Wednesday, January 8, 2020

L.E.G.I.O.N. '90 #19

L.E.G.I.O.N. '90 #19 (September 1990)
title: "Bitter Victory"
writer: Alan Grant
penciller: Jim Fern
inker: John Nyberg
letterer: Gasper Saladino
colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
editor: Art Young
cover art: Gary Leach and Lovern Kindzierski
review by: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Recap: In Adventures of Superman Annual #2, Vril Dox and Lar Gand travelled to Earth to find his father, the evil Brainiac. Due to faulty controls, they lost control of their ship and clipped an airliner on the way down. Superman saved the plane, but Dox's ship crashed into the ocean, and eventually, into an underground tunnel of Project Cadmus. The rest of L.E.G.I.O.N. followed in a separate ship, and were met by Superman. He was suspicious they were allied with Brainiac and offered to help them find their friends.  They found Lar Gand fighting the hero Guardian, who mistook Vril Dox for his father. While they fought, the telepathic director of Cadmus, Dubblix, was possessed by Brainiac and forced to sabotage the project's reactor. Superman and the L.E.G.I.O.N. realized that they should not be fighting, and Superman and Lar Gand got the reactor out just in time. In L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual #1, the team tracked Brainiac to Colu. The villain used ape-like beasts that were really mutated Coluans to defeat the L.E.G.I.O.N., and he placed Vril on trial with his teammates serving as the jury. After being forced to share their true thoughts about Dox, they judged him guilty, but Dox was able to free himself and his teammates from his father's control. Superman joined them in battle against Brainic but they soon discovered that they were merely fighting a mental projection and that he had escaped. Meanwhile, the team had also discovered that Vril used his enhanced charisma program on the Coluans, and neither Superman nor the L.E.G.I.O.N. were happy about it.

Thanks to their defeat of the pirate Dagon-Ra and the freeing of more than a thousand of his hostages, the team is greeted by a parade when they return to Cairn. While some of them enjoy the adoration, a few are distracted. Stealth is angry that Dox sent her on a wild goose chase and Lar Gand is haunted by how easily he was beaten on each mission.
They are unaware that Lyrissa's daughter, Lydea, having been brainwashed by the Computer Tyrants of Colu, had arrived on Cairn and is currently stalking their base. After passing Captain Comet in the med-bay, and Marij'n and Garryn Bek arguing over the Emerald Eye, Lydea is discovered by a guard in her mother's quarters.
While Lyrissa goes to check on Captain Comet, Vril Dox orders Lar Gand to accompany him to his office. Vril confronts him about his defeat at the hands of both Superman and Dagon-Ra, and fires him from the L.E.G.I.O.N. He provides him a supply of anti-lead serum to show there are no hard feelings, but Lar Gand furiously storms off and leaves the planet.
The rest of the team join Lyrissa in checking on Captain Comet in the med-bay, and during their visit they invite him to join the team, pending Vril's approval. Lyrissa goes to inform Vril but he is less than enthusiastic and only provides her an application to give to Comet. Given that Vril owes Comet his life, Lyrissa is disgusted by his reaction. 
After Lyrissa leaves, Stealth asks Dox why he sent her on a useless mission, and in response, he orders her removed from all duties. He explains that because she is carrying his child, he cannot risk her being placed in jeopardy. He also warns that if she does not calm down he will have her sedated and placed under lock and key.
Lyrissa returns to her quarters to find her belongings damaged and a family photo destroyed. She is attacked by her daughter, who identifies herself to her mother. Lyrissa does not want to believe its true, but even though she does not understand how Lydea has reached adulthood so quickly, she knows it is. She tries to talk to her daughter, but it does no good and the story ends on a cliffhanger with the Lydea on the brink of killing her.
This issue revisited several subplots that were set aside during the two-part crossover with Superman. The animosity between Stealth and Dox continues, and their relationship remains one of the most interesting of the series. I still feel a great deal of sympathy here for Dox, despite how he was behaving in their scene together. Yes, he is manipulative and willing to go to any lengths to achieve his ends, but he was also raped and murdered by Stealth. I accept that she was not in her right mind and has been medically cleared. But even though I suspect we are supposed to feel some sympathy for her during her encounter with Dox, it was the one scene of someone dealing with Dox that I found myself unable to take any side. They both have more than enough justification for hating each other.

When it comes to Stealth and Lar Gand, however, I took a very different view. Inviting Captain Comet was obviously the right call, and Dox's reluctance seems very likely to be due to Comet's inherent heroic nature. Perhaps he fears he would be unable to manipulate Comet into accepting his morally dubious actions as easily as he has the others?

Dox was also far too hard on Lar Gand, especially since Dox ultimately bears the responsibility for his recent defeats. Lar Gand may be powerful, even on par with Superman, but he just joined the team and Dox was obviously expected to much of a brand new member. In retrospect, it seems ridiculous that he should be taking a lead role in their most important missions so soon. Dox also acknowledges in-story that Lar Gand's noble nature played a role in these battles, and as with Comet, Dox's ultimate concern is how difficult he would be to manipulate. Another of many instances in which Dox's need for control is a driving force behind his decision.

Beyond the dismissal of Lar Gand and the arrival of Lydea, there were not many other big developments this issue. But it was probably good to take the time to reintroduce us to everything thats been going on after getting sidetracked by the crossover. It was a nice return to form to see the usual bickering and tension that is what makes this title so good. And there was a nice undercurrent of suspense knowing Lydea was lurking in their headquarters the entire time. Lydea has a great design and the creative team treated us to a fun, classic cliffhanger ending. Please check back with me next week to see how their battles ends!

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