.  Still, all in all, it feels a bit light. Like ordering an entrée and only getting an appetizer.

Of course, the real money-shot is that spread of Legion statues. Not to beat a metaphor to death, but I wasn’t kidding when I called it fan-gasmic. Because that’s how it felt the first time I saw it.  The classic characters, in their classic costumes, and even their classic origins. And the warmth of Superman’s smile when he says: “Every single one of them could fly.” Even if I wasn’t already a diehard Legion fan, THAT moment had me convinced.  I remember pumping my fists in the air, jumping up and down screaming: “The Legion is back! MY Legion is back!”

This issue has been reprinted as Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga.


  1. I guess I am a little confused... When does this issue take place in terms of Legion history? A little backstory would be useful to clear this up. How did the Legion get there? Did this story arc begin earlier in another book?

  2. Here's part 1:

    It takes place after Infinite Crisis.

    Love the abs on Wildfire.

  3. Tom, this story did kinda just appear out of nowhere. Nobody knew the answers to your questions when this issue was published (except for the part one question, which Paul nicely answered.)
    Unfortunately, it will get more confusing before things start to get cleared up.

  4. As much as I was excited that the "original" Legion was back, and as great as their group pic is...between the differences in costume and excluded members, it did seem less like the real Legion and more Johns' fan-fictionish dream line-up.

  5. Missing Chemical King although we have the other dead Legionnaires (Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid I and Karate Kid). Also we have Polar Boy and Sensor Girl but no Magnetic Kid, Tellus or Quislet!