Friday, June 26, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #40

Recap: The Earth has been destroyed. About 100 domed cities have survived as a flotilla in orbit around the sun. Now the rebuilding needs to take place. The vestiges of the Dominator rule need to be eliminated. The political structure of this New Earth needs to be stabilized. And two sets of Legions are trying their best to help out. But there are threats lurking even in this shaky stability.

Legion of Super-Heroes #40 continued the transition period for the book, trying to establish something of a status quo with a new sort of universe and a somewhat rejiggered creative team. Tom & Mary Bierbaum take over the writing chores completely here and are dealing with a very different landscape than was present way back in issue #1. The Legion are back together... two of them in fact. The Dominion rule is over. The Earth is gone. Before they can begin in earnest, they needed to reset things a bit.

Last issue dealt with the grief over Earth, but it ended with some optimism. This issue deals with the new Earth and all the ground-level issues. And finally, after almost a year, we actually get an "Old Legion meets New Legion" moment. In fact, we get several great moments as counterparts interact. Brainy/Brainy, Laurel/Laurel, Vi/Vi... they're all fantastic

Newcomer Stuart Immonen continues to shine on the book, bringing a smoothness to the interiors, different than the more stylized pencils we occasionally saw from Jason Pearson. But it is important to know that this issue is almost completely devoid of the nine-panel grid. Things are changing.

But I can tell you, way back in December 1992 when this came out, the young Anj wasn't happy. That Anj was broke and in the middle of his first year of medical school. He got maybe three titles because it was all he could afford and this Legion book was one of them. And that Anj had been clamoring to see Wildfire (his favorite Legionnaire) back in this book. This cover felt like a gut punch.

The first order of business is to get everybody in one place. The old Legion. The SW6 Legionnaires. Cham. Devlin. Everyone is finally together on the hodgepodge Earth.

It has been a while since we saw Devlin's Reflecto power in action, but Rokk recognizes Devlin's power and bravery and teamwork. Rokk knows that Devlin would be a very valuable member of the team. So we add someone new.

But it is hard to remember who is in and who is out of the old Legion. It has been some time since they starred in the book.

And finally we get some longer moments where the older Legionnaires are faced with the optimism of their younger counterparts. We also see the younger Legionnaires floored by the physical and emotional scars of the older versions.

Here the young Laurel mourns the loss of Valor, who is either lost in time or dead. And like a good partner, the young Brainy hugs and comforts her.

But there is something absolutely cringe-worthy about the older Brainy just lingering and watching this emotional scene play out. I can only imagine what he is feeling, Jealousy? Loneliness? Regret? Sadness?

And the younger Brainy must feel just as creeped out, looking over his shoulder at the older Querl just staring at them. Must be like catching a voyeur looking at you... and it's yourself!!

As a Supergirl fan who loved her relationship with Brainy, this scene is just powerful, showcasing the differences between the lives of the Brainiacs.

And while last month looked at the sadness revolving around Earth's destruction, this issue there is time for some celebration. Let's face it, the Dominion is gone. And these cities survived. There were heroes that helped save all those lives.

After seeing them thrive for a year in this book, I loved seeing the Subs soak in the limelight for a short period of time. Castoffs no longer, this group played as big, if not bigger, role in Earth's freedom than the main Legion.

But before I could swell with too much pride, we get a chilling reminder that villains are still out there. The people begin to cheer even louder for their hero Universo, someone who had almost no part in the actual freeing of Earth. We, as readers, are aware that Universo is pumping hypnotic subliminal messages on people's Omnicom tablets. This is the first time, rather subtly, that we see how he that is taking root.
Back in 5YL LSH #27 we saw a list of all the super-beings the Dominators had in their pod labs, mind-wiped and brainwashed to serve the Dominion.

Some of those who had been captured survived the destruction of Earth and are now in the cities. The remaining Science Police are trying to transport these beings to a medical facility where perhaps their free will can be regained.

Unfortunately, in the transfer, Charma gets loose. She has one of the officers release the rest of the prisoners. And suddenly a riot of super-powered Dominator sympathizers is loose. Among them, Charma, Myg (Karate Kid II, now complete with sonic powers), and Squire Burroughs. Squire, a new character, is revealed to be Wildfire's brother. He also seems to be an energy construct stuck in a suit. And, as far as I know, he did not exist before this and therefore is a wrinkle from the Glorith rewrite.

I love that many of these characters are from the Legion lore, repurposed and seen again. Who doesn't like Charma!

The whole episode is squelched pretty quickly by, of all people, Universo. He uses his hypnotism on Charma to shut her down. Then Universo uses it on the escapees to calm them down. Rather than be controlled, Squire decides to blow up his energy containment suit and escape. Just like that, it's over.

