Friday, December 5, 2014

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #12

Reviewer: Anj
Super-power: Super-chills when faced with awesome comic moments

If there is an issue of the 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes that you want to give to someone to showcase why it is such a fantastic title, this is the issue.

Legion of Super-Heroes #12, by the creative team of Keith Giffen, Tom & Mary Bierbaum, and Al Gordon, brings to a conclusion two of the story-lines that have been percolating through this first year. One is the slow reformation of the Legion. The other is the violent murder spree by Roxxas. It all comes to a head in this issue.

Now one of the things I have touted about this series is that it contrasts the overall feel of dystopia in the Universe with the optimistic inspiration of a Legion as a concept, let alone a team. The Universe needs a Legion to guide it. When the Legionnaires are together, the planets are watching, the villains are worried and plotting, and the heroes are ascending. There have been moments in this series so far where, as a Legion fan, I have gotten chills because the creators strike that tone of Legion inspiration.

This issue is filled with those moments; three of them are goose bump inducing. And it includes what I feel is the moment of the first year, capturing what the Legion means even in these dark time.

I also have been commenting about the overall pace of this series. Giffen and the team recreated the Universe twice over. They put in a couple of flashback issues. They put in a humor issue. And all along I have been waiting, craving, for the Legion to simply be back. In fact, after last issue's humor amidst the carnage, I was even a bit angry at the creative team. Why humor then?

And yet, that pause just makes the denouement that much more sweeter. This pot has been simmering for a year. Now ... finally ... it boils over into excellence.

Onto the story.

As we saw 2 issues ago, a number of the Legion and their associates had been simply battered, grievously wounded, and apparently killed by Roxxas.

Now Roxxas has been in hiding, slaughtering anyone he comes across as he nurses the wounds he received from Ultra Boy.

And the Legion is trying to heal as well. While Mekt and Bounty recover, it is clear that Celeste Rockfish simply won't make it.

What I like about this opening moment is that it is told from the viewpoint of Brainiac 5 who mourns Celeste and Jo. There is this wonderful moment where we get a rare moment of vulnerability from Querl. He can't figure out death ... why good people die ... why he can't do more. It is a puzzle even a 12th level intelligence can't unravel. And that frown in the extreme close up of Brainy speaks volumes.

As for Roxxas, the swathe of death he has cut across Winath continues. And Cham says one of the best lines in the issue. In the immediate aftermath of a victory over Mordru, they "forgot that Legionnaires never stop being targets."

But Rokk is tired of waiting. He splits the Legionnaires on the planet into two squads. One will defend the compound. And Ayla, Vi, and Jan will go on the hunt.

Cham's surprise that Rokk got them to band together to go on a mission is understandable in the context of those Legionnaires being apart for 5 months.

But then we get chill moment #1. Rokk, brow furrowed, angry, declares that the Legion is back.
The Legion is back.

And compare that look of determination to Brainy's defeated look in a similar


Now another ongoing plot has been the intelligent green energy following the Legion around the galaxy. Turns out it isn't Wildfire. And it isn't the Emerald Eye of Ekron.

That green energy streams into the medical facilities, bathing Celeste. And then we get just the briefest of origins for Celeste.
For one, it turns out she is directly related to Leland McCauley, a well known super-rich narcissist in the Legion mythos, somewhat spoiled and jealous of RJ Brande. But Celeste wanted more than the simple life wealth could bring her. I love that there is a stronger connection between Celeste and the Legion.

She becomes a detective and some time in the past runs across ... a green lantern ring.

The green energy fills the room, near blinding the staff. And then ... suddenly ... Celeste is healed.

As I have said before, the splash pages in this series carry such tremendous weight because of the 9 panel grid. These pages stick out as being important ... special.

What does it all mean for Celeste?

We have to wait.

There is one other Legionnaire on the planet, although not all the team knows it.

Furball was revealed to be Timber Wolf way back in the Mordru issue. Now we see that he isn't always in Furball mode. In fact, he is almost a reverse lycanthrope. In the light of the full moon, he has evolved to a more human form.

But he considers himself an animal, a tragedy, a pet. Here we see him, naked, drinking from a lake with his hands, his nails tattered and ragged. Despite seeing the green energy, despite knowing the Roxxas attacks are ongoing, Brin is wallowing in such self-pity and self-loathing that he isn't spurred into action. He would rather stay in the forest.

