Friday, December 11, 2015

5YL: Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #2

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) Annual #2 (1991)
title: "The Legend of Valor"
writer: Tom & Mary Bierbaum
penciller: Brandon Peterson
inker: Scott Hanna
lettering: Janice Chiang
colorist: Tom McCraw
editor: Dan Raspler
cover: Brandon Peterson
reviewer: Siskoid

Mission Monitor Board:  
Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, Triplicate Girl, Ultra Boy, Valor

Diamond Caste (556), Sub-Dominans (362, Lustig, Mac, Shamarra), Vril Dox (cameo)

Dark Circle, Dominators, Gennesaret, Glorith

Vol.4's second Annual came out in October of 1991, between issues 24 and 25 of the main series, well past the Dark Circle storyline it references from #16-18, but just in time for the Dominators' 30th-century mutation chambers to be opened by Earth's Resistance, though most of the events pictured occurred in the 20th or 21st century. Like the previous Annual, it is an attempt to retell parts of the Legion's history after Glorith changed it by replacing the Time Trapper in issue 4 and 5 and due to a scene they share (Ultra Boy's mission to the past) may be taken as continuing on from it.

The Dark Circle still feels stung at its defeat on Cargg, and dissent in the ranks is punishable by forcing dissenting voices to hear the "Mythic of Valor"... Almost a thousand years in the past, the galactic hero Lar Gand, known as Valor, discovered that the Dominators had been abducting humans and experimenting on their metagene in laboratories across several planets, in preparation for another invasion of Earth (the first chronicled in Invasion!). Determined to put a stop to it, he joined forces with a resistance group called the Sub-Domina, and exiled dissenting Dominion scientists known as the Diamond Caste.
After liberating a few laboratories, Valor's army grows and victory becomes more and more assured with all the super-powered beings joining its ranks. The Dominators attempt to self-destruct their last base and the planet it's on, playing into the Diamond Caste's plan to use that system's energy to power Operation Mindwipe, the erasure of the Dominion's entire database on their mutagenic experiments.

The Dominion leaders are tried and exiled, leaving Valor to offer the rescued, mutated humans a choice. They can either go back to Earth where they are unlikely to fit in anymore, or accept resettlement on planets that act as a buffer between the Dominion and Earth, and where their powers might be uniquely suited to surviving the environment. They opt for the latter and the legend of Valor as "seeder of worlds" is born. These planets will become members of the United Planets a thousand years hence, and many members of the Legion will hail from them.
Later, Valor encounters Glorith the mistress of time - who unbeknown to him, has manipulated history to get him to this point - and the two of them strike up a romance. Things take a dark turn when she reveals her plans to rule the universe with him at her side. He refuses, and in a rage, she banishes him to the Buffer Zone between our universe and Bgtzl's dimension, there to observe history without being able to interact with it for a thousand years. He is eventually freed by the Legion, whose ranks he joins. Having listened to all this, the Dark Circle dissenter has perhaps learned a valuable lesson about the unifying power of Light as opposed to that of Darkness...

Right away, let me say how much I love the whole idea of Mon-El/Valor as the seeder of all those worlds from DC's Legion era. If there can be no Kryptonian Superboy, and if Valor has to take his place, then this is a damn fine way to make him a legend the Legionnaires will want to emulate. It actually makes more sense than what we used to have: Kids from various worlds inspired by an Earth-based hero to put on colorful long-johns and fight evil... and work as a team? Superboy didn't do that. But Valor? Valor not only worked with a team to complete this Herculean task, but the task itself was ABOUT bringing people together. And how perfect that so many of them come from worlds seeded by Valor, making him a folk hero to millions of people, some of which may well want to walk (fly?) in his footsteps.
Of course, there's a lot of padding to wad through as well. The whole framing sequence with the Dark Circle seems entirely unnecessary to me. Sure, it connects the Annual to the contemporary Legion book, but the first Annual didn't feel that need, so why does this one? Regardless, it lasts way too long, thinks we care about Dark Circle members, and forces the story into convoluted narrator switches, from the dissenting member, to the trio of storytellers, to Valor's own thoughts and back. How does that work exactly? More acceptable is the story of how Valor made it to the 30th century, though like Annual #1, these sequences are largely an exercise in post-Superboy retcons.

Technically, the issue does leave something to be desired. Brandon Peterson is good at textured backgrounds, but his character work is a little rough and his Valor more than occasionally ugly. That worked okay in his Dark Circle issues of the main series, 5YL being so dark and all, but this story feels like it should be brighter, more hopeful. It's fine, just not great. Someone who WAS having trouble, however, is letterer Janice Chiang whose shaky letters are truly annoying, not counting the trouble apparently caused by the planet Cargg, which half the time is lettered s Cragg. Come on now.

But I'll forgive a lot of things for a great concept like Valor Seeder of Worlds, and that alone makes Annual #2 great.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Mon-El's first mission with the Legion, temporarily released from the Phantom Zone to fight a hateful masked android created by young Lex Luthor is replaced with a similar story featuring Valor against an insectoid killer robot, superseding the original story from Adventure Comics #300.
  • Mon-El's exile in the Phantom Zone is replaced in the new continuity by an exile in the nearly identical Buffer Zone between Earth and Bgtzl.
  • Here is a complete(?) list of the worlds seeded by Valor and examples of Legionnaires (or Substitute Legionnaires, or Legion enemies) that hailed from those worlds nearly 1000 years later: Bismoll (Matter-Eater Lad)
             Braal (Cosmic Boy, Magnetic Kid)
             Cargg (Triplicate Girl)
             Geequo (the Devil's Dozen's Apollo)
             Janus (Double-Header)
             Lallor (the Heroes of Lallor)
             Mlain (appeared as a war-torn world in Adventure Comics #324)
             Myrnah (Braino)
             Somahtur (Infectious Lass)
             Thanar (inhabited by mineral-fleshed humanoids according to Adventure Comics #332)
             Tharr (Polar Boy)
             Winath (Lightning Lad/Lass/Lord)
             Zwen (Stone Boy)
  • Given the number of super-powered "alien" races that look just like humans in the 30th century, this list is somewhat surprising. Why include Infectious Lass' people (humanoid, but not human-looking), but not Naltor, for example. A map seems to show 17 available planets, not 12, so it's possible we do not get a complete listing here.
  • The Dominion would once again resume its experiments on the human metagene in the Five Years Later era, while in covert control of Earth, leading to such super-powered being as Catspaw, Computo II and Dragonmage.

The origin of Valor's "seeded worlds" to explain why so many planets in the 30th century have super-powered populations is first detailed here, and would be kept for the Reboot's M'Onel as well.


  1. The fact that the robot is purple and green is a nod to the various Luthor power armors. It reminds me a little of Amazo as well.

    Also, Imsk was shown to be inhabited in the 20th century, as the Alien Alliance in Invasion! used Imskian tech.

  2. You're right, of course, we wouldn't want to contradict anything in Invasion! (Aside from Hawkman's presence, of course ;) )