Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #54

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #54 ("Winter" 1989)
title: "Strength in Numbers"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller/co-plotter: Keith Giffen
inker: Mike DeCarlo
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
asst editor: Art Young 
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Keith Giffen & Mike DeCarlo (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Polar Boy, Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Sensor Girl, Shadow Lass, Dawnstar, Element Lad, Sun Boy, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy, Timber Wolf,

Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy, SP Officer Shvaughn Erin; Visi-Lad, Shadow Kid, Nightwind, and various other Legion Academy students

Garak of the Glow, various Legion of Super Assassins (Lazon, Titania, Silver Slasher); the threat of the Emerald Empress

At Legion HQ, Polar Boy is upset that Blok is missing, bringing the total of off-duty Legionnaires to seven. Suddenly, he gets word that there is a full-scale escape attempt on the prison world Labyrinth. He coordinates with Warden Tsaquin and SP Chief Zendak to send Legionnaires to help stop it. He orders Ultra Boy, Wildfire, and Dawnstar as the first wave (they're the fastest), then several others in the second wave. In the end Garak of the Glow is successful in freeing the Emerald Empress, whereas 90% of the other prisoners are contained.
At the Legion Academy, Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy are testing Brainiac 5's force-field belt. In the "durability" test, they actually end up knocking down all of the observers, including SP Officer Erin and several Academy students. Duo Damsel refuses to take any more chances with her single life remaining, promising to return the belt to Brainiac 5.
In deep space, Shadow Lass doesn't know where else to take Mon-El to help cure him of his injuries.
On Earth, Sensor Girl returns from leave because she knows that Polar Boy needs her. However, she knows that the Emerald Empress will successfully escape from Labyrinth, and that the next time they meet will be the last. So she ends up not doing anything except accompany him while he is on monitor duty.

This issue is famous as the story that introduces the Legion's newest (and last) uniforms before the series ended. Besides that, it's merely a prelude to the return of the Emerald Empress. There isn't much else to it. The follow-up on Duo Damsel (does she still go by that name?) is nice to see, but I can't help but think that the whole episode could have been shown in one or two pages, not the four that it is given. Likewise, the scenes with Polar Boy and Sensor Girl are nice, but basically pointless. By the way, Projectra says she doesn't have Saturn Girl's or Dream Girl's abilities, yet she then basically reads Polar Boy's mind and also predicts that the Emerald Empress would escape. So....yeah. A little bit too convenient for my tastes.
One last word about Polar Boy. I can't help being angry at Paul Levitz for the way he is portrayed here. He seems unsure of himself (still) and more-than-willing to whine about how badly fate has been  treating him. It's a poor performance for the young man who held the Substitute Heroes together for so long.
Polar Boy's new uniform
As for the uniforms....well....I know some people like them, and in theory I am not against the idea of the Legion being more uniformly attired, yet....no. Take a quick look at Garak, Chief Zendak, Officer Erin, and Warden Tsaquin and what they are wearing. Now look at the Legionnaires. Keith Giffen hasn't actually standardized THEIR uniforms so much as he has standardized all the clothes that all of the uniformed characters are wearing.
Element Lad's new uniform
A few of the changes would have been cool. Dawnstar looks better. Ultra Boy with a jacket would have been a nice change. Phantom Girl, of what I can see here, looks good. But Polar Boy, Sun Boy, and Element Lad are basically all wearing the same clothes. It's just not that interesting. Timber Wolf with a fur boa? And why in the world would Chameleon Boy suddenly decide to wear a hood? Oh, because over in L.E.G.I.O.N. his ancestor has started wearing one? Come on, Giffen, this is lazy.
Shrinking Violet's new uniform
Chameleon Boy's new uniform

Timber Wolf's new uniform
Sun Boy's new uniform
Science Police Notes:  
  • Shrinking Violet is grabbed by a huge Dominator, who does not actually squeeze her to death when given the chance. Why he didn't take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kill a Legionnaire is never explained. 
  • The date listed on the cover for this issue is "Winter." LSH (v3) #53 (last issue) is listed as December 1988, but January 1989 does not appear for two more issues, i.e. LSH (v3) #56
This story has not yet been reprinted.  

This issue features the Legion's last "new look," as designed by Keith Giffen. Generally speaking, each character gets a new uniform that features a jacket, shoulder pads, and pockets.   


  1. I think this may have been the first instance of super heroes wearing the shoulder pads and pockets theme that Liefeld went berserk with a few years afterwards.

  2. I absolutely hated the new uniforms that Giffen designed. For me this is the worst artistic representation of the Legion ever. I was so thankful that the Legion was cancelled soon thereafter so I didn't have to see these uniforms anymore. In fact, I hardly ever reread these last few issues because the art is so bad. At least the Retroboot Legion starting in 2007 rebooted the Legion uniforms to something more fashionable and artistically appealing.

    1. I agree, they are ugly, they look middle aged, reminds me of Reaganomics. The Shoulder pad business suit look of the 80s. I expect Britannic to come back advocate tax cuts. Suddenly everyone in the 30th century decided they had to wear fie layers of clothing.

  3. I loved the new uniforms. One of the things I hated about the fact that the book ends in less than a year is that we lost the new look. Yes, some were better than others, but in general I really enjoyed the new aesthetic Giffen introduced here (and continued in the 5YL period).

  4. I think Duo Damsel started referring to herself as Una at this point.

    And yes, I hated the uniforms.

  5. These uniforms are kind of similar to what we got in the 5YL series.

    The uniforms we got for the SW6 Legion, which were used as well in the post-Zero Hour reboot I did like, though.

  6. One more note on the ugly costumes:Sun boy's old classic costume, the only one he ever had, survived from the Hamilton-Forte legion,traded in for a life vest.