Friday, January 19, 2018

New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes #17

How interesting the passing of 4 years can make a comic seem. 

I am here to discuss The New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes #17, the first book of a reunited Levitz/Giffen creative team. It is something of a death knell. The book ends within the year. And only the low points stick in my head. I know things that happen that I really don't like. I don't have fond memories. 

That wasn't my feeling when I read this as you will see. I thought this was a shot of adrenaline in a book concentrating on minor threats and even more minor characters. Now it is Kirby Cosmic and a revitalized Fatal Five and even the death of a teammate. It starts with a bang, that's for sure.

The art is Giffen at his crudest Kirby-est. It is as far from Francis Portela as you can get.

We'll see if I think more of the end of the run as I finish re-reading it. But I don't think I will. Sun Boy dies here ... just because. What happens to Tinya in the near future is horrible. I expect a lot more from Levitz and Giffen together. I didn't get it here.
Legion of Super-Heroes #17 came out last week, the first of an apparently brief attempt to 'bring the band back together' by reuniting Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen on the book. It is hard to believe that is has been almost 30 years since their heyday on the book. And I guess it is no big surprise that there was a very kinetic feel to this issue, an energy which I think has been lacking on this title at times.
We have seen the Fatal Five plotline sort of simmering on the back burner for a while. But this opening chapter of the true arc starts ferociously and wildly.There is a palpable danger felt throughout the issue as the Legionnaires seem helpless. These aren't Braalian pirates or Dragonwind's sister the Legion is fighting. These are big time arch-villains and their power is felt immediately.

I mean it when I say there has been some inertia on this book, issues that barely move me as a reader. This issue was the exact opposite.

The issue starts off in the middle of a disaster. A Legion cruiser manned by Phantom Girl, Sun Boy, Polar Boy, and Invisible Kid has had a catastrophic malfunction, crash landing on some unknown remote planet.

The characters are at a complete loss as to how it has happened and where they are. They cannot communicate with the natives of the world they have landed on. It is a nice technique. As readers we are dropped into the middle of action bringing us into the story immediately. More importantly, we are just as lost as the characters, making us empathize with them as well.

But the easy pace of last issue and the optimism of the election is over. Phantom Girl as Legion Leader is immediately thrust into a crisis.

And if this malfunction and crash isn't considered a real enough crisis, this cinches it. Sun Boy is dead!
He was a 'leaf on the wind', landing a powerless cruiser well enough to keep his teammates alive. But it cost him his own life. And there is little chance of coming back from this. His head is crushed.

Rest in peace Dirk Morgna.
Maybe all those scenes of other Legionnaires walking through the hall of fallen heroes was some sort of foreshadowing I should have picked up on?

I suppose that this could be the easiest way to churn up publicity, killing of a Legionnaire. But to be honest, I can't remember the last one (Earth Man doesn't count). So I didn't think this was stunt.

Over on Rimbor, a similar technology collapse has crippled the planet. Ultra Boy, Cham, and Glorith are there to try to track down the Fatal Five and are caught in the backlash.
And the feeling of impending disaster, or danger, is even more palpable. Tharok hasn't had this sort of power before. As readers we know about both disasters making this even more incredible. One such attack, which is all each Legion team is aware of, is crazy enough. It makes Tharok a bigger threat and therefore the Fatal Five even more powerful, as insane as that sounds.

On the other side of the universe, the Phantom Girl led squad is basically marooned. Every piece of technology from their cruiser to their flight rings is off-line. They can't even communicate with the natives who seem to have eaten the corpse of Sun Boy. I guess Levitz and Giffen want it clear - he is not coming back.

In an added twist, this culture seems to have been built on a chunk of the Source Wall. Polar Boy realizes the city they are in is built on the arm of a Promethean giant.
The Fatal Five and The Fourth World? Sounds like an explosive combination.

Back on Rimbor, the fallen worker drones suddenly re-power and attack the Legionnaires. So it is more than just a de-powering technology attack; it is controlling technology, and it has Tharok's designs written all over it.
Glorith, my favorite impending super-villain, a Legionnaire with unknown levels of power, demolishes all the drones because she 'doesn't like to be touched'.
It is a scary moment for me. It has to be a matter of time before she loses it. If she has untapped power, we are (obviously) talking about a Time Trapper like villain. I think the sweet, naive, and innocent young woman is going to change when confronted with the dark realities of the universe. Maybe that happens in this story.

And the Promethean Giant? It comes to life.
Just how does this fit into the Fatal Five threat? Or does it? Maybe when the attack disabled the Legion Cruiser it also disabled whatever tech was holding this thing at bay?
This is an odd wrinkle for this story ... but a welcome one, adding another layer of mystery. And again, adding any excitement to the story and the book is fantastic.

