Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #2 (1986)

The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual (v2) #2 (1986)
title: "Child of Darkness, Child of Light"
writer: Paul Levitz
pencillers: Keith Giffen and Curt Swan
inkers: Larry Mahlstedt and Ernie Colon
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Element Lad, Wildfire, Magnetic Kid, Invisible Kid, Blok, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Timber Wolf, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl

SP Officers Shvaughn Erin and Gu Dehn

Darkseid, Validus, Ol-Vir

Darkseid reaches into the darkness and steals one of Saturn Girl's sons. He then mutates him into Validus and tosses him into the past. Thus is his curse fulfilled...!

On Rimbor, Validus arrives with no idea as to why he is there or how he got there. Ol-Vir finds him and takes him to the shrine he has built for Darkseid. The Science Police alerts the Legion, and Element Lad sends a team to investigate.

On Rimbor, four Legionnaires find coins or tokens with Darkseid's image on them. Wildfire convinces one local that it's actually an image of Blok, and they use that resemblance to learn where Ol-Vir's Cult of Darkseid shrine is. Validus grabs one old man to be sacrificed to Darkseid when the Legion interrupts, shocked to find Validus and Ol-Vir together. Wildfire unleashes all of his energy on Ol-Vir while Magnetic Kid tries to stop Validus. Validus sees (?) Wildfire's energy, and Invisible Kid is afraid that he will do harm to it, so he and Blok attack. Ol-Vir interrupts, escorting "Darkseid's curse incarnate" away via a Boom Tube.

Validus and Ol-Vir reappear on Earth. Validus, left to his own devices, wanders off to the apartment of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. He destroys it, then heads towards Legion head-quarters. He tries to get in, but Timber Wolf has turned on the force-field. When he tries to raise the HQ up and away from Validus' reach, Validus stops it. He grabs Timber Wolf, but does not kill him. He grabs the mission monitor symbols of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad, then disappears into another Boom Tube.

On Winath, Validus and Ol-Vir interrupt a Ranzz family picnic. Lightning Lad asks bystanders to watch his son, Graym, as he and Saturn Girl confront Validus. Saturn Girl tries to calm him down, and while doing that realizes that he is their twin son. Validus grabs Graym, so Lightning Lad is about to use extreme force to save his son when Saturn Girl stops him. Saturn Girl begs Darkseid to free their son, and because she has acknowledged the power of the darkness, he does. Validus reverts back to an infant as Darkseid destroys Ol-Vir.

Saturn Girl goes to Darkseid and thanks him for giving back her son. The flower she brings him wilts and dries up, and Darksied laughs.
This is a story that I'm glad appeared, but that I don't particularly enjoy reading. The prologue is the redrawn ending of the Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #3 from 1984 (I know, it's confusing) where Graym and Validus were born and Validus is originally kidnapped and mutated by Darkseid. (Side note: how could a telepath NOT know that she had two children in her womb?) That was a classically evil act on Darkseid's part, as befitted a New God of evil. However, what is Darkseid's motivations here, now? I'm with Ol-Vir, who whines "why did you let her sense it was her son?" In theory Lightning Lad could have killed Validus, then seen the giant revert back to "normal." Now THAT would have been tragic. It would have ruined Lightning Lad as a character. Or perhaps Validus could have murdered Graym, then reverted back to normal? That would have been tragic, too. As it is....Saturn Girl pleads, and Darkseid gives in. Huh? The only rationale we get is "One jest has failed, yet another may serve...." What the hell is that supposed to mean?  It means Darkseid is getting weak in his old age! He spares Validus, then ruthlessly kills Ol-Vir? I don't understand the ending of this story, or the epilogue. Does somebody want to try to explain this to me?

I wonder if this is the first time that Validus has been allowed to "be himself"? In his first appearance he was able to communicate with Sun Boy, but since then he has basically been controlled and manipulated by Tharok. Is the point here that Validus was just a baby, with no real intelligence other than some subtle, sub-conscious longing for Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad? I like that idea, but I think it could have been told better than this.

One more comment about the story: why in the world would Element Lad send Invisible Kid against Validus? And I was surprised that Jacques never commented on the fact that the first Invisible Kid was murdered by Validus. Maybe Paul Levitz didn't want to bring up the fact that little baby Ranzz had killed a Legionnaire?

On the art side, Curt Swan does a nice enough job. A few of his pages, such as the one reprinted above, uses interesting page layouts. It's nice to see the beautiful lines of Larry Mahlstedt again, too. Ernie Colon inks Swan's pencils in the final chapter, and that is a nice contrast to what Mahlstedt does earlier, but I definitely prefer Mahlstedt's work. Swan is capable, without being all that dynamic. I also have a complaint about his version of Validus....in the first chapter he appears just tall enough to be able to fight Blok (page 14). Then in chapter two he is tall enough to destroy a high-rise apartment complex (page 20). And in the last chapter he towers over Saturn Girl (page 33). This is just confusing. And lastly, Swan's versions of Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf resemble each other, which means Swan really isn't doing a very good job, because those two men should absolutely not look alike.

Speaking of not doing a very good job, Element Lad could have easily stopped Ol-Vir in the same way he did last time: by changing the Daximite's clothes into lead. Instead he just stands there as Ol-Vir and Validus walk slowly into another Boom Tube.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The events in this story occur after the events of LSH (v3) #27, which still features Graym as an only child, and LSH (v3) #30, where Element Lad comments on the Ranzz family now having two boys to raise.   
  • This issue is Annual #2, but comes after Annual #3 because this is the Baxter Series version and that was the newsprint version. That is why it is easier to differentiate the annuals by their years than by their numbers: 1982 is Computo, 1983 is Projectra's wedding, 1984 is the boys' birth, 1985 is Professor Ivo, 1986 is this one, and 1987 is the new Substitute Heroes story. 
This story has not yet been reprinted.  

This is the last regular appearance of Validus, one of the great Legion villains. 

1 comment:

  1. This is confusing on so many levels. Why would Ol-Vir work with Validus, considering that it was Validus who (unwittingly) stopped him from killing Reep back on Takron-Galtos during the Darkness Saga? Now that Validus was turned back to Garridan, where did the Validus that has shown up afterwards come from?

    On one point, making Validus the offspring of Imra and Garth was clever. The most obvious thing about Validus' appearance is his visible brain surrounded by lightning, and Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad's powers involve the brain and lightning, respectively.