Friday, October 26, 2018

Retroboot Review: Legion of Super-Villains Special #1

Hey all,
I am continuing my retro-reviews of the Retroboot Legion series and I am finally starting to match up the internal chronology of the book with the reviews by covering two books which technically took place before the Legion of Super-Heroes #13 issue which I covered last week. 

The Legion of Super-Villains Special #1, written by Paul Levitz and drawn by Francis Portela came out the same month as LSH #11, setting up the ongoing plot of Saturn Queen and her team of evil-doers out to spread chaos throughout the galaxy.

We'll start with the obvious. I love Francis Portela's art. In this issue, we really get a sense of  Portela's style. He gives Saturn Queen, the lead character in this issue, a certain vibe. There is a sensuality to her without veering into cheesecake or over-sexualization. There is also madness in her, conveyed wonderfully in her eyes and expressions.

In retrospect the plot is a little off. It is clear that Saturn Queen is the leader of the LSV. But it is also clear that she herself is being manipulated by this Blue Flame creature. And since that being is an unknown, it feels like too much of a mystery. It also seems weird to see a group usually hell-bent on ruling and a fascistic order suddenly espousing chaos and anarchy.

I also have to applaud Levitz's attempt to broaden the Legion mythos by mixing in new villains like Akka, Sun Killer, and Immortus. 

Anyways, head back and reread my reviews for #12 and #13 to catch up with the LSV plot. Next week I'll finish my back-up recovery by reviewing LSH Annual #1.

Legion of Super-Villains #1, a one-shot prelude to an upcoming arc in Legion of Super-Heroes, was released last week and was a very good read. One-shots like this, so linked to an ongoing title, often make me pause, wondering if comic companies are trying to get me to spend a little more. If the story is that crucial to a monthly title, couldn't it be told in the monthly title?

This story, 'Blood Oath', deserved to be on its own. It is told exclusively from the viewpoint of the villains, with almost nary a Legionnaire in site, giving writer Paul Levitz the room he needs to explore the motivations and personalities of the villain team. Had this been told piece meal in the LSH book, intermingled with pages of the Legionnaires, we would probably have missed out on some of the smaller moments of characterization. And it is these smaller moments that usual add depth to these things.

An added bonus is that Francis Portela does all the art in the book. Now I love what Yildiray Cinar is doing in the main book but I also loved the Portela pages that we saw in LSH as well. And the couple of covers Portela did for R.E.B.E.L.S. really shined. So I was happy to see him get an issue for himself. I would love to see him on a monthly title. He has a very organic style and does great expressive work.

The key character in this issue is Saturn Queen. Unlike Saturn Girl, Queen's powers tend to be more of mental domination rather than telepathy. Captured by the Science Police and apparently placed in power dampeners, the Queen is nevertheless able to work her way into the mind of Takron-Galtos' warden. I really liked this first page where we see the warden struggling to fight the Queen's control. His internal monologue shows how he realizes that his mind is being overrun by the Queen's will, that as much as he is trying to shut her out, he can't. It really is a nice page, showing us Queen's power from the enslaved point of view. The words are great and the art matches as we see the warden physically struggling but ultimately losing his will entirely.

 Saturn Queen seems to have been possessed by a blue flame like entity (first seen as a 'galactic golem looking baby in Adventure Comics #522) which has both upped her power levels as well as changed her usual motivations. The LSV was usually run by the triumverate of Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen, and Cosmic King. In fact, Lightning Lord has usually been the leader.

But it is clear Saturn Queen is in charge here, forming the team of villains she wants, and planning her quest for universal anarchy.

Freed from the effect of the dampeners, the Queen brings Takron-Galtos to a riot frenzy, hoping the destruction will hide her and her team's escape. One of her first supplicants she gathers is Sun Killer, a loyal slave.

One of the best things about this issue is how clearly insane Levitz and Portela make Saturn Queen. There is a physical sort of sadism in her here that I don't recall. I always imagine her not entering the physical fray, wishing to stay untouched from afar. Here she is right in the middle of the carnage, even going so far as to scratch Sun Killer's face, drawing blood, and using it as lip gloss. The expression on her face as she dabs the blood on her lips is perfect, just enough of a sense of lunacy behind those eyes to scare me.

My guess is the blue flame entity within her is somehow driving her. But that makes it even scarier.

And I think that degree of her being controlled is echoed in her plans. She talks of a love of chaos ... something which sound wrong coming from her lips. Usually the LSV doesn't want pure anarchy, pure chaos. Instead they want to rule, be the head of a controlled totalitarian state. And her very power is one of control, not lack of control.

But there is that sense of sadistic glee again as she purrs how lovely it is to watch Lightning Lord kill her warden slave knowing the warden felt severe pain as he died. Portela really shines with his work with Saturn Queen throughout the book.

While I was hoping for a massive collection of villains like the LSV was in the early issues of the Legion Baxter series, instead I got a smaller more carefully chosen team.

