Thursday, April 11, 2019

Reboot: Legionnaires #78

Legionnaires #78 (December 1999)
title: "Emissary"
writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
penciller: Jeffrey Moy and Olivier Coipel
inker: W.C. Carani and Andy Lanning
lettering: Pat Brosseau & Comicraft
colorist: Tom McCraw
editor: Mike McAvennie
cover: Jeffrey Moy & W.C. Carani
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Apparition, Brainiac 5.1, Cosmic Boy, Live Wire, Monstress, Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy, XS

Hesperides captain and crew

Ares series robots, The Blight (behind the scenes), Robotican Emissary

Live Wire and Saturn Girl have been mostly separated over two HQs. Ultra Boy and Apparition have been going to couples therapy...

Out in space a rusty old megafreighter is attacked by persons unknown; the captain has just enough time to send out a distress call. The Legion receives it and four of their number set out to answer it: Monstress, trying to avoid the Amazers who want to lure her back to Xanthu; Brainiac 5.1, still missing Koko though he'd never admit it; Apparition, looking to fix her and Ultra Boy's growing codependency; and Cosmic Boy, to let Saturn Girl and Live Wire have some downtime together. As they leave, Garth proposes to Imra.
When the Legionnaires get to the freighter via stargate, they find the crew alive, but flash frozen. They then find a hole in the wall leading to the ship's ancient ballast area. It seems that before adamite was easy to find, ships would fill their hulls with scrap metal. Someone wanted something out of that 500-year-old scrap. And that something attacks! Ceramic-based Ares series robots from five centuries hence, scrapped when they gained sentience because of the Metallo virus' effect on their Asimov circuits, lest they infect other machines. They become even more aggressive when they hear there is a Brainiac in the group.
Brainy uses his computer skills to reinitialize the Asimov programming that prevents the robots from letting humanoids come to harm, but the team is then attacked by an emissary from the thought-mythical robot paradise of Robotica. The Robotican's mission is to find all sentient mechanicals in the universe and bring them home. Before it can hurt the Legionnaires, however, the reprogrammed Ares robots attack and destroy it.
With everything straightened out, the Legionnaires head home, but... the stargate is down! In fact, they all are, as a wave of energy cascades through each stargate, leaving destruction in its wake. Its ultimate destination: Earth.
I like a history lesson as much as the next historian. That’s probably why I enjoy stories that help build the universe of our Legionnaires. So much stuff must’ve happened between the 20th and 30th Centuries. It’s nice when you get to know a bit more about the gap. It’s not surprising to hear of a robot revolution when thinking about the future. Many sci-fi stories have the same premise. Something that I feel was a bit different is how the revolution started due to a virus and not all robots were affected. Nice to know the ones that remained after the “hot war” took it upon themselves to shut down instead of risking more bloodshed. I expect we didn’t get a hint of a robotic haven – Robotica – for nothing and it will come back soon enough.
That being said, I feel like the robots we’ve seen in this comic are far from the ones Brainiac described. If they voluntarily shut down, does it mean the ones they encountered were awaken and infected? If they were infected, why were they so easy to turn back? Let’s say that it wasn’t all that easy, and it was just Brainiac’s skills that made it look like a simple task. They know of Brainiacs so weren’t the other ones, the ones from the 20th Century, able to fix the robots? Or maybe they’re the ones who infected them and tried to take control. I guess we’ll learn more of their past and that connection with Coluans once we learn more about Robotica.
We might. Those are comics I haven't read. I thought you'd be more keen to talk about the soap opera elements, so I guess I will. We haven't seen a whole lot of Jo and Tinya recently, except to say they were always trying to get their honeymoon on and failing. That cosmic joke isn't that funny when you consider that it's been playing out for years now. She was thought dead, then a ghost, then confused when she merged with Phase... And now she's stuck behind a stargate. She may not come home as quickly as she promised. The other development is that Live Wire pops the big question (in his way) and though we don't hear Imra's answer, it kind looks like a yes. About time? Or a mistake in this timeline?
Anyway, this is the first issue written by Abnett and Lanning who are ushering a new era, but before they kick off a long-term arc, they let us have one last one-off story drawn in Moy's "Archie Legion" style. That's nice of them. They manage to set up a new enemy that's actually a bit far in our future, as well as a relatively happy status quo (befitting the art), preparing to pull the rug from under us (Coipel's art in the last couple pages should make us feel uneasy by its contrast). And perhaps the "history lesson", as you call it, is an indication that they don't mind playing with DC history. Good action and character beats too. If readers at the time thought it was more of the same, they were lulled into a false complacency.

Science Police Notes:  
  • All-inclusive Legion numbering: 1999/23.
  • Only the last two pages have art by Olivier Coipel and Andy Lanning, and letters by Comicraft.
  • This story occurs after the events of the Titans/Legion crossover, Universe Ablaze, covered by our esteemed leader Russell Burbage HERE.
  • Garth proposes to Imra in this issue; these two were married in the previous continuity.
  • Asimov circuits reference science-fiction author Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.
  • The Metallo virus is a reference to Superman villain Metallo.
  • First mention of Robotica; this will become important later on.

First full issue written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning who take over the Legionnaires' destinies for the foreseeable future. This also marks the last issue with art by Jeffrey Moy and W.C. Carani who have been with the book for more than 5 years.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the Moy/Carani art team---one of the most consistently good teams of the '90s.