Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #265

Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #265 (July, 1980)
title: "The Brigadoon Syndrome!"
plot: Gerry Conway
script: J.M. DeMatteis
penciller: Jimmy Janes
inker: Dave Hunt
letterer: Milt Snapinn
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano 
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Tyroc, Shadow Lass, Dawnstar; cameos of Lighting Lad, Saturn Girl, and Wildfire

Opponents: 
prejudice, slavery, extra-dimensional universes, bad editorial decisions


Synopsis: 
On Marzal, Dawnstar and Shadow Lass arrive to ask Tyroc to come back to Metropolis to help find Dagon when "the process" begins. Marzal then disappears from the universe, with the three Legionnaires with it. When the women fly into what was once the sky to try to figure out what is giong on, they realize that they are in another plane of existence, far from Earth. Dawnstar is hit by some sort of comet-like stellar energy, so Shadow Lass tries to catch her. The two free-fall through the eerie dimension until Tyroc acts. His shout solidifies a cloud to catch them. He then teleports them back to Marzal.
At Tyroc's home, he doesn't know how to explain his country's predicament. He tells Dawnstar and Shadow Lass that they are trapped on Marzal for the rest of their lives. Dawnstar is sick and tired of Tyroc's cryptic comments and sorrowful glances; she demands answers.
Tyroc explains that in 1579 on a slave-ship heading from Africa to Europe, Tyroc's ancestor St'balla, a tribal chieftain, planned an escape attempt. During an intense storm, St'balla pretended to be dead so that the crew would unlock his chains and throw him overboard. Once free, however, he fought back, managing to free others and eventually killing all of the crew.
The Africans landed the ship on a beautiful island they named "Marzal" and built a civilization there. Surprisingly, it then disappeared into another, eerie dimension. The people cope with the situation, as everything they need is on the island. Two hundred years later, however, Marzal returns to Earth. Eventually the islanders understood that the island would disappear for 200 years, then re-appear on Earth for 30 years before disappearing again. Tyroc explains to his friends that this is similar to the Scottish legend of Brigadoon, the village that was "lost" in time.
That was the environment where Tyroc was born. He tells his friends that as a youngster he exhibited sonic powers after a demon from the dimensional "skies" attacked the island. He then grew up to be Marzal's hero. When Marzal returned to Earth in the latest cycle, he met the Legion.
Now, Tyroc believes that the over-usage of his power might have been responsible for weakening the space/time barrier between Earth and the other dimensional space. Tyroc thinks that he has caused Marzal to leave Earth prematurely.
Shadow Lass suggests that he use his powers to return to Earth, but he tells them he has decided to stay with Marzal. He does offer to try to return his friends, however. His sonic power manages to open a small portal between the dimension and Earth, so the two Legionnaires return to Earth's universe, saying good-bye to Tyroc forever.

Commentary: 
This issue features the last in-continuity appearance of Tyroc, DC's first attempt at a Black super-hero (unless you count Mal Duncan, who had no super-powers). Tyroc made his debut under the shadow of segregation, and he now leaves continuity under the shadow of segregation. Were there no Black artists or writers at DC in the Seventies?

I suppose I will damn this issue with faint praise: it could have been worse. Tyroc comes across as a level-headed, likable character here who is faced with a terrible predicament. He knows he cannot save his beloved home, but he is willing to sacrifice his Legion membership in order to protect it. In a last heroic act, he sends his friends back to their world. Tyroc was a good man.

I do have to question Tyroc's assumption that it his powers that are weakening the link between dimensions. I mean, come on, he hasn't used his powers at all in nearly 40 issues! How COULD they be responsible?

With this story we learn why Marzal was embracing self-imposed segregation for so many years, and what Tyroc has been doing all those issues where he was not being an active Legionnaire. On the other hand....what WAS he doing? If he was trying to set up trade commissions or travel bureaus or ambassadorships to or from Marzal....aren't all of those people now trapped, either ON Marzal or AWAY from it? For example, it would have been nice to see a Marzalian ambassador stranded in Metropolis after his home disappeared.

And speaking of home, although we spend the entire story on Marzal and learn its convoluted history, we do not meet any other locals, including Tyroc's family. Under the circumstances, it would have been nice if his parents or siblings were involved in the drama somehow...not to mention any figure of authority. Tyroc seemed awfully sure of himself when the doomed all of Marzal to life in that other universe. What if the mayor or city council or somebody had ordered Tyroc to go back to Earth? Or what if Dagon (from last issue) in his plot to kidnap the parents of the Legionnaires had kidnapped Tyroc's parents, too? That would have made his situation doubly dramatic!

I remember reading this story when it came out and being slightly embarrassed by it. I did and do have Black friends, and the plot seemed divisive and, yes, contrived. Re-reading it again recently, it hasn't really gotten any better with age. Clearly, DC created an "Angry Black Man" character nobody after Cary Bates had any affinity for, so editor Jack C. Harris shuffled him off stage in the worst way possible. Would it have hurt for him to have been killed saving the Legion from the Fatal Five? (No offense, Tyroc). The ending leaves the fate of Tyroc open, and as naive as I was when I first read this, I hoped that Tyroc would in fact return. If the Legion could save Mon-El from the Phantom Zone, why couldn't they somehow return Marzal to Earth?

So to sum up, in this story we get a history lesson about slavery (it's bad) and then a portrait of a segregated society (not bad? mixed message there, for sure!), and we lose a Legionnaire. Not really a great issue.

The art is sufficient to tell the story. There is a weird, oddly satisfying way that Jimmy Janes and Dave Hunt balance out the more realistic scenes with the other dimensional loopiness and the futuristic Legion world. For me, it works. In fact, this time out the art is the best part of the issue.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Shadow Lass is drawn on the cover without her cape again. 
  • Shadow Lass is drawn with black gloves throughout this story. 
  • According to Tyroc, "Marzal" means "New World." 
  • "Brigadoon" refers to the Broadway musical by Frederick Lowe & Alan Jay Lerner that opened on Broadway in 1947. The 1954 film version stars Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. In the show, the country town of Brigadoon re-appears in "our" universe only once every one hundred years. It seems odd that time-displaced Tyroc would know of this legend or the Broadway show! 
Status: 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

Milestone: 
This is the last Bronze Age appearance of Tyroc in The Legion.

6 comments:

  1. " Jimmy Janes"

    Enough said !

    ReplyDelete
  2. Everyone gets what Element Lad , Phantom Girl, Lightning Lad, Bouncing Boy and Invisible Kid can do but what does "Tyroc" describe ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think in the late Sixties and early Seventies there was a movement away from "Lad" and "Girl." Timber Wolf, Chemical King, Wildfire, Dawnstar, and Blok were all from this era.

      On the other hand, I kinda agree with you. "Tellus" and "Quislet" don't have the same ring as....well....Mon-El? ;-)

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  3. Is 5YL really any less 'in continuity' than the retroboot at this point, with JL3Kx as the most 'valid' 31st century around?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Don't forget Black Vikyn of THE FOREVER PEOPLE.

    jbs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who?
      No, seriously, I didn't count the New Gods.

      Delete