We know about Lightning Lord and Sun Killer. We also get old-timers like Zymyr, a Gil'Dishpan teleporter, and Hunter, a tracker. But we also get some new names (as far as I know): Questro, a Coluan; Akka, a Sklar assassin, and Immortus, a Zuun-built inertron robot. Micro Lad isn't long for the world and so doesn't remain on the team.

As for me, I am a sucker for the League of Super-Assassins, so I was hoping to see Silver Slasher, Titania, or Neutrax. I do hope we see a bigger LSV with more classic characters as well.

And the members of this Legion are all under the Queen's control. They agree with her plan to bring about anarchy, the 'precious birthright' of the universe. They swear by the blue flame to follow her.

And the initial part of her plan is ambitious. She tries to bring the team to Oa to destroy it. The very space surrounding Oa thrwarts them causing the Queen to retreat and rethink things. She gets a vision to destroy three worlds: one of faith, one of wisdom, and then one of will, Oa. Oa must be last.

So what (or who) is this blue flame? Could it be magical in nature? A Lord of Chaos? Could it be an ancient enemy of the Guardians, given Oa is the ultimate target?

With the LSV's plan in mind, they head to the Rock of Eternity, the world of faith, floating in space.

Bolstered by the blue flame's power, Zymyr is able to teleport two planets on opposite sides of the Rock, both on a collision course. The Rock is smashed to bits.

In a nice hook, we see Shazam's throne and what appears to be the wizard's arm. Could we be seeing a Legion-era Marvel Family soon? That is a great idea! Interesting.

All of these maneuvers don't go unnoticed. The Black Witch can sense the flame. She says that the blue flame once burned yellow. She also says something is stirring inside her. Since she has absorbed Mordru, that can't be good.

This certainly makes me think it is a magic based villain. Although the yellow comment had me thinking this could be Parallax still around in the future. Fear likes chaos. Parallax hates Oa. The entity (when seen in Adventure) was buried on Earth. When it escaped people around it seemed to have been frightened to death. Sounds like Parallax.

But then I was thinking about how it was buried until an earthquake released it. Is being buried it's weakness? I thought about Mordru and his links to Gemworld. Could the blue flame be Dark Opal, the villain from Amethyst? Remember, almost no one remembered Darkseid when Levitz made him the big bad in The Great Darkness Saga. Could he find another diamond in the rough as a big villain? And yes, that gem-pun was intended.

Most of the villains head off with the Queen to figure out what the world of wisdom is. She leaves Lightning Lord to clean up the mess.

Mekt was never one to follow orders easily, even if mind controlled. It is clear that he might be playing the part of the slave but he has his own ideas. This made total sense. I was glad to see Levitz stay true to Lightning Lord's character.

Saturn Queen has brought her team to Colu in hopes of using the super-computers to find the immortal world of wisdom. Any ideas? Is it Sorceror's World? My money rests on Starhaven, Dawnstar's homeworld.

I have to admit though, so far, this is a complete mystery to me.

This was definitely a fun way to start my reviews of Legion books here. It set the table for this upcoming arc. It has a 'bigger than life' feel to it with this unknown entity forming a team of villains to destroy the fabric of the universe. Sounds sort of similar to the Great Darkness Saga. So I can't wait to see this continue in the main title.

And Portela's art was just slick throughout this book. I hope Portela finds a long-term home soon. His stuff it too solid.

Overall grade: B+

I think I would downgrade this to a B just because hearing these villains go from order to chaos reads a little wrong. And while I know that they are all being pushed in that direction by this blue flame, I don't know enough about that being to say that this makes sense. I don't mind a long play but even just a little knowledge would go a long way.

Portela is just brilliant. And Saturn Queen is a deliciously malevolent villain right now. 

What did you guys think?


  1. This is the one piece of the story I never managed to find during that time period. Thanks for the mini-glimpse.

    1. Yeah, I am missing it for some reason too. I guess my LCS didn't pull it for me.

  2. So my first complaint here is Micro Lad. The Legion found his body on Takron Galtos so I guess the LSV must have turned the ship around and dumped his body. Minor continuity squabble.

    I guess the plot of this baffles me. The Rock of Eternity has never played into a Legion story before, so why it is relevant here is beyond me. Kinda annoyed how so much of this issue is genuflecting to Saturn Queen. While it is nice to get some villain insight here and help introduce new characters a bit more (something the original LSV arc didn't do very well), I don't feel like enough went on. It was nice to see Saturn Queen work the powers of her, Questor, Hunter and Zymyr together. Would be nice if we could see the Legion with that teamwork once in a while.

    1. No error there. After Akka stabbed Lalo, SQ tells her to dump the body on Takron-Galtos in order to confuse the Science Police.

  3. Thanks for comments.
    It would be interesting to look at the sales for this book.

  4. This was my favorite comic of the entire Retroboot.
    Ironic,considering the LSH are barely in the story.