At last we find out that Tharok was indeed behind the two attacks. He has a new power and a new power level. He almost seems like the Cyborg Superman now, able to leave his body to attack machines from afar. I can't tell if this is a device he is sitting in? Or creating himself out of? Either way, it gives a new look to the half man/half machine old idea of Tharok.
Here he is reuniting the Persuader and Validus to the cause. He wants to strike at the Legion like a surgeon, eliminating those who could harm him the most as well as laying waste to home worlds.
He seems vicious here and frightening. It has been a while since I have been worried about Tharok as a villain. So this was great.

And if all this action wasn't enough, the issue ends with the menace of Validus about to be unleashed. If the new Tharok is this powerful, what will Validus be capable of? Even that picture is impressive.

This was an incredible issue for this book, a burst of energy in a sometimes sleepy title. And there was progress here, pushing the Fatal Five arc into the spotlight.
Add the new powers of Tharok and how off guard the Legion was caught, the Five feel like a real threat. And a little Kirby cosmic is a nice spice to add.
But the biggest thing is the death of Sun Boy, a death which happens here in the opening chapter. There is no time to grieve here. This is war. There will be casualties.
Overall grade: A

An 'A' seems too good. After snoozing through the previous issues, this seems like a boost. But it is all so out of left field and so random, it now seems haphazard or desperate. And the death of Sun Boy, to the point of his being consumed by aliens, seems like a stunt.

Overall grade: C


  1. "And the death of Sun Boy, to the point of his being consumed by aliens, seems like a stunt."

    That was the exact thing that made a good friend of mine, who'd been reading the Legion for nearly 30 years even during the lowest of the low, quit in disgust. There's a "shock value" mean-spiritedness in this run that felt really weird, especially since it was never something that these creators truly did. It almost makes me wonder if there were behind-the-scenes orders of some kind.

  2. I love Giffen but I can't tell you how much I hate what they do to Tinya (in a few issues) - Phantom Girl has always been my favourite DC character and to have her do what she does (and with no resolution) really really pee'd me off! Plus Giffen only does the art on one issue after supposedly starting a new run!

  3. Yeah, disgust is the right word. I liked Giffen as an artist in his early days. I can't say that I care for his later art. I'm not a fan of his writing. He's good at shaking things up, but he seems to do just for the sake of shaking things up, not to have a cohesive story.

    Yeah, things need to get shaken up occasionally. The froth makes for interesting interactions. But I much prefer a strategic stirring of the ingredients with a recipe in mind. Giffen's writing seems like "Let's throw everything on a blender and see what we get."

    Giving it a C is generous.

  4. Between this and 5YL, one has to wonder if Keith Giffen just really, really disliked Sun Boy. (Dying off-panel and then getting eaten by aliens is actually an improvement over 5YL...)

    1. Me too. And given that he was always vocal about disliking Karate Kid but still gave him a noble send-off, it strikes me as pretty petty.

  5. When I read the aliens eating Sun Boy and the Promethean Giants, I hoped that it would turn out that those aliens were sort of some kind of biological defense mechanism for the giant and that by eating Dirk he could be revived at some point by the giant (or that Dirk's consciousness would take over the giant after becoming "eaten" by it). I don't know how but somehow I hoped something like that would happen.

    1. I remember thinking the same thing. The way it played out was SO ignoble and pointless, I desperately wanting something better to happen. (sigh)

  6. Also, was there ever any explanation as to who/what this Validus was? He wasn't one of the Ranzz boys, was he? I don't remember anyone ever talking about his "origin," which bugged me.

  7. While I was super sad that Dirk died (not to mention his disgusting and unnecessary 'final resting places'), Jacques' words summed up the greatness that was Sun Boy. He may have been a flighty fellow in romance, but he was the Legion's best pilot, willing to put his teammates' safety first, and he was fearless and loyal to a fault. What a heroic way to go.

    I agree with the sentiment that Giffen must really hate the character, what with making him at best a puppet, and at worst a traitor in 5YL, and the ignoble treatment of his remains in this (thankfully) Earth 2 future.

  8. The reality is there was a lot more that happened in this issue than many of the previous issues. One thing I think is very apparent is that this issue is very much Keith Giffen. His name appears first, before Paul's unlike the next issue which lists Paul's first.

    A lot of this issue felt like a nod to the backstory of 5YL. Jacques is remarkably calm, which speaks to how he was leader of the resistance.

    I have mixed feelings about this treatment of Tinya. Yes, I would have thought she could have handled the situation better, but it is rare that we see a leader make a huge mistake or fail.

  9. Thanks for all the comments.
    Amazing amount for this issue. My guess is people have a strong reaction to this because of the creative team. You always hope you can get the band back together. I know my hopes were high.

    And then this, which while high action, was insane. And yes, remembering the way this plays out impacts my current thoughts.

    Poor Dirk. Poor Tinya.

  10. There was an undercurrent of mean-spirited and nastiness to DC the moment Dan DiDio set foot in DC's doors. Now, I'm not blaming him for EVERYTHING, but the fact remains the tone of the entire universe shifted when he assumed control, and reached the pits in the New 52. Mutilation had never been more "in" in mainstream comics.