Tuesday, September 17, 2019

L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 #7

L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 #7 (August 1989)
title: "The Nature of the Beast"
plot/breakdowns: Keith Giffen
script: Alan Grant
penciller: Barry Kitson
inker: Mark McKenna
letterer: Gasper Saladino
colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
assistant editor: Art Young
editor: Karen Berger
cover art: Kevin Maguire and Al Gordon
review by: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

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

Warning: Given the contents of this issue, I feel I should preface this post with a warning. This issue and the next deal with the topic of rape. To be blunt, some pages in this story are quite brutal. Many people (very, very understandably) may find such a storyline difficult or even painful to read. I often have such difficulty myself with films and television shows. If that is the case for you, I strongly recommend for your own emotional well being skipping at least this issue and the next. Subsequent issues will continue to address the fallout, but these two deal most directly with the assault and its immediate aftermath. I will continue having recaps later, which will summarize events for those who choose to skip. For those who want to continue, lets do a recap of the story so far.

Recap: Vril has successfully taken over the drug world Cairn and killed the drug lord Kanis-Biz, who was also the father-in-law to Garryn Bek. While he turns his attention to the rest of the planet, and expanding his new police force, the rest of our cast grow increasingly frustrated with Dox's constant manipulation and growing power base.

Everyone is angry at Dox, even the Durlan who until now has appeared very loyal based on some unrevealed past relationship. But Lyrissa, having taken on something of a leadership role, is the one that confronts Vril about his actions on Cairn.

Dox is unmoved by her words, insisting that he only acted in keeping with the social-political traditions of the planet. He assumed, after all, that she would embrace the ideology of respecting other worlds' traditions. Needless to say, Lyrissa finds his response unsatisfactory and warns him that if he continues down this path, he will have to answer to her.

Elsewhere, the Durlan is checking on Bek, who had foolishly tried to vent his frustrations on Lobo and had both of his legs broken as a result. He would be dead had Lobo not given his word to Dox not to kill Beck. Despite their past friendship, even the Durlan thinks Dox may have finally bitten off more than he can chew by trying to take on the remaining drug lords of Cairn. Especially since more than a thousand heavily armed aircraft of those drug lords are presently surrounding their base.

While Dox tries to reassure the commanders in his police force, who have grown fearful they will not be able to withstand an attack, Stealth appears remarkably unconcerned and decides to go for a jog. To date, we have not learned much about Stealth beyond the fact that she is a great fighter and has a sarcastic streak. Still, the scene of her jogging is unsettling in how she reacts to two men cat-calling her.
There is every reason to think that she might be planning to merely teach them a lesson, which would be in keeping with what we have seen of her character so far. However, things are going to move in a much darker direction.

