Thursday, July 14, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (V2) #288

Legion of Super-Heroes #288
“The Legionnaire’s Made for Burning”
JUNE 1982
The Great Darkness Saga Part Five
Written by Paul Levitz
Pencilled by Keith Giffen
Inked by Bruce Patterson
Colored by Carl Gafford
Laurie Sutton, Editor
Cover by Keith Giffen & Romeo Tanghal

Roll Call:
Blok, Brainiac 5, Chameleon  Boy, Colossal Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, and Yera.

This time out, in the fifth installment of the Great Darkness Saga, we drop the two stories per issue format that we've had in the last 3 installments and get a full length 25 page epic from Levitz, Giffen, and Co.!

The story opens in a dungeon on Orando, where Karate Kid and Princess Projectra are prisoners awaiting a fiery execution, following defeat at the hands of Projectra’s cousin Pharoxx (as seen in Legion of Super-Heroes #286).  Just before noon, armed guards come for them, and Karate Kid makes a valiant last stand, but after he defeats the guards, he is quickly overpowered by Pharoxx, who had been observing from the shadows. With their escape attempt dashed, they are once again chained and led into the arena to be burned at the stake.

Meanwhile back on Earth, while tinkering with the new monitoring system, Brainiac 5 notes that Dream Girl, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, and Ultra Boy have all arrived on Orando for their rescue mission. He reports this update at the ongoing Legion meeting, headed by new Legion Leader, Element Lad. Unfortunately Brainiac 5 has to also inform his fellow Legionnaires that there is still no sign of the group of Legionnaires, comprised of Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, and Timber Wolf, who were last seen fleeing Khundia. Naturally, this grim news weighs heavily on the cast of Legionnaires gathered for the meeting.

Back on Orando, Dream Girl, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, and Ultra Boy rendezvous and formulate their rescue mission.  As they do, Karate Kid and Princess Projectra face their executors, defiant to the end. The plot thickens when it becomes apparent that the true force behind Pharoxx’s lust for power is the old witch (and their grandmother) Hagga, who nurtured and trained both Projectra and Pharoxx in the mystic arts. Pharoxx reminds us that he’s nothing more than a violent ,brutish tyrant, as he begins striking the bound Projectra, prompting Mon-El to intervene. He and Ultra Boy make short work of the armed guards as Dream Girl sets to freeing Karate Kid and Projectra. Just as it seems things are going the Legion’s way for once, Hagga unleashes her full power, which proves to be too much for the Legionnaires to handle.

With all six of the Legionnaires now bound and facing the fires of execution, Dream Girl makes one last calculated move. She plays to Hagga’s ego, and bluffs, claiming she has more power than Hagga could possibly imagine. She uses her willpower channeled through her Legion Flight Ring to rise above the flames, free of Hagga’s mystic bonds, and then calls upon the forces at her disposal to blot out of the sun. Luckily Shadow Lass deduces her game, and creates a blanket of darkness to shroud the entire arena.

We then cut to a lonely, icy asteroid drifting in space, which finds itself the host of our five missing Legionnaires. They were luckily able to make an emergency crash landing after they popped out of warp speed with their navigation computer dysfunctional. The stress of their dire situation hits each Legionnaire differently, even resulting in a make-out session between Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet.

Back on Orando, Shadow Lass’s aid in Dream Girl’s bluff works perfectly as they serve up a 1-2 combination that Hagga can’t weather. They knock her unconscious, freeing her hold on the other Legionnaires. With Hagga out of the fight and six Legionaires on the loose, Pharoxx doesn’t stand a chance. Mon-El and Ultra Boy destroy his magical constructs, while Karate Kid takes him on in hand-to-hand combat, avenging his loss from a few issues prior. With Hagga and Pharoxx defeated, Princess Projectra is accepted by the citizens of Orando as their new Queen.

Karate Kid thanks his fellow Legionnaires for intervening and saving their lives, and then bids the four farewell, as he stays behind on Orando with his love Projectra, as she is crowned the new monarch of this ancient world.

The cover to this one is absolutely incredible! What an eye catching layout with fantastic execution! We see the six Legionnaires burning at the stake, as the tyrannical Pharoxx's face leers out of the flames! Great work by Giffen and Tanghal here!

