Thursday, September 8, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (V2) #295

Legion of Super-Heroes #295
"The Origin of the Universe File--"
Written by Paul Levitz
Pencilled by Keith Giffen
Flashback Sequences Pencilled by Howard Bender
Inked by Dave Hunt
Colored by Carl Gafford
Lettered by John Constanza
Karen Berger Editor

Roll Call:
Blok, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf, Triplicate Girl (flashback sequence of Duo Damsel before one of her bodies was destroyed by Computo in Adventure Comics #340).

With Darkseid finally defeated, the Legionnaires can take a deep breathe and enjoy some downtime without the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. So time to wrap up some of those dangling subplots, namely the future of Lightning Lass & Timber Wolf's relationship.

The story opens with Timber Wolf pondering Lightning Lass's ultimatum he was left with at the conclusion of the previous issue. She is leaving from the Legion, and it's up to Timber Wolf to join her in resignation, or lose her forever. He must choose between the only two things he cherishes in life, being a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes and his girlfriend Lightning Lass. So desperate for help with his decision, Timber Wolf goes to Blok for advice and an ear to vent to. Blok feels like the answer may lay in the past, so he pops in some old Archive Tapes of early Legion adventures to aid Timber Wolf in his decision.

The Archive Reel starts, and so our story jumps back in time, to an earlier date in Legion history, when the Legionnaires went to the Time Institute to put out a fire. After dealing with the fire and witnessing some flirting back in forth between a very young Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, the cockroach-like keepers of the Time Institute extend an offer to the Legionnaires to look back at the earliest moment in history, the dawn of the universe, using their tool known as the Time Viewer.

Now if you're at all familiar with the Green Lantern mythos, you know this is a huge no-no in the eyes of the Guardians, and something one of their own named Krona insisted on witnessing, which led to his exile and descent into villainy. Since then Krona and his forbidden actions have been a mainstay in Green Lantern continuity, especially in the Geoff Johns era.

Well with that in mind, true to fashion, the Legionnaires virtual trip to the origin of the universe via the Time Viewer is interrupted by a giant green construct of an Oan Guardian's head. The entire Time Institute is then removed from earth and rocketed through space to face judgement for this grievance. The Legionnaires combat the three Green Lanterns charged with taking them in, and after it becomes clear that the Legion and Green Lanterns are evenly matched, a telepathic plea from Saturn Girl to the Guardians brings a temporary armistice in the battle, with an agreement that the matter will be settled once they arrive on Oa.

Back in real-time, Timber Wolf is growing impatient and increasingly frustrated. He doesn't know why he let Blok talk him into watching the Holo-File, which he feels like has been nothing more than a waste of time thus far. Blok disregards Timber Wolf's complaints, and forces him to sit back down and enjoy the rest of the archived footage.
Back into the Archive Files, we find the Legionnaires have reached Oa, where the Guardians tell them about their most sacred law, and why it is forbidden to look upon the dawn of creation. They tell of Krona's rogue actions, and how his disregard for this most sacred rule, released evil into the universe. The Guardians decree that the Legion and Time Institute be returned to Earth, unharmed and intact, with the stipulation that they agree to never again use their technology and the Time Viewer to look upon the dawn of time.

With the Time Institute returned, and fully rebuilt and restored with help from the Green Lanterns, the three founding Legionnaires embark on an experimental flight with a time bubble to the 20th Century to recruit Superboy & Supergirl. But something goes terribly wrong! The flight is interrupted with chronal interference. The Legionnaires are lucky to steer it back home to the 30th Century, but they unfortunately drag a few animals from earth's past along with them. After subduing the animals, they go to investigate the source of the disturbance, and find it to be none other than a Green Lantern. After hearing the Guardian's tale, the young Lantern can't help himself, the temptation is too great, he must watch the forbidden dawn of time, for he is convinced it holds the secret to the Guardians' power and wisdom. The Legionnaires arrive just in time to stop him, and escort him back to Oa where he is stripped of his rank and booted from the Corps.

With the Holo-File completed, Timber Wolf thinks he's found the answer, and rushes off to find Lightning Lass, and try to convince her to stay. He tries to appeal to her to stay, that she, like him is a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, which is more than just a team, it's a family. But she declines, she's made up her mind, and her decision is final, she's leaving, and with Timber Wolf unwilling to abandon the Legionnaires he considers family, she's leaving alone.

