Friday, July 31, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #45

Recap: Mordru has absorbed the White Witch into his body, gaining her power, and nearly becoming a god-like being. With his newfound powers, Mordru decides to take the universe by force, casting a resurrection spell which raises the dead as a revenant army devoted to his cause. With the galaxy scrambling, the Legion is called into duty to defend outlying worlds. But politics make strange bedfellows. The Legion ally themselves with the Khunds and add 4 Khundian super-soldiers to the roster. The streak off to Sklar to help defend that planet. Meanwhile, Kono has been possessed by the spirit of Amethyst and, with Matter Eater Lad and the Martian Manhunter in tow, heads to Naltor for a mission of her own.

I feel I have been a bit harsh in the last couple of reviews of the 5YL run, lamenting the creative daring of the first year and talking about how the book seemed to settle into an "ordinary comic book sort of rut. But after reading this issue for the review, I felt I needed to reconsider things a bit.

Let's set the first year of issues aside. That was a risky endeavor for the creators, reestablishing the Legion in a darker universe but presenting the material in a dense, multi-layered, nuanced style.

Instead let's look at the year preceding this book. The Terra Mosaic storyline, while incredible, was a slow burn. The events unfolded dramatically but not quickly. There were multiple rest issues intermixed, character driven stories looking at one person's reaction to the war. And the Legion itself were bit players in their own book. This is not a complaint! I loved Terra Mosaic and my reviews should show it.

I think, with Terra Mosaic in the rear view mirror and the SW6 kids off on their own adventures, writers Tom & Mary Bierbaum, decided to shake things up a little bit. First and foremost, the elder Legion team is in the spotlight in this storyline involving Mordru's attempt at regaining universal dominance. Second, the pedal is to the metal here, with this plot speeding along so quickly the reader can barely take a breath. And third, the Bierbaums continue to show their love of Legion lore and history.

Yes, the nine-panel grid, the intricate (sometimes confusing) plot lines are more streamlined, and we don't get as much back matter. But this comic is still highly entertaining for Legion fans. And I shouldn't just dismiss that.

Of course, the impeccable work by Stuart Immonen adds so much to the story. There is a sort of "early Giffen" feel to his art and this issue. It reminded me, in some ways, of the big battle issues of The Great Darkness Saga and that is a good thing.

The Legion, composed of the Legionnaires and their new Khundian teammates streak to Sklar to help defend the planet which is the first to be teeming with Mordru's undead army.

It is clear from the start that this is not going to be an easy alliance between the Legion and the Khunds. The Khundian "Legionnaires", outside of the teleporter Veilmist, all tote lethal weapons, guns and clawed gauntlets. They seem to have one strategy... attack head on. And they have little respect for the Legion. Vi's irked expression is perfect. We know what she is thinking. And given Vi's prominence in the panel, Immonen wants us to see that.

But is also clear that Veilmist is going to bring her trouble as well. She is married to Khundian soldier Firefist, but she is clearly attracted to Jo.

Arriving on Sklar, the scene is pure insanity. The Sklarian soldiers are dressed like Amazons and are using hand-to-hand combat to fight Mordru's army.

But the big fun in the issue is seeing all the dead DC characters who have joined Mordru's troops.
Here alone we see Hawkman, Green Lantern, Mentella, Captain Comet and the cowboy Vigilante.

Elsewhere in battle scenes we see a veritable Who's Who of the dead: Robin, Jay Garrick, Al Pratt, the Skyman, Terra, Son of Vulcan, Killer Frost, Mindboggler, Mr. Terrific, the Adrian Chase Vigilante, Arak, Mirror Master, Cyborg, and Arak!

While this is a physical battle, the Legion knows that the basis of it is magic. With Mysa unavailable (and fueling Mordru), the closest the Legion has to a magical ally is Queen Projectra. Orando has always been steeped in mysticism.

On Sklar, and on the battlefield, Projectra does a conjuring spell to get some information. The results are a bit perplexing. A toddler with sparkly eyes and a samurai mouse arrive to give some cryptic information.

In some ways, this reminded me of the Great Darkness Saga when the wizards on Sorcerer's World perform a spell which results in the conjuring of the Highfather baby. I wonder if the Bierbaum's asked for these designs or if Immonen was given free reign.

One problem of fighting an army of the raised dead is that any casualties you suffer become troops for the enemy. We see that play out here when a fallen UP soldier rises to join Mordru's ranks.

It is clear that victory for the living isn't possible. With no other recourse, Rokk has Veilmist teleport the mixed Legion back to the cruiser.
Of course, fighting your dead friends and heroes can't be easy. Thankfully the conjured magical beings let the Legion know that Mordru's army are simple husks of the being. Their souls aren't present. The Legion shouldn't feel compelled to hold back.

Which, of course, raises the question... why fight with infantry at all? Don't you have ships, missiles, area of effect weapons? Why not fly above the field and use flash vision? Lightning powers?

