Sunday, January 10, 2016

5YL: Legionnaires #4

Legionnaires #4 (July, 1992)
title: "If Looks Could Kill"
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
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Alchemist, Andromeda, Catspaw, Chameleon, Computo II, Cosmic Boy (SW6), Dragonmage, Ferro, Gossamer, Inferno, Invisible Kid (SW6), Live Wire, Matter-Eater Lad (SW6), Saturn Girl (SW6), Ultra Boy (SW6)

"Martian Mauler"

Emerald Empress (Ingria Olav), Emerald Empress (Cera Kesh), Leland McCauley, Magpie, Mano, Mordecai, Persuader, Tharok

Follows directly from previous issue, in which... The Legionnaires have discovered and fought a genetic monstrosity called Mordecai in the service tunnels beneath New Earth, combat only ending when the creature seemingly disappeared. Cera Kesh, a humiliated Legion reject, has been found by the Emerald Eye of Ekron and transformed into a new Emerald Empress. Leland McCauley's machinations have meanwhile freed the Persuader, but Mano is still in prison.

While the new Emerald Empress, Cera Kesh, revels in her new powers, back at Legion HQ, Live Wire gets into a scuffle with Invisible Kid over how laser-blade buddies Garth and Inferno treated the poor girl during the try-outs. When Saturn Girl has to intervene, the whole incident leaves her with a bad taste in her mouth and deep doubts as to her relationship with Garth.

To defuse the situation, Ferro suggests they meet up with Ultra Boy and go see some of his exciting hang-outs in the rougher parts of town. They head to a dive bar called Puragatory where Inferno almost gets into a game of pool with an alien gangbanger who plays for fingers. Looking for another partner, the boys meet a dead sexy green-haired girl, but they of course don't realize she is the very person they humiliated earlier, Cera Kesh! While they play, she uses her new magics to fatten up and shame Inferno.

But Live Wire stops her and a brawl ensues, during which Saturn Girl and Alchemist arrive, and Ultra Boy temporarily destroys the Eye of Ekron, releasing Cera Kesh from its thrall. But it regenerates and reasserts itself before Imra can do anything to help Cera, and she escapes the inertron trap of a too-careful Alchemist. Saturn Girl is so relieved that Live Wire is okay that she reaffirms her love for him.

Meanwhile, Persuader breaks Mano out of prison, covering their escape with a general prison break-out and riot the Legionnaires - including a Chameleon that's hard up for action - have to stay and quell. The two former members of the Fatal Five then meet up with Leland McCauley, Mordecai, and yet another Emerald Empress (introduced as Ingria Olav), who show them their old leader Tharok in regeneration fluid.

Maybe we've caught up with Chris Sprouse's lead time drawing the series because this is the first issue I've found his art rushed. There are several instances of characters out of scale with each other or their surroundings, and continuity mistakes like Catspaw tearing into the Persuader's jacket on one page, then looking intact on another. It's still fun and dynamic, but noticeably weaker than the previous three issues'.

The writing is also the weakest we've seen, though the problems are mostly with the dialog of the Live Wire-Invisible Kid conflict, which makes Garth and Inferno perhaps TOO immature, Saturn Girl TOO self-satisfied at Invisible Kid's holier-than-thou attitude. It's one thing to write the Legionnaires as teenagers, quite another to make them participate in school yard fights. Never mind the fact that the scene repeated a point already sufficiently made about Cera Kesh's treatment, even in this very issue. Other Legionnaires play better in the scene, like Ferro wanting to solve the problem without resorting to more antagonism, and Andromeda brushing off Inferno's callow comments, invulnerable in ego as much as in body.

All signs point to Inferno and Live Wire needing to learn a lesson, and it's not clear they do, which is a disappointment. It's clear, as soon as they get to Purgatory (a good name for them to purge their sins away), that they are nowhere near the badasses Ferro and Ultra Boy are, and if Inferno gets a taste of Cera's weight problem, the action is interrupted before he has to live with it. And though Saturn Girl had put her relationship with Live Wire in question before, that's all been dispelled by the end of the fight, also aborting any possibility of this second Imra following her heart to a different fate. With the SW6 Legion, they have the chance to rewrite history considerably, but seem skittish to do so.

With the prison break-out, we're well on our way to getting a reformed Fatal Five, though one wonders how there can be two Emerald Empresses (long before 52, the idea that there should naturally be TWO Eyes of Ekron is strangely mind-blowing), though I'm less invested in Tharok's reappearance given I don't actually remember the story where he was killed. The Dark Man was his clone, wasn't it? So more cloning? The Fatal Five sequences do feature Chameleon chomping at the bit to get onto an away team, which is a lovely way to continue his subplot. He's the one who named himself camp councilor, but really, Cosmic Boy should really be using him as more than an adviser given his experience and powers.

Plenty of action in this issue, so the story doesn't feel like it's moving too slowly, something you often get when teams (hero or villain) are re-forming.

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.
  • The prison break-out gives one-hit wonder Magpie a line. This thief broke into Legion HQ way back in Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #320.
  • Ingria Olav is introduced as a new Emerald Empress, her first appearance with the Eye in Legionnaires #2 just ahead of Cera Kesh's.
  • Artist Chris Sprouse drew Legion writer/artist Keith Giffen as a server in the Purgatory bar.
  • Tharok has not been seen since he was flung out of the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths #10, though he had been killed much earlier in Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #271.

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