Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Legion of Super-Heroes #302

Legion of Super-Heroes #302 came out in May of 1983 and was another smashing chapter in the incredible run by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, and Larry Mahlstadt. As I said when I started this lastest run of Legion reviews, Levitz and Giffen are firing on all pistons during this run and this issue is a perfect example.

The main story is a battle between Lightning Lad and Lightning Lord. But there is more than just a 'we hate each other, let's fight' plot line here. This is a story that is built on Legion history and more current events. And it also is one of those stories that carries forward from this issue as the Ranzz story here is continued and even more emphasized in the early issues of the Baxter series.

But as usual, there are multiple subplots bubbling through as well. Timber Wolf is still pining for Ayla.  Supergirl, Brainiac 5 and an away team have been lured to Weber's World where another villain is waiting. Element Lad is heading to Imsk to investigate a mystery eating away at the Legion from the inside. And, oh by the way, the main team is still trying to reshape the planet Daxam from a bust of Darkseid back into a planet.

Despite all those arcs, Levitz and Giffen effortlessly showcase them all without the book seeming unwieldy and without giving any one arc short shrift. It is amazing and it showed how a team could embrace all of the Legion universe and not be intimidated or lessened by it.

Add to that Giffen and Mahlstadt's stylish and innovative art, and this book is almost a primer for the run as a whole. So let's dive in.

'Family Matters' starts in the Legion HQ where Timber Wolf and Blok are on monitor duty. Timber Wolf is still smarting from Ayla leaving the Legion and him behind her. The recent announcement of Karate Kid and Princess Projectra's marriage, it hurts even more.

It is a simple, quiet, deceptive opening. But it also adds some depth to these two Legionnaires. Brin was going to go to the gym and break something, giving us insight into his character. Blok quietly teases Brin for his surly attitude. And both are very comfortable with each other visually, relaying their friendship.

These are 2 of 25 Legionnaires. But despite that massive cast, Levitz was able to give each character their own unique personality and developed a number of relationships between the teammates.

 That peace is interrupted when the wall of the HQ explodes inward.

Lightning Lord Mekt Ranzz wants to know where his brother Lightning Lad is and he is willing to maim anyone he needs to in order to get the information. And he is quiet efficient in his attacks, taking out Shadow Lass, Dawnstar, and Timber Wolf. When Blok lumbers in, Mekt knows he might be outgunned. And learning that Lightning Lad isn't there, he takes off.

One thing I love is this 'lightning effect' that Mekt is sporting. This is a new look and representation of his power by Giffen and it works wonderfully.

Meanwhile, Element Lad and SciPo Erin Schvaughn wing their way to Imsk to investigate something that is clearly troubling Jan. Despite passing Weber's World, he doesn't let the Legionnaires there know it. Something is keeping him from letting that team know. Hmmm ...

But it is clear, he needs to keep his mind on the problem and not be swayed by feelings. Of course, Schvaughn is a bit dismayed by this focus as it represents Jan's typical attitude of denying himself feelings. She looks downright sad. After all, she is trying to woo him. And they are in a relationship even if it seems to be colder than Erin wants.

This relationship is another of those that bubbles through the comic for years. And this difficulty in both these two dealing with their feelings is a key part, all the way through the Five Years Later run.

Meanwhile, the away team of Supergirl, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Colossal Boy, and Shrinking Violet have been diverted to Weber's World when their ship was destroyed by the Science Police. Officer Ontiir sats it was an accident but this series of panels shows there is something rotten on Weber's.

The Emerald Empress is there and she has taken control of the planet. Giffen does a very good job with the Empress, giving her a new, regal look.

Again, the individual relationships here are a high point. You can see how Brainy is consistently flummoxed by Supergirl's presence, having a hard time stating his thoughts.

Meanwhile, Lightning Lord knows discovers Lightning Lad is on the Medicus One satellite with Saturn Girl. Much like the HQ, Mekt blasts his way into the medical facility to confront his estranged brother.

It turns out that Mekt isn't really looking for Garth. He is looking for Ayla and he needs Garth to give him that information.

Mekt is thrilled that Ayla has seen the error in being on the Legion. Now is the time for him to chat with her. But Garth knows that any time Mekt seems like he is being magnanimous, he actually isn't.

This Ayla obsession of Mekt's is another interesting wrinkle. Given how Lightning Lord is a singlet on Winath, an oddity, and how that has bothered him, this interest in Ayla - a sort of ersatz twin - is creepy and perfect for a villain. 

 But the satellite isn't meant for combat and soon the two bolt-slingers get blown out into space where, thankfully, their transsuits activate and keep them alive.

