Tuesday, August 6, 2019

L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 #1

L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 #1 (February 1989)
title: "Homecoming"
plot/breakdowns: Keith Giffen
script: Alan Grant
penciller: Barry Kitson
inker: Mike DeCarlo
letterer: Gaspar
colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
assistant editor: Art Young
editor: Karen Berger
cover art: Kevin Maguire and Al Gordon

Future L.E.G.I.O.N.aires: The Durlan, Garryn Bek, Lyrissa Mallor, Stealth, Strata, Vril Dox.

Their Opponent: The Computer Tyrants of Colu

Recap: During the three part Invasion! series, a coalition of alien races invaded Earth. Humanity was deemed too dangerous because of the meta-gene that gave them the propensity to develop superpowers. Dissenters and other aliens were being held by the coalition at Starlag, but the Coluan prisoner Vril Dox and the Omega Men led a revolt at the prison. As the first issue of L.E.G.I.O.N. opens a ship full of surviving escapees from Starlag has arrived at the planet Colu seemingly to return Vril Dox to his home.

Summary: Garryn Bek has lost patience and is demanding to know from Vril Dox why they are just hovering above Colu after Dox made such a point of being the first dropped off. He responds that they are waiting for a signal but will not explain further.  Meanwhile, some something is scanning the ship and its passengers. It identifies Dox as the son of Vril Dox Sr., the villain  known as Brainiac on Earth, and it also provides some background on the other Starlag escapees.
Lyrissa Mallor is also becoming impatient because she is anxious to return to her home planet of Talok. She is concerned over being near Colu, a planet she considers unsafe, and her fears appear well-founded when they come under missile attack from an approaching ship.
Bek takes the controls and enters the atmosphere in an attempt to evade the missiles. Lyrissa covers the ship in a shadow bubble, and Dox uses their attackers confusion to take the controls and misdirect their enemy directly into the side of a mountain. After Bek notices a swarm of new missiles heading for their ship, they land and flee just in time to avoid going up in flames with their ship. Everyone is furious at Dox for getting them into this mess, but their arguing is interrupted when armed probes arrive to take them into custody.

After they are locked away, Lyrissa recaps the history of their captors, explaining that the Coluans are of superior intelligent and highly technologically advanced, but live brainwashed under the control of the Computer Tyrants of Colu. She speculates that the only reason they are still alive is the curiosity of the Tyrants.
The team turns their attention to Dox, who they blame for their predicament. He explains that he is the son of the greatest traitor Colu has ever known. His father was such a genius, even by Coluan standards, that the Tyrants were reluctant to risk damaging his mind through their usual brainwashing. He was given special treatment in exchange for using his intellect for the Tyrants and was even allowed to artificially inseminate a female for the purpose of having a son. Instead of a son, however, Vril Dox was treated more like a servant and he slowly grew to loathe his father.

Eventually the Tyrants grew too fearful and distrustful of his father and moved to eliminate him. As far as young Dox was concerned they had succeeded, and he appears unaware that his father is still alive. Left alone, the Tyrants tried to brainwash Vril but he had been allowed to grow into his own person for too long and it failed. They had intended to kill him, but after turning down an invitation to join the Invasion Alliance, the Tyrants decided to cover their basis by generously donating all of their prisoners to Starlag. After much planning, he led their escape from that prison. Although he had initially planned to return to Colu alone, he saw in them the potential to make his dreams of overthrowing the Tyrants a reality.
In the midst of everyone airing their frustrations at Dox, Bek finally notices that one of them is missing. Using his shapeshifting abilities to avoid captivity, the Durlan has been slowly making his way closer to the Tyrants' command center.
He is able to avoid the security drones for a time but realizes he cannot withstand them long enough to figure out how to use Coluan technology to free the others. So instead he takes the quicker course of blowing up central command.
This allows the others to escape their cell and Lyrissa uses her shadow powers to help them evade attacking probes. The Tyrants have analyzed the situation and deemed Dox such a danger that they decide to blow up the entire structure he is inside.

Commentary: The main strength of this series lies in its character dynamics. Everyone is given very distinctive and strong personalities, several of them do not like each other, and they all hate Vril Dox. He is pompous and manipulative. His goals are usually noble, or at least he believes them to be but he is willing to do anything to achieve them. His constant manipulation of everyone around him is going be a continuing thread throughout this series, and this first issue serves as a great introduction for him. We learn almost nothing about Stealth or Strata, but we do get a taste of Bek's often whiney nature. Lyrissa Mallor gets several moments to shine, and the Durlan does as well, but Mallor is much more intriguing as the so-called hero of Tallok VIII. She also seems to have a far more pleasant personality than either Dox or Bek.

This series came out at a confusing time for the Legion of Super-Heroes insofar as their history had been in flux since Superboy's removal in the crisis. The obvious implication of the title was that it might serve to provide a new history for the Legion or at least provide them with inspiration. There are certainly some intriguing connections teased here. The biggest is Dox, the son of Brainiac and implied ancestor of Brainiac 5, but there is also Lyrissa Mallor and her similarities to Shadow Lass. Also, Strata is from Dryad, the same planet as future Legionnaire Blok.

There are no hints here as to what the L.E.G.I.O.N. will become over the next several issues. There was likely promotion material at the time cluing people in, but nothing in the issue itself, expect perhaps the cover, to suggest that we are looking at the makings of an interplanetary police force. Giffen and Grant are taking their time here, and given how much this series relies on character conflict, its a good approach.

As you can see, the art by Barry Kitson does not yet match his usual style but it will quickly evolve into that. He does an adequate job, but he will improve drastically in a short time, and I do look forward to how it will appear just a few issues from now.

1 comment:

  1. I really loved the first couple of years of this book. The characterizations were great and the storylines were well-written, with some surprising twists and consequences. And, of course, I loved its ties to the Legion (until, well...what comes later...)