Friday, February 27, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #24

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #24 is the conclusion to The Quiet Darkness, the thematic sequel to the Great Darkness Saga. It is not only the finale of this arc; with this issue, we close the thematic beginning of the 5YL book. After this issue, Keith Giffen's role as supervisor begins to diminish. We slowly move away from the 9 panel grid pages. And that creative elan of seeing this Legion come together and be a beacon of hope in a darker universe seems to dull a bit.

But that doesn't take away from this issue. We see a very different Darkseid in this story, and the ending of The Quiet Darkness is fascinating. It definitely fits the feel of this book.

The second half of the book, like the prior issues, sends us back to Earth where we catch up on the revolution brewing there. We have two major hooks at the end of this issue, planting the seeds for the next year of stories.

In the first half we get great art by Giffen and Gordon, the end of their run of art. But in the second half, we also get gorgeous art by a young Jason Pearson, the upcoming artist on the book whose clean organic style is luscious.

Like last issue, this issue is basically split in two. The first two thirds covers the ending of Quiet Darkness. This is classic 9 panel grids with Giffen art.

There is a ragtag team of Brainy, Furball, Jo, Kent, and Celeste who finally have put all the pieces together. Darkseid wants to activate the Gemini Matrix with a young girl named Aria. The purpose of Gemini is to create a meta-form ... "the step between man and god." They hop into the cruiser and head to Darkseid's base to try to stop him.

Darkseid trying to create a god. Sounds like something he might do ... a weapon to destroy things ...

But remember, this is the 5YL Legion. Darkseid hasn't been acting in a way we are used to as readers. This 'weapon' theory seems a bit too classic, too mundane, for this series.

As usual, there is excellent characterization in this book, deepening the Legionnaires into nice three dimensional people. So Celeste being well-read seems right. And here, I love how flummoxed Brainy is when he hears that Aria's twin is a male, making the two a 'sacred twin'.

There is something as much mystical as scientific with this Gemini Matrix, so I like that Brainy wished that Jan was there. Element Lad is the sort of metaphysical, philosophical Legionnaire as well. With so many characters in the Legion,  it would be easy to fall back and make them one-dimensional. To see Brainy recognize that he is not good with the metaphysical, to wish someone like Jan would be there to help, it makes both characters more three dimensional to me. There are nuances here.

And even Furball, the doomed Timber Wolf character, is given a little moment. We saw last issue that Aria kissed him and called him a prince. Here we see him brooding in the corner, clawing the floor. I read this to mean he is worried about Aria. He considers himself a monster. She accepted him. Of course he wants to help her. 

Meanwhile, Aria's father Francis, a troubled scientist walking a fine line between loving his kids and experimenting on them to keep them alive, has a powerful dream/vision. In it his wife tells him that she allowed herself to die during delivery to try to break the deal with Darkseid. But it didn't work.

The art in the dream sequence is beautiful as Giffen alternates between bright idyllic scenes, dark shadows, beautiful horizons, before morphing into a nightmare where Darkseid brings Francis back to reality, waking him up.

With Aria captured, with Coda dying, the elements needed for the Gemini Matrix are finally together. And with the Legion on there way, there is no time to wait. It is time to activate the Gemini Matrix. 

It is so interesting to see Darkseid in this book. When you think of Darkseid in Legion lore, you think of him in Great Darkness, the very sight of him scaring a white streak into Invisible Kid's hair, carving the entire planet Daxam into his image, trying to rule the universe. He takes an innocent baby and turns him into Validus. He is truly a dark god.

In this story, he shows up in a jacket and frilly shirt. He is stern. He warns the Legionnaires to behave. But he then invites them into his lab. He is borderline polite. Remember, in this story, Darkseid has seemed weary. There hasn't been any of the ire, the bombastic speeches, the frank Evil from him.

In some ways this might even be scarier. How off-putting must it be for the Legion? Do you accept this invitation? Just follow along?

In the lab, Francis has started the Gemini Matrix experiment but the whole thing goes awry. Sadly, Coda finally dies. Aria is then rescued by the Legionnaires, broken out of the medical tube she had been placed in by her father.

It seems as if Darkseid's 'grand cosmic scheme' (as it is called by Brainy) is over. Brainy just assumes that Darkseid wants to create a 'twisted god' to do his bidding.

But this isn't *that* Darkseid. He talks about how he hasn't really done anything here. The Gemini Matrix was fated to happen and he was merely along for the ride. And as an immortal, as a higher being, he has an even bigger viewpoint than someone like Brainy. He sees the whole gem. We are just seeing facets.

