Thursday, August 18, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (V2) #292

Legion of Super-Heroes #292
"Darkness Transcendent"
OCT 1982
The Great Darkness Saga Part Ten
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Keith Giffen & Larry Mahlstedt
Lettered by John Constanza
Colored by Carl Gafford
Laurie Sutton Editor

Roll Call:
Blok, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Superboy, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, and Wildfire.

The Legionnaires try to recover from the three pronged attack they faced last issue, but newly-elected Legion Leader Dream Girl is immediately put to the test when the forces of darkness begin their siege on Sorcerer's World.

Our story opens right where last issue ended, the Legionnaires are dealing with the three-pronged attack of Darkseid's forces. Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, and Ultra Boy are helping with reconstruction of the prison on Takron-Galtos. As they finish the prison reconstruction and fly off to rendezvous with the rest of the Legion, Shadow Lass and Mon-El still struggle with the big reveal from last issue, that one of Shadow Lass's ancestors was the genetic model for one of Darkseid's cloned minions of darkness.  

Speaking of Darkseid's forces, the four Legionnaires are ambushed and subsequently defeated by them. This time Darkseid himself (still veiled in shadow) even enters the fray. He confronts Mon-El, who deduces his identity, but proves to be no match for the lord of Apokolips, and is sent hurtling across the battlefield. The trauma is so severe that Mon-El enters a coma-like state before he can share his new found knowledge about their adversary's identity.

Meanwhile, newly elected Legion Leader Dream Girl, and her team of Blok, Invisible Kid, Lightning Lass, Sun Boy, and the White Witch, head for Sorcerer's World, intent on preventing her premonition heralding the Legion's defeat, from coming to fruition. They are joined by another Legion Starcruiser containing Dawnstar, Element Lad, Star Boy, Sun Boy, and Timber Wolf. Meanwhile, back at Legion Headquarters on earth, Legion founders Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and a recovered Lightning Lad work to deduce the identity of their mysterious foe. They analyze the genetic make-up of his other minions and determine that in addition to the cloning of Shadow Lass's 20th Century Ancestor, it appears that a Guardian of Oa and Superman were also cloned.

Back on Sorceror's World, Dream Girl tries to persuade its inhabitants to heed her warning of the impending attack and doom they face from the gathering forces of darkness. They finally see the premonition themselves and agree to aid the Legion in preparing for the oncoming battle on Teacher Island. Sensing that the moment of battle is at hand, a squadron of Legionnaires fly to the outskirts of the planet to meet their opponents and give forces on the island more time to prepare. They prove to be no match for Darkseid's forces, as they are quickly defeated, with Wildfire's containment suit even being breached.

In the citadel on Teacher Island, a space warp opens, and the 30th Century equivalent of Moses comes through it. Dream Girl and the sorcerers take the mysterious little baby and use all of their power to mask his presence from the dark forces that begin to pound the island. Back on earth, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl put out the call to the off-duty Legionnaires, reaching out to Superboy in the 20th Century, Karate Kid and Princess Projectra who are currently ruling Orando, Colossal Boy & Shrinking Violet who are exploring their new relationship on leave, and finally Bouncing Boy & Duo Damsel who retired in Legion of Super-Heroes #284. They need all hands on deck to face this threat, and they get unanimous support from their comrades to join the fight.

Back on Sorcerer's World, the remaining Legionnaires regroup, intent on making their final stand to protect the citadel. Darkseid claims he has had enough, and quickly dispatches a handful of Legionnaires. He then halts his attack, promises that the day of their doom is at hand, and then retreats, taunting the Legion that he has let them live, only to bear witness to the demise of the universe around them. With his final words, he indicates that one of their own members has already sealed the Legion's doom, and then laughs as the warp gate closes.

With Darkseid gone, Dream Girl and the remaining Sorcerers emerge from the Citadel, with the mysterious baby in hand, claiming that not all is lost, they have the child, the gift of life, and now they need only to unlock this gift to defeat their adversary, the most powerful threat in the universe.

