Friday, January 16, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #18

Reviewer: Anj
Super-power: Super-confusion about Mon-El

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #18 is an interesting issue for this title, grabbing some of the creative energy of the earliest issues in terms of pacing and plotting. The backbone of the creative team is still here: Keith Giffen, Tom & Mary Bierbaum, and Al Gordon are all trying to rebuild and re-imagine this 'five year later' universe. The artist on this issue is Brendon Peterson who did the bulk of the art on the prior three issues of the Khund/Glorith war. And in many ways this is an epilogue to that arc.

In that story many United Planet worlds were overrun by the Khunds, the populaces maddened by the Red Terror fear gas. And with the Khunds defeated and limping back to their space, these planets are now rebuilding and re-fortifying. Unfortunately, that means they are vulnerable. The leaders and governments of these worlds were routed. And with the Khunds gone, things are unstable. These rulers could be overthrown again or kept out of power. With a possible power vacuum in the United Planets, the cult of the Dark Circle decides that the time is ripe to try to expand.

All of that makes sense.

What I like about this is that the creative team makes a bold step and introduces and wraps up the Dark Circle plot in one issue. If the Khund/Glorith war could have been stretched to 5 or 6 issues, this Dark Circle arc could have been pushed to three. I am not saying I want that! I don't like decompressed or overly long story-lines. So this pushing of plots is refreshing ... especially in the 2014 world of comics.

The issue opens with one of Queen Projectra's personal guards trying to kill her in her bedroom chambers. It is only by using her illusion powers can she overcome the man.

Taken to the courtyard to be executed (you have to love medieval justice), the assassin proclaims his devotion and loyalty to the Dark Circle. There is a bit of zealousness in his words. But also some simple wants. His family is hungry. The cult of the circle feeds their believers. And the Queen still lives in opulence while the citizens suffer. For art, I love the second panel. The dark circle behind the man works as a simple shadow and a symbol of the Dark Circle.

Projectra, stunned that the Circle could infest her world so discreetly, calls on her Legion friends.

With Orando in shambles, and the Circle making inroads, Projectra knows the best person to call upon is Valor. She knows that the supply ships to feed the hungry are being hijacked by the Circle, increasing their power by inciting the victims.

Now you might recall that Valor's story was re-written in the double reboot in issues 4 and 5. He flew off into deep space with Shadow Lass. I thought we had seen the last of him and I was surprised when he returned in the Khund War.

Here, we learn that his reputation, his status as a legend, is profound. Projectra asks him to tell the people to reject the Circle. She also basically asks him to take over the planet. It seems odd that Jeckie would be willing to turn over power like that.

But more interesting is Valor's response. The populace has the right to decide who they want to lead them. If they choose the Circle so be it. He will help figure out how the Circle got onto Orando. But he won't rule Orando.

It is interesting. I suppose we have seen Superman do the same. Luthor got elected by the people and he let the choice of the people stand.

Eventually the investigation by Valor (damn it ... I want to call him Mon-El!) leads him to the Dark Circle stronghold on Orando.
I love the persuasive power of this Circle leader. She is preying on the disenfranchised and the poor. She is decrying intellectualism ... elitism ... and calling the speeches of the current leaders as sophistry, i.e. fancy word play. She is saying that all this is destroying the traditions of Orando. You can see how this might be compelling. Remember, Orando was shunted to another dimension by the Legion of Super-Villains. Now the Khunds have conquered them. Maybe it is time they go.

Interestingly, when Valor shows up to break up this meeting, the people are stunned, almost reverential. He is able to break this orator's grip on the people. And things change even more when the leader triplicates herself, showing that she is a Carggite!

If Cargg is involved, Valor and Shady decide to talk to Luorno on Xolnar. She can't add much to what is going on.

I did love this little character moment. It is well known that Luorno always had romantic feelings for Superboy. With no Superboy around, the creative team shifts this history to Valor, one of the current stand-ins for Superboy's presence in the Legion. Luorno gives Valor a peck on the cheek.

