Sunday, March 20, 2016

5YL: Legionnaires Annual #1

Legionnaires Annual #1 (1994)
title: "Castles in the Air"
writers: Mark Waid, Ty Templeton
pencillers: Paul Pelletier, Jeff Moy
inkers: Mark Farmer, John Lowe, Wade von Grawbadger, Ron Boyd
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Mike McAvennie
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Paul Pelletier
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
(Elseworlds) Alchemist, Brainiac 5, Chameleon, Cosmic Boy, Dragonmage, Ferro, Inferno, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, Leviathan, Live Wire, Matter-Eater Lad, Polar Boy, Projectra, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Triad, Ultra Boy

(Elseworlds) Graym Ranzz (presumably), R.J. Brande

(Elseworlds) Dark Circle, Lightning Lord, Mordru, Nemesis Kid

In a version of the 30th Century that mirrors Arthurian legend, kingmaker R.J. Brande recruits young Rokk Krinn to draw the legendary Nth Metal out of molten Thanagar. Five years later, it's become the basis for Avalon, a new era of galactic peace bringing together various planets against a common foe, the Dark Circle. On the space-station called Avalon, where powerful Legionnaires from those many worlds keep that peace, a young man who should have been one of their own, Garth Ranzz, interrupts the wedding of Krinn and the telepathic Imra Ardeen to prevent his evil brother, the Circle's assassin Mekt Ranzz, from killing the newlyweds. After a telepathic scan that makes the new Mrs. Krinn fall in love with him, Garth is inducted into the Legion, while the traitor who let Mekt in, Hart Druiter, is executed by Jan Arrah.
During the intervening years, Brande dies, but the Legion continues his dream. Unbeknownst to Rokk, Imra and Garth have begun an affair, which they carry on in virtual reality. After some Legionnaires are killed by Circle sabotage, the others become obsessed with finding the fabled Miracle Machine, with which they hope to wish the Circle away. Their quest takes them to Sorcerers' World where the magician Mordru is said to have it.
Meanwhile, Mekt returns to Avalon to recruit his brother, but Garth will have none of it. He and Imra nevertheless let him go and they are branded as traitors by the rest of the Legion. Garth escapes and eventually returns to save Imra from execution... to Rokk's relief. But then the Dark Circle attacks in force. Unfortunately, Mordru destroyed the Miracle Machine long ago, and merely magics the Legionnaires back to Avalon. They help turn the tide, though Imra has already killed Mekt by stabbing him in the back. Rokk dies from his wounds, but gives her and Garth his blessing, and together they rule over the bright new future they've forged.
Sporting clean, pretty art the likes of which will become the standard after the soon-to-come Reboot, this Elseworlds tale has all the optimism of a classic Legion story, despite the death and destruction befalling the heroes. And Camelot IS a good variant on the Legion story, which they achieve without necessarily resorting to putting everyone in armor (just Ferro, really, and that makes sense). The Arthurian tropes are there, but don't overwhelm the story, with no clear Merlin or Morgaine figures, at least not in their proper roles, the Legion ring showing up a bit like Excalibur does, and Lancelot having the evil brother, not Arthur. The Miracle Machine as the Holy Grail is a fine idea too, one that actually winks at Legion continuity (Mark Waid is definitely at the helm) without slavishly following it.

A success, then, though I do have some caveats. As you can see from the credits, the issue does suffer from too many artists and thus a lack of consistency, especially in later pages. The mission to Sorcerers' World, while easy to imagine in the more fantastical setting, is a somewhat pointless runaround. And the VR sex scenes were... posed in such a way as to not incur the wrath of the Comics Code Authority. But geez. A bit too much of that, especially since the VR technology doesn't really figure again in the book.
Science Police Notes:  
  • Part of DC's theme for its 1994 Annuals, sporting the Elseworlds banner like the rest. It does not contain any in-continuity elements.
  • The Nth metal that changes the balance of power in this universe is the one that allows Hawkman to fly in standard continuity.
  • The Legion's "holy grail", the Miracle Machine, first appeared in Adventure Comics #367, where it was actually used to repel a Dark Circle invasion as the Legionnaires want to do here.
  • Hart Druiter, AKA Nemesis Kid, betrayed the Legion as one of their own in the original continuity too. It happened in Adventure Comics #347.


  1. This is ultimately a filler book, but whenever somebody tries to do the Legion founders as a love triangle it makes me flinch. I just wish the idea would stay buried and never seen again.

  2. I think this was the first time I ever thought of Saturn Girl possibly loving Cosmic Boy, and I agree with RicG, it's not that great of an idea.
    Now if we ever got a story where it's Garth who can't choose between Imra and Rokk, THAT would be a new twist!