Friday, February 6, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #21

Legion of Super-Heroes #21 was the beginning of 'The Quiet Darkness', the arc described as the 'thematic sequel' to The Great Darkness Saga. It also is the last arc in which Keith Giffen is involved in the art on the book. As a result, this remains a key story in the life of this title ... at least for me.
There was something dazzling about the first year of this title. The creative energy seemed to dim a bit in this second year although certainly this was still one of the more daring super-hero books for its time. Now, with Giffen leaving as artist after this, the Legion sort of settles in, maybe approaching the norms of comics and pushing the boundaries of comic a bit.

As for The Quiet Darkness, inker Al Gordon is listed as writer/plotter on this arc meaning that everyone on the team was involved in putting this story together. Darkseid had played a major role in the Legion's history, from The Great Darkness to The Curse, so having him return made sense, especially given how wildly popular those earlier stories were. Maybe saying this is a sequel of sorts to The Great Darkness might be to bring in new readers who shied away from this reboot.

Paul Levitz was a master of juggling the many Legionnaires in the cast, keeping track of everyone and giving all of the Legion some screen time. Giffen and Tom & Mary Bierbaum, however, seem to be masters of juggling plotlines. We have the Earth in turmoil, with the Dominators basically declaring martial law. We have the rebels of Earth, led by Invisible Kid and Universo, trying to wrest control of the planet back. And then we have all the side plots that were introduced last issue and have been percolating in the background. As a reader, I am interested in seeing these eventually come to fruition.

But all those plots take something of a back seat to Darkness.

I have spoken at length in these reviews at some of the interesting creative choices that the team has made with this book. This issue again shows just how much this team pushes the norms.

We start out following two young girls named Aria and Lori who are on the run in a dank and foul sewer system. It is clear they don't know where they are. They are on their own as they talk about running away from their families. And they trying to keep moving as if they are being tracked. We at least know they are on Zuun.

But we don't know these characters at all. We don't know their plight. No splash page. No Legionnaire or known character. It's risky. And it is especially risky when you think that maybe a Darkness sequel might bring back old readers. Don't you want to grab those folks immediately?

Instead I felt a bit lost. I know we'll learn more about these characters. But still an interesting choice.

And they are on the move because a group of bounty hunters come to capture them and bring them home. While there is a clear 'no harm' rule, specifically for Aria, these aren't nice people. There is an implied rape threat here.

Yes, it let's us know immediately that these are pretty creepy guys. But I don't know if I needed a hinted sexual assault to know that.

Luckily 'Furball', or Timber Wolf, is in the sewers as well. And he doesn't like creeps at all. When the bounty hunters strike Lori and then shoot at Wolf, he goes into animal berserker mode. He lays into the bunch, obviously killing some of them (we see a ripped off leg fly by as well as one panel which is just a blood splatter).

It is two pages of carnage ending when the girls realize he has helped them, and needs some help himself for his wounds.

So the first Legionnaire we see might be unrecognizable to new readers. Those of us who know know that this is Timber Wolf.

I just wonder if DC anticipated a bump in readers from this storyline. And more importantly, knowing the decisions that have been made so far, I wonder if Giffen et al cared. They were going in the direction they wanted so far ... why deviate.

It turns out that Brainy had brought Brin to Zuun for some 'endocrinologic tests', probably an attempt to cure him of this odd lycanthropy.  But somehow, Brainy 'lost' Furball. Basically, Brin got loose and took off. It has been hard to pin down just how much of an animal Timber Wolf is in this mode. Is this like when a dog gets loose? Or did he simply not want the testing?

Knowing he'll need help to corral the Wolf, Brainy contacts the Legion. Jo, Kent, and Celeste are around and will try to head to Zuun to help. But, oddly, at the same time of the escape, an unusual worldwide problem with technology is sweeping Zuun as well. Communications are down. Things aren't working. And it 'feels' magical to Brainy.

The team jumps into a cruiser to head to Zuun.

And Brainy uses a little sleight-of-hand to get away from the Zuun police who have been holding him.

Nice art here to show his hologram pack that confused them.

And it is actually nice to see Brainy on a mission rather than being behind the lines.

At least we find out who the villain of the piece is. It is Darkseid and somehow Aria is a key to his plans.

But this is a sort of sad, introspective Darkseid. His years drag out ... with no peers, no lineage. And he has to see all these posers like Glorith and Mordru pass by while he waits. And now he needs to wait some more because Aria has gone missing.

The quiet darkness ... is Darkseid's loneliness??

Crazy! Who would write about an emo Darkseid!

We get some sort of hint about what is going on.

Aria has escaped. Her brother is in some sort of medical stasis tube. He is connected to Aria. And separated from her, he is dying. Somehow this connection between Aria and Coda is key to whatever Darkseid wants.

But I love Darkseid's thoughts here, talking about children going their own way. Children can't be controlled. They can be a disappointment. Knowing Orion ... knowing his other son 'Mister Miracle' ... these words are powerful.

With the bounty hunters failing, Darkseid brings in his 'pet project' to get Aria and bring her home ... Lobo!

Giffen, of course, has a strong history with Lobo. So I thought this made creative sense.

Interesting that the Bierbaums are listed only as moral support. And Giffen isn't listed as writer at all. Could this all be just Al Gordon?? Fascinating ... and daring.

But there is more. With the Quiet Darkness portion of the issue done, we head back to Earth.

The Dominators are still trying to find what ever it was that has escaped from the ' SW6 chambers' on Earth. It is clear they will need someone powerful to get these escapees back. So they activate 'Project Champion'. This mix of organic and robotic material has both genetic makeup of all the SW6 escapees but also is built from the techno-intelligence matrix of Computo. Sounds like a futuristic Amazo with the brain of a super-villain computer.

And to show us just how much of a threat 'Project Champion' is, the Dominion has it engage and kill Atmos! Atmos was pretty powerful and is easily dispatched. We have a yardstick.

Should we tally the dead supporting cast members since this run started? Northwind, Power Boy, Tornado Twins, Circadia Sensus, Dr. Gym'll (presumed dead since Medicus One was destroyed with the moon), and now Atmos.

But it is clear that the grip of the Dominion isn't tight. They learn that Circe has gone rogue. As a Triple Strike wasn't a bad enough contingency plan, this Dominator talks of the '90% solution' which sounds even more devastating.

Things keep rolling along here and I am just atop the wave and enjoying the ride. The Quiet Darkness portion is a great beginning, setting up the players on the board and keeping much of it a mystery. But the continued updates on Earth keeps me wanting more.

But frankly, I am happy to get Giffen back on art for the whole thing.

1 comment:

  1. I have mixed feelings about this storyline (although I'm a big Gordon fan in all his duties). The Lobo things was too much of a cheap cash in on the popularity of the character at the moment.
    For me, these issues are all about the SW6 mystery deepening.
    And oh, some gorgeous Giffen covers in these issues, with some of the most vibrant coloring, specially at the time.