Friday, March 27, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #28

Recap: The Earth is a state of chaos after the Dominator's Triple Strike is accidentally triggered. In the aftermath, the Dominators take open control of the planet via martial law. In response, the Underground and their new allies the SW6 Clone Legionnaires, begin to fight back. One group of rebels is currently holed up in a Dominator lab, where a number of super-beings are being mind-wiped in pods. Sun Boy, effected by the radiation from Triple Strike, begins burning himself from the inside.

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #28 is a fascinating issue, a pause in the wild ride that the Terra Mosaic arc has given us. The Earth is in shambles. The Underground is plotting. The main Legion is on their Talus base, recovering from the BION attack. The SW6 Legionnaires are trying to understand this new world. And as a fan, reading these issues, I want more ... and I want it now.

So, as has been a theme of this entire series, just when I want things to move forward quickly, the creative team pumps the brakes. In the past I have discussed the creative risks of the book, of decisions by the creative team took, such as the artistic format, back text pages, or how plots progressed.

At this point in the series, all I wanted was to see more of the clone Legion. All I wanted was to see the two Legions meet. All I wanted was for the Legion to battle the Dominator army and wrest control of Earth back.

Writers Keith Giffen and Tom & Mary Bierbaum with artist Jason Pearson instead give us a character driven issue. And it is a close look at one of the most interesting characters in this Legion: Sun Boy. While the other Legionnaires have lived hard lives of war or pain or longing during the 5 year lag, Sun Boy has lived an opulent life as the propaganda spokesperson of the Dominators. Why would he do it?

We finally learn here.

The tale is a nightmarish, surreal history of Sun Boy complete with warped and horrific images by Pearson. And it all works.

It is clear from the beginning that Dirk (Sun Boy) Morgna got a twisted set of morals from his father. To make it clear to us, Pearson cloaks the father in shadows or puts demonic grins and solid black eyes on the father whenever we see him.

The Morgnas are rich and that is because Dirk's father has seized his life by the throat. Whatever you need to do to succeed ... you do. A Morgna doesn't whine. They do whatever they need to do to move ahead. If someone is holding you back, don't cry about. Do something about it.

It is clear. Whatever it takes to 'win', you do it.

Now my parents told me to work hard, keep my nose to the grindstone, and how an honest day's work can lead to an honest day's pay.

But Morgna seems to be implying that if you need to step on someone's throat to move ahead, you do it. Only losers sit by. Winners do what it takes ... whatever it is.

As if that sort of 'win at all costs' upbringing wasn't enough, we learn where Dirk got his attitudes about women. Dirk walks in on his father with another woman. Dirk can't understand why his father would cheat on his mother.

Dirk's father answers that women want a man to be lecherous, to cheat, to use them. They want a man who will 'grab' what he wants. And, as seems to be a recurring plot point, Dirk takes the lesson to heart.

That second panel is just devilish. And in the third panel, Dirk's eyes being all black shows maybe a subtle darkening of his soul.

Now one of the things you may note about the art is that this doesn't exactly look like reality. These are memories, but skewed memories.

We see a flashback of Dirk being locked in the reactor, gaining his powers, and then fighting Dr. Regulus. But as the angry Dirk lashes out at Regulus, Regulus morphs into Dirk. Fighting himself! Fighting who he has become?

Pearson really does shine in scenes like this. Dirk's clawed hand, the skull on the Sun Boy costume, the weird backgrounds. All slick.

As we move up in time, we see that Dirk at one point became the leader of the Legion. He led during an event called 'Black Dawn', one of those seminal moments that happened during the five year gap. It seems to lead to the breakup of the Legion and to the Dominators gaining control.

In a fantastic set of pages we see numerous Legionnaires and heroes approach Sun Boy, tell him off, and quit the team. He is a bad leader, a publicity hound, and creator of problems, not a solver. And slowly but surely we see him start to think worse and worse of his teams.