And, as anticipated, Veilmist is causing a little trouble. She wants to be free of Firefist. And she wants Jo to be her new "master". The only way to do that is for Ultra Boy to kill Firefist. And Firefist thinks Jo is making the moves on his wife. It is a combustible situation.

To be honest, Veilmist might be the most powerful member of this team. And I think she isn't quite so subservient as she acts. My guess is she wants Firefist out of the picture in a way that won't implicate her in any way per Khundian culture. Jo would never keep her as an enslaved wife. But if he kills Firefist, she would be free.

I have to say, I don't remember how this ends up playing out.
On another front of this war, perhaps the most important front, J'Onn and Tenzil bring the Amethyst-possessed Kono to Naltor.

As a Mysa fan, a Kono fan, and as an Amethyst fan, I am intrigued in seeing where this goes. One of the things I am finding as I do these reviews is that I don't quite recall these later issues. So I truly don't recall if Amethyst's spirit ends up playing a large part in Mordru's defeat.

Giffen put Mordru's origins on Gemworld. So I love this as a new wrinkle of acknowledged Legion lore.

But my favorite subplot is Roxxas trying to get some redemption by raising the Trommites he killed.

In a stretch, Roxxas lands on Trom and casts a spell which shatters the Tsarin crystals which had been keeping the dead Trommites interred.

My first comic was Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #211. In that issue, Roxxas laments his massacre on Trom and wants Jan Arrah to kill him. Here we see that wish for redemption and even death played out again.

This isn't the vicious assassin with multiple personalities from the earliest issues of this series. This is a repentant Roxxas who is looking for peace in the worst way possible, by raising the Trommites as unholy revenants.

And you wonder just how much Jan can take. His hand in that lower panel looks poised like he is close to actually killing Roxxas. But before he can take that step (which we know he would immediately regret), Jan is encased in inertron by the raised Trommites who now serve Mordru.

This is my second favorite scene in the book and the one most dripping with Legion history.

Luckily, the spirits conjured by Jeckie keep providing snippets of information.

The resurrection spell Mordru has cast requires great energy and is limited. It will only last 96 hours. That means the living need to hold the lines for a couple of more days to weather this storm.

But that isn't so easy when Mordru has access to all the dead. The Trommite army at his disposal are unimaginably powerful. They fly through space to Sklar's orbit and there simple begin to elementally dismantle the fleet.

Now this is my favorite scene in the book.

With their ship about to explode and death either by the vacuum of space or at the hands of the Trom soldiers imminent, Laurel kisses Brainy. If death is about to happen, there is no need to deny feelings any more.

Why don't those two kids just say they love each other???

For Supergirl/Laurel/Brainy fans, this is perfect.
But death doesn't happen.

Veilmist again teleports the team, this time back down to the planet.

Unfortunately, the Legion now has to battle... the dead Legion. While they may know that these beings are simple shells of their comrades, it can't be easy to fight your fallen brethren.

Look at them! Chemical King, Ferro Lad, Magnetic Kid, Blok, Karate Kid, Reflecto, the first Invisible Kid, Luorno's dead triplicate, and one of the villains in this book, Sun Boy.

As I said in my intro, the creative team keeps this storyline moving forward at warp speed, sending us to the periphery of this war throughout the issue to keep us abreast of all the moving parts, but concentrating on Sklar and the war unfolding there.

I can't complain about the content. I was highly entertained. But still... after the heavy meal of the early run of this title, this felt like cotton candy - delicious and sweet but not as filling.


  1. Happy to see you exorcising your disappointment at the end of the Giffen era, because these later reviews have been written very much in the shadow of those earlier comics. Hopefully, the later 5YL stories can stand on their own merits without the need to compare them to what has gone before.

    How are you going to handle intrusions from the Legionnaires book, especially near the end when it's a three-way with Valor as well?

  2. I remember having doubts about the whole Khundian angle of this storyline, but being thrilled by all the details, from the corpse army, to THE KISS and of course, that heavy-implication last page.
    Immonen was destined to superstardom.

  3. Is that Captain Comet, or is it Beast Boy of Lallor, with what looks like Atmos behind him? The green parts of his uniform make me think BB. One of my favorite parts of this story was trying to ID all the zombies. And of course not-Usagi Yojimbo as the spirit guide.

  4. Thanks for comments and sorry for late retorts.

    I know I have to stop saying 'this isn't like the early issues' at some point. That said, I will reiterate that when Zero Hour reboots the Legion, I was so jaded that I stopped reading LSH books for the first time in my collecting life, only returning for the Threeboot with Waid. I will stop flogging the dead horse.

    And yes, identifying the corpses is a ton of fun.

    Lastly the KISS is so sublime a moment. Immonen is just fantastic here.

  5. A late comment about the other spirit guide: I was reading the recaps of this story over on Tom Bierbaum's site, and it struck me that the creepy child guide could have been the child that Val and Jeckie were never able to have.

  6. So Reflecto existed as a real person in the Glorithverse?