Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reboot: Legionnaires Annual #3

Legionnaires Annual #3 (1996)
title: "The Long Road Home"
writer: Roger Stern
pencillers: Tony Castrillo, Chuck Wozkiewicz, Dan Jurgens
inkers: John Lowe, Don Hillsman, Dexter Vines, Ron Boyd
lettering: Pat Brosseau, Albert DeGuzman
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Ruben Diaz
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Alan Davis and Mark Farmer
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
XS; (in flashback: Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl)

Atom I, Avatar, Behemoth, Doctor Fate, Doctor Mid-Nite, Donna Troy (as Darkstar), Flash I, Flash II, Flash (John Fox), Green Lantern I, Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), Hourman I, Liri Lee, Metalicca, Rip Hunter, Starman I, Superman, Ultra-Man, Waverider, Wildcat; (in flashback: Flash III, Impulse, Iris West, Jesse Quick, Max Mercury); citizens of the future

Lord Nevlor (behind the scenes); Nevlor's versions of Avatar, Behemoth, Metalicca and Ultra-Man; Protectors, Time Trapper

Some time ago, when part of the Legion went back in time to find out what happened to Valor, XS was lost in the time stream. She spent some time working with the Flash family in the late 20th Century, but after a future Flash called John Fox found a way to technologically send her back up the time stream, she found her way home. The story of that journey can now be told...

In the early 30th Century, Barry Allen is fiddling with his own Cosmic Treadmill, which takes XS out of the time stream decades too early. She does get to meet her grandfather however, though she is careful to reveal his fate. His treadmill is destroyed by her arrival, but he helps her break the time barrier without it and sends her racing forward through time again.
She overshoots by 70 centuries and finds herself on a dystopian planet long after Earth has been destroyed under unknown circumstances. On this world, a man called Nevlor has outlawed unlicensed superpowers and imprisoned the planet's rebellious heroes. XS is soon jailed with a warrior who wields the Spear of Destiny, Avatar, an armored heroine called Metalicca, and a man who turns into the hulking Behemoth. She uses her speed to free them and together they awaken an old hero from Earth who has spent a fair bit of time in suspended animation, Ultra-Man. Escaping together, they must fight evil versions of themselves created by Nevlor, and though XS is tempted to stay and help them overthrow the villain, Avatar uses the Spear to send her back into the time stream.
But Jenni goes in the wrong direction and arrives at the apparent end of time and the Linear Men's base, Vanishing Point. But she is out of phase and no one notices her. Confusingly, she also witnesses members of the Justice League and Justice Society running around. And then the Time Trapper shows up, dismissing the Linear Men as fools and reminding XS of her important, but still mysterious, cosmic destiny, which may prevent the destruction of Earth itself. The Trapper says he (she?) is the one who separated her from the rest of the Legion in the first place so she could be better prepared to fulfill it. The Trapper then wipes her memory of the conversation and sends her back to her time.
I didn’t give more thought to Jenni’s return to the 30th Century as I was simply happy to have her back in the main storyline. I’m glad she used good judgment when asked to talk about her time. Time traveling shouldn’t be easy and must be attempted with a certain amount of caution. Even though, as an historian, I would love to see the past and/or what awaits us in the future, I would be SO scared to change anything of importance. I think this comic gave us a good opportunity to explore potential impacts, positive and negative, that such travel can have.
Now that Jenni knows about Earth’s destruction, what is she going to do with that knowledge? Of course, this is me assuming she remembers that part and only forgot her encounter with the hooded figure. She does say “Where am I this time?”, but that might be a play on words and nothing more. Earlier when she used the simulation room to relive the past with her teammates, she didn’t mention other timelines. I guess we’ll have to wait and see when exactly her destiny will unfold and her memories come back. If her destiny is to save Earth, it shouldn’t be destroyed in the first place, right? What if she’ll have a part to play in the destruction of the planet for the greater good of the U.P.? Or maybe I should just stop pretending I understand anything that’s going on here!
This is a very odd entry in 1996's "Legends of the Dead Earth". Most of them played like Elseworlds, showing what the legacy of any particular hero might be in a far future when Earth is long gone. In this case, they actually send a hero of today (well, 1000 years from today) to that future, to experience it first hand, but also to other times that could be important to her. To add to the strangeness, the Annual did not come out around the time XS returned to the 30th Century, but several months later, which is why we're not reviewing it in sequence. As an Elseworlds fan, I resent the fact the Annual was co-opted by XS' story, and yet, it makes it an important story as opposed to a an irrelevant parenthesis. Ambivalence!
Reading Shotgun's review, I can totally understand her confusion and seeming apathy. A lot of this will only mean something to long-time comics readers, and even they (i.e. me) will find some of it confounding. The Barry Allen stuff works fine, though it isn't all that different from all the issues where XS got to work with Bart, Wally, Jay, etc. The last part, with the Time Trapper, is harder to understand. Half-heard dialog and a bunch of heroes running around absent any backgrounds seems to speak to some Crisis in time, but whether this is a flashback or flash forward, I don't know or can't remember 20 years on. Always glad to see the Time Trapper, and intrigued with what his/her identity might be this time around, but because I don't remember what XS' destiny is meant to be, it makes me fear for the relevance of this particular subplot. Wet fireworks? We'll see, and hopefully before too long. I certainly don't think she can prevent the eventual death of Earth heralded by these Annuals, since that's hardly a part of DC continuity that gets any play beyond this project.

