Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #45

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #45 (April, 1988)
title: "Unlucky Streak"
writer: Paul Levitz
pencillers: Greg LaRocque, Kurt Schaffenberger, Curt Swan, Dave Cockrum, Mike Grell, Keith Giffen
inkers: Mike DeCarlo, Dick Giordano
ink assist: Arne Starr
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Ken Steacy
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
All of the Legionnaires appear, with sizable amount of stage time devoted to Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, Mon-El, Superboy, Wildfire, Polar Boy, Dream Girl, Brainiac 5, Sensor Girl, and Shadow Lass

Guests: 
Labyrinth Warden Tsaquin, SP Officer Erin, Atmos, Graym and Validus Ranzz

Opponents: 
The Luck Lords, Lightning Lord


Synopsis: 
On Ventura, three remaining Luck Lords are holding a ceremony on Mount Ziggurat. There is a cosmic convergence approaching. They believe that if Lightning Lad is killed by that time, a new era in the universe will begin where chance and chaos rule instead of science and logic. Therefore they have decided to nudge Lightning Lord (Mekt Ranzz) into actually murdering his younger brother, Garth.
On the prison planet Labyrinth, Lightning Lord is undergoing a psychological review. He still has his intense hatred for his brother, and that it seems incurable. Suddenly, due to the Luck Lords' machinations, a string of bad luck enables Lightning Lord to escape from the prison.
On Ventura, the Luck Lords decide to review Lightning Lad's history as they wait for Lightning Lord to make his way to Earth. Their first scene is when Mekt, Garth, and their sister Ayla gained their lightning powers. The Luck Lords had felt the importance of Garth Ranzz even then and had tried to murder him before his career could begin. Unfortunately, their plotting was what caused the ship carrying them to crash-land on Korbal in the first place. So the three siblings getting attacked by the Lightning Beasts was the Luck Lords' fault. They regretted their interference.
art by Kurt Schaffenberger & Mike DeCarlo
Then, the Luck Lords did nothing to avert the sacrifice of Lightning Lad to save Saturn Girl when she faced Zaryan the Conqueror. They did nothing again when a few months later Proty II sacrificed its life essence to revive him. So then they regretted their non-intervention.
art by Curt Swan and Mike DeCarlo
A few years later, after Lightning Lord escaped from prison, Lighting Lad went after his brother again. When they met at the space port Stopover, Lighting Lord threatened to kill his younger brother, but found that he couldn't.
art by Dave Cockrum
Later, Lighting Lad married Saturn Girl.  They were on their honeymoon when the Dark Circle attacked Earth. Although they had no specific duty to respond, as they were retired Legionnaires at that time, they felt a moral compulsion to join the resistance. Still, they managed to survive.
art by Mike Grell and Dick Giordano
After their sons were born, Saturn Girl rejoined the Legion but Lighting Lad did not. He was happy to be a stay-at-home father to Graym and Validus.
art by Keith Giffen
On Earth, Lightning Lord arrives, and due to the interference of the Luck Lords, he has arrived without any warning having reached the Legion that he was coming. Mekt attacks Garth as he is with his wife and best friend. Mekt quickly uses stolen Science Police devices to capture Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy, making this another one-on-one battle. Mekt has programmed the devices to absorb any lightning that Garth may throw at him, meaning that Lighting Lad can not fight back as Lightning Lord blasts him. Instead Garth endures Mekt's blasts and taunting until he is close enough to his brother to blast him without risking hitting his loved ones. Lightning Lad blasts his older brother so powerfully, in fact, that he knocks them both out.
yellow beats blue? 
The convergence that would have altered the universe if Garth had been killed passes. The next convergence will not be until the next century, so the Luck Lords no longer care if Lightning Lad lives or dies.

In other news, the Legion meets to discuss Atmos' request for membership. Wildfire reports to Polar Boy and the Founders on his findings, not recommending him. Meanwhile, Atmos barges into Dream Girl's chamber uninvited.

