Friday, May 22, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #36

Recap: The war is finally over! The Dominion has left Earth! The planet is in shambles, but at least its people are free. And that means it's time for some reflection, some new beginnings, and some taking stock of things now that peace has been achieved.

Legion of Super-Heroes #36 is the finale of the epic Terra Mosaic storyline which has dominated the book for just under a year. It has been a tremendous tale to tell as we have been dealing with politics writ large, personal triumphs and tragedies on a smaller scale, and the usual sidetracks and creative risks that this book is known for.

The Dominators' control of Earth has been the driving force of this book since the Quiet Darkness. That is a long time in comics for characters to be entrenched in warfare and all its horrors. So I was glad that writers Keith Giffen and Tom & Mary Bierbaum took this issue as a sort of pause, a chance for the characters to take a breath and take stock of their own lives and Earth's future post-Dominion. That doesn't mean this is solely an issue about characters' reflections on life. There is action as well - a brutal fight between the two lethal assassins on the team, Bounty and Sade.

As for the art, Jason Pearson and Karl Story continue to put out tremendous work on the book. Kinetic and powerful, slick when it needs to be, rough at just the right moments. I have been amazed at the growth of Pearson's style as the book moves along. The brilliantly colored cover is perfect, showing how evenly matched the two characters are, a sort of yin/yang on a blood soaked background. Superior work.

One of the things I love about this particular arc has been seeing the SW6 Legionnaires, so naive and innocent, stuck in that Silver Age mindset, and watching them react to this grimier, darker universe.

Things changed dramatically with the deaths of their Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, and Princess Projectra. Things are different here. So we start out with seeing the original Invisible Kid fuming, storming around the Presidential Palace in London. He is angry and ready to lash out. He hates himself for, as leader, sending his friends to their deaths. It is as if the environment and the war have already dulled that joy.

And then he sees the two Tenzils in a snowball fight. And he smiles, wondering why he can't let more light into his heart.
And with the war over, it is time for those strange bedfellows, those unlikely allies, to realize that they can't get along any more. With a common enemy removed, old foes slip into old patterns.

One thing that's interesting is seeing how the Legionnaire Bounty is suddenly ostracized. She wants to kill the self-immolating Sun Boy, putting him out of his misery, a mercy killing. And that is frowned on by the SW6 Legion and Circe.

Bounty storms out, but we now hear her inner thoughts, a craving of adrenaline, the need for a hunt.

We haven't seen this side of Bounty before.
A few issues ago, we had a focus on Element Lad and Sean/Schvaughn. I liked how the two Element Lads were played off each other there. In this issue, we get to see two incarnations of the same Legionnaire talk to each other: the young, brash Sun Boy and his dying, older version. That Dirk betrayed the Legion, worked with the Dominion, and gave in to his baser desires.

I love how the younger Sun Boy tries to rationalize the downfall of the older Dirk. Who wants to think that they would grow up to become something like that?

The contrast between current and SW6 Legions is fertile ground.

This might be my favorite moment of this issue. The young Valor and Laurel Gand fly over the cities of the world, hoping to help. Lar is floored by the destruction, at how terrible this Earth is. He simply feels out of step with this dark a world.

And then Laurel says something which is basically at the essence of the Legion. It is exactly this sort of universe where she, where they, can do the most good. Because they are good. They can inspire. They are needed to right the course of things when they veer away from the light.

I think the creators have talked about how the dissolution of the real Legion was one of the big blows that helped push this 5YL universe towards evil.

One of the great moments a couple of issues back was Sade taking the older Valor to task for not using his powers to end the war, cripple the Dominator fleet, and change history. He said he could not decide the fates of people, and Sade thought that was a cop-out.

So I love how the SW6 Light Lass, still filled with idealism, tells him that he was right.

That smile on Valor's face is priceless. These Legionnaires are pure. They have no ulterior motives. She means it when she says that he did what he needed to do. I love how it bolsters his resolve.

Much like Bounty, Sade realizes that she cannot stay with the Legion. She doesn't fit in with this group. The Dominion is gone. The link that tied her to the Legion is broken. But as she tries to leave, she runs into Bounty. And Bounty knows that there is... well... a bounty on Sade's head.

A brawl breaks out within the palace, brutal and loud, all flips and guns. But if I have learned one thing in life, it is that a teleporting assassin is hard to defeat. Eventually Sade teleports behind Bounty and shoots her, from behind, through the abdomen. Sade seems quite satisfied in that first panel.

That last panel though is a perfect response to her "high and mighty" ethical conversation she had with Valor. He calls her "Miss Moral Conscience of 2995", letting her know that her actions aren't morally superior to his.

And then things get wonky.

Bounty seems to be possessed, a voice saying it needs a new body. And then "Bounty" screams in agony.

Brainiac 5 is able to stabilize Bounty, but in his examination he learns that Bounty, as hinted at in her earliest appearances, is Dawnstar. Or rather, the body is Dawnstar's body, but the Bounty personality was an alien presence, something that was in control.

Another mystery to unravel in this 5YL universe!

Ayla Ranzz is my second favorite Legionnaire, so I had to include this scene.

Back on Talus, we see her working out. Kent Shakespeare talks about how people are wondering which Legion is the "real" Legion and which is the clone Legion. As fierce as ever, Ayla says she doesn't care. She is who she is. She has lived her life. It simply doesn't matter. That is the perfect response for this Lightning Lass. She has been through so much and persevered. She is strong (echoed nicely by the workout aspect of the scene). So that's that.

In a crazy turn, in a later scene, we see Brainy talking to Rokk about the very same thing. And Brainy thinks that they - the older Legion - are the clones.

Of course, not everything is perfect in this issue.

After seeing the older Dirk suffer for months, after seeing him beg for mercy now, Circe finally releases him from his pain. But she does it by shooting him in the head. Surely, if she decided he needed to die with dignity and without pain, she could have come up with something more humane. But maybe that is in line with her character.

But then, grieving for Dirk, she kills herself.

And that seems out of character. Did she really love him? Would she kill herself over him? Or would she more likely become bitter and angry and go on rampage against the Dominators?

Her death seemed like a waste. I thought there was more to explore with Circe.
After some brutal fallout, we get one moment of peace. Devlin and Vi walk outside, holding each other close, and believing that now things will be okay.

The Dominator War was the thrust of this title for so long, that I felt like this coda was necessary. We needed a wrap-up of some of the subplots which were lingering. But mostly, I felt as a reader, I needed a reset. I needed to again see that the Legion was there, ready to help rebuild and inspire. And I needed to see these two Legions interact, to see how that would play out. With the Dominators gone, it suddenly feels like the future for this book is more open.

Surely, after these three years, the creators would give Earth some peace, right? Surely things would be okay?


  1. Wonderfully dynamic cover, and I remember back then the color was very unusual and really jumped at you. We are jaded by computer coloring now, but back then it was "wow".
    Great pieces of characterization all. I really enjoy both Aylas' moments, and I like how "workout Ayla" shows traces of Vi's attitude as well.

  2. Reading your reviews now, it makes me wonder if Bendis was a fan during this time... his X-Men run was all about older and younger versions of the same characters having to deal with each other.

  3. I was just thinking about Bendis’s time displaced X-Men while I’ve been reading these issues too. I really enjoyed those stories as well. Good call, Esteban.