It is interesting to see just how depressed he is ... and that his first thought is still of Ayla. But it stands in contrast to the heroic deeds we see elsewhere this issue.

And then we get to the heart of the matter.

The Legionnaires track Roxxas to a building and begin their infiltration. Violet is doing the espionage, trying to reconnoiter the place, wondering why there are flickering life forms in the building, and exactly where Roxxas is hiding.

All along I have talked about how insane Roxxas is ... brutal, immoral, ironic in his dandy look and talk of morality. We have seen his psychopathology writ in dead bodies. We learn that the flickering life forms are dead bodies lit on fire.

Roxxas is utterly despicable. And it is important for Giffen and the Bierbaums to shove our nose in it. We'll see why soon.

Finally the Legion corner him. His battered face is scarred from his battle with Jo and the suboptimal medical care he received. There is something fantastic about a blood spot on his forehead mimicking a Dominator caste spot.

And just when you think it is going to be over, he pulls out one last weapon ...

Would the creative team really kill off these three Legionnaires? It seems so ....

But it turns out to be nothing more than a flash grenade.

And then comes this series of panels. And I hope people will read them and then reread them because for me nothing defines the 5YL Legion more than this.

Roxxas passes out, dying from his wounds.
Ayla knows without help, he'll simply die.
Vi wonders if they shouldn't simply let him die.

And then Jan encapsulates it all ... perfectly. And this is the Legion.

"This isn't about him, or his atrocities. Or even justice. It's about us ... and how much of us would die in this room with him."

Legionnaires don't kill.

Even in this darker universe, a place that has become seedier in the last five years ... even in the face of this killer, someone who has probably murdered a number of their friends .... even with the last surviving Trommite standing there, someone who could talk of justice ... Legionnaires don't kill.

It would have been easy to darken the Legion. To have them kill Roxxas. To have them become a different team, coarsened by the universe around them. In the grim and gritty '90s, the Legion could become 'more mature', killing when necessary. It would have been a sign of the times.

But that isn't the point of the 5YL Legion.

The point is that the Universe ... this Universe ... needs the Legion more than ever, as a point of hope. The Legion doesn't need to be more like the Universe. The Universe needs to be more like the Legion.

I got chills when I read these panels then. I just got chills reading them again.


Nothing is left but the wrap-up.

Roxxas will live. And he gives up Earthgov as his employer.

Remember when the Dominators thought that Roxxas would be a discreet agent?

And then we see that Cham is indeed fine. And he knew that the Legion would be back. Gone are individual costumes. Now the Legion uniform will be standard gray jackets with the Legion symbol. And the team will wear them once they see Cos wearing his.

This scene is great. Rokk slides into the leader role, talking of debriefing the team. And Cham is giddy knowing he has rekindled his father's mission.

The next page is this.

Some might think it is a waste of space. But they are wrong.

That last moment, the extreme close-up of the Legion symbol ... that's the end of this story. If this was a movie, there would be a boom, the screen would go black, and we would see these words followed by the credits.

But it cements it. Before this moment there was no Legion of Super-Heroes.

Now there is.

But the issue isn't done!

There is the beginning of a new plot. We meet Kent Shakespeare, an ex-Legionnaire no one has met before, another wrinkle in the post-Glorith rewrite. Bespectacled and well mannered, with super-strength and healing, physically and personality-wise, he fills a Superboy sort of void in the Legion history.

Here he is working as a physician at the site where Garridan Ranzz is being studied. The Persuader shows up, trying to kill one of the other patients there.

The Persuader!

Tossing in Kent Shakespeare after the 'Legion of Super-Heroes' page is just another way the creative team keeps the ball rolling. There isn't much time to pause and catch your breath. We already have a completely new universe to mull over and a decent cliffhanger of the Persuader about to behead him.

This issue is just about perfect.

This issue's highlighted back matter lets us know just what the new Legion uniforms can do.

But what I like is rather than have it be a static document explaining the suit, it is in the form of a letter where the manufacturers try to cut corners and Cham won't have any part of it. I love this sort of reader engagement. It would be easy to simply tell us this info. But making it a story makes it interesting.

So what more can I say. I love this issue. LOVE IT.

This issue defines the Legion and this 5YL run.


1 comment:

  1. My all time favorite issue of my all time favorite series. I single out those two moments as well, Rokk's "We're back" and the "Legion of super heroes" title page as chill and tear inducing indeed.
    And I don't do tattoos, but long ago I decided that if I ever did, the "L" from this cover would be mine.