Back in the Archives, Blok follows up on a detail he noticed while watching the Holo-File. The rogue Green Lantern bears a striking resemblance to another foe of the Legion, Universo, a reoccurring foe for the Legion who is obsessed with time travel. After pondering this more a moment, Blok dismisses his theory, concluding that if he was able to piece it together, so surely was Brainiac 5, and since there is nothing in data files regarding this connection, Brainy must have determined the connection was merely coincidental and lacked any truth...

After the heavy, depressing, and emotionally taxing epic that was the Great Darkness Saga, this issue, which was mostly flashback to simpler and earlier times for the Legion, was a much needed breather. Yes we did finally get the emotional conclusion to the dangling plot thread of the rocky relationship between Lightning Lass and Timber Wolf, but even despite that dour moment, the issue overall is a much more light-hearted, classical Legion story. Levitz does a fantastic job of capturing the Silver Age tone that is reflective of when this flashback story would have been set in Legion lore, while still capturing the soap opera aspects in the concurrent modern day drama between Lightning Lass and Timber Wolf. It is great blend of story styles, new (at the time it was published) and old. Levitz expertly blends these two story aesthetics blend together very nicely.

Moving on to the art, we see very little of Giffen in this issue, since the majority of the issue is flashback scenes in the Holo-File and tackled by Howard Bender. But what little we see of Giffen is a very noticeable departure from the finished look we got used to with Mahlstedt's inks during the Great Darkness Saga. That's not to say Dave Hunt's finishes aren't well done, they are, but Giffen's pencils under these two inkers have drastically different finished looks. The most noticeable change is  Blok, who is heavily featured in this issue. He goes from the rigid golem look we've grown accustomed to in the Great Darkness Saga under Mahlstedt's inks, to a look with Hunt's inks that is much more reminiscent of Ben Grimm the Thing's appearance as he was drawn by Kirby in the early days of the Fantastic Four. This was when Ben's gruesome monster appearance was more clay in texture than the rocky shell that it would become later. (FYI-for a great side-by-side comparison of these two distinct looks for the Thing, refer to one of my all-time favorite single issue stories, Marvel Two-In-One #50, written and drawn by John Byrne). Like I said, very different looking finishes for the same penciller under two different inkers. It's not bad, it still has that great Giffen layout and knack for storytelling, it's just a different looking finished product than what we've grown (mostly) accustomed to over the last 8 or so issues of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Howard Bender's work was amazing in the flashback sequences. His art is absolutely perfect for capturing that Silver Age Legion aesthetic. He manages to tell a very dynamic and exciting story, that captures the look and feel of DC's Silver Age, without being saddled with some of the art tropes from that era (like the stiff poses, bloated bodies, and dreaded 6 panel square-grid page composition). I absolutely love this story and the artwork. Well done by Bender, and great finishes by Dave Hunt.
This issue is reprinted and contained in the Great Darkness Saga Deluxe Edition Hardcover and Trade Paperback (along with Legion of Super-Heroes #296 which will be covered next week), that's why we continued our coverage after the Great Darkness Saga proper wrapped up last week. The issue's lasting legacy is subplot wrap-up for the relationship drama that took place during the Great Darkness Saga prelude and story arc proper, but it also serves the function of giving readers a break and returning to that just all-out fun adventure that garnered so much love and fondness for the Legion of Super-Heroes in the first place. The Great Darkness Saga proper is rightfully regarded as one of the best and most epic story arcs in all Legion history (and perhaps DC history) and while this follow-up issue might not carry that epicness, it does carry something the GDS issue were missing, and that's FUN!! I can't stress enough how much I needed the more positive, fun uptick in story after the heavy and emotionally draining coverage of the Great Darkness Saga I've been doing for the past 12 weeks. So with that in mind, this issue serves as a great stand alone adventure and actually makes for a great issue to give to anyone who may be on the fence about the Legion of Super-Heroes. It has humor, adventure, action, and downright super-heroic fun, and for me at least, those four elements are the primary genesis for my love for the Legion of Super-Heroes.

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