Monday, August 1, 2016

Legion: Science Police (1998)


Legion: Science Police 
(4-issue mini-series, Aug~Nov 1998)
title: "Ringers"
writer: David Michelinie
penciller: Paul Ryan
inker: Josef Rubinstein
letterer: Tom Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
asst editor: Frank Berrios
editor: Mike McAvennie
covers: John Paul Leon, Bill Reinhold, and Patrick Martin (colors) 
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
no Legionnaires appear, although former Legionnaire Saturn Girl is a supporting character, and Leviathan is talked about by his sister

Lead Characters: 
Science Police officers Jarik Shadder, Omar Magz, Captain Hagbard; The Ringers, a for-profit group of deputized vigilantes consisting of Driana Allon, Shallee, Klen Rokkart, and Vincel; news reporter Collen Hasteen

Opponents: 
apathy, depression, corporate espionage, technology run amok



Synopsis: 
In 30th Century Metropolis, the Science Police, such as officers Shadder and Magz, must be satisfied dealing with day-to-day crime and crowd control on a planet protected by the Legion of Super-Heroes. And besides the Legion, there is a new group called The Ringers, corporate sponsored crime fighters armed with individual "power rings." Shallee can project tac-beams that can interfere or control technology; Vincel creates energy "pounders," much like Green Lantern power ring fists or globes; Klen can create "drop holes," rifts into another dimensional plane; and Driana, the leader, can cause molecular decay.

The SP have no choice but to watch and then assist as the Ringers capture some jewel thieves. Officer Shadder in particular is content to simply stand around until he is given direct orders. Magz finds his attitude infuriating. SP rookie Imra Ardeen is sad to see this, as Officer Shadder was one of her heroes when she was a child.

Driana tells her boy-friend how happy she is to finally be a hero. She feels that she is out from under her big brother's shadow. As her brother was the Legionnaire Leviathan, that was a pretty big shadow.

Reporter Collen Hasteen meets with Officer Shadder because he wants his help in investigating the Ringers. Hasteen has found out that they are owned slash supported by a multinational corporation called Global Grace. Shadder demurs. He no longer wants to stick his head out or do anything that is not a direct order.

Later, Shadder is one of the SP officers who witnesses the Ringers take down a terrorist group. While capturing them, Klen goes a bit crazy and nearly kills one of them. Driana, too, is beginning to feel odd. Shadder begins to see why Hasteen thinks that they should be investigated.

Hasteen tells Shadder that he has learned that the Ringers' powers mimic the super-powers of several recently killed super-villains. Coincidence, or power source? Shadder still refuses to help Hasteen investigate them.

Global Grace CEO Vyke is concerned about Klen going wild during the recent mission, but Driana vouches for him. Vyke then orders them to do some covert industrial sabotage; when Driana balks, he threatens to replace her. She acquiesces.

Later, the Ringers' assignment is to get into a competitors' off-shore facility and clog its tech for several years. Shallee usese her ring to get them in undiscovered. However, Klen goes rogue again, dropping one of the engines into his dimensional holes. This alerts the plant's security guards, who attack them. The alarm system comes back on, preventing the Ringers' escape. Klen then kills three guards, much to the others' surprise. His ring then suddenly "turns off," and he is gunned down. Driana starts to go crazy, too, but she snaps out of it and the surviving Ringers manage to escape.

Driana confronts Global Grace CEO Vyke, who tells her that Klen "pushed his apparatus beyond spec limits, resulting in a malfunction." If she insists on pursuing an investigation, he threatens to shut down the Ringer program completely. She backs down. After she walks out, Vyke orders two new replacements for training. He knows that it is only a matter of time before Driana, too, suffers the same fate as Klen.

At SP HQ, a derelict named Dahtri grabs an SP's officer weapon and causes a panic. He is going crazy trying to figure out why his successful business is being sabotaged. Shadder listens to him, then disarms him.

Hasteen arrives, reviewing with Shadder that he thinks the Ringers' rings are recreating dead super-villains' powers. He has found out that the rings were made at a company called Tomorrow Light, and calls out a favor for Shadder to investigate. Shadder reluctantly agrees.

Officer Ardeen "feels" something is wrong, so she asks to meet with Hasteen. He tells her about the terrorist attack on the Metro Spaceport from several years ago. The terrorist leader, rather than face arrest, grabbed a shuttle ready for take-off (loaded with passengers) and piloted it towards the main terminal. Shadder had to shoot it down, killing those dozen passengers, before it could crash, possibly killing hundreds. After that incident, he simply shut down.
That night Shadder gets into Tomorrow Light, downloading information he thinks will help Hasteen's investigation. Unfortunately, Dahtri has followed him in. Dahtri places a bomb in the laboratory that triggers "rebounding," power fed back on to itself to increase its energy. Shadder doesn't know what to do, but luckily tech engineers arrive and shut it down.

Shadder gives the data to Hasteen, but Captain Hagbard puts Shadder on suspended duty for allegedly breaking and entering Tomorrow Light. With nowhere else to go, he goes back to Hasteen's apartment, only to find that he has been murdered.

Shadder borrows an SP low-orbiting shuttle and approaches a Global Grace Automatic Storage Vault satellite. Because he has no official authority to approach, the satellite destroys the ship. However, Shadder uses the stealth pod to dock on the satellite and get in anyway. Once in, he turns off the monitor grid so that Global Grace will have no video of him.

