Monday, January 31, 2011

The Legion: The Great Darkness Saga, part 4

Legion of Super-Heroes #293 (Nov. 1982)
"Within the Darkness"
Writer: Paul Levitz

Artists: Keith Giffen/Larry Mahlstedt

Karen: How about that cover? It really catches your eye, doesn't it? I always enjoy seeing covers where the artist toys with the logo.

Doug: For me, that cover is reminiscent of Batman #194 from 1967 and by Carmine Infantino. I, too, really like the creativity of Giffen's effort here -- it's striking!

Karen: With the fourth part of our story, we're picking up steam. All the Legionnaires, including Superboy, have been called in in an effort to locate the Master. Six cruisers
full of Legionnaires accompany those heroes who are able to travel through space unaided. The Legionnaires are still trying to figure out who the Master is -and how they can possibly stop someone who has stripped the powers from their greatest foes.

Doug: Again, we've remarked that the cat's out of the bag on this two-decades-later re-read. But I'll tell you -- if I had actually read this at the time of publication, I'd have been stumped. This slow reveal is really good -- very suspenseful! And I just love any story when all of the good guys are called together, to fight a menace no single hero could withstand!

Karen: There are a lot of scenes with various Legionnaires, expressing their concerns over the situation. We check in again on the mysterious baby the team found on the Sorcerer's World -who seems to be growing rapidly. There's also a look at the fallout from the Legion election -with perennial second place winner Element Lad letting off some steam at Dream Girl.

Doug: Did you think the new Invisible Kid was getting too much face
time in this storyline? I know we've previously discussed "pet characters"; is that what's going on here? And re: the baby -- and again, this is looking at this story with the lens of history -- is the pay-off going to be solid? I mean, I know there's only one ish left in this arc. So this kid is basically going to get 4-5 panels over two issues, and then solve this existence-as-we-know-it-is-about-to-end problem in one concluding installment?

Karen: I was never particularly fond of this Invisible Kid. As you say, it sort of felt like the pet character syndrome here. I kind of liked that the old Invisible Kid was a scientist
too. As for the baby -well, you know he's just a plot device!

Karen: Meanwhile the Master has made his way to the planet Daxam, and manages to mentally enslave all 3 billion inhabitants. To top it off, he somehow causes Daxam to be switched physically with his own dead world, so that Daxam is now in orbit of a yellow sun. Of course, that makes all the Daxamites
as super-powered as Mon-El.

Doug: Again, I'm not a Fourth World authority by any stretch of the imagination. But, could this really happen? I don't recall our Dark Foe as having anywhere near that sort of power. Kirbyphiles, fill me in!

Karen: My im
pression is that he got souped-up by all the power he stole, but like you, I wouldn't call myself an expert on this character by any means! The Legionnaires encounter the Servants on a planet that should be Daxam -of course, we know about the Master's switcheroo. They wind up getting their butts kicked, at least until Superboy shows up to defeat his pseudo-clone. Brainy starts putting things together with that big brain of his, realizing what 3 billion super-powered Daxamites could do. Karen: Speaking of those guys, their Master has given them their first task: he has them use their heat vision to turn their once-beautiful world into a molten ball and then sculpt it into his image. Finally the Master is Darkseid! What, you mean you already knew?

Doug: This was megalomania at it's best! Or worst... Hey, in regard to how Giffen drew Darkseid? Think he's a little slim? I think of him as just massive. Thanos-like. Oh, wait -- we haven't discussed that yet. Was Thanos Marvel's (or at least Jim Starlin's) answer to Darkseid?

Karen: If I recall correctly Doug, Starlin was influenced by the Kirby Fourth World characters, and editor Roy Thomas encouraged him to beef up Thanos, who originally had a more normal build. I believe Roy is to have said, "Let's show DC how to do Darkseid!" That might be apocryphal, but who knows. There's certainly a similarity. Karen: Here, in the penultimate issue, it finally feels like we're getting somewhere. We had some nice action and events on a huge scale -the re-shaping of Daxam is really pretty awesome. Things seem quite desperate for the team.

