Sunday, March 6, 2016

5YL: Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #5

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #5 (1994)
title: "The Long Road Home"
writer: Tom McCraw
pencillers: Stuart Immonen, Curt Swan, Ron Boyd, Mark Farmer, Wade von Grawbadger, Craig Hamilton, Jeff Moy, Ted McKeever, Colleen Doran
inkers: José Marzan Jr., Ron Boyd, Mark Farmer, Wade von Grawbadger, John Lowe, Ted McKeever, Robert Campanella, Karl Story, Colleen Doran
lettering: Bob Pinaha
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Stuart Immonen, Karl Story
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
(Non-Elseworlds) Ayla Ranzz, Brainiac 5, Vi, White Witch, Wildfire
(Elseworlds) 5 (Brainiac 5), Ayla Ranzz, Blok, Dreamy (Dream Girl), ERG (Wildfire), Furball (Timber Wolf), Princess Laurel (Andromeda), Shrinking Violet, Tellus, Valor, White Witch


(Elseworlds) Gandians (Daxamites), Garth Ranzz, Imskians, Mekt Ranzz


(Elseworlds) Blobs (Durlans? Proteans?), Polar King (Polar Boy), Shadowkin (Shadow Kid and Shadow Lass), Starfinger (brother and sister, the later based on Glorith), Sun Baron (Sun Boy), Wind Riders (people of Starhaven)
Vol.4's fifth Annual came out in April of 1994, between issues 57 and 58 of the main series. Previously, the Legion had adopted new codenames and a new life as outlaws, branded as traitors by the UP. Very recently, Ayla Ranzz was de-aged by Glorith and her lover Vi is forced to become more of a mother to her.

Ayla Ranzz has been turned into a child and is naturally freaking out. To help her sleep, Vi reads her a children's book called "The Long Road Home", a version of "The Wizard of Oz" filled with analogs of Legion characters.
Essentially, it's the story of young Ayla who is accidentally transported to a magical world via Time Bubble, crushing the evil Starfinger upon arrival, and being sent to find Prince Valor for help by the good White Witch, who gifts her with magical artifacts. Following a road on which stargates are built that allow Ayla to move between realms, the girl encounters various companions - the tiny Violet, 5 who thinks he's stupid but wants to be a genius, ERG the piecemeal robot, and Furball the less-than-fearsome lion - allies - Tellus the sea serpent, Blok the kindly stone man, and Princess Laurel - and foes - the fighting imps Polar King and Sun Baron, the winged warriors of Starhaven, Shadowkin who would turn them into shadows, and blobs in the service of Starfinger's sister.
When Ayla reaches Gandia, she discovers all the people have been turned into children by this Starfinger, and that Prince Valor has never returned from his mission to stop her. The evil witch demands Ayla and her artifacts be brought to her, so her friends disguise themselves as Gandian guards to help fight her. It doesn't work and they are captured and turned into toys, but Ayla challenges Starfinger alone and the latter falls into a furnace and is killed. After Ayla resurrects her friends with the male Starfinger's ring, they find an equally transformed Prince Valor and restore the Gandia to normal. After which Ayla returns home now all grown up.
Full disclosure: I was a big fan of Elseworlds stories, and was very excited at the time that DC was going to turns its 1994 Annuals into Elseworlds. After all, Batman and Superman really got most of the love when it came to such projects, so this allowed other characters to get the treatment for the first time (and sometimes, the last as well). The Legion would end up getting two through these Annuals, and Superboy's Legion in 2001. The thing with the Legion is that it's already a fantastical, other world. So the Annuals decided to turn SF into fantasy and play with the larger universe idea. In this case, it's the United Planets as Oz.

And so various Legion characters are transformed into characters from The Wizard of Oz, but the original story isn't strictly adhered to either. Instead of a Wizard hiding behind a curtain, it's a Prince whose place was usurped by an evil witch-queen, mirroring events in the series at the time between Glorith and Valor and the Daxamites.
Because one of the things this Annual does that very few Elseworlds did is keep its story grounded in normal continuity. It is TOLD in continuity, and so can be allowed to comment on what was happening in the book at the time. Ayla growing up through the story is wish fulfillment for the real, recently de-aged Ayla, for example, and Glorith's role as villain is central to the catharsis Vi is trying to achieve. Obviously, it's ludicrous that a book from her childhood would have clearly Legion-centric elements, but I could imagine a form of future literature that edited itself to integrate elements from the reader's life. We already have on-demand children's books that use the name of your child.
Cleverly done, and this time, having to use different artists to complete the project (the bane of the Legion stable at this time) is used as a strength, with different artists handling different realms. McKeever does a creepier land, for example, while Von Grawbadger creates a more storybook feel. Curt Swan handles Winath/Kansas, but then turns up again in the Starhaven bit, which seems a mistake. Speaking of mistakes, the book kind of runs out of time at the end, and we go from the Prince unsure he can send Ayla home, to the real world, and Vi skipping pages to tell us she has. Maybe we didn't need quite so much "coming next in the pages of LSH" material at the end; I would have liked a proper ending to the actual story.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Part of DC's theme for its 1994 Annuals, sporting the Elseworlds banner like the rest, but unusual in that it still contains in-continuity elements.
  • Invisible Kid does not appear in the story, but the group does visit a realm where everything but the road is invisible.
  • When Ayla's friends have been turned into toys, (Brainiac) 5 has evidently been transformed into a Rubik's Cube, and ERG into a toy Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet/Lost in Space.
  • The part of Toto in the story is essentially played by a doll that's meant to be Dream Girl.

This is the first Legion Elseworlds story ever published.

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