Even though this issue is in the heart of the Great Darkness Saga proper, and loaded with action that is tempered by the suspense and tension around Darkseid's forces, this issue still falls a bit flat, especially compared to the last 4 or 5 installments in this run. Nothing much is forwarded, there's a lot of monologging, and we still have yet to get a full-on Darkseid reveal, and the story just seems to stall a bit and mark-time. Now in the Levitz's defense, this idea of a multi-part epic, at least one of this length, was still pretty virgin ground in comic storytelling (in fact over at Marvel, EIC Jim Shooter was pushing his "NO MULTI-ISSUE STORY ARCS" editorial mandate), so the idea of the decompressed story, and the pacing around that epic would still be in the trial-by-fire category. You also have to note that this creative team had been going full tilt the last few months to build up this saga, including cranking out a 41 page annual, and I can't help but wonder if they were all feeling a little rushed or behind schedule to get this chapter out.

There is definitely a noticeable different in the art from last issue to this one, as the credits, and the art itself, seem to indicate that Giffen took a much lighter-hand in his work here, leaving Larry Mahlstedt to do more of the heavy lifting. I wonder if Giffen was doing little more than layouts for Larry to come in and do almost full pencils and inks on. The biggest casualty of this shift in the art load was definitely Shadow Lass. From the first page on she is constantly drawn and colored wrong, and it pulled me out of the story each time. Instead of her traditional "space-bikini" trimmed with tiara and golden wrist gauntlets, she is drawn in a purple and black Science Police uniform, complete with gloves and less Cape, Tiara, and wrist gauntlets. No longer is her blue skin exposed, she's covered completely in this purple uniform, which has the loose sleeve material details inked in, showing that it isn't just a coloring error. Now this issue seems to take off just minutes after the conclusion of last issue, so she wouldn't have time for a costume change, and even if she did, why would she be the only Legionnaire to go through a wardrobe change?

Even the cover itself is much less dynamic and engaging that what we've seen previously. The main image is a profile shot of Dream Girl holding a mysterious baby. If you're reaction picking this up was "wow, I wonder the story behind that baby she's holding" well don't look for that inside the issue, because you aren't going to get it. This mysterious baby on the cover comes through a space portal, and his identity is hidden from Darkseid by the sorcerers, which raises more questions than it answers.

One of the biggest subplots running through the series since Levitz took over with Legion #284 was Chameleon Boy going off the deep end from the revelation that RJ Brande was his father, and then the fallout from the rash actions he took while coping. That comes to a point this issue, as he stands trial, but none of that is shown, instead we very unceremoniously get a one panel narration on the bottom of page two of the story that he was found guilty. Then it's never mentioned again in the issue. It's a big moment that Levitz has been building to for 10 issues at this point, and it's just kind of swept under the rug without any fanfare. This is not the end of it, we'll see more next issue, it just seems weird that they didn't either give it a little more fanfare here, or just save the verdict completely for next issue when it will be addressed.

Really on all fronts, this issue really drops off from the fantastic and legendary status of the previous issues. That's not to say it's a horrible issue, it isn't, but it just isn't on the same level as most of the issues we've tackled so far in the Great Darkness Saga since we began our coverage with Legion of Super-Heroes #284. I would say that if I had to rank this one, it'd be the second weakest chapter so far, with only Legion of Super-Heroes #285 being worse (and much more so at that).
Now that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, but this is simply an average issue, there's action, but not much purpose. Darkseid plays the part of "generic bad guy X" remaining vague and mysterious, pulling the strings from the shadows, bragging endlessly about his power, and monologging about how tired he is of the Legion's interference. And while he zaps a few people and then disappears, everyone recovers just fine except Mon-El, so there is little consequence of the grand actions he keeps promising us he's about to take. This issue is just all setup for what comes later, and by that token it's definitely essential.  

The saga continues, and tension builds, it just doesn't carry the same epic gravitas that the rest of these legendary Levitz & Giffen issues have so far. I guess being the "least good" chapter in a legendary story, championed as one of the greatest super-hero comic stories ever told, isn't all that bad. I just hope next time out we get back to that amazing level of graphic storytelling that we've grown accustomed to in the previous chapters by Levitz & Giffen.

1 comment:

  1. Shadow Lass' costume was really shredded last issue and she didn't have time to put on a new costume. She borrowed a Science Police uniform instead. I don't recall her being miscolored, just wearing the SP uniform.