Friday, September 25, 2015

5YL: Legion of Super-Heroes #53

Recap: After settling in for a little, the Legion has another threat to face. With Mordru defeated, Glorith, just recently defeated, can again rise to power. The Legion decides the best strategy is a straight on assault. Streaking to Balduur, the team is united. In the meantime, Universo continues to tarnish the Legion's image, bringing evidence to the United Planets that the team is working with the Khunds. But a temporal anomaly is on the horizon.

The Five Year Later run was now in its fifth year. There were a lot of changes to the Legion mythos in this run, a re-imagining built on the foundation of Legion lore. And these changes were spearheaded by writers Keith Giffen and Tom & Mary Bierbaum. After 50 issues, all of them were gone. And colorist Tom McCraw had stepped in as writer. And with a subtle nudge to become a more streamlined (read easier) title, this title had slipped into a sort of ennui.

Legion of Super-Heroes #53 was something of a throwback to the earliest issues of this book. It is creatively risky in its storytelling. McCraw drops us into the middle of the story leading up to its climax only to then flashback to before the initial scene. But once in the flashback mode, McCraw tells two stories in the format of Crisis on Infinite Earths #10, with a black and white separate story told as a strip on the bottom of the page, similar in feel to the Monitor Tapes of COIE. And things were changing with the team as well. A lot happens in this issue.

It is daring. But does it work?

As always, Stuart Immonen is on art and just shines. This issue includes nazis, dinosaurs, children, the elderly, and lots of Legion mythology. Immonen shines throughout. You could tell he was a star in the making back then.

As I said, we are dropped right into the middle of the action. Last issue, the Legion was just planning to head to Balduur.

And yet, on the opening page, we are steeped in battle. There is chaos. Glorith doesn't seem to be the weakened sorceress we saw into Legion #42. She is dominating the field. And this isn't some minor wounds. She is using her time powers to their utmost.

Two panels into the issue, she has aged Brainiac 5. He is suddenly elderly. Nice art by Immonen showing the aging process.

But how did they get here?
We don't learn that quite yet. The battle continues. Glorith has mobilized an army from all times who are fighting beside her. And she continues to wade through the melee, engaging with the Legion directly.

Unfortunately, in what has becoming something of an easy out for the writers, Glorith directly attacks Devlin O'Ryan. She tries to level a large charge of temporal energy against him. And his powers kick in, deflecting the power back into her. It is unclear what it does initially but we know it is something big. We have this stark splash page showing her in agony,  ripped from time.

And then we have two stories being told. The top two thirds of the page is in color and tells the story leading up to the Glorith attack on Devlin. We see them land on Balduur. We see them fighting Nazis, dinosaurs, Gordanians, and just about everything else.

But we also see this black and white strip. It is someone talking to Glorith, wherever she has gone. Whoever this person is, they are relaying Legion history. We see Immonen review the origin of the Legion and move throughout the whole Legion timeline.

Early on in the fight, we see that the Legion had a two prong attack. Laurel, Brainy, Ayla, Vi, and Devlin are attacking Glorith directly. Meanwhile, Wildfire, Mysa, Jo, Kent, and Celeste were far away setting up some device.

But Glorith arrives realizing that Mysa might have the best powers to defeat her. She clamps her hands on Mysa and drains years away, making her younger, and upsetting the deployment of the device.

As for the lower strip, we see Glorith's true first appearance, a one-shot back in Silver Age Adventure. We hear how she wasn't a big threat at that point.

Brainy old. Mysa younger.

There has been something mysterious about Wildfire's return to the team. He has been saying odd things. He has shown up suddenly. And now, when Mysa turns her powers on him to kill him, she is flummoxed. Her powers don't seem to work. Maybe it is because he's energy?

That brief moment allows the Legion to regroup against Glorith's attack.

But it isn't for long.

Another Legionnaire falls. Celeste is outright killed.

McCraw is certainly putting his stamp on the title. Kono, Ivy, Dawnstar, Tenzil all gone. Brainy old. Mysa young.Celeste dead.

I always felt that Celeste was simply underused in this book. Maybe Giffen knew where he wanted her story to lead. But she was pushed into the background so much we lost track of her. This seemed like a mercy killing in a way.

Meanwhile, the other strip continues to push forward in time.

We hear again about the Time Trapper making the pocket universe. We once more learn that the pocket universe Superboy betrayed his master, helping the Legion defeat him. And we learn that in the Mordru reboot, Glorith was granted power and killed the weakened Trapper.

There is a lot of Time Trapper talk, always an omen that he is on the way back.

But there is more carnage to attend to.

Kent Shakespeare is completely de-aged, brought back to early childhood. I suppose this sets up a storyline with him leading the L'il Legion. But, like Celeste, I felt that Kent was underutilized in this book. He was a new character. Give us an origin issue! Or a subplot all his own!

The lower strip finally catches up with this book. We learn about the SW6 batch, a secret army for whoever this is to use.
And then, finally caught up with the Devlin attack, whoever this is, wherever this is, whenever this is ... whoever this is kills Glorith. They are in control. They have learned from Glorith's mistake. They will rewrite the universe.

Glorith was set up to replace the Trapper in the new universe. Is this new threat the Trapper once more?

But things are tough all over.
The UP has declared the Legion traitors.

So let's wrap up this issue.
Brainy is older.
Mysa is younger.
Kent is much younger.
Celeste is dead.
Rokk is shown wearing gauntlets to augment what little magnetic power is in him.
Glorith is dead.
The UP is at war with the Legion.
And maybe the Time Trapper is back.

No decompressed story here.

And I might have liked it much more if it was told in a more typical way. I don't know about you, but I find issues like this with two separate strips too jarring to enjoy. Each page I am pulled out of one story and thrust into the other only to have it happen again. After reading this once, I reread it, first all the colored part, then then the second strip. It just seemed to flow better that way.

Still, I applaud McCraw for having the guts to scrawl his design of the team onto the book. But things seem to be heading to a reckoning of a sort.

And do I really want to see the Trapper again?


  1. So, the beginning of the end. The 'Legion on the Run' storyline that kicks off next issue was mostly editorially dictated. The Wildfire story won't be resolved until Zero Hour, and then in a most unsatisfying fashion. It is nice to see Superboy back in continuity, if only as a mention.

  2. My time also grows near.
    My last issue reviewing in this period is #61.
    That's 2 months away ....

  3. You've still got the Annuals, and you could start on Valor after that.