Moving on to the story, Star Boy makes this pessimistic observation that Legion Headquarters is starting to look more like a funeral home, and man is he right! Morale seems to be at an all-time low at the beginning of this issue. Many long time Legionnaires, who serve as important pillars in the foundation of the Legion, are off the table. There are five Legionnaires missing in action, two more scheduled for execution, and four more sent in on a dire rescue mission. If things head south in the issue, you all of a sudden have 11 Legionnaires gone for good. Aside from the loss of man power, you can see this stress wearing thin on the Legionnaires gathered on earth at Legion HQ. Tempers flare as the team's resolve starts to crack when the gravity of the situation begins to sink in.

This is the first issue with all Giffen artwork, and it’s easy to see why he and Levitz make such a great pair and why this run is so highly touted. Giffen does a great job of capturing all of the emotional beats that Levitz has laid down and captured in the banter between the characters. Together they balance the story perfectly with Levitz's roller coaster of emotion and Giffen's unique page compositions. One great example of Giffen’s versatility as an artist comes on pages 5 & 6.  On page 5 we get a great ¾ page splash, showcasing Legion HQ, and then the next page we get 12 panels bouncing around the cast of Legionnaires and capturing the emotion as the gravity of the Legion’s dire straits comes to a head during the meeting.  

This story is unique and yet so very classic Legion. We get the futuristic flare of the Legion of Super-Heroes, with brightly clad characters with amazing powers and hailing from different planets, on a fairy-talesque rescue adventure to an archaic feudal world. There's a castle, a magically charged dragon construct, and a maniacal old witch! It’s like an updated 30th Century version of Rapunzel or Sleeping Beauty, and it is pulled off wonderfully!

This tale would serve as a great entry point to the Legion of Super-Heroes, there is plenty of action, emotion, and all out fun, despite the grim circumstances around the whole issue. On top of that, Levitz does a great job of naturally recapping the events of the previous four issues for new readers, as well as forwarding all of the sub-plots that are building towards the looming darkness. Despite the desperate situation we find the Legion in, and the darkness that lies ahead, we still end the issue on a high-note with a fairly happy ending. With all of that in mind, I think that makes this issue my favorite of the five chapters of the Great Darkness Saga that we’ve covered so far!


  1. This is was my first or second issue of the Legion, and yeah it was damn good. People think the LSH is too big, too confusing for new readers, but when done well all the moving parts just suck you in as you want to know more.

    It was months before I knew who all these people were and what their powers were but I had a great time figuring it out.

  2. Levitz and Giffen were a great team !

    Image if Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell had drawn Levitz stories instead of Carey ( Oh ,our powers are the weakest and how did we ever become Legionnaire's baloney ) we would have had an even larger catalog of classic legion comics !!!

    1. Sorry, I'm writing about Carey Bates who wrote some of the worst garbage in comics history.

      I think he wrote five stories in which legionaires questioned how crummy their powers were and questioned how did they ever become members.

      I think Devin O'Reilly was a tribute to Bates ( " Oh, they hate me for me powers " !)
      Just plain crap !

  3. I loved it when Dreamy wondered aloud if her sister used the same spell of fire.

    I love the idea that she used the ring to actually untie the ropes (not just float away).

    In fact, I just love her! She WILL be free!

  4. There's a few inconsistencies in the asteroid story. Last time, Gim notes that he borrowed one of his Mom's space yachts. This issue they're glad Brainy packed along spare uniforms in the ship. Of course, all is forgiven since we got Saturn Girl in her new (old) look which I thought was much sexier than the space bikini.

    1. Right. Most of the Legion's new costumes were really bad and this was the start of Giffen's giving them decent looking outfits again.

  5. This is one of my all time favorite Legion stories. I love how Dream Girl demonstrates the qualities that make her Legion material--it's not about raw power, but character and will power.

  6. Although not my first Legion story. This issue marked the beginning of me collecting the Legion for the last 34 years!!

  7. I enjoy these stories, but never understood the terms in which Lightning Lad blames himself for Chameleon Kid leading the mission to Khundia. He didn't allow it, CK broke Legion protocol by leaving Brande's world without telling LL and launched the mission on his own authority. Lightning Lad repeatedly talks of 'letting' and 'allowing' this. This is never textually challenged in a way that would let me be confident that we're intended to understand this as evidence of his breakdown.