Thursday, August 4, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (V2) #290

Legion of Super-Heroes #290
“And The Servant Shall Be A Sign”
AUG 1982
The Great Darkness Saga Part Eight
Written by Paul Levitz
Pencilled by Keith Giffen
Inked by Larry Mahlstedt
Lettered by John Constanza
Colored by Carl Gafford
Laurie Sutton Editor

Roll Call:
Blok, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Invisible Kid, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Superboy, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, and Wildfire.

As the cover exclaims, we're finally here folks, the first chapter of the Great Darkness Saga proper, another winner by Levitz and Giffen in what proves to be the most mind-staggering multi-issue epic ever!

The story opens on a small team of Legionnaires (Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, Phantom Girl, Superboy, and Wildfire) investigating a recent attack on the Museum of Mystic Arts. A path of destruction has been carved through the museum, but nothing has been stolen. The museum curator (a dead ringer for Marvel's Dr. Strange) reports that he believes the vandal was after a recent addition to the museum, the "Wand of Mentachem." Just then, the vandal, a strange mud-looking creature shrouded in Darkness, returns to the scene of the crime. He attacks the cadre of Legionnaires and quickly dispatches of the entire group, secures the wand, and then disappears through a warp gate, leaving a puzzled and battered group of Legionnaires behind.

Back at Legion Headquarters, Timber Wolf has two awkward encounters, the first giving Chameleon Boy a hostile send-off on Cham's way out the door, and the other with Saturn Girl, marking the first time they've bumped into each other since the very...intimate moment they shared back in Legion of Super-Heroes #289 while stranded on the icy asteroid.

Meanwhile, Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, Phantom Girl, Superboy, and Wildfire follow-up a lead on the next target they suspect will be hit. The place? The Tower of London! The object of interest? The sword Excalibur of Arthurian Legend! Just as the group of Legionnaires lands and makes their way towards the door, they are greeted with a tower-flattening explosion! They're too late! A creature similar in nature to the one they previously encountered, yet distinctly different, has already located Excalibur and is ready to seize it and depart for a rendezvous with his master. Despite the powerful energy blasts of Wildfire, the Legion is once again no match for a strange creature of darkness.

Back at Legion Headquarters, Lightning Lad is undergoing medical examination, which seems to trigger an anxiety attack.  Noticeably absent, his wife, Saturn Girl, continues her chat elsewhere in Legion HQ with Timber Wolf. While this drama unfolds, halfway across the galaxy, on the cold forgotten world hurtling through space, the strange creatures deliver their stolen artifacts of power to their master.

Though they had been defeated twice, the resolve of the five Legionnaires is as strong as ever! After enlisting Brainiac 5's help on deducing the identity of the next probable target, and recruiting Shadow Lass to their ranks, the six Legionairs (Cosmic Boy, Invisible Kid, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Superboy, and Wildfire) head to Talok VIII to prevent the theft of the powerful artifact known as the Orb of Orthanax. Once again they are met by a servant of darkness, this time a female construct. Third time is the charm, as this time the Legionnaires work together as a team and thwart the mysterious creature. Just as it looks that the Legion has won this battle, a second shadowy servant appears through a warp gate, steals the orb, and returns to his master. But at least this time, the Legionnaires' loss has a silver lining, the defeated female servant of darkness as a prisoner.

Back at Legion Headquarters, amidst a vote for the 13th election for Legion Leadership (a three-way race between Dream Girl, Element Lad, and Ultra Boy), a U.P. Priority Communication interrupts the squabbling to notify the Legion of Super-Heroes that one of their own, Chameleon Boy, will be facing trial on the grounds of Treason, for his half-cocked espionage mission to the Khund homeworld.

Elsewhere in Legion Headquarters, Superboy and Shadow Lass take their strange captive to the same lab where Computo sits in stasis. But as they enter with captive in tow, a strange phenomenon occurs, Computo begins to go bonkers out of fear of the dark presence he feels. And half a galaxy away, a monster is reborn...

