Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Legion: The Great Darkness Saga, part 2

Legion of Super-Heroes #291 (Sept. 1982)
"A Sign of Darkness Dawning"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt

Karen: The second part of this Legion saga begins with an examination of the servant of darkness that the Legion captured in the previous issue. It turns out she's a clone -sort of - of Shadow Lass's ancestor, Lydea Mallor. While this shakes up Shady, things are about to get worse.

Doug: How odd was it that Mon-el and Dream Girl were doing the diagnostics on the sentient, while Brainiac-5 was in the Legion HQ? My Legion memories have grown cloudy over the years, but I don't recall that Mon was any sort of scientist. Although since he's basically Superboy, perhaps he has a Super Science Brain, too...

Karen: Sometime
s I think characters are just conveniently given whatever abilities they need. I know Superman seemed to be pretty tech savvy, although I never understood why. Super-brain? Does Mon-El have one too? But Dream Girl -I have no idea why she's there!

Karen: The Master and his number one servant release the sorcerer Mordru from his imprisonment on the planet Avalon, only to drain him of his immense power. Obviously, in order to do this, this Master is a pretty dangerous character.

Doug: It was on m
y second look at the cover, after reading this story, that I noticed it's the blown-out Mordru spread all about the cover's bottom. I loved the panel when the evil wizard was first unleashed from his prison; it was reminiscent of a scene in Adventure Comics #369 (which, by the way, I've been itching to review for a few years now!), when Superboy and the Legion confront Mordru in Smallville. And yeah, whoever the super-duper-baddie is (we all know who it is), he is the baddest dude in the DCU.

Karen: While the Legion tries to hold an election for their next leader, they are summoned to three different emerge
ncies. The team splits into three units to deal with Mordru, an attack on Takron Galtos (the prison world) and a threat to Dream Girl's sister, the White Witch.

Doug: What's your opinion on how Paul Levitz wrote this election subplot? It seem
s like he was really trying to generate some Marvel-angst/upheaval, but to be honest it feels out-of-character here and somewhat forced. I rather prefer, by the way, the more mystical version of Element Lad after one (who can keep track?) of the reboots that began in the 1990's.

Karen: I think so many Marvel writers had worked at DC by this time that intra-team conflict was becoming pretty typical. I think some of the edginess started seeping in even around the Grell years. Maybe it's just my imagination.

Karen: On Takron Galtos, the team discovers that like Mordru, their old enemy the Time Trapper has been drained of all his power. Mon-El and Ultra Boy give one of the Servants a good fight, but he escapes through a space warp.

Doug: Karen, I know you're not much of a DC buff, but am I wrong that in
one of the mini-series after Crisis on Infinite Earths the Time Trapper was revealed to be Cosmic Boy? Maybe that was just some sort of twist to a story -- again, my memory fades. Seems that it might have been the Zero Hour mini.

Karen: That's what the Wikipedia says; the only alter-ego I can recall is the recent version, with Superboy-Prime as TT. On Naltor, the team meets up with the White Witch. This is the first encounter between Blok and the Witch, and at least for Blok, you can tell it's love at first sight. This was the Legion's second tragic couple, after Wildfire and Dawnstar. But Blok and the Witch always seemed much happier. I liked those two together.

Doug: See, I'm showing my lack of activity over a decade of Legion lore. I am actually reading Blok for the first extended time ever for these reviews. He made his debut in Superboy #253, which I don't recall owning or ever reading. Again, Superboy #259 was my last issue until I jumped on board the Legionnaires reboot. I am mostly a tabula rasa for this stuff.

Karen: Moments after the team reaches Naltor to protect the Witch, a space warp op
ens and one of the Servants of Darkness appears. The Legion attacks, with mixed results. The Invisible Kid manages to enter the servant's space warp and comes face to face with "The Master," only to get blasted in the face. The rest of the team manages to drive off the Servant and he and his Master depart. Although they save the White Witch, Dream Girl tells the Legion she has had a prophetic vision: she saw the Legion battling the Servants -and losing.

Doug: "Space warp" -- don't you mean "Boom Tube"? Sorry...

Doug: I have always loved the varied powers of the Legion and the dynamics of how they use them. The scene earlier in the book where Mon-el and Ultra Boy captured all the escapees on Takron Galta was really enjoyable. I appreciated Invisible Kid's bravery in this scene, and I think it was especially poignant that for the first time the Legion got to examine one of these victims of the Darkness up close and personal -- and Blok noted that there was no visible physical injuries.