Doug: Again, kudos to Levitz and Giffen on the pace of the story. What see
med like a dragger at the outset became a tension-filled slow reveal, and in my worthless opinion seemed to hit pay dirt as we head to the last issue. I think I would have enjoyed this story off the spinner rack when I was 16 -- if I had been reading comics at that time! 



Jonathan Stover said...

It's pretty hard to assess Darkseid's power levels from Kirby's 1970's Fourth World books -- Darkseid rarely gets into anything resembling hand-to-hand combat. Also, throwing Daxam and Apokolips through giant boom tubes to exchange them doesn't contradict anything from Kirby (and I suppose may be done by one of those nifty giant Kirby machines and not directly by Darkseid).

This may actually be the first DC Comics appearance of Darkseid in something other than the early 70's Kirby books and the short-run 'Return of the New Gods' title from the late 1970's, so anything sorta goes -- in a later example from FINAL CRISIS, Grant Morrison has Darkseid threatening to collapse the entire universe simply by incarnating in the normal DC universe in the body of "Terrible" Turpin. Of course, here Apokolips is in the normal DC universe, and isn't on a higher plane of existence as Morrison would later have it.

david_b said...

Not really into DC with any depth (outside of skimming with GL/GA, Flash, Bats, and original/new Teen Titans..), Darkseid seemed like a very cool villain, providing DC some good traction against their 'competitor', in the fine tradition of Doom, Thanos, you name it. I'll have to do more reading, but YES, I always love when the cover logo gets messed up a bit.

Both Batman and Flash has some noticeable logo play back in the '60s. Marvel not so much if I recall.

Edo Bosnar said...

Actually, Jonathan, Darkseid appeared in the JLA/JSA crossover which involved the New Gods and a trip to New Genesis/Apokalips. I think those were also the earliest JLA issues drawn by Perez.
As to the issue at hand, I was pulling these off of the spinner rack at the time and absolutely loved them. The story had me hooked from the start, I loved the build-up and, like I said in an earlier comment, I had no idea the Master was Darkseid. I still remember the "wow! awesome!" reaction I had when I read the big reveal here.

Jonathan Stover said...

That's interesting about the JLA/JSA Darkseid appearance -- I mean to pick up that Perez JLA volume anyway.

I too was buying these off the spinner rack at a local drugstore. My knowledge of Darkseid was entirely from mentions in Amazing World of DC Comics and Comics Journals I'd picked up second-hand in bookstores, so he was sort of like a legendary figure (for me, anyway). While Babylon 5's whole 'Coming of the Shadows' build-up owed a lot to Lord of the Rings, I always thought J. Michael Straczynski must also have read the Great Darkness saga, or at least the prologue in which Shadow Lass and Mon-el stumble across Apokolips.

Fred W. Hill said...

My first exposure to Darkseid was in the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover, which is also the only Marvel/DC crossover title in my collection. Later I did get several of Kirby's New Gods issues, both originals and reprints -- visually impressive and many great ideas but various aspects of his writing put me off. And to be honest, while IMO Kirby drew the definitive versions of Dr. Doom and Galactus, among many others, Walt Simonson's version of Darkseid impressed me far more than Kirby's. As for Thanos, no question that he's Starlin's version of Darkseid, but even after learning that ages after having been awed by those Captain Marvel & Warlock stories of the mid-70s, well, they remain among my favorite Bronze-Age epics.
As for the topic at hand, never read this particular story, and aside from acquiring a lackluster tale involving the Tornado Twins, the Legion of Superheros were never part of my comics habit. Still, this looks like a good cosmic saga in the Kirby/Starlin mold. Looking at that panal of Darkseid's full entrance, though, I gotta agree with Karen -- he should look much bulkier. But maybe Giffen, ironically, was trying to make him not look too much like Thanos. Comics can get goofy like that.

Jonathan Stover said...

Well, Darkseid was asleep for a thousand years. I assume he lost some weight.

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