Friday, February 19, 2016

Threeboot: Legion of Super-Heroes #5

Recap: The 30th century is a place of complete calm and peace, of sterile security. Shaking the dust off of this stifling peace is the Legion of Super-Heroes - young, super-powered progressives with a growing number of followers on numerous worlds. The governments and Science Police aren't big fans but they also recognize the value of a super-powered attack force. While the Legion potentially might disturb this peace, there is an actual threat on the horizon. Dream Girl has foreseen an intergalactic war about to happen. Already United Planet rim worlds appear to be under attack. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #5 continued the unveiling of a new Legion universe under the care of writer Mark Waid and artist Barry Kitson. The first four issues of the title were wonderfully paced by Waid. We not only got a very good understanding of the political ennui of the United Planets, we also were slowly introduced to the new Legion. Waid both gave us snippets of Legion history as well as focusing on one Legionnaire each issue. Waid also set this interstellar war in motion, dropping clues and letting that plot simmer a bit.

This issue was a much more straight forward Legion issue. Perhaps Waid felt that after 4 issues, readers were ready to just accept this new place. Or maybe he felt he had laid enough of a foundation down for fans both new and old to understand the new universe. While it is true we are still meeting members of the team, this was the first issue were there isn't a sort of breakaway star. We are following several Legionnaires this time - Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Brin Londo. We also get a better understanding of the tenuous alliance between the SciPo and the LSH.

But most importantly, the prophecy of an upcoming war becomes reality. We see an attack. We meet some of the enemy. And we see the Legion, seemingly fractured a bit internally as a team, seem to galvanize. Solid stuff.
The issue starts with a few pages that really reiterate the sort of political climate that the Legion is currently acting in.

The first page has a spy for the Science Police wandering through the camp of 'Legionnaires', young people squatting outside the Legion headquarters. This is a movement with some political clout, a feeling of enthusiasm and change that is refreshing to some and concerning to others.

What I like about this opening page is that we see this spy gets caught up in the spirit of the crowd. He went in thinking they were simple rabble-rousers. But he has come to like them and what they espouse, what they entail.

It is a shame that his ongoing monologue isn't heard. Brainiac 5 has a dampening field up, blocking all transmissions.
Meanwhile, the head of the Science Police is meeting with delegates of the United Planets. We learn that the UP is a relatively young organization. They need stability. The Science Police feel that the very tenets of the Legion promote instability and unrest. They want the Legion shut down. (I do have to say 81K isn't even a major voting block in the US, let alone across a galaxy. I wish Waid had upped the number.

The UP meanwhile feel that they can court the Legion and their followers. The team is good public relations.

One thing I thought was a very good wrinkle for Waid to put in is that many of the Legionnaires are the sons and daughters of these delegates. I guess politics run in the family.

With the tension between the Legion, the UP, and the Science Police reviewed, Waid spends the bulk of the issue on the rimworld we heard Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl were on.

Rimworld 19 has been overrun. The cities are in ruins. The population huddled in the wreckage. And Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl know that this mission is far from over.

They look at the group and try to put together some sort of a mission team. This is where that belief in the Legion credo is a huge benefit. There are young people here, Legionnaires in spirit, who jump at the chance to help. They even mention the skills they have inherently to see of they can be of use - acid touch, superspeed, and others.

This is a young, brash, charismatic Lightning Lad. He isn't immature. He isn't worried. He seems like the best of many of the prior incarnations.

Saturn Girl picks up a thought presence nearby. Lightning Lad and the young speedster go to investigate.

There they find Brin Londo. Now we know who was in the shadows with Brainiac 5 last issue, the one he was going to transport to the Rimworld to help. He is strong and brusque and all business. We don't see the feral Brin we might be more used to.

But Waid does a great job giving us some Legion lore even in this new version. He calls himself a Lone Wolf, what Brin called himself before he became Timber Wolf. And he had a relationship with Ayla, before one of them dumped the other. Again, this is Waid walking that fine line between old and new.

Back at the encampment, Brin learns that Saturn Girl has been dampening the worry the survivors have been feeling, replacing it with confidence in the Legion. But it is pretty clear that the three Legionnaires realize that their chances of surviving this mission are slim. Shouldn't these civilians know this?

It raises a very good question about Imra and what she is doing. Is this any different than the Naltorians blocking the truth of the upcoming war from their youth a few issues ago? Is this right? Or a violation?

The relative calm is broken up when a group of villains show up, the cleverly named Terror Firma. There seem to be some elemental like powers in the group. The leader Elysion has Earth powers, akin to Geoforce. One controls wind. Another water. But mixed in the group are telepaths, strong enough to dampen Saturn Girl's powers so she can't harm them.

It is clear these guys mean business and have a sort of sadistic streak to them.

Brin, Garth, and Imra do their best to sortie with this group and protect the civilians. But this isn't going to be easy. Once again, Garth chastises Imra for keeping everyone calm. Fear might lead to survival. Someone might use that fear to escape.

But Imra is pretty sure in what she is doing. She won't allow panic to set in. She believes that this forced calm will save more.

In some ways, Waid can use this to give us an idea of Imra's power. She is doing this without breaking a sweat. But it also shows that she might be a bit more intrusive with her powers than other Saturn Girls we have known.
When Elysion begins killing innocents, Garth decides the time has come to surrender. He appears to be giving up.

In reality, it is a ruse to bring Elysion and other members of Terror Firma closer. When within his radius of effect, Garth unleashed his lightning power. This is the first time we really see Garth use his powers in this comic and it is spectacular. This is a massive display. I love that Kitson makes him appear to be all lightning, an effect Giffen used in the heyday of this book.

With Elysion knocked out, the rest of Firma become shaken. This includes their telepaths. With their dampening fields down, Imra makes two go catatonic. Brin begins hammering away on the larger member. Terror Firma needs to retreat. The water based woman floods the area while they open up a portal.

It seems that the Legion have won the day.

But Brin is a true Lone Wolf. He is on a mission for Brainiac 5 to learn more about their opponents. He jumps through the teleportation panel Terror Firma has escaped through.

This Lone Wolf is pretty slick. He doesn't seem to have the hot-headed nature of the other young Timber Wolf we know. Dressed in his trench coat, doling out physical punishment, and brave beyond words, this is a Brin I can be a fan of.

Again, brilliant of Waid to update this character but keep enough of the old to make him recognizable.

The problem with these attacks on the UP Rimworlds is that they are scaring off new planets from joining. Others are talking about receding. Without a strong base, the UP will be vulnerable. But independent worlds will be even more insecure. Even Cos and Brainy, usually in disagreement, can see the folly in that.

Overall this was another good issue for this Threeboot. After four issues of laying the foundation, Waid pushes the plot forward. We shift into the next gear. There is action now, and progress. We have still only met some of the team ... but we are heading into war. We see more members and see what this team is capable soon enough.

Kitson meanwhile brings a sort of clean style to the proceedings. Even the battle sequences seem polished. The issue is beautiful to just look at.

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