Ultra Boy's team has returned from their mission to find the Wanderers, with no specific results mentioned.

Saturn Girl and Sensor Girl are both concerned that Brainiac 5 is working too hard. Shadow Lass thinks that he and Mon-El are both obsessing on revenge.


Commentary: 
This issue has a lot going for it, but still manages to seem like something of a failure. First of all, it boasts a beautiful painted cover by Ken Steacy. Inside, it features art by comics legends Dave Cockrum, Mike Grell, Keith Giffen, Curt Swan, and Kurt Schaffenberger. And yet....because the story is a mish-mash of past, present, and future tied together by a nebulous "cosmic convergence" it just doesn't seem to want to hold together.

For example, we are introduced to brand new Luck Lords (not the characters who appeared in Adventure Comics #343) whose motivations are never clearly explained. Are they cosmic gamblers? They appear to wager on events, but not to the extent of a "Gamesters of Triskelion" (ST:TOS) type Provider. Nor are they really like Marvel Comics' Grand Master. We get no proof other than their word that Lightning Lad's death would alter the entire universe. So without a deep emotional hook to hang this plot, the issue is little more than a review of Lightning Lad's past.

Which is a shame, because this story SHOULD have been about Garth and Mekt Ranzz. Their complicated emotional relationship is not played up at all; in fact, it is only mentioned in passing. Does Mekt really love his brother, even though he is jealous and covetous of what Garth has? Similarly, does Garth really love his brother, even though Mekt is obviously insane? For a better example of sibling confrontations in comics I would cite either the Aquaman mini-series #4 by Neil Pozner & Craig Hamilton, or even Lightning Lass vs. Lightning Lord by Paul Levitz & Steve Lightle in LSH (v3) #3 & 5. As it is presented here it just seems so....emotionally pedestrian.

As for the art, Grell, Giffen, and Cockrum look fantastic. Kurt Schaffenberger gets the worst of it, his style being all but hidden behind inker Mike DeCarlo's heavy heavy inking. The first time I read it I didn't even realize it WAS Schaffenberger! Curt Swan's chapter looks a little better, but, seriously, Mike DeCarlo is not a subtle artist, is he? Mike Grell inked by Dick Giordano looks much nicer.

As for the supporting plots, you know Atmos is irritating if Wildfire thinks he's irritating. And his imminent rape of Dream Girl is very, very upsetting. The sub-plot with Brainiac 5 and Mon-El is not very clear. I can't help but think back to Writing 101: show, don't tell. Where IS Mon-El? Why can't we see that he is unhappy, instead of having to take Shadow Lass' word for it?

And lastly, that two-page anniversary spread of the Legion simply standing there doing nothing is the perfect example of what is wrong with the Legion now.
Exhibit A

Science Police Notes:  
  • Lightning Lord is shown on Labyrinth in his uniform instead of in a prison uniform. 
  • The confrontation on Stopover is the only "new" scene in the review of Lightning Lad's history. Given the uniform Lightning Lad is wearing, this scene must take place sometime between Superboy/Legion #197 (where he first wore his current uniform) and S/LSH #208 (the return of the Legion of Super-Villains, and Mekt's second capture). 
  • The "cosmic convergence" that the Luck Lords are hoping to take advantage of is oddly similar to the planetary alignment plot of Disney's Hercules (1997), including quick cut-away scenes to show that the stars are getting closer and closer to alignment. 
Status: 
This story has not yet been reprinted.  

Milestone: 
This issue represents the 30th Anniversary celebration of the Legion, as they first appeared in Adventure Comics #247, cover-dated April, 1958.
As of this writing, this issue boasts the last time Mike Grell illustrated the Legion. 

2 comments:

  1. In the interview with Mike Grell in The Legion Companion he says that part of the reason that he returned for this issue was for the chance to be inked by Dick Giordano again. I think that explains what Giordano did.

    Damien

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    1. You are correct! I have revised my comments. Thanks for the information!

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