Thursday, May 17, 2018

Reboot: Legends of the Legion #3

Legends of the Legion #3 (April 1998)
title: "Eclipsed - The Secret Origin of Umbra!"
writers: Barry Kitson and Tom Peyer
penciller: Kenny Martinez

inker: Larry Stucker
lettering: Albert 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

Antennae Boy, Chuck Taine, Color Queen, Doro, Infectious Lass, Night Girl, Porcupine Pete; flashback: Ambassador Dao Ilbruct, R.J. Brande, Shadowfather, Talokians, United Planets diplomatic team, various past Champions of Talok VIII

Flashback: United Planets Elite Force

Four Legionnaires have stumbled upon a kids' tour of Legion HQ and been asked to recount their origin stories...

Tasmia Mallor has, from her perspective, lost everything. Trained to be Talok VIII's next champion, she was brought before the leaders of the twelve tribes the day her mother died to watch her enter the Shadow Cave and prove herself. Inside, she encountered the ghosts of past champions and walked out with the power to project shadow and snuff out light.
But Tasmia was a zealot who spoke out against any threat to her culture and way of life, against even trade with other worlds. The shadow priests tried to tell her it was not her place to interfere in politics, but she felt it was. One day, a United Planets ship landed on Talok VIII under a flag of peace, but Tasmia attacked the diplomatic team that climbed out. They finally had to respond with elite soldiers dressed in power armor, but she overcame them as well. She caused an explosion inside the ship that knocked her out, to her own people's relief.
She slept through Talok VIII's negotiations with the U.P., kept sedated by the shadow priests, and when she woke up, her world was a member. She was dismissed from her duties as champion since she could not abide the new status quo, and joined the Legion hoping to still resolve her destiny. She considers her planet occupied by an assimilating force. Of course, the way she tells it is a lie. She doesn't reveal to her audience that the "invaders" are the benign United Planets, nor that anyone (except "traitors") had any kind of problem with her.
Mmmmm I don’t know how I feel about Umbra anymore. She sure sounds like a conspiracy theorist and a xenophobe. I just can’t get behind that. I guess we needed that kind of dynamic now that Andy’s gone. I really hope the time she will spend with the Legion will open her up to the possibilities and opportunities the U.P. is bringing to its members. Her ancestors were right when they said that she didn’t understand what they tried to teach her. She seems to think her way is the only way. If her demonstration of power and the way she’s convinced SHE is the one isn’t egocentrism, I don’t know what is...
Still I guess I can’t blame her too much for the way she’s thinking. She’s been trained all her life to repel invaders and threats. To protect her planet’s way of life. It might simply be her trainers that created that closed-minded attitude and didn’t teach her critical thinking. I must say that I love how her story-telling is getting further and further away from the truth as it gets closer to the present day. She’s been through a lot and she wasn’t prepared for the reality she now lives in, where her role – or let’s say what she thinks her role is – as a champion is basically useless. She will have to let go of that grand idea of destiny and fate and accept that, as a Legionnaire, she’s as much of a champion for her people as she would be by stopping them from opening up to the rest of the worlds.
Quick comment on the art: I’m not sure I’m a fan of the faces and expressions at certain moments – Ultra and Star Boy should get their hair under control on p.5 – but oh boy does it work for action scenes!
Umbra really does come off as unsympathetic, doesn't she? Already a hard-edged character, I sort of wanted to find something to make me like her in her origin story, and I didn't. Well, I do like how she's lying her ass off, that's a great twist on an origin, but it doesn't make her more likable. I also wish it were clearer that she didn't kill anyone in that explosion, the ambassadors included, because I  really don't think the Legion should harbor murderers. So really, I don't know that we DO need this kind of dynamic in the Legion. Andromeda's story was fine, but we don't need to repeat it, and Gates is finally mellowing, but he more or less has THAT voice.
Cards on the table, I can't help but compare this story to the original continuity's Shadow Lass story in Secret Origins #8. That was a more sympathetic portrayal, better steeped in fantasy tropes, but also, I guess, a different Tasmia altogether, one that WAS a good match to the wholesome Mon-El. Perhaps it's this relationship (still in the works) that will bring Umbra into the fold.
That all said, I do like the issue. It certainly doesn't repeat the beats of the previous continuity (no Shadow Kid, for example), and ties her story into the expanding U.P., which is actually under the microscope in the current storylines. That's good. It also presents a kick-ass shadow champion with a lot of neat power tricks at her disposal (as when she down-powers the U.P. ship because she has an effect on its power source). And there's a lot of humor to be had by saying one thing, but showing another. Call me old-fashioned but I always enjoy a hero looking into "camera" at the end of a story to address the reader.
Science Police Notes:  
  • Shadow Lass' original origin was told in her first appearance, Adventure Comics #365 and retold in much more detail in Secret Origins (v2) #8.
  • The kids listening to the Legionnaires' stories are (or look like) members of the Legion of Substitute-Heroes.
  • Among the heroes trying out for the Legion at the same time as Umbra is a visible homage to Chewbacca.

1 comment:

  1. I really want someone to make Tasmia my favorite character some day. That hasn't happened.