Friday, November 2, 2018

Retroboot Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1

Hey all,
I think with the posting of this review of Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 from the retroboot Legion that I am finally caught up with my reviews. While my reviews have gone all the way up to Legion of Super-Heroes #13, this annual should have been snuggled up after LSH #8.  After all, this story picks up right after Ayla and Vi announce that they are heading off on vacation.

So, thankfully, moving forward, I think the timeline is now reset.

On to the book!

I feel Retroboot Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 has flown a little under the radar in terms of importance for the team. It built off of a story that had been published 22 years earlier. It introduced a new Emerald Empress. It established a semi-origin for the Emerald Eye itself. It pushes Sensor Girl to a new role. And, it hints at something going on with Vi. Pretty meaty.

Unfortunately, while those events happen, the bulk of the book is simply a slugfest. This was a double-sized issue but it could have been told in half the length.

Of course, it also reunites the dream Legion team of Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. Giffen is in pure Kirby mode here, from layouts to detail. Look at the cover. Tell me the Empress doesn't look like an Asgardian or an Eternal. I do like the grandeur that Giffen gives this new Empress, someone luxuriating in power and wealth for the first time.

We start out flashing back one year on Orando of all places. A young woman, in tattered clothes and wounded, one eye seemingly plucked, is running for her life. A pack of men, with hunting dogs, are chasing her down. It is clear the leader of the hunt is Duke Pharos, an unscrupulous man who has abused this girl. It isn't said explicitly but you get the sense that all sorts of abuse have been done to this girl. She has denied him in his bed and therefore must pay.

She stumbles into a crumbling temple adorned with green eye symbols. Falling on her knees, atop a floor inlaid with a green eye mosaic, she begs for the power denied her all her life.

Suddenly she is imbued with tremendous power. Her wounds and ragged state are erased to reveal a beuatiful, healthy, and quite angry woman. With the eye hovering behind, she takes her revenge on the hunting party.

This raised a few questions for me. Was this temple there all the time? Were there worshipers of the eye on Orando? Or did this manifest because this girl was the right vessel? I don't think she was specifically praying to the eye when she begged for power.

A year later, the Legion cruiser Ayla and Vi are on is plucked from space near Orando, crash landing and forcing the vacationing couple to jettison in life capsules.

While this unnamed girl is the new Empress, it is clear that she has the cumulative memories of the Empress before her. She recognizes the Legionnaires and knows all they have done to her.

I have to say, the motivations of this girl are a bit muddled. She seems to want to be left alone but also to get acceptance for her title and status now.

The two Legionnaires awaken in an old fashioned prison and don't take kindly to it. You may recall that Ayla was in a similar prison waaaaayyyy back in the first Baxter series arc, when she was trapped there by her brother.

Neither take to the imprisonment kindly. We get several pages of them bashing their way through the streets trying to find out who locked them up and why.

A few things here.

One, the prison garb is a shoulderless pantsuit which lets Giffen dabble in decolletage throughout the book. But it is similar to what Ayla was wearing back in Orando prison in 1984 so hurray for continuity.

Two, it seems weird that the two would bash and blast their way through the streets randomly. It is odd for Legionnaires to be locked up. This isn't the Orando they would expect. They are probably going to be hunted. Why not stealth it up and try to figure out what is going on quietly. Hey Vi! You are on the espionage squad. I wonder if Ayla's past experience is feeding into her anger.

All that said, the banter between these two is wonderful. They sound like a well-established couple. I love it.

They finally smash their way into the court of the Emerald Empress. They are definitely confused by this new girl with the eye. And they also can't believe all they are seeing. Orando seems to be poisoned. The land is moldering and rotting out from under her.

Here is where that unclear motivation of the Empress confused me most. She has the Legionnaires put in prison. But when they arrive, she seems to be asking them to be join her as Ladies of the Court. They can even have her pick of slaves, people she has maimed as she was.

So did she want to be respected by the Legionnaires? Protect her new status? Both? Is it a sign of her madness?

When Ayla and Vi deny her that respect, she uses one of their Legion rings to ping the rest of the team. She wants more Legionnaires to come possibly to join her.

Back on Earth, Sensor Girl suddenly realizes all that is happening on Orando. She is amazed to see the devastation. It means that the Empress has been duping Jeckie! Remember, his power is to see through falsehoods. She is floored, well conveyed by that first panel.

