Thursday, March 29, 2018

Reboot: Legends of the Legion #1

Legends of the Legion #1 (February 1998)
title: "Guts"
writers: Barry Kitson and Tom Peyer
penciller: Todd Nauck
inker: Larry Stucker
lettering: Albert T. De Guzman
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Frank Berrios
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Spark, Star Boy, Ultra Boy, Umbra; flashback: Apparition, Brainiac 5, Chameleon, Cosmic Boy, Ferro, Invisible Kid, Kinetix, Live Wire, M'Onel, Saturn Girl, Triad, Violet, XS

Antennae Boy, Chuck Taine, Color Queen, Doro, Infectious Lass, Night Girl, Porcupine Pete; flashback: Inferno, Karate Kid, Spider-Girl, Emerald Dragons, settlers of the whale, a Rimborian kid

Flashback: Bone Spike Gang, Space Whale

Chuck Taine is giving a tour of Legion HQ to a group of kids, one of which is a trouble maker who falls off the building. He's saved by Ultra Boy who, along with Spark, Umbra and Star Boy, were just arriving. After intimating that he too used to get in trouble, they beg him to tell his story...
On the rough-and-tumble world of Rimbor, Jo Nah was just another kid without a family who found refuge in a gang. When a rival gang ran in after some poor kid, he intervened and soon had the Bone Spike Gang on his tail. He jumped in his space car and was soon pursued, but lost them when he was swallowed by a space whale.
Inside the whale, Jo did his best to survive, finding ways to use the whale's own flesh to protect himself from its stomach acid, and feeding himself from it. He wakes up with amazing powers and soon finds a community living inside the creature's bowels. They've given up on leaving, but he hasn't, and crafting a rebreather from spare parts and whale flesh, manages to escape the belly of the beast. The rest is history.
We are visiting the origin stories of a couple of Legionnaires in between the regular comic run. As a fan of Ultra Boy, I’m glad he got his own entry. I completely forgot his story from when we were writing “Hot or Not?” and I’m glad I did because the Space Whale was a total surprise! Man, I hope Space Whales are real! We have this song we sing about a Space Whale ever since we watched the Doctor Who episode The Beast Below and I just get so happy when such creatures are mentioned in sci-fi. Space Whale that gives you superpowers when you eat its flesh: HOT!
ANYWAY… Back on topic – I like how, even as a kid, Ultra was a troublemaker yet still had a certain nobility. He protected this kid that he didn’t even know just because he could. It was foolish of him, but also very brave. Pretty impressive to see his survival instinct kick in once he lost his cruiser. Imagine how meeting other people must’ve felt at this point. Actually, talking about the people… OMG they are the Gilligan’s Island folks! Well the space version of them for sure. I was a huge fan of the show as a kid, so I really liked the homage. It’s weird how I questioned their reason to stay given the power they got from the whale. I never even thought about the fact the whale was traveling in space... duh!! Ultra Boy uses the whale and his newly gained power to escape and here we are. Not so sure about the way he survived the space travel + the gravitational pull when only able to use one of his powers at once but let’s not question comics logic!
I loved this issue, also loved the cartoonish art that fit perfectly with the tone of the story. Next is Spark… Ayla really??  Didn’t we cover hers and Garth’s origin enough already? They better find an interesting twist to it because they could’ve used the next issue for someone we knew almost nothing about.
Todd Nauck is pretty perfect for this era of the Legion, and hey, I'm pretty happy to get Steve Lightle covers as well. Oh and folks, I've heard the Space Whale song many times, it's a true story. Used to be, Ultra Boy's origin involved an "Energy Beast" that looked more lizard-like, so it seems like they conflated it with the Moby Dick of Space story. I'm not upset. It may be a bit more on the nose to give Jo Nah his whale (Shotgun: Wow. Why didn't I see that. Well at least I caught the Gilligan's Island reference.) Feels grander and more mythical. And in any case, they really make a meal of it (ha!). Jo's survival inside the whale is really cool and clever (even if they gloss over his actual escape). I love it. And space cars? That's another classic Legion trope. You know what? This is my favorite Legion story in a while. (Great title too.)
I'm also a fan of the framing tale. It's fun to see Chuck in any capacity, and his group of kids are obviously the Legion of Substitute-Heroes, who are among my favorite Legion characters. Are they actually the Subs? Well, we've seen Night Girl audition for the Legion and she's in the pack, so the unseen Subs she and Polar Boy assembled might be these guys, just a bit younger than the Legionnaires themselves at this point. Or it's just a visual gag. I don't mind either way. And I love the repartee between Jo and Ayla at the end (Jo's body language is fun throughout), where he teases her about being a liar in the next issue. Come on, Jo. You're the one who just told a whale of a story!
Science Police Notes:  
  • Ultra Boy's original origin was told in less than a page in his first appearance in Superboy (v1) #98 (1962). It then featured a more dragon-like Energy Beast, from which he was saved by the Science Police, but not before he absorbed strange radiation that gave him powers.
  • Ultra Boy's origin predates The Empire Strikes Back by 18 years, but this version of the origin is obviously inspired in part by the bit with the Falcon hiding inside a giant creature.
  • The space whale evokes the Moby Dick of Space, Dxaundii, from Adventure Comics #332 (1965).
  • The kids listening to the Legionnaires' stories are (or look like) members of the Legion of Substitute-Heroes. If so, this is the first speaking appearance of several of them (all except Night Girl), though a few had had cameos in Legionnaires #43. Note that Color Kid is here represented by Color Queen (a tribute to Legion of Substitute-Heroes Special #1).
  • The settlers of the whale pay homage to the cast of Gilligan's Island.

1 comment:

  1. I've been trying to track down this mini-series, but I have yet to find a copy of this. Sounds adorable!