Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #60

The Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #60 (May, 1989)
title: "When Magic Shall Return"
writer: Paul Levitz
penciller/co-plotter: Keith Giffen
inker: Al Gordon
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Carl Gafford
asst editor: Art Young 
editor: Karen Berger 
cover: Steve Lightle
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Polar Boy, Timber Wolf, Sensor Girl, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Tellus, Shrinking Violet, Wildfire, Element Lad, Blok, Lightning Lass, Sun Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy

Antonio Stephanacci, Sarvisa & the unnamed bird from Zerox (the Sorcerers' World)

the unnamed source of the return of magic

On Earth, Sensor Girl is non-plussed to have been elected Legion Leader. She considers refusing. Polar Boy thinks she was either chosen as a vote of confidence in her, or as a vote against him. She tells him that she would rather he continued as leader. Timber Wolf, who was elected Deputy Leader, talks to her of duty, challenging her to step up. They agree to serve.
In the Aegean area, a hydra is loose. The Science Police try to capture it but fails. The Legion arrives, and Phantom Girl makes a snarky comment about Timber Wolf's ability to make decisions. Timber Wolf attacks and is swallowed while Phantom Girl checks for survivors at the crushed resort. Tellus rescues Timber Wolf from the belly of the hydra telekinetically as Saturn Girl keeps people from panicking. Tellus uses the same idea on the hydra, calming it telepathically so that Timber Wolf can carry it off and toss it onto a deserted island.
Somewhere, someone struggles to be free of his bonds.

Back at Legion HQ, Shrinking Violet complains about her new uniform as she heads off on her mission. Wildfire, meanwhile, is pouting because he has reverted back to being just energy. Without Quislet around to help him "keep it together," he has regressed to his ERG form.
On a weather satellite in Earth's atmosphere, a group of fire-beings are creating chaos. Element Lad puts out their fires, Shrinking Violet investigates some flooding and captures one of the fire-beings in an inflatable specimen bottle from her uniform, Polar Boy and Element Lad capture another, and Blok does nothing. Earth's weather control is now gone.
At the Museum of Mystic Arts, objects that were here-to-fore powerless are now actually magical.  A young visitor has control of a magic wand and is causing all sorts of trouble. The curator, Antonio Stephanacci, calls in the SP and the Legion. Finally, Invisible Kid manages to grab the wand. Then, suddenly, the museum is restored to normal. Everyone thanks Stephanacci, but he swears it was not his doing.
Back at Legion HQ, the bird from Xerox (the Sorcerers' World) tells Sensor Girl that science may fail when magic comes back.
This issue starts great with another fantastic Steve Lightle cover. I've never seen a better mix of "magic" vs "science" as this illustration. Every time I look at it I zero in on some new corner. It's great! Then the story starts with a strong scene between newly defeated Polar Boy and newly elected Sensor Girl and Timber Wolf. This is my favorite part of the issue.

Unfortunately, after we get into the meat of the story things fall apart pretty quickly. Even assuming that that is part of the point, when the goings-on around you are mysterious, it's best to have clear story and art. For example, what is happening on page 5? The SP officers are blasted by the hydra, and they're going to land....but then Saturn Girl senses only unconscious minds? Huh? The SPs were just chatting a panel ago! Then at the Museum, it is very confusing what happens on page 22. Clearly the Legion think Stephanacci did *something* but he denies it. Was it Sarvisa? Because the "chaos" isn't shown clearly, the "clean-up" isn't clear, either. So the confusion shown by the Legionnaires is shared by the readers, but we have the disadvantage of not being able to look around at the scene and try to judge for ourselves. What we see is what we get, and we are not getting much.

The 9-panel layout that artist Keith Giffen introduces here is interesting, but also a mystery. Is he trying to show us that the surroundings really ARE logical and repetitive, even though the situation doesn't seem to support that idea? Or did he decide that he had so much going on with this story and the kick-off of the 5YL and the L.E.G.I.O.N etc that he would just use a 9-panel grid on every page? I would like to believe that he had a good idea for using this format, but then he gives us page 26, which is 9 panels of blackness. Really? REALLY? THIS is lazy.

Even though there are so many things going on in this story, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more back-story on the Election. Who, exactly, would have voted for Timber Wolf? My understanding of how Legion Leader elections work is that the top vote-getter is elected, with the next highest member having the option to serve as Deputy. So given that most members voted for Sensor Girl, are we to think that members like Blok voted for Timber Wolf? Given Phantom Girl's snide comments, she clearly did NOT vote for him. I would have liked to have seen an Invisble Kid or Magnetic Kid maybe approaching Timber Wolf and telling him why they voted for him. As it is, I can't imagine a reason.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although the cover features Shrinking Violet and Timber Wolf in their new uniforms, Sensor Girl is still in her original (Steve Lightle designed) uniform. 
  • This issue features the debut of a 9-panel layout art by Keith Giffen. He will maintain this style for the rest of the series and carry it on to his Five Years Later series as well.  
  • Polar Boy's term as Legion leader ends in this story. Although there is no official swearing-in ceremony shown or mentioned, Sensor Girl and Timber Wolf are recognized as the new Leader and Deputy during this adventure.  
  • This issue features the debut of Tellus' new uniform, which is....shoulder pads. 
This story has not yet been reprinted.  


  1. This was a promising, action filled start to the promised epic. I was getting used to the costumes and even liked shoulderpads on Tellus! The sudden reversion of Wildfire almost off-panel was disappointing; Though.

    One thing that always struck me as a disconnect was Vi (sporting the ugliest of these costumes by far) taking down the water elemental. Surely instead of a random specimen bottle the art indicated she used her trans-suit?

  2. Steve Lightle's cover is the best thing going for this issue.

    Giffen's new 9 panel layout on top of his already ugly art, just made this issue an eye sore and hard to read. I'm glad the series was about to end, even though I didn't know it at the time, because reading the Legion had become painful in comparison to its glory days. Bad art makes a lame story worse. I remember how frustrated I was to read this issue despite how excited I was to see Timber Wolf, my favorite Legionnaire, being named deupty leader.

  3. "Surely instead of a random specimen bottle the art indicated she used her trans-suit?"

    Whoa, that would make so much sense. For seventeen years now I've wondered why a specimen bottle was humanoid-shaped. A transsuit! Of course! Thanks, RicG, for bringing that little bit of peace to my mind. I can't believe I never considered that explanation.

    I can't recall now when we learned that v3 would be coming to an end after this storyline but at the time I was really excited for this. I thought the story was finally clicking with Giffen's new art style after nearly a year of lackluster go-nowhere plots. Ah, what could have been. Don't get me wrong, I loved the 5YL relaunch, but I would have liked to have seen some real-time follow-up to the Magic Wars rather than get everything in flashback or vague allusions (or, oddly, an RPG sourcebook).

  4. The cover alone was worth it's wait in Gold. I would have loved to have seen Lightle draw Jeckie's updated costume but beggars cannot be choosers.

    I love that T-Wolf was elected Deputy. Of course Tinya wouldn't vote for him, she's never been a fan of his but there are plenty of people who do like him (including Saturn Girl). Then again, after the terrible job Polar Boy did maybe some members figured he couldn't be worse!

    I had a strong fan-boy theory on the bad-guy based on the Amethyst Mini-Series. I'll comment on that next time.

  5. Not surprised that the new outfits all had huge shoulderpads. That was all the rage during the 80's, thanks to Miami Vice and Dynasty.

  6. Computo shading Vi with his "Screw you" gave me much joy at the time.