Saturday, March 5, 2016

5YL: Legionnaires #14

Legionnaires #14 (May 1994)
title: "Grim Reality"
writers: Tom & Mary Bierbaum
penciller: Chris Gardner
inkers: Dennis Cramer
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Adam Hughes
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Alchemist, Andromeda, Chameleon, Computo II, Cosmic Boy (SW6), Dragonmage, Inferno, Invisible Kid (SW6), Kid Quantum, Leviathan, Live Wire, Matter Eater Lad (SW6), Saturn Girl (SW6), Shrinking Violet (SW6), Triad, Ultra Boy (SW6)

Kono, Science Police, Dominator victim, wounded boy

Grimbor, Lothar St. Maixent, Parisian separatists, Sklarian Raiders, a monster

Previously... A sex-changed Matter-Eater Lad and Kono have infiltrated a Sklarian piracy ring in order to stop their raids on food shipments going to New Earth. Tenzil was almost immediately found out. In Acapulco Dome, Cosmic Boy is recovering from injuries doled out accidentally by Live Wire, leading to the latter's break-up with Saturn Girl. Meanwhile, another injured boy has projected a strange vortex which some Legionnaires have been trapped in. In Paris Dome, Lothar St. Maixent's separatists, led by security minister Grimbor, have fought and captured another group of Legionnaires who were trying to restore order in the wake of mob violence against non-humans (like a young Dominator girl with teleportation powers) filling the city's streets.

In Paris Dome, Grimbor is outraged that the Legionnaires would challenge the duly-elected St. Maxaint regime and as penalty, wraps them in chains that use their own powers to slowly kill them. The Dominator girl the Legion saved watches from the bushes and tries to help, so Grimbor starts whipping her with chains, which gives Triad's other, unseen bodies a chance to disable the chains and go on the offensive. The Dominator girl lands the last blow, teleporting Grimbor himself to Leviathan's hand. Then Lothar St. Maixent comes out of the presidential palace, as outraged as Grimbor was, and confident that the Legion has no proof of any wrong-doing.
Meanwhile, aboard the Sklarian pirate vessel Lady of the Stars, Matter-Eater Lad is being examined and is found to be a man with dyed skin and the gender-reversal virus. He will either be shot or sold into slavery, so Kono finally intervenes, allowing him to bite through his bonds and escape. In the ensuing chaos, she transmits a message to Computo, Violet and Dragonmage waiting nearby. They intercept and board the pirate ship and defeat the raiders. They too are adamant the Legion won't find proof that they are stealing grain bound for New Earth, but Violet discovers Imskian technology that is holding the stolen grain at atomic size.
The pirate commander breaks down and reveals the stolen food was bound for Paris Dome, which gives the Legion more than enough reason to arrest St. Maixent and call for new elections, even after Grimbor confesses that he made these arrangements without the Duke's knowledge. It's the Legion's hope that Parisians won't make the same choices given the violence in their streets since he came to power.

Inferno congratulates the Dominator girl, an abandoned experiment by her people, and helps her find a place to stay while she trains to perhaps one day join the Legion. The Sklarians are jailed with a still-transformed Matter-Eater Lad, who bores them with his Legion stories, while Computo and Kono share a laugh about the outcome.

In Acapulco Dome, Cosmic Boy is sent home to recuperate and Saturn Girl heads to the site of the vortex that has ensnared her friends. Live Wire won't leave her alone, trying to patch things up, and forces himself on the group that will attempt to enter the vortex, mind-linked through Saturn Girl to hopefully fight off its psychic effects, to rescue the lost Legionnaires. As soon as they enter though, they are grabbed by a tentacle monster.
Another good cover (I was especially happy to catch Invisible Kid in the logo) hides pretty dismal interior art, though I won't dispute its dynamism. At its best, the close-ups look like Pat Broderick renders. But at its worst, the faces are ugly and off-model, the action is cluttered and unclear, and the hair is 90s EXTREEEEEME! And if you didn't know you were reading a 90s comic yet, Lothat St. Maixent's look would have screamed it at you:
As a story, this come together much better. The Paris and Sklarian threads turn out to be related, which is satisfying, and in usual Bierbaum fashion, the "least" of the Legion's power sets win the day, whether that's Triad's bodies being overlooked, or Violet shrinking down to find the missing grain. All sorts of different powers and the attitudes behind them are showcased, as in the better Legion stories.

It's interesting that Grimbor seems motivated by the trauma inflicted on Earth by the Dominators. It fuels his xenophobia, and his alliance with human supremacist St. Maixent (whose name I positively despise, as it's some kind of cod French that's as 90s  EXTREEEEME as the rest of him. The politics of the story oppose the Legion's inclusive ideals (like Trek's IDIC) to the villains' fascist isolationism, but does put into question their jurisdictional mandate. Can they, in fact, depose an elected leader? And in broader terms, if New Earth can't survive without each member city in on the process and sharing resources, is St. Maixent's regime viable? In other words, in a time of crisis like this one, does the rule of law even apply? And what does that mean for humanity, going forward? So I'm a fan of the world building that's going on, but I may just have explored it more than the script did. It makes sense for the teen Legionnaires to see things in simpler terms, but what if Grimbor HADN'T been in cahoots with the Sklarians? What then? That would have been a much more adult dilemma.
As for the rest of the threads, I've said before how tired I am of the Saturn Girl-Live Wire relationship blues, so this issue drew a few more groans from me. The Acapulco stuff is finally moving, and at least Imra and Garth's problems do feature in a meaningful way (can they mentally unite with everything that divides them?). The Matter-Eater Lad joke at the end is a bit lame though. If I were a Sklarian in the same cell he was, I don't think he'd still be talking.

And finally, I don't think the writers knew Zero Hour was coming and would undo all their work, because between the Dominator girl and the wounded boy with the psychic vortex thrown up around him, it looks like they were preparing to add a few members to the team. At least in the long run. Except the series wouldn't run much longer...
Science Police Notes:  
  • Brainiac 5 appears on the cover, but not in the book's interior.
  • The Dominator girl is never named. Dominators do not have names, of course.

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