Monday, January 24, 2011

The Legion: The Great Darkness Saga, part 3

Legion of Super-Heroes #292 (Oct. 1982)
"Darkness Transcendent"
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: Keith Giffen/Larry Mahlstedt
Karen: The third part of our saga opens up with a group of Legionnaires helping clean up on Takron Galtos, the prison planet. Mon-El admits that he is scared; this mysterious Master is more powerful than any of the Legion's foes, including Mordru.

Doug: I thought Paul Levitz did a better job of conveying emotion throughout this story. Overall, this was the first time that I really felt like there was some tension building.

Karen: Another group of Legionnaires, which includes new Legion leader Dream Girl, is headed to the Sorcerer's World, where Dream Girl has foreseen the Legion falling bef
ore the forces of their enemy. Dream Girl's sister, the White Witch, accompanies them, as she once was a student on this world. The teachers tell the Legionnaires that they are mistaken, that the master cannot broach their defenses, but they are quickly proven wrong. Four servants come bursting out of a space warp in the sky. Two more teams of Legionnaires arrive, but despite all their power, the servants give them a licking.

Doug: This was the scene that really set the pace of this story, which was excellently executed. Slow, fast, slow again -- and so on.

Karen: Mon-El decides he's had enough and enters the space warp to face the Master. Although we are not shown his true appearance,
Mon-El is in shock when he recognizes him. The master zaps him into a coma, and notes that he has taken information from his mind which will allow him to conquer all: "Daxam. What a splendid concept." Daxam is Mon-El's homeworld, where everyone has Superman-level powers. Can you see where this is going?

Doug: Certainly. You know, it was apparent that this was a hopeless case already, and that the Master was certainly one tough fellow. But his conclusion upon picking through Mon's brain just oozed evil. I liked the reference to Mon-el's imprisonment in the Phantom Zone. Unless I'm mistaken, the DC Universe doesn't have a counterpart to Marvel's Mephisto... this guy, however, could fill that bill.

Karen: Back at Legion
HQ, the three original members, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad, all work together to figure out the mystery. They decide it's time to call in everybody, and send out a general alert.

Doug: I thought their newfound information that the Servants of Darkness were each clones of historical figures was interesting. Karen, you'd noted immediately two issues ago that the super-strong Servant was like Superman; I did not immediately deduce that in spite of the shield symbol on his chest. But I also thought it was interesting that Levitz and Giffen did not totally tip their hands here, as there was one Servant who was not revealed -- and that's the one I got, which would have given me a major hint had I been reading this off the spinner rack 30 years ago.

Karen: The battle with the servants continues, with the remaining Legionnaires withdrawing to the teacher's isle. Meanwhile the teachers themselves have been performing a ritual in order to defeat the Master. What they get though, is a basket with a human-looking baby. Moses?

Doug: Or the Christ child (although I think Paul Levitz is Jewish).
But you're right -- toward the end of the story the Moses angle is pretty clearly inferred.

Karen: Dream Girl is certain the baby is the key to stopping their enemy, although she has no idea how. The Master however, withdraws, essentially decl
aring that the Legion is beneath his notice. The team gathers round the child and wonders what their next move will be.

Doug: Did you think the end of this story was reminiscent of the end of The Empire Strikes Back, when there's a peaceful interlude in the midst of all the chaos? The heroes gathered to regroup mentally and physically, while the cloud of doom still hung overhead. This struck me as very similar -- in this case, the Legion awaited reinforcements from throughout their ranks. And even though Superboy had already had a taste of failure here, I'm certain that he will again serve as inspiration once it all comes to a head.

Karen: I found this issue more engaging than the previous ones. There's a lot of action this time, and tons of Legionnaires, which to me was always one of the big selling points of the book. I'm still finding though that this story isn't quite as exciting as I had recalled.

Doug: I agree with the large group action as a draw. As I said above, though, I felt this issue was nice as a bridge. We've had some set-up, with small bits of action interspersed. The creators have built up some suspense, and adding a bunch more super-heroes to the mix brings a sense of anticipation. However, and you all probably knew I'd get to this sooner or later, I'm still bugged by Giffen's lay-outs. His fight scenes are pretty good, but conversationally he just gives us such bland graphics! Again, the abundance of profile shots is overbearing (nary a 3/4 turn in the entire book!!), and the lack of backgrounds in a fairly large percentage of the panels was noticeable as well. I know he's no George Perez, but when you recall how Perez improved exponentially throughout each issue of the "Serpent Crown Affair", I'm just not seeing that here at all.


Richard Williams said...

Great post, I remember picking up this issue off the spinner racks in my old newsagent in North Wales. This made me seek out those issues before it and the ones following. I still have a few gaps in my Levitz/Giffen run but I might treat myself to the Legion Absolute Darkness Edition when it comes out, if only to stare at it on my bookshelf!!

Karen said...

Glad you enjoyed it, and welcome aboard Richard!


Anonymous said...

I could never get into the Legion of Superheroes largely because it had too many characters for me to care about any of them. The only stories I ever enjoyed them in were the occasional Superboy stories they'd appear in back in the early 1960s.

But I never really liked superhero stories set in the future anyway.

But reading your descriptions of these comics is fun. If only they still made comics like these--ones I could let my kids read!

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