Thursday, July 28, 2016

Legion of Super-Heroes (V2) Annual #1

Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1
“Monster in a Little Girl’s Mind”
The Great Darkness Saga Part Seven
Written by Paul Levitz
Pencilled by Keith Giffen
Inked by Bruce Patterson
Lettered by John Constanza
Colored by Carl Gafford

Roll Call:
Blok, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Chlorophyll Kid, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Fire Lad, Invisible Kid, Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Night Girl, Phantom Girl, Polar Boy, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Star Boy, Superboy, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, Wildfire, and Yera.

The Great Darkness Saga continues in this 41 page story from the first Legion of Super-Heroes Annual as one of the Legion's most lethal foes return to wreak havoc on Legion Headquarters! 

The story opens with the Science Police's Legion Liaison, Shvaughn Erin, on her way to Legion Headquarters for a check-in. She is greeted at the door by an overzealous welcome mat, one of Brainiac Five's recent  security additions to HQ, before being freed from the contraption by Dawnstar and Wildfire as they take their leave. Once inside, she meets up with Legion Leader Element Lad, who begins the grand tour. They stop along the way to look-in on Brainiac Five, who with the assistance of Dream Girl and Mon-El, are about to perform a computer-assisted surgery on a young girl with no other options for a cure for her condition.

Just as surgery begins, an incredibly powerful energy surge fries the computers, and all hell breaks loose as the patient rises from the operating table. The advanced surgical equipment was built with circuits from Computo, the lethal nemesis of the Legion responsible for chopping Triplicate Girl down to Duo Damsel. Computo's circuits, that still contained his evil, maniacal essence, needed only the close proximity of the young patient to assert his consciousness in the young girl's body, and exploit his connection to the Legion HQ central computer to wreak havoc.

Computo mows through Legion Headquarters and the Legionnaires inhabiting it like a hot knife through butter. Computo blankets Cosmic Boy with hundreds of pounds of metal, and despite his best efforts, Cosmic Boy is unable to repel them. Computo then targets the living quarters of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl before moving onto Sun Boy & Star Boy, who are imprisoned by their virtual game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Shvaughn alerts the Science Police of the turmoil inside, and as they try to sever all computer and electronic connects from the inside, Computo produces an impenetrable shell trapping all of the Legionnaires inside, while cutting the life support systems, and turning their sanctuary into a prison. Next, Computo bathes Mon-El with red sun radiation while exposing him to lead, leaving Mon-El frozen in his tracks. Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel (who left the Legion of Super-Heroes back in the first installment of the Great Darkness Saga) are hit with the devastating news of Computo's return.

Computo's next victims are Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet, who were preparing to take a trip in a Legion space cruiser. Computo manages to hi-jack the ship, and send the pair careening out of control into the atmosphere. The next victims are Timber Wolf and Blok, who have their training session in the gym cut short by a homicidal pommel horse and gymnastics rings. Then Lightning Lass, Phantom Girl, and Ultra Boy are hit with a series of explosions inside of Ultra Boy's living quarters. In these isolated attacks throughout Legion Headquarters, Computo continues to dismantle the Legion, 2-3 Legionnaires at a time. Computo has taken such complete control, that most of his victims aren't even aware that their home has become a prison and that Computo is on the loose.

Meanwhile, outside of the Legion HQ, the whole world is in a panic at the prospect of Computo returning and continuing his quest to enslave mankind. But the people of Earth aren't the only ones who have taken notice. Darkseid has sensed Computo, who he views as a threat, and so he has sent an emissary to  Earth to investigate. While this transpires, Dawnstar and Wildfire see the Legion Cruiser that imprisons Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet inside, is careening out of control, and the pair intervenes, rescuing their comrades from their flying death trap.  

In the operating room where Computo continues to launch his attack, Brainiac Five thinks he has hatched a plan to defeat the insane computer, he just has to pull it off before Legion HQ runs out of breathable air. Brainy telepathically links with Jacques Foccart, brother of the girl Computo possesses, and instructs him to locate a hidden vial of invisibility serum. Brainiac Five manages to distract Computo long enough for the Legionnaires trapped throughout HQ begin to fight off their attackers as Jacques sets Brainy's plan in motion.

