Friday, August 17, 2018

Retroboot Legion of Super-Heroes #4

Legion of Super-Heroes #4 was another fine issue in this forgotten run of the Legion properties. This is a forgotten volume for me, possibly because it unravels as it moves forward. But as of now, this title feels like classic Legion and I mean that in the best possible way.

Writer Paul Levitz was always able to juggle several plotlines within Legion books but usually one of them dominates. Here, the main plot is the Ranzz family saving their sons from a Darkseid cult. It all wraps up rather neatly. In fact, if Levitz doesn't come back to it (and I honestly don't remember if he does) I might think too neatly. If you are an Ayla Ranzz fan, like I am, than this is a particularly excellent issue.

Levitz also lets the predicament of the Titan refugees percolate a bit, both on Earth and on Naltor. The Harmonia Li mystery deepens. And the Earth Man subplot is nudged forward as well, including the one subplot which I do remember and definitely don't like.

The art is the mix of Yildiray Cinar pages and Francis Portela pages. The two have different styles. The more I read this book, the more I realize that their styles don't necessarily complement each other. Both are quite fine. The Ranzz pages are fantastic.

So overall, this was a surprisingly entertaining issue. And that made me happy. On to the book.

Last issue, the Ranzz family flew off to Avalon to discover that it is no longer a wondrous magical paradise. Instead it is an annex of Apokolips, a wasteland run by a cult of Darkseid.

You can tell the Ranzz have a healthy respect and fear of Darkseid and his followers. These are three of the most powerful Legionnaires and they aren't thrilled to see this.

How interesting that the chants are 'Darkseid is Dead. Darkseid is forever.' It is an unabridged version of Tom King's current mantra of 'Darkseid is.'

The cult is head by an unnamed and rather scarred individual. It seems that this crew is trying their best to suck up any residual energy of Darkseid so this leader can become a Servant of Darkness.

So Avalon, where Darkseid absorbed the energy of Mordru in the Great Darkness Saga is where they holed up. And they know that the Ranzz boys have been touched by Darkseid in some way. So they grabbed them as well.

Wielding some sacred knife, a blade whose hilt has a magical stone embedded in it, the man cuts himself hoping the scars will lead to power.

I don't know if we get more information about the blade or the magic stone (a Darkseid face is chiseled on it). But it has power as he is uses it throughout the issue. Hopefully we get more information.

Meanwhile, things are not all rosy on Earth. The team seems to be in some turmoil.

No one is happy that Earth Man is on the team.
No one is happy that they aren't flying off to help Garth and Imra.
No one is happy with Cos' leadership.

In fact there is a call for a new election. Maybe new blood needs to be at the top. How oily is Sun Boy to demand an election but not want to do the heavy lifting himself.

I think this would have been a great thing to pick at over this title. This team is just coming out from under the Earth Man reign. Of course things would be unstable. A 'not necessarily unified' Legion would be fresh.

On Avalon, Imra reaches out and feels a backlash of fear from the boys. They are terrified. So it is time for the Legionnaires to get their hands dirty.

We see a bit of the old mean-tempered Garth here, lashing out violently with his lightning before he can even question the cultists. This is something of a throwback to early Garth. He became a bit wishy-washy in the 80s.

Now I said if you are a Ayla fan you'll love this issue. Check out that last panel. That is fantastic.

As for Earth Man, he is being courted by the remnants of a more xenophobic government to lead a purge on the Titan refugee camps. It seems like he might be susceptible to physical advances as a beautiful woman tries to convince him to do it.

I don't think I ever truly warm to Earth Man but it is interesting to see his baby steps of personal growth. He admits hating the Green Lantern ring for making him save bugs. He still espouses his love of Earth and only Earth  blood. But he says that the Legion ring binds him and he will do his work within the confines of the ring.

He is still disgusting. But a redemption arc for him, especially if played out over a looooong time, would have been fascinating.

Alas, we know we don't get it.

Even worse, the group trying to get Earth Man on their side don't mind when he leaves. They know he will 'do the right thing' regardless of his words.

On Naltor, the High Seer is happy to accept the Titan refugees feeling that their telepathy and the Naltorian precognition would be a powerful combination. Also, he hopes that the Time Institute will be relocated to Naltor, allowing them to look even further into the future

And, of course, we get more hints that Harmonia Li is more than she seems.

I think I'd have preferred the Naltorians to reject time traveling science. To see them want the time cube to augment their abilities seemed off for some reason.

On Avalon, the scarred acolyte begins to wield his dagger, shooting out black energy and becoming somewhat servant-like in appearance. He is able to incapacitate Garth and Imra leaving Ayla to fight alone.