Doug: Can I comment again on Keith Giffen's art? I think it's better than it was last ish, but did you notice the number of profile shots? In the 18-page main story, there were almost 30 (I counted 29 if you want my Type-A truth of the situation) profiles drawn. It just gives the panel and even the page a flat look. If you're familiar with the work of Carmine Infantino, especially his Marvel work on titles like Nova and Star Wars, then you know the lack-of-depth I'm referring to. The fight scenes were dynamic, and some of the camera angles seemed more varied than the last installment, but it still seems off to me. But then, I'll argue that comic art in general in the early 1980's took a step backwards from what we'd seen in the 1970's. 
Karen: I'm still not excited about the art. Your comments about 'flatness' are spot-on. There's no sense of dimension or weight to any of the figures. The super-thin, almost Colletta-style inking doesn't help. Honestly, I had trouble choosing pictures to put in this post. Usually I have too many pictures I want to add. It didn't help that there were a large number of long, thin vertical panels in the book either.

Doug: Well, the panel at right is a great example of what I'm talking about. Good choice!
Karen: There's a follow-up story featuring Saturn Girl, but it seemed the chief thing to come out of that was to announce the new Legion leader: Dream Girl. I recall at the time not being too happy with that choice!

Doug: Trust me, personality-wise, there was something not to like about all three candidates. Hmmm... sounds like a slice-of-real-life, doesn't it? Did you think Giffen
's art in this part of the book was more akin to what he'd do a bit later in his career? Even though the back-up story (why was it a back-up story? It was directly related to everything that had gone before) had the same creator credits, there was a heckuva lot more Giffen in this art than Larry Mahlstedt. Anyway, it's always nice to see a short story that involves the Legion's founders. It's like an adventure with the Avengers' Big Three.


Edo Bosnar said...

This was a really good "build-up" issue. I still remember how effective I found that scene in which Mordru gets his powers ripped from him by Darks-- oops, I mean, the Master, even as he promises that his savior's death will be "swift and painless."

La Belle Esplanade said...

About Dream Girl and Mon-el doing the diagnostics: I haven't read this run but I always figure the Legionaires on duty have to serve. In this case, Mon-el and Dream Girl were at headquarters so the task fell to them. Every Legionaire has different abilities, but as a member of the team they have to fulfill basic tasks whether they are personally up to it or not. A Legionaire meets basic requirements as a recruit, goes through training, and then is expected to be up to task as the situation demands.

Sometimes you get Braniac 5 and sometimes you get Shrinking Violet. It all depends on who is on leave when disaster strikes. That's why I love the idea of the Legion. The interpersonal stuff is color but the teamwork is the key to this series' ongoing reader interest. It's really a clubhouse.

Dougie said...

Dream Girl changed Lightning Lass's powers with "Naltorian science" in her first appearance, IIRC. She's one of the Legion's 2nd division scientific experts along with the first Invisible Kid.

Mon-El had a thousand years of observation from the Phantom Zone to pick up comic-book science.

Avengers-style bickering began with Shooter's portrayal of Wildfire circa 1976.

Jonathan Stover said...

Ah, The Time Trapper...it's later revealed while Levitz is still writing the LSH that the drained Time Trapper in this issue isn't the 'real' Time Trapper, but is instead a renegade member of the race of the Controllers, cousins of the Guardians of the Universe and creators of the Sun-Eater and the Miracle Machine in Silver/Bronze Age DC mythology.

But wait! In what's really the climax of the post-Crisis 'Who the heck was Superboy?' LSH arc, the Time Trapper turns out to be the living embodiment of Entropy, his fortress existing somewhen near the end of Time. In LSH #50 (2nd series? 3rd series?), a group of Legionnaires battles the Time Trapper and seemingly defeats him forever, though not without consequences, including Mon-El starting to disintegrate and the death of Duo Damsel's remaining twin.

Various increasingly bizarre alterations in the timeline eventually lead to Glorith (a minor Silver Age villain) and Cosmic Boy turning out to be the Time Trapper as well, prior to Superboy-Prime also turning out to be the Time Trapper much, much later.

As pretty much all LSH continuity between 1986 and 2006 has now been removed from history, I think we may be back to Time Trapper = Entropy personified again. I guess we'll have to wait for what Levitz does on the two Legion books.

Beau said...

Why Mon-El and Dream Girl? Well Dougie pointed out Nura's previous history, but if you look back at the issue where Invisible Kid 2 joined, who did Brainy have helping him try to save Jacques' sister, and compliment their medical/science skills? Mon-El and Dream Girl. And acknowledgements from Brainiac 5 on your smarts don't come easy.

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