THIS ISSUE IS AWESOME!!! If you've been patiently waiting during the first 7 issues of build-up for Darkseid to finally to strike, wait no further friends, it's here! While he still remains shrouded in Darkness, manically monologging like only he can, his minions go to work across earth and Talok VIII weaving destruction, and spreading darkness as his forces gather totems of myth and power. Sound familiar? It definitely gives you a World War II Nazi treasure hunter vibe as Darkseid, a fascist dictator with very Hitler-like traits, scours the universe for items of power to increase his strength. I don't know if this was Levitz's intent, but as a big fan of World War II history, and Jack Kirby's Fourth World Epic, you can't help but see the similarities between theses two sinister characters, especially with the seeking out totems with occult powers aspect touched on in this issue.
Once again the art by Giffen and Mahlstedt is fantastic! From the cover which grabs your attention despite the huge amount of white negative space, to the final two pages of Darkseid maniacally monologging, the art in this issue is near perfect. This story has a ton of action with engaging layouts and beautiful execution. It alternates between museum crushing battles and quieter character moments between the cast, and that mixture is balanced perfectly in the both the story pacing and art. 

Of course we continue to have awkward tension between Saturn Girl and Timber Wolf, and other Legionnaires are starting to notice; including acting leader Element Lad, who might have the single best one-liner in the book! The other sub-plot that comes to fruition are the consequences of Chameleon's Boy hair-brained scheme that nearly started an intergalactic incident. Once again we're looking a Legion of Super-Heroes with multiple cracks in their armor, and they're starting to widen.

If I had to make one nitpick, it would be the inconsistent French slang used by Invisible Kid throughout the issue. In some panels it's non-stop stereotypical French lingo, in other panels it's non-existent. In my head I struggle with which scenario would be more annoying, the non-stop inorganic shoe-horning of the French quips, or the what we got, a scenario where the slang seems to randomly disappear throughout the issue. I wonder what my Legion Super-Blogger Brother-At-Arms Siskoid feels about it? He is a French-Canadian after all, and better suited for weighing on the accuracy and merit of the French-inspired aspects of Jacques' dialog throughout the issue.

That nitpick aside, how can you not love this one? Doesn't it just make you want to sit down and jump right into the next issue? Darkseid is gathering power and beginning to make his move! Chameleon Boy is set to stand trial! And Computo started going nuts in fear the instant Darkseid's captive servant comes into the room! Get ready folks, the Great Darkness Saga is finally here, and it's all about to hit the fan!


  1. By far the best LSH's storyline !

    Image if Levitz had been writing the book with Dave Cockrum's or Mike Grell's artwork , we'd probably have been looking at a book that would have rivaled the New X- Men back in the 1970's !

    1. I've often wondered if the 'wand of mentachem' is actually the wand of old Hawkman foe, the Matter Master.

    2. I'm sure that was the intention.

    3. Hey Glenn,

      Kyle here, writer of this little segment (despite Russell's name on the post), I've been chronicling the story as it was presented in the Great Darkness Saga Deluxe Edition HC and TPB. It starts with Legion #284 when Paul Levitz first takes over writing duties from Roy Thomas, and he instantly starts to put the Legion through the ringer. There is a lot rocking of the Legion's foundations, and taking out key members of the Legion's traditional line-up as the story progresses, these subplots are great for building the context and really weakening the Legion to a point where they're in shambles when Darkseid finally comes in and the action starts to ramp up here in #290. They really add to the experience of the whole story, so we decided to cover it all from the beginning and follow the complete works of the trade/hc collections to capture it all.

      It's great to finally be in the story proper and see all of the seed Levitz, Broderick, and Giffen planted earlier, come to fruition now in the body of the story.

  2. This was the first "Great Darkness Saga" issue I bought. I didn't realize there were supposed to be 7 before it. It seemed to begin right here.

    1. With this issue the Servants of Darkness takes center stage, but if you look at the previous issues there were cameos by Darkseid in most of them.
      These reviews include the stories that were reprinted in the Deluxe Collection.