Check out that second panel. She's warming up a lightning Kamehameha blast.

Ayla ... my second favorite Legionnaire and my biggest Legion crush.

Dyogene, the living green energy being tasked to founding a new corps, returns to Sodom Yat to report that Earth Man has rejected the ring. With no one possessing the ring, Dyogene tries to refuse with the land.

Yat is pretty exhausted by his life as last GL and tired of the burden. He refuses to let Dyogene rest and instead casts him back out to find someone who will take up the mantle.

Yat sounds clinically depressed as he stews on his ruined planet. Why not join the universe?

Remember when I said the Darkseid storyline ends quickly? I meant it.

The acolyte becomes Darkseid-like in appearance (think what happened to Ol-Vir). He actually shoots some version of Omega Beams.

But when confronted with the telepathic contempt the actual Darkseid would have for so petty a being, he basically crumbles to dust. In many ways it does echo what happened to Ol-Vir in 'The Curse'.

Too easy? Maybe. But quite poetic of an ending.

Could this really be the end of this thread?

This really is a great issue for Ayla fans. The action she gets is just wonderful. Sorry if I am posting too much of her bits.

But I love the rage she feels about her family being bothered like this.

She faces off against the remaining cultists while the boys are being rescued. Don't cross Lightning Lass.

And back on Earth, Shadow Lass begins asking about Earth Man. She seems almost smitten with him.

So certainly a lot happened here as several plotlines are covered and pushed forward, one to a conclusion. Levitz certainly wasn't letting things simmer. Everything is boiling.

And oh such wonderful Ayla in this. Perfect.

What happens here that makes me dismiss this volume?

Overall grade: A


  1. Let me preface this by saying that I was thrilled to have a Legion book back with MY team.

    That being said I didn't care for most of the story lines out of the gate. Earth Man (and his multiple rings and love life - ew): no thank you. Titan being destroyed: why? SO unnecessary. Harmonia Li: spare me the long-lived mystery member with the ill-defined powers, please. And while I love Garth & Imra, they've had half a century of stories. I had hoped for more Polar Boy, Tyroc, and a few of the lesser used characters. Author's choice, of course, but another Darkseid thread just left me bored.

    1. Totally agree about Garth and Imra. 26 members now (because Tenzil couldn't be shown leaving on panel) and 4 issues in and we haven't really seen Brek, Brin and Vi. But wait, Quislet is back. I really don't see any balancing of characters here.

  2. This was interesting. I think Levitz tried to balance the old with the new. We have the Ranzz's plot featuring established characters and connections to well established villainy. And then we have the other plot with Earth Man. Okay, I get the featuring of Earth Man as a new character, but just having him in the Legion rubs me the wrong way. I get that readers are have strong feelings and that makes for buzz, but he's even less acceptable as a Legion member than Danny Chase was as a Titan.

  3. I think there is a problem when your penciller has only finished one issue on his own.

    Also, I get the feeling that Levitz had not decided on what he planned on doing with Ayla yet. If she was with Brin again, he should have accompanied Imra's team. If she was with Vi again, she would have been with them. Ayla's fight scene is pretty good though. He could have easily chosen Garth for it but did not.

    I do feel Saturn Girl comes off a little inconsistent. She seems to have trouble focusing her powers for no good reason and she's doing her kicks again. So Levitz kinda forgot that he wrote her strong enough to take down Mon and Jo at the same time. But he she seems to pull a Projectra trick.

    I have a lot of other nitpicks. How are Garth and Ayla "identical" twins? Shadow Lass's dialog and first page with Brainy. Jeckie showing her face but with blonde flowing hair.

    The Earth Man scenes just seem really odd. Now I think it would be interesting if Brainy and Shady planned that she would keep an eye on him but why wouldn't they be monitoring his moves via his flight ring or have Sensor Girl keep tabs on him? I feel like Levitz could have constructed a better mystery here.

  4. I think you all are bringing up things that probably bugged me a lot back then.

    Perhaps I am so thirsty for a Legion book that I'll drink this rusty water and love it.

    1. For me, I'm unwilling to give Levitz any pass just because he was the writer during some of the Legion's biggest stories. I expect a lot for that very reason!

      One thing I noticed during the Baxter years was a focus on small teams. Not that every mission requires 8 Legionnaires, but we sometimes saw 4 or less on missions. When you throw the retired members into stories, characters just get ignored.

  5. I swear the Ranzz Family subplot was like the only part of this series I consistently paid attention to.