Instead of being jealous, Chuck decides to play things up about it. He grabs Shady and pretends to be a suave player, talking in an absurd French accent. Luorno and Lar's embarrassment is fantastic!

So Valor goes to Cargg to try to figure out just how deep the Dark Circle is entrenched.

Judging by this panel, they are deeply rooted. This isn't the bright, round, clean future of prior Legion histories. We have torches, and skulls, and shacks. This looks like a Conan panel, not a Legion panel.

And this brutal truth is jarring. It explains just what the 5YL universe is like. This explains why the Legion is needed.

The leader of Cargg, the Arch-Khana, seems completely exhausted. The Circle is literally behind her, telling her what to say. It is as if she has given up.

And when Valor shows up, the Circle knows the influence he can bring. They have the Arch-Khana announce that until Valor leaves that Circle acolytes should kill themselves every 27 seconds.

I am going to guess it is 27 seconds because that is three to the third power. I bet three is key on Cargg.

But how entranced are these people. This man slits his own throat!

And why doesn't the Arch-Khana stand up to this?

Again, the power of Valor, as 'Father of Worlds', is powerful.

He says the simple truth ... how can ritualized suicide benefit anyone?

Even the Arch-Khana sees through the mist of propaganda and tells the people to reject the Circle.

Valor won't allow the Circle to spread from Cargg. He'll stop their spread. No more hijacking of aid to others.
But again Valor states his feelings of semi-noninterference. If the people of Cargg continue to embrace the Circle's teachings, it is their right.

Hmmm .... what do people think of that? This isn't political differences. This is a cult endangering people. Should he shut them down completely? What if the Circle believers become violent, killing the non-believers. Is that their right too? To have Civil War?

Hmmmm ....

With that, Valor and Shady head back into deep space.

With the spread of the Dark Circle contained, we catch up with the other subplots brewing.

It looks like Mysa is on the mend. The strength of Power Boy, and his sacrifice, has shaken her out of her funk.

I love Mysa, so this makes me happy. I don't think PTSD can be 'cured'. But at least she is healing.

And thankfully, we get a few pages of 9-panel Giffen/Gordon art.

Things aren't going well on Earth. The Dominators are tenuously holding on to their power. They know the Legion is a threat. Their operative Circe decides it is time to keep a close eye on the new team.

But I love this. Talk about turnaround. She wants to watch the Legion closely. The Legion is already watching her closely. There is Bounty, the tracker!

And the underground is striking against the Dominion, albeit through violent acts. Some might call this terrorism.

Is it Universo's group? They seem more criminal in nature, a bit more blunt and inelegant.
Is it Invisible Kid's group? A bunch of ex-Legionnaires? They seem more stealthy and less violent.

Killing innocent Earth people while lashing out at the Dominion doesn't seem to jibe with the tenets of the Legion. Schvaughn Erin knows she can't be working for these people.

But the fight between the Dominion and the citizens of Earth for control of the planet is about to explode .. literally.

How I wish Giffen and the 9 panels stayed on this book forever.

The backmatter includes a great recruiting poster for the Dark Circle. This even resonates now. You could imagine this being used to recruit the 99% vs the 1% here in the USA.

So this was a fast-paced issue, reintroducing and shutting down the Dark Circle in one issue! Once again, this is a fascinating decision by the creative team. We only get broad strokes of the Circle. Certainly this story could have been told in 2 issues. But things keep rolling along!

And on Earth ... things are about to get interesting.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Love the Chuck/Shady - Valor/Luornu moment, the rest of the issues is, for me, one of the weakest of the 39-ish run.

  3. Hey, did you ever cover the Annual with Ultra Boy, or did I miss it?

  4. Thanks for comments.

    I agree this one sort of whizzed by and as a result seems forced. It is one of the weaker.

    I love the 'small moments' - like the Chuck/Shady one - much more than the big Circle plot stuff.