Brainiac Five's plan works! Jacques is able to secure the invisibility serum, and with the help of Brainiac Five's mental guidance and some well-timed heat vision from Mon-El, secure a hypo disc that sedates Computo's host and renders the maniacal living computer inert. Life support systems are returned to normal, and the attacks on the Legionnaires fade away.

Later, after the Legionnaires have been patched up, they convene in the meeting room, where Brainiac Five openly admits that he and his pride are to blame for the recent disaster, and that his string of recent failures warrants his resignation from the Legion of Super-Heroes. His parting request is that they grant membership to the brave man that saved them all, Jacques Foccart, the new Invisible Kid. Element Lad quickly denies Brainy's resignation request, and then accepts the nomination for Jacques, which is quickly seconded by Mon-El, and Jacques is voted in as the newest member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Whew! What a gauntlet! Like most annuals, this issue serves as a fine, self contained story with a clear beginning, middle, and end, and goes the extra mile to continue on the same sub plots and character threads that we saw left dangling at the conclusion of last issue (Legion of Super-Heroes #289). In a brief six panel progression, we see that Chameleon Boy continues to struggle coming to grips with the revelation that RJ Brande is his father, and how rash his actions have been since that discovery. Lightning Lass continues to ponder what may have happened between Timber Wolf and her sister-in-law Saturn Girl while they were trapped on that icy asteroid. Lightning Lad is still distraught and doubting himself after nearly losing his wife Saturn Girl in her rescue mission gone awry, so much so that the sight of a Computo generated duplicate of himself nearly unravels him. We have Brainiac Five, who thus far in the Great Darkness Saga has remained in the background, noticeably off his game.

And then finally we have the Darkseid inclusion. They still are shrouding him in shadow, and doing the best to veil this threat, which is a bit odd. The first time we saw him included in this story, they gave a pretty clear indicator to who this mysterious villain was based on the final profile shot. It's odd after that reveal that they have tried to hide him ever since, almost like they're trying to put the genie back in the bottle or make us readers forget.

The issue is great for all of the same reasons I harped on about last issue. Levitz gives a distinct voice to each Legionnaire, and continues to give the characters their own little "soap opera moment" to balance the plot of the story in stride with some emotional hooks. Giffen's artwork is absolutely fantastic, and really the pinnacle of super-hero comic art. I wish he would have retained this style he had here in 1982 throughout the 1980's.

Despite the somewhat cheery resolution that we get in the final 3 pages of the story, I still felt absolutely exhausted after reading this one. Man do Giffen and Levitz take the cast of Legionnaires through the wringer here. In the end, the status quo is essentially the same as it was when the issue began. Computo is once again defeated and back on ice, no one died this time, the sick little girl that Computo exploited is still alive and resigned to life support and an induced coma. Really the only significant occurrences are the introduction of Invisible Kid and a new costume for Cosmic Boy. But you don't need significant plot developments in a story to make it interesting, just ask Marvel comics in the 1970's! Instead this issue serves as a character exploration; we get a look into the turmoil the Legion is in emotionally, while Levitz and Giffen put our heroes' backs up against the wall as they square off against one of their most memorable villains. DC had long been pegged as the company with plots while Marvel was the company with pathos, but in the 1980's we saw DC start to shake that reputation, and one of the cornerstones of that story-telling style revolution was definitely the Legion comics from this run. There's no doubt that's why I've been having such a blast revisiting this story arc and covering the Great Darkness Saga, and the same reason why nearly 35 years later that this run is still so highly touted. This annual keeps the blows coming one after another, we see the Legionnaires taken out in groups of two or three over and over again, so even when the day is done, and disaster averted, you still feel like the Legion limps away from this one with two black eyes and fat lip. And unfortunately for them, the worst is yet to come!

This issue marks the halfway point of our coverage, seven chapters down, seven more to go, and you can get that the action and drama pick-up in our next issue, Legion of Super-Heroes #290!


  1. Actually a pretty decent story and artwork especially for an annual !

    If there was one part of this story that should have been deleted was "Jacques Foccart " becoming the new Invisible Kid .

    I just couldn't stand all of the token French dialogue !

    Sacre' Bleu ! Mon Ami !

    This character was totally played out by LSH #298 and what about the skunk hair style !

    OUI !

  2. I liked this story in the main, but was bothered that one of the challenges for Element Lad was increasingly stale air. If only someone had a relevant power...