On Earth, Global Grace CEO Vyke orders the three remaining Ringers to investigate the satellite. Shadder is downloading data when they arrive. Shallee uses her ring to re-connect the video system, so Vyke on Earth can now witness what is going on. Then Shadder "turns off" their rings with a controller he found on-site. Vincel tries to apprehend Shadder using brute strength, but Shadder uses his crowd control gear to incapacitate him and Shallee.
Driana, however, gets the drop on him. He shows her that the controller he used to incapacitate their rings belongs to Global Grace, stopping her in her tracks. She listens as he explains what Hasteen had found out about the rings and dead super-villains. Vyke, still listening, decides to cut his losses by crashing the whole satellite.
Shadder and Driana realize that unless they somehow cut the satellite's engines, it will fall into a populated area, possibly killing thousands. However, if Driana uses her ring again she may be "possessed" by a super-villain's spirit. Shadder can't ask her to help, but she can't stand by and not try something...so she decides to use her ring to decay the engines, saving Melbourne.

However, she IS possessed, and now the ring will not respond to the controller's OFF button. Shadder then goes the other way, trying to over-amplify the ring's power, sorting it out and knocking Driana unconscious. With the help of the other two Ringers, they get to their ship and save themselves before the satellite re-enters orbit and crashes into the Tasman Sea.
The next day, the Science Police charges Vyke based on the data that Shadder had downloaded before the satellite crashed. Although the Ringers program is over, Driana is still a celebrity for being a hero. And Shadder is re-committed to being a good cop.

Commentary: 
I was living in Japan when this mini-series came out, so I did not even know it existed. I came across issue #3 in a back issues bin about a year ago, then decided to track down the remaining issues before reading them all. Just recently I managed to find all four of the series and then "scheduled" it in my "IN" basket.

I did not know what to expect when I picked up this mini-series. I guess I was thinking it would be more of a "behind the scenes" story, ala CSI or Law & Order, with the Legion as the background supporting characters. What it is is more like Gotham Central with fewer "lead" characters and only one main plot. Was it a try-out for a possible ongoing?  I could not find any data to back up this idea, and there were no lingering plots in this mini-series that fans could rally around to demand a follow-up. So maybe it is what it appears: a four-issue mini-series featuring supporting characters, published to gauge whether the market could support additional Legion books. Evidently it could not.

So as a stand-alone story featuring characters we don't really know or care about, it's pretty good. David Michelinie does a good job trying to get us emotionally invested in Driana and in Shadder. By the time the story is over, we like them well enough and hope they continue to do well. I don't have very many Reboot Legion issues, so I don't know if any of these characters appeared before or again. I did recognize Legion Liaison officer Shvaughn Erin, though. She makes a quick cameo in issue #1.

I know Paul Ryan as the artist on Marvel's Fantastic Four for several years. He has a clean, crisp style that reminds me of Curt Swan or Dan Jurgens. His version of the 31st Century looks appropriately "futuristic," with a very strong lean towards Star Trek The Next Generation (a lot of control panels on the walls) and aliens that remind me of inhabitants of Babylon 5.  Neither of these comments are meant as criticism; in fact, it's kind of nice to think that all of these science fiction universes sort of kind of intermingle. Every scene in the series is drawn well enough for us to understand what is going on, and for a book like this, that is high praise indeed.

On the other hand, there is a huge problem in the story-telling or editing that I have never come across before. I think it's best to SHOW you what happened...

Here is the scene at Science Police HQ in issue #2. Note that Imra is studying some Durlan issue, and Harleen is anxious to talk to Shadder. Cut to the end, as we get Shadder walking out, and Imra picking up thoughts of anger, fear, and death.


Okay?

So that was issue #2. Look what happens in issue #3....!



So either the editor not notice (?) that the exact same scene occurs twice, or, more likely, there was supposed to be some slight change in something to show that all of the activity over issues 2 and 3 were happening simultaneously. However, the conversation from #3 pushes the story along quite dramatically, so the Rashomon POV idea doesn't really make any sense. It's jarring, and with the same creators (writer, artists, letterer, editor) on both issues, it just doesn't make any sense that this got past all of them.

Other than that odd occurrence, this mini-series is worth the price you would pay in a back-issue bin. Legion Completists should probably pick it up.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This mini-series occurs sometime soon after the events in Legionnaires #63, wherein Saturn Girl resigned from the Legion.  
  • A character named "Commander Hagbard" appears in Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #267. He asks the fledgling Legion to help in a routine investigation.  
  • The Tasman Sea is the part of the Southern Pacific Ocean, located between the southern tip of Australia and New Zealand.  
Status: 
This mini-series has not yet been collected.

Milestone: 
This mini-series was the second, and so far last, series set in the same continuity as The Legion of Super-Heroes that did not feature the Legion as the main characters. (The first was the 1988 series The Wanderers.)

2 comments:

  1. I seem to recall being unimpressed when I read this back in the day -- not sure I even got the last issue. But that was also when I was starting to not be as excited about the Legion books in general.

    Hagbard also made a brief appearance in in the Reboot before then in LSH #0. They made a reference to his prejudice against Titanians.

    In regards to the milestone, there was also that Inferno miniseries, in which she went and hung out with a homeless kid in a mall. I think there was a monster? It was weird. Anyway, I don't think she was technically a Legionnaire, even though she was part of the group that got stranded in the 20th century.

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    1. I thought of that mini but I figured Inferno counted as a pseudo Legionnaire.

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