It only plants the image of Universo as a hero that much deeper into the psyche of the people. It also reminds me just how powerful a villain Universo is.

We briefly leave Earth to catch up on a long lingering subplot. Way way way back in 5YL LSH #20, Mysa had a vision of Amethyst on Sorcerors' World. We haven't seen her since!

It turns out that she has indeed headed back to the rubble of Sorcerors' World to try to see if a remnant of its magic and glory is still present.

Mysa isn't without her guardian angels however. Older sister and Naltorian High Seer Nura has been watching from afar. Fearing that Mysa might be in danger, Nura calls on an implied old lover to go watch over her younger sister.

Who is this green-skinned caped figure? The young Anj would have bet the pennies in his pocket it was Pulsar Stargrave.

Pulsar Stargrave as a paramour of Dreamy's?? Eeewww...
After a few chance meetings, we finally get to see the SW6 Legionnaires and the old Legion together. It is a social visit, a gathering to meet, chat, and catch up. The dynamic of the room is great even in this opening shot.

There is the old Brainy, still in stalker mode, just staring at young Brainy and Laurel sitting on the couch. And there is the young Ayla talking to the old Ayla about how beautiful they are. Invisible Kid is alone, conspicuous in how socially invisible he wants to be. The young shy Violet is hiding behind current crush Devlin as she sees the older Vi, someone she probably didn't imagine she would become. And there is the brash young Jo Nah with Tinya, looking for his counterpart. He wants old Jo to see Tinya again. But old Jo is nowhere to be found. We even get to see the young Sun Boy make an ill-advised pass at the older Laurel.

This scene is about as perfect that you can get for this cast of characters, subtly capturing so much of their personalities in both the art and words. As a Legion fan, this is the scene I have been waiting to see since the SW6 Legionnaires were first introduced.

With Devlin joining the older Legion, he asks the younger Violet to join him. Despite voicing come concern about leaving her friends, she doesn't outright refuse. You can see how the young Violet is just too reserved to stand up for herself.

Then the older Violet decides to step in. If there is any character that has drastically changed in the interim years, it is Salu. This interaction is the best in the book for me, beating even the excellent Brainy/Brainy/Laurel ones.

The older Vi acknowledges that the she is scarred and harsh and maybe even damaged. But this younger Vi has her own life to live. And the younger Vi needs to make decisions for herself, even at her young age. She is bright and strong and can be independent.

It is just what the young Vi needs to hear. She tells the older Vi that she hopes she turns out just as strong. And then she tells Devlin she isn't going with him.

I love this scene.

We get one last peek into the Laurel/Querl relationship. First, I love how the young Laurel says she doesn't think she would ever feel comfortable flying around in the skimpy costume the older Laurel wears.

But you just feel the pain the older Brainy is feeling. You just feel how distant he is. It definitely adds to that feel of emotional distance that plagues Brainy. He thought something was more important than love and as a result there is this space that just can't be bridged... emotionally and physically. Even the shadowing on Brainy in that last issue is just wonderful. You get a sense of him gritting his teeth, angry at himself, looking at what he once had and foolishly let go.

Maybe this means more to me as a Supergirl fan. But it just shows how well the Bierbaums get the Legion and their history.

Finally, the young Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl chase down the older Jo. What happens next is just an utterly awkward interaction where the older Jo sputters, stutters, and runs away. The last page is the older Jo flying away, crying, holding the last note his Tinya left him... discussing engagement rings. Gut-wrenching.

These SW6 Legionnaires are young. So I don't think they realized just what this would do to Jo until they witnessed it. And then, once seeing it, they know that they just put him through Hell. One thing I love about comics is seeing young heroes growing, moving along the journey. That is a key portion of the Legionnaires. And that second panel, showing just how small these Legionnaires must feel right now, not just for doing this to Jo but also for suddenly feeling vulnerable and small is perfect. Just a great way to show art complementing words.

So we continue to move along with an excellent Legion book, building on older stories. We finally got a meeting of the Legions. And we have such wonderful character moments. It is almost enough to make me forget nine-panel grids and backmatter.

With the dust settled and the meetings over and Earth quasi-stable, things are changing gears.

1 comment:

  1. Old Querl to young Brainy' look: "I KNOW"
    The meeting of the Vis is my absolute highlight from the book, followed by the heartbreak of Tinya and the Jos.
    I have to say I was a fan of Immonen from the get go, not imagining how big he was going to get in the following years. I had him pidgeonholed as a Hughes clone back them (not a bad place to be placed, thinking about it)