This change in venue leads to an interesting battle.

 As for the bulk of the team, they are on Daxam trying to make the planet inhabitable again. The UP is starting to place limitations on Daxamite travel given the population's recent rampage across the galaxy. Mon-El isn't too happy about that.

And the team itself is getting a bit irked with Dream Girl's somewhat scattered leadership style. The team is trying to figure out Dreamy's motives but it is difficult to read Nura's mind. Thankfully, the wedding announcement is a brief bright spot in the team's lives.

One thing I like is that Levitz carries the terraforming of Daxam out over months. It would have been easy to just say 'it was returned to normal' or maybe even ignore it. But Daxam is part of this universe. It shows how Levitz  and Giffen aren't taking shortcuts in building this book. Things that happen have long standing consequence.

 The battle between Lightning Lord and Lightning Lad (and ultimately the Legionnaires Mekt skirmished with in the HQ earlier) ends up on the polymer shield around the planet. We see the combatants running on the shield (as though there was gravity) and fighting in what seems to be space.

Lightning Lord is no slouch though, able to hold off the team until finally he squares off against Garth. Angered by this, Garth actually seems to power up, manifesting the lightning effect that Mekt gives off. There is a lot of wonderful dialogue here as the divided brothers lash into each other. But it is clear, Garth won't tell Mekt where Ayla is.

But in the end, Garth (with a telepathic assist from Imra) is able to knock Mekt out.

In the moments after the battle, Timber Wolf decides to ask a question that has been on his mind. Where is Ayla? Brin might want to try to reconcile things with his ex. At times it seems like maybe he regrets the choice he made.

But Garth isn't giving up that information to anyone. Ayla deserves her peace from Mekt ... and anyone else.

It is rare for me to think of Lightning Lad as a man of action or a man of such conviction. He has always been a bit soft for me. So this whole issue gave me a new outlook on the man.

So with that plot seemingly wrapped up, Levitz gives us the hook for the next plot to step up.

The Legionnaires on Weber's World are attacked and defeated by the Emerald Eye. Things are heating up.

I have gushed enough. This run is just marvelous and I am always impressed with how Levitz was able to juggle so many plots and characters without anyone or any story getting ignored or forgotten.

Oh yeah, and Supergirl is in the book.

What did you guys think?


  1. Good issue, full of interesting character moments and good old-fashioned action. I like how Garth and Mekt look two lightning beings when they clash.

    And poor Brainy was just SO smitten with Kara! It was nice to see her being an active Legionnaire again.

  2. This Levitz / Giffen run was the best and I gave this issue a solid A .

    I liked these stories / artwork as much as I liked the Chris Claremont / Dave Cockrum / John Byrne Uncanny X- Men collection .

    Great stuff !!!

  3. Ah, the wonderful things from this issue (including the ones you noted):

    --The new "power up" look for the Ranzz siblings (Ayla would eventually use it, too)

    --Blok's new "power pants" (is this their first appearance? Probably not, but they work for him.)

    --Jan and Svaughn heading off for Imsk on a secret mission (hmm... wonder where this is leading? Well, besides to the planet Imsk, of course)

    --Kara enjoying making Brainy get all flustered, while Colossal Boy rocks his simplified costume and Vi continues being all flirty with him. (Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with the above?)

    --Empress. Now out of Tharok's shadow, Oh Crap.

    --Mekt taking out Imra and unleashing Garth.

    --Dr. Gym'll resigning as the Legion doctor. (Poor guy!)

    --Wildfire's also-simplified new look (I guess Cockrum's designs were a little too complicated...)

    --Dream Girl's continued nail care.

    --GiGi is messing around in unauthorized access to Durlan files. Gosh, I wonder what that might be related to?

    --Garth admitting that he doesn't know where Ayla went, but he wasn't going to give anyone any hints because she deserves to be left alone.

    --Ontiir, teased as the possible bad guy back in Earthwar, finally fulfills that teasing. Oh, crap again...

    I think one of my favorite character bits from this era was Dream Girl, while showing herself an extremely competent leader and showing just what she can do with her powers, also fixating on her manicure. When she took out one baddie, she griped that he'd make her break a nail. She got miffed when, another time, she broke another nail. And she was often shown tending to her nails, like she was here. It was like she wanted people to take her as a vapid, bubble-headed knockout -- because it let her get away with so much more.

    I think Levitz was the one who started her character development until the point where she was openly acknowledged as one of the most intelligent Legionnaires -- and that was a wonderful development.

    Sadly, this also begins the countdown to the era where Giffen's art went totally down the tubes...