Tuesday, December 10, 2019

L.E.G.I.O.N. Crossover! The Adventures of Superman Annual #2

The Adventures of Superman Annual #2 (August 1990)
title: "Quest For Vengeance"
writer: Dan Jurgens
pencillers: Bob McLeod, Curt Swan, and Kerry Gammill
inkers: Bob McLeod, John Byrne, Dick Giordano
letterer: Bill Oakley
colorist: Glenn Whitmore
editor: Mike Carlin
cover art: Kerry Gammill and John Byrne
review by: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Recap: Dox led an attack force on the asteroid base of the pirate Dragon-Ra but did not realize he was headed into a trap. He had sent Lobo to infiltrate the base and expected that by the time they arrived, Lobo would have killed Dragon-Ra. Instead, the pirate had used his ability to transmute matter to subdue both Lobo and Lady Quark.  Dox was hoping that Lar Gand would be his ace-in-the-hole but he was quickly taken out of action when Dragon-Ra turned his blood into molten lead. The pirate was on the verge of killing Dox when Lobo and Lady Quark caught him off guard and knocked him out. Lobo planned to kill him but was stopped by Lar Gand. Dox took advantage of a fallen boulder to ensure that Dragon-Ra was killed but not at the hands of anyone on his team. In the aftermath of the battle, Lady Quark accepted Dox's offer to join the team, and she mentioned in passing that he resembles someone she heard about on Earth, a green alien from the planet Colu. Dox realized that his father, Brainiac, somehow survived the Computer Tyrants and must be dealt with.

Vril Dox and Lar Gand arrive on Earth but thanks to faulty controls on their ship, are headed for a crash landing. On the way down, they strike an airliner and knock its wing off, causing it to go down as well. Fortunately, Clark Kent hears of the imminent crash at the offices of the Daily Planet and arrives in time to save the plane as Superman. While the passengers safely disembark, the pilot explains to Superman that they were clipped by something shooting out of the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Lyrissa, Lady Quark, Strata, Telepath, Lobo, and Phase are following in a separate ship, still out in space. Lyrissa is concerned that Dox is too obsessed with finding his father, Brainiac, and may act foolishly. She notes that their sensors have lost track of Dox's ship and we soon learn that its because it has crashed into the ocean. Dox is trying to repair the ship while water floods in, but the ship is soon sucked into a tunnel beneath the ocean floor. Dox is confused because his understanding of Earth culture suggests humans are far to primitive to build a structure this deep under the sea. Lar Gand uses debris and his heat vision to plug the hole they caused in the tunnel and the two set out to investigate.
Superman is searching for whatever struck the plane and incidentally encounters Lyrissa's ship. Because their power readings go off the scale, they assume he is Lar Gand and that he has been sent by Dox to stop them. They are about to attack but he disarms their weapons, which suggests to Lyrissa that he may not actually mean them harm. She is unable to stop Lobo from attacking and after a few minutes of fighting Lobo recognizes that his opponent is actually Superman.
Dox and Lar Gand have travelled far into the tunnels and Dox estimates that by now they are likely under the city known as Metropolis. He believes that the computers here are likely the most powerful on the planet and can probably help him find Brainiac. Superman readers at the time would have recognized that they were inside Project Cadmus, which is confirmed when the superhero Guardian is seen examining the wreckage of their ship. Guardian informs his ally Dubbilex, who uses his telepathic powers to find Dox and Lar Gand. Unfortunately, Dubbilex mistakes Dox for his father, the villainous Brainiac.
At Dubbilex's urging, Guardian attacks Dox but Lar Gand rushes to his defense. Dox advises him to avoid killing their attacker, if he can, because their quarrel is not with the humans. Cadmus guards arrive to help Guardian but Lar Gand keeps them occupied while Dox goes ahead to try to find the information he needs about Brainiac.

Elsewhere, Lobo introduces himself to Superman and acknowledges that he has a pretty good rep. Superman realizes that Lobo must not recall their previous meeting because he was drunk at the time. They return to the L.E.G.I.O.N. ship and are met by Lyrissa and the others. They explain that they are looking for a missing scout ship but Superman is suspicious when he overhears the name Dox, which make him believe they may be tied to Brainiac. He offers to help and soon finds the craft in the Cadmus tunnels. Lyrissa is concerned that Superman's involvement might cause problems and sends Phase to try to find Dox first.
Back beneath Metropolis, Dox finds Dubbilex at the computer he needs and is able to quickly take down the telepath. While he searches for information about his father, Superman discovers Lar Gand fighting Guardian and intervenes. Guardian warns Superman that he is fighting the bodyguard of Brainiac while Lar Gand warns Superman that he is a Daxamite who can stand toe to toe with him. Lyrissa arrives just as Lar Gand appears to be choking Superman and she fires a nerve blast from their ship to stop her teammate before the situation gets worse. Unfortunately, Lobo has jumped out before she has time to stop him and attacks the Man of Steel. Because their uniforms match Lar Gand, Superman assumes they must all be allies of Brainiac. Dox joins them but before he can put a stop to the fight, he gets knocked out by Guardian. At the same time, Superman uses Lobo and Lar Gand's strength against them and smashes their heads together, putting a stop to the fight. 

