Friday, October 24, 2014

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #6

Legion Reviewer: Anj
Super-power: 'Super-spit take' when seeing unknown Supergirl-like characters

Let's say you are the Legion creative team of Keith Giffen, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, and Al Gordon. You have been told by DC Comics that changes are around the bend. The DCU timeline will be changed such that much of the chiseled-in-marble continuity of the Legion will suddenly no longer make sense. Things need to adapt.

And yet here you are, just three issues into a completely different take on the Legion as it is. The history of the Legion was the foundation for this new take. Now there are cracks in the foundation.

So you decide that a nuclear option is needed. You completely destroy the Legion timeline in Legion of Super-Heroes #4. You set up and proceed to destroy a new timeline in Legion of Super-Heroes #5. Things will be similar, just not the same. The approach gives you an automatic explanation for any continuity kerfuffle that raises its ugly head.

You have done the impossible ... tweaked Legion history.

Surely you will use Legion of Super-Heroes #6 as an expository issue, explaining away the big changes and letting the established fandom catch their collective breath. Right? Right??

Nope. Instead you pick up the storyline you left back in Legion of Super-Heroes #3 as if nothing happened. Yes, you tantalize with a big change in this issue. But you act as if nothing happened.


This volume continues to stun with its new direction, its artistic decisions, its varying approaches to stories issue to issue, it's willingness to blow things up and rebuild things in 2 issues, and then the confidence to move forward.

And it all starts with the cover, a classic cover trope of the villain playing with the heroes like puppets, most classically seen on Justice League of America #10 . Mordru is playing with our newly formed tiny Legion.

Remember, Legion of Super-Heroes #3 ended with two major plots bubbling. The first is that Roxxas was let loose by the Dominators to try to quietly squelch the Legion from reforming. Unfortunately for the Dominators, he did it loudly and sent out a clarion call to the Legion.

Here, Sun Boy, the insipid mouth piece for the hidden Dominator regime, woos a private detective ... Celest Rockfish ... to track Roxxas down. A connection between Earthgov and Roxxas' release has been discovered and Sun Boy wants him caught (for his Dominator bosses of course). And he sure knows how to turn on the charm, to the point where even someone as polished as Celest swoons a bit.
Celeste Rockfish becomes a recurring character in the book and eventually a member of the Legion. Her power is simply her detective skills. It's great that the Legion has room for someone like this. (On a side note, her name is a play on the character Jim Rockford, of  the TV show The Rockford Files, a favorite of Al Gordon.)

The other plot is the mini-Legion of Reep, Rokk, Jo, and Kono readying to confront Mordru and free Mysa (the White Witch) from his clutches. The Legion are welcomed on Tharn, the new Sorcerors' World, and are set up in nice accommodations. This is a civil Mordru ... at least for now ... readying for discussion about Mysa and where she belongs. Amazingly, Chameleon Boy thinks he is simply going to waltz in and charm Mysa away from Mordru.

We do see a little down time as they prep for the meeting. I love Kono and her irreverent attitude, phasing in and out of rooms, not following the rules, and sassing Reep. You can see that this is going to be a fun relationship, made even better by Jo's hysteria.

And if diplomacy doesn't work, the Legion will attack.

Unfortunately, Mordru is eavesdropping. And when he hears that the Legion would have the audacity to attack him, trying to strip his wife Mysa away from him, and generally showing no respect, he decides that he needs to act.

Mordru makes the Legionnaires relive their worst moments and even warps them to make them more psychologically damaging.

We see some of Kono's back story which may explain her disdain towards men. It looks as though, as a child, she was almost assaulted by Rimborian soldiers. At the time she had no control over her power and she lashed out, killing them.

I don't always like rape or attempted rape being the impetus for women becoming heroes. But in this horrible universe, I can see this happening. And I applaud Kono's strength for turning things around.

Chameleon Boy needs to relive him killing his brother in some Durlan traditional battle.
Jo relives being swallowed by the Space Dragon but then Phantom Girl's corpse is in the beast's belly as well.

And Rokk, he relives Venado Bay, the horrible battle in the Braal/Imsk war where the Imskians unleashed an experimental weapon. To make things worse, it seems as if Pol (Magnetic Kid) is dead in the rubble.
But here is where we see the power of Cosmic Boy, even if he doesn't wield magnetism. He realizes Pol wasn't there, that this is a Mordru trick, and shakes it off. Of all the Legionnaires, he's the only one.

And then, in a doozy of a revelation, we learn that 'Furball', the giant Tasmanian Devil looking beast that was hanging out with Jo on Rimbor and joined up with the Legion there ... Furball is Timber Wolf. He relives the moment when the doctors told him that he has deteriorated into this creature.

Suddenly, another Legionnaire, albeit in monstrous form, is in the fold.

Paralyzed by this psychic attack, the Legionnaires ... except Rokk ... are dragged to Mordru's dungeon.

