Saturday, January 9, 2016

5YL: Legionnaires #3

Legionnaires #3 (June, 1992)
title: "The Beast Below"
writers: Tom & Mary Bierbaum
penciller: Chris Sprouse
inker: Karl Story
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Eddie Berganza
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Chris Sprouse & Karl Story
special thanks: Gaijin Studios
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Andromeda, Brainiac 5 (SW6), Chameleon, Cosmic Boy (SW6), Dragonmage, Gossamer, Inferno, Invisible Kid (SW6), Leviathan, Live Wire, Shrinking Violet (SW6)

Science Police

Emerald Empress (Ingria Olav), Emerald Empress (Cera Kesh), Mordecai, Persuader

Follows directly from previous issue, in which... Mano, formerly of the Fatal Five, has been apprehended by the Legionnaires for trying to destabilize New Earth through his street gang called The Hand. Legion try-outs were held impromptu, ending with some of the Legion boys humiliating Cera Kesh, a "dumpy" telekinetic. On Takron-Galtos II, holograms of Leland McCauley and the Emerald Empress liberate the Persuader's Atomic Axe. Leviathan and Gossamer go down to the sewers in search of missing engineers and are jumped by a rocky monster.

In the service tunnels under New Earth, Leviathan and Gossamer fight a large super-strong creature, but Leviathan needs to prove himself too much to use proper team work, and the encounter ends with him wounded and Gossamer taken. He'll get a deserved earful from Gossamer's brother Live Wire.
Meanwhile, Brainiac 5 has found records of the creature, the result of the Dominators' genetic experimentation, a being called Mordecai that as is as fast and agile as it is strong. Cosmic Boy assembles a team consisting of Andromeda, Live Wire, Dragonmage and Inferno, and sends it underground with Brainy to find and rescue Gossamer. Leviathan wants to join, but is in no condition to do so. The team soon encounters Mordecai and battle ensues.

Gossamer awakens to the far-off sounds of combat, caged with a poetic message written by the surprisingly thoughtful monster - it has fallen in love with her. Back at the clubhouse, Leviathan tricks Violet in order to escape her care and heads for the sewers where the battle isn't going too well. Gossamer escapes using her powers to get a key to float up to her. Leviathan finds his way to the fight and groggy, tries to engage Mordecai, but to no avail. As Brainiac 5 decides to use his experimental stasis field gun - a risky "last resort" - Gossamer flies in and intercedes on the monster's behalf and tries to calm it down. It doesn't work, and as Mordecai attempts to "Bane" Leviathan...
He disappears in a green flash of energy. The Legionnaires head off, carrying Leviathan, puzzled by these events. Elsewhere, the Atomic Axe cuts into the Persuader's cell wall and he is free. Back on New Earth, in the Melbourne dome, Cera Kesh, angry at the Legion, sulks in a public park where passersby recognize and mock her. As she vows to "show them all", the Emerald Eye of Ekron comes up behind her and bathes her in green energy. She is transformed into a dead ringer for the Emerald Empress!

Let me start off by saying that I'm enjoying how the Bierbaums are differentiating the Legionnaires' personalities (something Sprouse's art is quite good at too). It's perhaps less subtle than, say, Paul Levitz's work, but that subtlety has made many Legionnaires feel like ciphers who fall either in the "friendly" or "hot head" category and are hard to define. That's not a problem here. Cosmic Boy's maturity, Live Wire's anger, Leviathan's dangerous insecurity and machismo, Violet's sweet naivety ("oh gosh", she's so cute), Gossamer's confidence, Brainy's steel-minded focus, Dragonmage's rookie doubt, all come across quite well.
Ayla Ranzz continues to be one of my favorite Legionnaires, in any incarnation, showing that she's more than able to take care of herself despite having one of those "weak" powers. To her skill, add empathy, and the willingness to resolve a situation with words rather than violence. If it weren't for Leviathan's ego-driven mistakes, she might not have been abducted at all! Poor Gim, his character is really being assassinated here, but in the context of teenage superheroics, his behavior makes sense. I've known plenty of kids like this, who have something to prove and don't realize they're their own worst enemy. He's well drawn, but definitely the team's weak link. Obviously, Inferno has to get it wrong by admiring his guts. (Dragonmage is suffering from similar insecurity, but it manifests as too SMALL an ego; interesting to see Inferno act as his big brother here.)
As for the villains, it's now very clear the Fatal Five are reassembling, though not without some modifications to the roster. Cera Kesh follows in the proud tradition of Legion rejects going bad, though it's clear the Eye of Ekron is a powerful influence. Mordecai is meant to replace Validus, and certainly has more personality, kind of like King Kong with a poet's soul, though I do dislike the way he's been lettered as if his speech was made up of sound effects. It's interesting in theory, but your eye tends to gloss over SFX and you have to go back a few pages when you realize he was talking all along.

In short, another fun action'n'soap opera issue with good art and characterization.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The cover is part of a larger picture, connecting with those of issues 2 through 6 to form a complete image of the Legion fighting the Fatal Five.
  • At the back of the book are three pages of "A Guide to the 30th Century", featuring character profiles of Triad, Ultra Boy, and Valor. The latter is "lost in time" and has yet to appear in the series. Triad's profile makes clear that each of her bodies has a different personality, characterization that will be taken into the Reboot.
  • Cera Kesh becomes the new Emerald Empress.


  1. Love the art! For some reason, I never had the chance to read much about this particular era of the Legion, but one of these days I'll buy all the back issues from and I'm sure I'll have a lot of fun reading them. By the way, I just updated my blog with a post about the Legion:

    I would love to hear from you in the comments section..!

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