While this has all been going on, Dubbilex has been taken under the mental control of a mysterious entity. Lyrissa has explained the misunderstanding to Superman and is apologizing for her team when an alarm and evacuation order began to sound. They learn that someone has sabotaged the reactor and it is about to blow. Superman realizes that it is too late to stop the process so he digs the reactor out of the concrete while Lar Gand clears a path to the surface. The duo then throw the reactor towards the sun where the explosion will not cause any harm.
Back at Cadmus, Guardian and the L.E.G.I.O.N. are under attack by a possessed gang of DNAliens, mutated disfigured clones created by the project's previous Director. Superman returns and quickly subdues the DNAliens.
They notice that one has escaped and Superman follows but he soon discovers Dubbilex collapsed in a tunnel. After he awakes, Dubbilex explains the history of Project Cadmus and that the creatures who attacked are the result of genetic experimentation. He also explains that they have lived as outcasts in their own society, refusing any help because they blame Cadmus for their situation. Superman is appalled, as is Lyrissa, and Dox tells Superman that this sort of societal injustice is exactly the reason L.E.G.I.O.N. exists. Superman does not trust Dox, however, and is horrified that he planned to kill his own father, even if it is Brainiac. Their argument is interrupted by Dubbilex, who is once again under the control of someone else. 
That someone turns out to be Brainiac, who confesses that he used Dubbilex to sabotage the reactor. He also tells his insolent son that if he wants to find him he need look no further than their home planet of Colu. As Dox and the team depart, Superman has one final question for Dox.
At the time this comic originally came out, I was not only a fan of the L.E.G.I.O.N. but also a huge fan of Superman comics. To this day, this remains far and away my favorite era for the character. So obviously I was very excited for this to come out and fortunately I was not disappointed. The past connections between Superman and the classic Legion of Superheroes made this crossover inevitable, but what makes it special is the contrast between the more noble ideals of Superman clashing with the ends-justifies-the-means approach of Dox. Even in the best of times, Dox has an abrasive personality, but driven by personal vengeance as he is here means he is meeting the Man of Steel under the worst possible circumstances.

Because this is a Superman comic, the story does give a little more development to his corner of the DC Universe than it does to the L.E.G.I.O.N.'s. This is the first time Superman meets Dubbilex in this continuity and he learns of the uglier history of Project Cadmus. It is also his first direct meeting with Lar Gand, which is not treated as being of much significance to Superman within the context of this story, but is for readers in light of their pre-Crisis history. I think it is because of that history that their scenes together were given special attention by the artists, with quite a few large panels depicting both their fight and their team-up to deal with the reactor meltdown. 

I could see some readers being frustrated that they do not get around to battling Brainic in this issue, but it is understandable as this is a two-part crossover, and they are following the classic superhero team-up approach of having them fight due to a misunderstanding before uniting against a common foe. That description is not intended as a knock though because I think the story was told wonderfully.

Some discussion of the art is warranted given the quality of those involved. The issue was split into three parts with the artist for part 1 being Bob McLeod on both pencilling and inking, with part 2 by Curt Swan and John Byrne, and part 3 by Kerry Gammill and Dick Giordano. So yes, obviously a lot of talent involved here, and when this came out I was particularly enamored with Kerry Gammill's pencils. But I was especially impressed here by the fight scene between Superman and Lar Gand, which had some unusually dynamic work by Curt Swan. Of course, the inking was by John Byrne, which helped, but I would still love to show this to anyone who thinks Curt Swan's work was too stiff. He did great work here. The overall art by these teams also blended together nicely throughout the issue with no jarring changes that took me out of the story.

The final discussion between Superman and Dox made for a great ending and really left me looking forward to the coming confrontation between Dox and his father. So check back with me next week as we take a look at the second part of this story in the first L.E.G.I.O.N. annual, guest-starring Superman!

1 comment:

  1. Another great review to an old favourite mine.
    Cant wait for part two!