The story turns to Lyrissa who is visiting Strata. A few issues ago, the team was attempting to subdue Lobo when Strata was struck in the chest and the surface of her rocky chest was blown away to reveal a crystalline surface beneath. This has not been addressed since, although the art has continued to show the injury, but Strata explains here that the rocky surface has continued to peal away. She is worried of course, but also worried about the fleet of hips hovering above them.  Meanwhile, the Durlan has run into Stealth, who is covered in blood.
Dox is conferring with Zaaker, the drug lord who commands the fleet that is currently resting above them. Zaaker insists that Dox step down as police chief and of course Dox refuses. He also asks somewhat out of the blue if Zaakar is familiar with Czarnian physiology, which catches him off guard. Czarnian is the species that Lobo belongs to, but Zaakar only knows them as being extinct. (Which is almost true since Lobo murdered every one except himself.) In any event, he gives Dox until morning to agree to his terms, although when morning comes, he still finds himself wondering why his opponent mentioned the Czarnians.
The attack begins and Dox asks Lobo if everything is set. It is at this point where we are reminded that the physiology of a Czarnian is such that total clonal regrowth is immediately manifested from even the smallest piece of tissue. In essence, even the smallest drop of blood can regrow a clone. Which gives Dox the key to creating an army of Lobos.
Needless to say, the army of Lobos makes short work of the invading forces. While the battles goes on, Dox visits the rest of our team, who at first appear to be sleeping but Dox admits to having heavily laced their meal with tranquilizers so they would not interfere. While speaking to himself, he admits that his father, the original Brainiac, saw no need to give him such things as compassion or conscious. Nevertheless, by incapacitating them while avoiding any harm, and based on his demeanor here, it does appear that Dox may feel some regret at his actions. Stealth seems to sense it to when she surprises Dox by being awake. Her behavior is unusually menacing though and she makes a reference that her earlier "dates" did not really "hit the button." She grabs Dox and brutally beats him, almost to death, leaving us with the final, disturbing image of the issue.
This is a difficult comic to discuss for obvious reasons. Since its first issue, it has always had a healthy dose of humor even if it did not rise to the level of Giffen's work on Justice League International. Even much of the violence was treated comically, particularly when Lobo was involved. That was the case here when the cloned Lobos battled the invading army. Which is why it was so jarring that the scenes with Stealth were so disturbing. As I indicated, the early scene of her appearing to come on to the two men cat-calling her could be written off as her toying with them as if she was planning to teach them a lesson. But still, her enthusiasm was disconcerting and enough to leave a reader wondering. Any suspicions were confirmed when she showed up covered in blood a few pages later and it was clear that she murdered both men. This was still nothing compared to what was to come when she attacked Dox with the clear intent of raping him. To say that this was startling for a mainstream comic at this time is a huge understatement. 

It is hard to really evaluate the implications of this event and how it was handled by the creators in-story until we see the fallout next issue. The change in tone in how violence was treated as a joke on one page, while shocking on another, did bother me a bit. But really, any time something like this occurs in a story, it should bother a reader, a lot, and if handled appropriately, it should reverberate. This is probably a good time to mention that I first read this comic as a 14 year old, and these scenes...they messed me up. I did not quite know how to process them and I had never seen anything like them in a comic. I had appreciated L.E.G.I.O.N. so far because of the darker tone and how different it was from the typical super-hero story. But nothing prepared me for this. In fact, it is probably because I read it as such a young age that I have a difficult time judging the issue. Had I first read it as an adult, I could probably put my thoughts in order more clearly, but because I was so young, I just felt a confusion that I still have difficulty sorting through.

I will continue these thoughts next issue when we have more to draw on but let me also comment briefly on the rest of the comic. It was nice to see Lyrissa confronting Dox after two issues of him basically shutting them all out. The battle with the drug lord's fleet was fine, albeit a bit underwhelming since the developments with Stealth took much of the focus away. We were teased a bit on Strata's physiological changes being of some significance but her character continues to be neglected. We learn more about her soon but it does feel like we should already know more seven issues in. As much as I love this series, that would probably be the one flaw I would point to in these early stories. Dox tends to overwhelm so much that it takes a while to get to know the others. I understand why since he is crucial to setting up the L.E.G.I.O.N., but at the same time, I would have liked to see more of the others sooner.

In closing, I am curious what other people's reactions were to the events of the issue. Were they handled well? Horribly? Somewhere in between? Please let me know.


  1. Well, this was definitely the issue that stated "this is not your father's Legion" (even though I don't think that anyone following Dox's behavior could have any doubts about that).
    I was slightly older when it came out, and I was still shocked. This was New Format and thus non-Code, but not Suggested for Mature Readers, and I wonder how many 14-year olds or younger found this.
    Hindsight, it's great, powerful material. Other so-called "mature" titles at the time focused just on gratuitous sex (usually in the form of exposed female anatomy) or violence. Here these actions have very long term consequences and this was a better title because of it.

  2. I totally agree with Gus. I was also a little older than fourteen when this issue came out. And, while it shocked me, EVERY issue of this (early part) of this title shocked me. But, what I loved about the shocks was that they were truly "character driven."

    Dox was a bastard and did horrible things for the "right" reasons, because that`s who he was.

    Lyrissa was a compassionate, fearless leader, because that's who she was.

    Stealth was an isolated alien species who needed to reproduced that way...because that's who she was.

    These first few issues were fantastic!