Friday, September 18, 2015

5YL: Legion of Super-Heroes #52

Recap: This is a time of flux for the Legion of Super-Heroes. The war with Mordru might be over but the repercussions still resonate. The Khunds are reclaiming planets they lost in that skirmish. New/old members Timber Wolf and Wildfire have (re)joined the team. It is an eerie time of inaction, as if something is bubbling under the surface. But this pause gives the team time to reflect on things, especially Timber Wolf.

The Mordru War ended in issue #49 and with that issue, Tom & Mary Bierbaum bid farewell to this incarnation of the Legion. The style and tone of the book had been shifting since the departure of Keith Giffen over a year earlier. Now the book was in the hands of writer Tom McCraw. McCraw had been the colorist on the book since its inception. So he was enmeshed in this new timeline.

Issues #50 and #51 seemed to be sort of rest issues, reestablishing the new terrain of the book. Characters came on board. Characters left. Characters were seen who hadn't been seen in a while. It was as if McCraw was settling into a bath slowly. Legion of Super-Heroes #52 continues that sort of trend. This is a solo issue of sorts, looking back at the life of Timber Wolf as well as keeping the embers of the new landscape smoldering.

The art is split between Stuart Immonen and Ron Boyd on the present pages and Christopher Michael Taylor and Wade Von Grawbadger on the flashback pages. Taylor brings a sort of Liefeld angularity to his pages, a contrast from Immonen's softer art. The disparate styles helped me immediately know 'when' I was.

More interesting was McCraw's decision to flashback in a nonlinear fashion, hopping about Timber Wolf's life. It also was interesting for him to show that Ayla has always been a rock for him, whether they were together as a couple or merely friends.

As  I said, Ayla is a key figure in Brin's life. She has always been there as someone to sort of ground him. There has always been this feral animalistic side to the Wolf. Ayla was there to soften it, to make him feel more 'normal', more human.

I liked this flashback to the Cockrum/Grell era style costumes, my first era of Legion. First off we see the first Karate Kid teaching Wolf that is more to fighting than going berserk. And then Ayla reminding him of their date, a subtle way of showing that maybe she was more invested in their relationship than he was.

Of course, Ayla and Brin split up. Ayla ended up in a much deeper, mature relationship with Vi. And yet, here as Brin recovers from his medical issues, she is there for him.

There has always been a hint of immaturity, an almost adolescent feel about Timber Wolf. There is a rawness, and intensity to his feelings, that feel like young. Even here when Brainy says he can walk around if someone accompanies him, he makes 'puppy dog eyes' at Ayla.

More ominous is Rokk again commenting about how he is feeling claustrophobic, almost trapped, in the headquarters. It has become a constant whenever we see him.

Throughout the story we get snippets of Brin's tough life on Zuun. His father and mother had a tumultuous relationship. His father was a scientist looking for a super-soldier serum and dear old dad had no problems experimenting on his son. Pumped full of the serum, Brin did get superstrength and agility.

But when his father dies, Brin is tricked into thinking he is a laboratory android. The real android, Karth Arn, takes the place of Brin. This was wonky when it was explained back in the late Silver/early Bronze age. It is even more bizarre now.

But this time period must also be part of the reason why Brin has never really felt like he belonged with humanity.

Meanwhile, on the headquarters, the entire 'new' team finally seems to be in one place. Devlin, Kent, and Celeste are back on Talus. And Rush, the super-speedster from last issue has come along.

So everyone is here ... with not much to do.

It all leads Timber Wolf to remember how his relationship with Ayla ended.

Way back in Legion of Super-Heroes #289, one month before the Great Darkness Saga(!), an away team was stranded on an icy planet. Fearing they might never be found, Timber Wolf and Saturn Girl sort of fell into each others' arms. Nothing exactly happened but it didn't look good when Dawnstar and Ayla showed up on a rescue mission. (How icky is that for Ayla? Her boyfriend was cheating on her with her sister-in-law!)

There is something almost iconic of that first panel with the barechested hero looking out to the distance with the woman attached to his hip.

But this was the first domino. Post Great Darkness, Ayla had had enough. She quit. And Brin didn't follow.

Again, that relationship meant more to her than it did to him.

At the very least, McCraw fills in some of the gaps of the 5YL history. We finally see that Black Dawn happened when Dr. Regulus destabilized the sun. During the battle, Timber Wolf gets slammed with radiation, triggering his mutation into Furball.

We also finally see that Wildfire did indeed sacrifice himself, flying into Sol to act as a nuclear furnace.

It was interesting to revisit these costumes, the garish Giffen designs from the end of the Baxter series. Timber Wolf is dressed like Kraven!

Wildfire's return is something of a new mystery to ponder.

It is even more interesting when he says that the old containment suits aren't strong enough to handle the 'new' Drake Burroughs.

At the time, I thought for sure this was an enemy in disguise.

We finally see Brin's slow mutation from human to monster, catching us up to the beginning of this series.

Now I am a big fan of Ayla Ranzz. This issue, showing her putting the rocky romance behind her and being a friend to Brin, really made me an even more ardent follower. She was by his side until he went into hiding.

The thing is we have seen Brin battle with these feelings of being sub-human, a berserker, an animal. To see him devolve into Furball was particularly ironic and sad.

Finally, the next arc takes form.

Mysa pulls the team together. With Mordru defeated, Glorith will now ascend. They must face her next.

Now We saw Glorith defeated, humiliated, 10 months earlier. So I was sort of wondering why we needed to see her as a villain again. We had Universo plotting for years now. We hadn't seen the Fatal Five. Or the LSV. Or the League of Super-Assassins. So I was actually a bit Glorith'd out.

Of course, we are months away from a temporal shift. So maybe the time was right for Glorith.

While an old Legion fan like me didn't mind revisiting all the Timber Wolf stuff, and even finally seeing the Black Dawn event, this still felt like another pause. Were the early issues so heady that everything was going to fail in comparison?

9 more issues of my run of reviews.

1 comment:

  1. Mordru War ended in issue 48.Tom and Mary Bierbaum left in issue 50.