Friday, September 19, 2014

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #2

Legion Reviewer: Anj
Super-power: Knowledge of early 20th century comic strips starring Frenchmen

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #2 took a different direction from the opening issue, an interesting choice which in retrospect works well in the world-building that Keith Giffen, Tom & Mary Bierbaum, and Al Gordon were doing in this darker future.

One of the things I immediately liked was the removal of the 'All-New' tag in front of the Legion title. 'All-New' sounds a bit too fresh for this thematic approach to the team. But more importantly, it wasn't an all-new Legion. It was the same Legion - older, wearier, and scattered.

The first issue of the title set the stage. We saw Rokk, Dirk, Reep, Lydda, and Vi. We saw the ruin that Braal had fallen into. We witnessed the horror of the Braal/Imsk war. We saw the problems of Earth touched on. And we saw the light of the Legion rekindled, a beacon of hope ... if the team could be reborn. It is an issue with quick cuts, scenes 2-3 pages at most, as we take pit stops around the universe. It had to be like that. We needed to get up to speed about this new universe.

The second issue takes the opposite approach. For the majority of the book we are on Rimbor and dealing with one Legionnaire, Jo Nah. That's right ... Ultra Boy. We also meet newcomer Kono. As Kono is a new character, this issue's approach gives her a good introduction.

Last issue was looking at the new universe writ large, with snippets of lots of places. By slowing things down, by looking just at Rimbor, we get a close up look at the seedy nature of the new universe. And that lets us know that things truly are grimy.

Rimbor seems like a squalid place. The scenes we see are of bars, dance clubs, strip joints, and drug dens. The world seems to be run by Silverale Ltd., a corrupt monopoly in league with the Khunds.

Jo Nah is running a smuggling business on his home planet. He is fighting the Silverale group and the Khunds as best he can. Rimbor was never portrayed as an Eden. But this looks like a planet-wide Crime Alley. Jo as pirate fits his personality well.

It is clear the Khunds don't like Jo or his colleague Kono. And so they will happily work with Silverale to eliminate Ultra Boy.

Now lots of new characters will eventually grace this book. But Kono is the first and she is fantastic.

A feisty Sklarian with a distrust and dislike of men, as well as a great super-power where she can shift her mass to others (becoming intangible, or making something else denser), she is part comic relief, part power house.

Here she works for Jo, flummoxing the Science Police, running product, and generally being a nuisance to anyone who crosses her.

The Khunds send 2 cyborgs to eliminate both Kono and Jo. Here we meet them as they home in on Kono, hoping she will lead them to headquarters.

Something else I like about this book is how humor is part of its charm. This is a dark place. Some lighthearted moments help keep things from feeling ponderous. A lot of humor comes from Kono.

But I liked some of the subtle touches. Like the bounty hunters being Algronsk and Kaston, who defer to each other and compliment each other much like the classic Alphonse and Gaston.

Shifting focus briefly, we see Lydda and Rokk's friend Loomis in space heading towards Kathoon. Reep and Rokk aren't with them because they are headed to Rimbor to try to recruit Jo.

Lydda is allowed to say all the deep things about the Legion and Rokk. Yes, the life of the Legion was crazy - but it was done for the right reasons: principle, honor, friendship, and love.

That right there is the thematic core of 'Five Years Later'.

The Legion, despite the battles and deaths and destruction, were all about honor, principle, and love. And if what we have seen holds true, this new reality needs those ideas again.

Algronsk and Kaston are not subtle assassins. They brutally murder Jo's lover to get information from her. And when they find the city block where Jo and Kono are hiding, they don't wade in to battle. They level the entire block, bringing down buildings, and causing untold deaths and casualties.

I don't know if I will ever like the long pony tail on this Jo. But he acts a lot smarter than the 'dumb jock' he was in the prior series. Simple things like keeping his invulnerability on all the time is a good example. Being the mastermind of a pirate group is another. This is an older and wiser Ultra Boy.

And we see his brilliance in battle, switching from invulnerability to flash vision to strength when he dispatches Algronsk.

And Kono takes care of the other. You can get the sense of her sarcastic nature as she buries Kaston.

Trust me ... if you haven't read this book ... you will love Kono.

We got the sense that Sun Boy was in bed with the establishment last issue. Here it is confirmed. He leads a plush sensual life to be a spokesperson for the government.

We meet Circe, his consort who dresses up like whatever woman Dirk is currently courting. (Here she is emulating Schvaughn Erin.)

After seeing the poverty and ruin Rokk and Jo are living in, seeing Dirk lounging in a pleasure dome makes him even more odious.

As for Jo, he has no home now given the destruction by the Khund killers. But he searches for a memento. A shaving brush we saw him using earlier in the issue. And now we know why. It was a gift from Rokk engraved with LLL for Long Live the Legion.

After two dramatic closeups, we see Jo in the distance of the destruction. I suppose it is a way that he is leaving Rimbor and its squalor behind.

But that sentiment, searching for a burned shaving brush shows the power that the idea of the Legion has, the strength and loyalty that the leadership of Rokk has.

We'll have to wait til next issue to see them meet again.

But there is an epilogue.

We meet this insane well-dressed man. Who is this man .... and why is he so scary?

We'll only have to wait til next issue to find that out, too.

My hope is to include one of the back matter pages with each review.

This issue's back matter includes this report on Phantom Girl going missing and presumed dead. As this issue focused on Ultra Boy, who was romantically involved with Tinya basically forever, it makes sense.

What we learn later on is that Phantom Girl had switched places temporally with the Durlan member of L.E.G.I.O.N. She becomes Phase in LEGION '89. The Durlan (the cloaked figure on the LEGION '89 #1 cover), is flung into the future and becomes R.J. Brande. It explains both why Tinya is gone but also why Brande is obsessed with 20th century heroes as inspirational models. The above LEGION '89 #9, where Phase first appears, was released the same month as 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #1, basically a month before this issue.

We'll see all this a bit more clearly in future reviews, especially 5YL Legion #8, coming up soon.

Jo and Tinya were long time partners. So the loss of her would impact him. I am glad Giffen touched on it here.

Two issues in and I am loving this book all over again.


  1. Great review Anj! This series is another prime example of so.e of the wonderful stuff DC put out in the 1990s that has never propey been collected and kept in print. Here's to hoping that the Legion's return to the DCU soon will spark more interest, a new ongoing series of their own, and some much needed reprints for their rich back catalog of material.

  2. Thanks for the post!

    I am having a blast rereading and reviewing this run. I had forgotten how risky this was back then, and innovative. I would definitely buy this if collected.

    I know things become more like a normal comic once Giffen leaves. But for now, it is great to relive the things Giffen et al were doing.

  3. I loved this issue, but one minor loophole nitpick. Jo says he doesn't drop his invulnerability needlessly, which is great... except at the moment the explosion happened, we know he was shaving, which would be a time when he might reasonably drop it. But a brief line of dialog could have cleared that up and it in no way detracts from the brilliance of the issue.