It is time for action. She blips into her Sensor Girl outfit, grabs Sun Boy and Gates, and teleports away.

It does mean that Jeckie has been an absentee leader of the planet, letting raping nobles run roughshod and then a deranged villain take over.

And poor Orando! Taken over by the LSV and then the Empress!

They flit right into the boudoir of the Empress where she is trying to complete her levee.

They also are shocked to see a new Empress. We get a quick recap from 1989. Sarya, the original Empress, was sick of living in the abusive relationship with the eye and begged for release. Sensor Girl cut off the eye from all its senses, breaking the bond with Sarya, leading to her crumbling away.

But that won't work here.

This Empress isn't ready to give up this eye. She is reveling in it.

With the background stated, we get to another brawl.

I like how Sensor Girl tries to frighten the new Empress by showing an illusion of Duke Pharos. It almost works. But then the Empress gathers herself and says she is not that girl anymore.

When was the last time we saw Jeckie use her illusion powers?
I also like how this Empress' rage is stronger than her fear.

In fact, she turns the argument around, blaming Sensor Girl for all that happened. If Jeckie was on the planet, ruling benevolently, Pharos would never have been the cad he was. The horrible life the girl lived is because of Jeckie. She is at fault.

Sensor Girl says that even the best leaders can't control everyone. Justice is imperfect.

But the 'cure' of the Empress' rule is worse. The entire planet is corrupted.

So what do you think? Is this Jeckie deflecting? Could she be partially at fault but not want to admit it? Is the Empress' response to the abuse she suffered warranted?

The ethics discussion ends with the eye simply blasting everyone mercilessly. It seems the Legion is going to lose.

But then Vi has an idea. She shrinks down to subatomic and enters the eye.

Within, we get a trippy sequence. Violet seems to witness the origin of the Eye. It is discovered as a relic. It is worshiped. It wants to destroy. It seeks out hosts to carry out its mission.

I don't know if this adds much to the Eye's origin. But I found it fascinating. The Eye seems to be sentient and hungry.

Giffen once more veers into Kirby craziness here.

Inside the Eye, Vi grows quickly, shattering it from the inside out.

It doesn't destroy the Eye. The pieces flee into space, already coalescing, already seeking out someone new.

So what do you think? Is this a good solution? I always wonder if this can work. Is the Eye that fragile?

Or is this all some twisted game the Eye has, allowing Vi to destroy it?

The Empress returns to her more natural form, now with both eyes plucked.

Perhaps finally recognizing that she is partially responsible, Jeckie decides to stay on Orando and rule. So that is a new future.

And Ayla and Vi can finally head on vacation. But Violet seems to have some emerald energy in her. Is she the new Empress? Did her time in the eye mark her? Or was she always a vessel for it? She certainly has enough in her history to be angry about.

So overall, a good issue which was way better on reread than I remembered it to be. While it could have been compressed a bit, a lot happened to make it feel important, something I think Annuals should be. And I also like that it focused on Vi and Ayla, two of my favorites.


  1. I believe the Vi/Eye thing was meant as a callback to the Reboot Vi and the Eye. Which is a nice way of doing what that series did for years: take a classic story and retrofit it for current times.

  2. I really didn't care for this one. I'm not a fan of Kirbyesque Giffen. Gating all the way from Earth to Orando is a huge power jump for Gates, with no justification beyond "it serves the plot." And the way the Legion won - really? Assuming Vi could have even gotten in at a subatomic level, that should have been as effective as inflating a balloon inside an engine block.

  3. I feel like Levitz left Jeckie out in the cold during volume 6, like he told ever Sensor Girl story he could think of so he decided to write her out. She did use her illusion powers against Saturn Queen to cause the mind controlled Legionnaires to turn on her in v6 issue 3 (I think). The story requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. With her powers, Jeckie would always be able to see Orando so I don't buy her not being aware of the new Empress. I'm not sure during the Reboot what the upper limit of Gates powers was as it as he could teleport multiples but too much could put a strain on him. It was written he could teleport 200 feet but Levitz made him into a Celestial-scale teleporter.

    Overall, the action was probably the best paced out of the entire series and I attribute that more to Giffen. I wonder how much influence he had on the overall story.

  4. Linking it to the Reboot Vi and Eye makes perfect sense. A way of bringing in a new wrinkle into the 'old' timeline.