It is clear that the Legion falls apart and is disbanded by the UP under Sun Boy's tenure. He suddenly is out of the spotlight.

But then he is approached by Circe and the Dominators. She uses his sexual addiction and fantasies to lure him in. And the Dominion promises him a life of luxury, back in the spotlight, and back as a leader if ... if ... he will become a tool for them, their voice.

And Dirk, destitute, morally weak, and a narcissist, accepts. Maybe begrudgingly ... but he accepts.

If you can't tell, I have little love for this Sun Boy.

As the Dominion's tactics become more and more nefarious, more and more devastating, Dirk begins to question what he is doing.

But then he is haunted by that memory of him as a little boy whining. He is haunted by his father's words of how Morgnas aren't losers.

No one forced him down this road.

When Triple Strike occurs, Dirk tries one last time to be the hero, maybe reclaiming his soul.

He dons his original Sun Boy costume and tries to do what he can. Of course, he pauses, standing on a rooftop, ready to hear the accolades of the people.

I have talked in the past about how the rigid 9 panel grid has increased the impact of splash pages. I loved the subtle message in this splash ... so powerful. The Sun Boy outfit is too small. This is his past.

But there are no accolades. Instead he is roundly booed. There is no redemption here.

And the sheer ugliness of Dirk in the last panel stands in such contrast to the heroic look he spouts on the prior splash. Dirk has changed.

The Null radiation from Triple Strike then incapacitates him.

And then we see how it all ties together. Dirk is in one of the pods in the lab where the Subs are holed up. They discover that it is Dirk. And they hear him screaming in pain from within. He isn't dead. Instead he is trapped in his own thoughts, reliving his horrible past, and living in agony.

I suppose this issue is supposed to make me feel some sympathy for Dirk. He was raised to claw his way to the top, survive any way you can, and be a 'winner' no matter what. And he lived that life.

Instead all I can think about is the tragedy and struggles in other Legionnaires lives. And those Legionnaires rose above, became heroes, and didn't succumb to greed or self-congratulation. Yes, he saw what he was doing and tried to rebel against the Dominators. Yes, in the end, he tried for one last shot at redemption. But I can't stomach him and would be one of those people labeling him a traitor and shaking my fist in the air.

What did you all think?


  1. I´m not a fan of horror stories in general, and specially not in comic book form, but this works on all cilinders, I guess mainly because we KNOW Dirk. The art is to die for.
    The "Leggionaries quit" grid is my favorite, and of course, I always get a thrill from Jan´s "arrow" uniform.

  2. Love this blog. Just found it!

    Love the 5YG in general, and this issue in particular. I liked that Sunboy didn't get redemption. Not because I hate the character or anything, but because it mirrors the real world. In the real world, people who made all the mistakes and moral compromises he made rarely get redemption. Sometimes it's too little, too late. But there's two sides to every story. Poor Dyrk....

  3. The problem is, none of this really fits in with Sunboy's past characterization. He wasn't a narcissistic himbo who was addicted to sex, who felt he had to claw his way to the top. I get they needed someone from the Legion to fit this particular role. I wonder if they drew a name from a hat, or if Giffen and the Bierbaums just weren't a fan of the character to begin with?

    1. Actually, Levitz gradually made him a womanizer who was just a tad full of himself. Obviously, Giffen and the Bierbaums ran with it, resulting in the 5YL hatchet job on Dirk.

  4. I am glad to see someone documenting this incredible and often underappreciated chapter in LOSH history. Both 5YL and this issue.

    I too felt little sympathy for Dirk (but was surprised at his characterization - he really was the 'fall guy'for the team). I enjoyed the storyline he encompassed, but I really was hoping he would eventually redeem himself somehow in the end. I was unpleasantly surprised in the end that he never did.

    I'm not even certain there was much recognition of his death from the remaining team members.

    Kudos to you noticing the splash page and the emphasis of it - I don't think I even noticed it when I read it. Such a powerful story.

    Poor Dirk