Remember this is all about 'rescuing' Mysa. We finally see her and it isn't nice.

I remember the chaste, shy, innocent, naive young woman, resplendent in white. In this new universe, things are different.

Here she is naked, in Mordru's harem, shunned by the other wives, and in mental anguish. She most likely has suffered all forms of abuse here. She needs to be removed from here.

I feel for Mysa. This is horrible.

Now please remember that this book came out in 1989. That the universe's history was basically rewritten twice over in the two last months. That things can be slightly different.

And remember I am a Supergirl fan who was shaking his head at the time over the 'Matrix' Supergirl. That Supergirl went mad and fled into space. We are two years away from that Supergirl returning to Earth as a dupe of Brainiac. It wasn't a good time to be a Supergirl fan.

So what was I going to do about this page ... the first concrete example that the new timeline was indeed different.

Above Tharn, a blond, head-banded woman with vision powers and flight, streaks in to save her old teammates. She says Mordru has the one power which can threaten her. And she seems downright sure of herself as she streaks down to challenge the wizard.

Blond, head banded, super-powered ex-Legionnaire afraid of magic?? In a book edited by Mark Waid???

My jaw hit the ground back then. I truly thought this was Supergirl.

We learn more about her and who she is next month. No 25yr old spoilers here.

As for Celeste, she and her partner ... a bounty hunter called Bounty ... decide the best way to track down Roxxas is to head to their only lead. That one lead is Jan Arrah (Element Lad) on Trom.

They head to the planet by way of Devlin O'Shea, a cub reporter with delusions of grandeur. Devlin also becomes a recurring character here ... a mix of Jimmy Olsen and Snapper Carr. And they are heading there in a decommissioned Legion cruiser. There is a lot of universal serendipity here as more and more Legion gear and Legionnaires are coming together.

There is more to Bounty than appears. We'll learn soon.

And then this happens ... a splash page, our first break from the 9 panel breakdown. And there is Element Lad, dressed like a shaman/survivalist, presiding over the planetary cemetery.

Another Legionnaire!

The text page at the end of this issue reviews 'The Last Days of Daxam'. With the universe re-written, I had questions about Mon-El. I am sure everyone did. Was he a Legionnaire? Did he exist? While we know the plan was for him to be Valor in the 20th century, did the 1000 years in the Zone happen?

I thought Valor would remain in the 20th century and Mon-El would not have been a 30th century hero. Turns out I was wrong. Mon-El was a hero and was currently alive! But Giffen and Bierbaum weren't going to touch him or Shady. This text ends with them 'deep in uncharted space adventuring'. Explaining Mon-El again would be too perplexing.

Whew ...

I love this issue. And I love this series. Think about this particular book, in the context of this series.

1) Basically ignored the universal upheaval and re-upheaval of the two prior issues, picking up where #3 ended.

2) Gave us insight into several new characters like Kono and Furball. Introduced us to Celeste, Devlin, and Bounty.

3) Showed us, in a brilliant manner, the strength of Rokk

4) Re-introduced ex-Legionnaires Mysa and Jan

5) And then tantalized us with another Supergirl variant.

And that's just the story!

As for the art, if you want a splash page to 'matter' ... show one after 6 months of static 9 panel breakdowns!

We are half a year into this new Legion. What do you think so far??

First appearance of Celeste Rockfish, Bounty, Devlin O'Shea, and that blond head-banded woman superhero (okay, I'll say it) Laurel Gand!


  1. Jan has been through all incarnations, my favorite legionnaire. You can imagine my reaction to that last page.
    An the "roll the dice and pray for sevens" line from (*edited*) Laurel is a favorite a quarter century on

  2. Enjoying these revisits! :D - Toshi A.

  3. Thanks for comments!

    It is so hard to figure out what to post. I want to post it all!

  4. Gus, I appreciate your singling out specific lines of dialogue for praise -- at this point Keith was the plotter and did full pencils before we were adding our input (except for #5 and the timeline-changing ending to #4, which were ideas Mary and I came up with), so our contributions were mostly in the dialogue and it's nice to know some of it connected.

    And it's interesting to see in these reviews the degree to which some were anticipating major changes in Legion history after the events of #4 and 5. I think some on our team and some of the DC higher-ups really wanted to take advantage of that opportunity, but I was a real fan of the established continuity and worked to preserve as much of it as we could. We certainly didn't intend for this to be "one possible Legion" but certainly the legitimate primary Legion in same way all the earlier issues had been. Our desire wasn't to "reboot" the concept but to accommodate editorial directives with as little disruption to the history as we could manage -- all, of course, while telling the best stories we could tell.

  5. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting.

    I think by picking up right where #3 left off, the feeling was that most things were going to be the same. But now there could be differences ... like Laurel Gand. I think at this point, I felt this was THE Legion. But now there was a chance for things to be fresh. From the 5 year gap to this new wrinkle, things seemed more open.