As for the core of the issue, I doubt anyone but the biggest Who's Who fans even remember Ultra-Man, but of course, that makes THIS Who's Who fan very happy. The other characters are new, but obviously based on Marvel's original Avengers, which is an odd idea once you add XS to the mix. If Shrinking Violet were the star, then we could draw a direct link to Ant-Man and the Wasp, at least. The story also pulls a Kingdom Come by using dark/extreme versions of the heroes to comment on the comics aesthetics of the time, especially those embraced by the Heroes Reborn project (see Notes, below). The artist doesn't manage to make the designs 90s enough to be heinous, but I get it. I can understand why Shotgun would not. I'm kind of jealous of her innocence in this matter. Regardless, a good action story - especially cool to see Gary Concord and the Spear of Destiny - with my favorite art in the issue, but the length leaves me a little unsatisfied. A thing of parts, and the most interesting part feels like an irrelevant side-story.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Though published later, the Annual takes place between Flash (v2) #112 and Legionnaires #35.
  • Nevlor's future occurs in the 100th Century as part of the "Legends of a Dead Earth" series of Annuals. Gary Concord's adventures were originally set in 2239 A.D.; it is said he survived to the future using suspended animation.
  • The first appearance of Gary Concord, Ultra-Man in the post-Crisis universe, and indeed, since 1940 (unless you count Who's Who), when his science-fiction strip lasted from All-American Comics #8 to #19.
  • The four superheroes XS meets in the future are clear parallels to Marvel Comics' the Avengers. Avatar is similar to Thor, Metalicca to Iron Man, Behemoth to the Hulk, and Ultra-Man to Captain America (a hero from the past).
  • Avatar wields the Spear of Destiny, an artifact once used by Adolf Hitler to keep superheroes away from Axis-held territory, for any who would enter its field of influence would fall under Hitler's control. Those powers are said to have been purged from the Spear.
  • Nevlar's heroes are "extreme" versions of the other 100th-Century heroes, with extra 90s style; their musculature is even called "grotesque". The evil Metalicca has shoulder that evoke those of Iron Man 2020, for example. From the choice of heroes, this is likely taking a shot at Marvel's Heroes Reborn, during which Marvel outsourced those characters (and the Fantastic Four) to Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld's studio.
  • The Linear Men and Vanishing Point first appeared in Adventures of Superman #476. How or why we see Superman and the JSA in this sequence is not explained.

First appearance of the Time Trapper in Reboot continuity.


  1. If I had to give this issue a grade it would be an .....


    Poor storytelling and equally bad artwork make this an easy grade !

  2. I guess I can't really argue with any of your criticisms of this issue -- yes, it's disjointed, yes it doesn't end up being anything other than a diversion, and yes, you can read the series without this and never really miss much -- but dang it, XS is still my favorite character and I appreciate the characterization they gave her here!

    And I always loved Avatar in this one, which isn't surprising now that you point out the Avengers parallel -- since Thor was always my favorite Marvel hero!