Somehow, Aria does indeed ascend ... becoming Gemini.

It is always hard to visualize a cosmic being. This amalgam of simple black and white, especially as someone called Gemini, works. This something unworldly about this look. Especially when you include the color blobs behind her, a contrast to her starkness.

Enraged by the death of her brother and the upset that her father would put her family through this, Gemini starts to lash out. She feels threatened. And she certainly doesn't like Lobo, tossing him around like a rag doll.

 Except it isn't really Lobo; it turns out he's a 'probe' ... an android!

Now I had wondered just how Lobo was around in the 30th century. But I have always thought Lobo was more than just a simple probe. I mean, probes wouldn't have that power. So maybe like Darkseid did in Great Darkness (when he made Dark Servants of Superman, an Oan, Orion, etc.), he made a sort of a Dark Servant Lobo, a juiced up probe.

Dark Servants from The Great Darkness
Even as a probe his Lobo seems to have a little bit too much of the real Lobo in him. He rebels against Darkseid and so is destroyed by his maker.

With Gemini risen, Darkseid doesn't cackle with joy. He doesn't tell her to join him in ruling the universe. But if Darkseid doesn't want Gemini to be his servant, what does he want her for? Darkseid keeps asking her for an 'act for charity'.

What act of charity could Darkseid want?

When she doesn't do what he asks, he shows her how charity, how acts of goodness, can sometimes be a double edged sword. With a snap of his fingers, Darkseid 'cures' Brin of his Furball metamorphosis. But in his human form, the chemicals inside him will kill him. Is it charity to make him human? Or a curse to kill him?

But again, Darkseid isn't acting like the power-mad angry god from before.  He could have vaporized Brin, but he doesn't. Is it a kinder Darkseid? Or simply a more manipulative one?

In another nice twist, it seems as if only some Legionnaires knew Furball was Brin. Jo knew. Brainy knew. But Kent didn't.

Nudged by this 'attack' on Brin, Gemini uses her god-like powers to 'kill' Darkseid. She kills him!

And here is the real kicker of this story, the incredible ending ... Darkseid wanted to die. He was sick of this universe. He was tired of everything. He wanted a 'quiet darkness' ... the peace of death! And she gives it to him. In fact, we see Darkseid in a sort of heavenly place where he meets Coda!

This isn't your father's Darkseid.

I think this is brilliant. And it again shows the risks this book was willing to take. Some new readers might have bought this looking for a intergalactic brawl, a copy of Great Darkness. Instead, we have a downbeat Darkseid, looking for release.


And so that ends The Quiet Darkness. With Darkseid in heaven.

With the Quiet Darkness behind us, we head back to Earth and get to see the seeds of upcoming plot threads.

First off, the Dominators 'Project Champion', now named B.I.O.N., is tasked to bring back the SW6 Batch to their chambers. Remember, B.I.O.N. is a sort of Amazo of the Legion but built on top of Computo's operating system.

Computo with the powers of the Legion under the control of the Dominators??

It is insane.

And his first target is Laurel Gand!!!

Except he confuses 'our' Laurel Gand with the SW6 batch version.

Get ready for the brawl of the century.

And then we see it!

The SW6 Batch Legionnaires. The people who saved Devlin.

Drink in this image by Dusty Abell  (the only page he contributed to this issue!). We are talking serious Silver Age stuff. This is pre-Cockrum stuff ... mini-skirts and bouffant hairdos, Cham in scales and Tinya with a big P on her shirt, and ... Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, and Invisible Kid all still alive!!

And check out Laurel Gand in a Mon-El inspired costume with a pleated skirt. Be still my Kara-loving heart!

But which Legion are the clones?

And this second Legion will be a major portion of the Legion universe for some time.

The back matter includes a summary of the BION project including the list of all the Legionnaires who his genetic matter is built on.

So ends the second year of the Five Year Later reboot. With this issue, Giffen is completely off art and slowly weans himself of co-plotting. I think this whole universe was Giffen's vision, a major departure from prior Legions. This book has been a creative bonanza in my mind, both in tone and execution. Much of the credit for that has to be given to Giffen. Kudos to him.

1 comment:

  1. OMG this issue... the shock of the last page! We knew about a doppelganger Legion from Mon-El, but seeing them, and seeing WHEN FROM.
    And as you, I think that the "I wish Jan was here" tell us so much about the characters and the relationship they have with each other.