Monday, February 7, 2011

The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga, part 5

Legion of Super-Heroes #294 (Dec. 1982)
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt

Karen: This is it, the conclusion of the Great Darkness Saga, with a dedication on the splash page to Jack Kirby. You know, it occurs to me that DC owes Kirby a huge debt for his Fourth World characters. It seems like they really didn't take off until the fan-boys of that era got older and became writers and artists themselves. Then those characters started showing up all over the place!

Doug: Yeah, I think Darkseid and Orion, and of course Mr. Miracle and Big Barda (and Oberon, too), have a place in at least my DCU consciousness. I'd also say that the inclusion of Kirby's characters in the Super Powers line of action figures back in the mid-'80's (I collected some when in college) was important in the formation of my knowledge of them. But I'll say again (at least I think I've said this before) that other than a few leaf-throughs of Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth, I'd really had no experience with Kirby's creations as written and drawn by Kirby.

Karen: I've read volumes 1 and 2 of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, and a few issues of Kamandi and OMAC. It probably won't surprise anyone to know that I think Kirby left something to be desired as a writer. His dialog is just flat-out terrible at times. But there's no denying the power and vitality of his ideas.

Karen: This is a hefty double sized issue with no filler. It's all one big story! Despite my misgivings about the previous issues, I have to say I really enjoyed this one. It was one heck of a roller coaster ride.

Doug: I agree. I'll tell you where I was nervous, though -- we got the one-panel Supergirl sighting and then after about 10 pages or so I was thinking "what... did they forget about her??" Man, and was Darkseid the ultimate baddie? Wow!

Karen: We start off with Brainiac 5 pr
oclaiming that their enemy is Darkseid. For the sake of the rest of the Legion -and many of the readers too -he explains old stone-face's back story. We then get some really nice cameo appearances by the Legion of Substitute Heroes, the Heroes of Lallor, and the Wanderers -all groups that had made occasional appearances in the Legion book over the years. Supergirl also leaps into the thirtieth century again. But despite all that power, they have little effect in stopping Darkseid's army of Daxamite slaves, who are just tearing the universe up.

Doug: Karen, I know you weren't much of a Legionnaires reader, but I've been impressed at just how much Legion lore the various authors included throughout that series -- much of what you've just stated. I guess if you want to talk about a "jumping on point", that series was ripe for just that. It was fresh, and once Jeff Moy took over the pencils, it really had a Silver Age look to it. As I said above, I loved the inclusion of Supergirl in this conclusion.

Karen: The mysterious infant from the previous issue is now a mysterious child. The Legion still doesn't know who he is, but they know Darkseid wants him. The cruiser carrying the child is attacked by the Servants and Daxamites, and despite the Legion's best efforts, the child is kidnapped when the cruiser is torn to shreds. Only the mystical spells of the White Witch keep the Legionnaires alive in the vacuum of space. Soon they are rescued by another team. Now the Legion has decided to try a new tactic: going directly after Darkseid!

Doug: I appreciated the will with
which the Legion fought. Strong as they were, I think deep down inside they knew they were hopelessly outmatched. But no one breathed a word of it, and they fed off each others' strength and determination.
Karen: There's a brief interlude on Earth, where Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet take down one of the Servants. Violet actually takes down the Servant by entering her blood stream and preventing blood flow, causing the creature to pass out. I thought it was a creative use of a very limited power.

Doug: Totally agree -- of course the first thing one
thinks of when Violet went "microscopic" was the Atom, but I was struck by the similarities of Ant-Man entering the Vision's body during the "Kree/Skrull War" and even the turned table when the Vision entered Yellowjacket's body in Avengers #140. Limited, yes -- but oh so cool in a scene like this!

Karen: Back i
n space, the Witch creates a space warp that leads the Legion to Darkseid. The Legion is having the fight of their lives against the Daxamites, until Brainy and Element Lad put a plan into action. E-Lad creates lead particles in the air, and lead being like Kryptonite to the Daxamites, they quickly succumb. But Darkseid himself shows up and puts a mental whammy on everyone, causing them to experience their greatest fears. He then goes after the child, but Shadow Lass is protecting him. Yes, Shadow Lass. Sure, a dome of darkness doesn't seem like much protection. But it's what's inside that dome that counts! It turns out the child was none other than Izaya, the Highfather of New Genesis and Darkseid's greatest enemy. He turns Darkseid's twisted clone of his son Orion against him, and father and son fight again, but Darkseid ultimately destroys the clone. Knowing that his time is short, Izaya gives the last of his energy to two legionnaires: Superboy and Supergirl! The two of them take on Darkseid. Although Superboy is taken out quickly, Supergirl lays a good whupping on Darkseid. The villain eventually gets the upper hand. But that's when the rest of the Legion arrives. Try as they might, even they are not enough to stop the master of darkness.

Doug: What did you think of the Michelang
elo homage in the panel where Darkseid encounters Shadow Lass? Ripped right off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel! Given that there had been the build-up of gathering all of the Legionnaires past and present, and then the throw-in of their allies, I thought this final battle was as much a celebration of the team's history as anything else. Yes, circumstances were desperate, but there was such an air of hope as the team fought together for victory or for sacrifice (if necessary).

Karen: I thought that homage was a little cheesy to be honest, a
nd somewhat out of place. I'm not sure why they did that! Salvation comes in the last of Izaya's gifts: he has freed the Daxamites from Darkseid's control -and boy are they mad! Darkseid realizes that even he is no match for 3 billion Supermen -and he splits. But not before uttering a curse on the Legion.

Doug: What did you make of that? Do you know the outcome? Th
e Deluxe Edition hardcover that came out a few months ago has the next two issues, but my guess is that this curse may have played out over time. I will have to read them sometime. Readers? Anyone out there know?
Karen: This was a non-stop thriller. Giffen's artwork seemed much improved over the previous issues, although I can't really tell you why. The whole issue had the feel of a blockbuster movie -massive explosions, destruction, and action. Yet Levitz still manages to get some nice character bits in. I especially enjoyed the epilogue, with Brainiac 5 telling Supergirl he was 'over' his crush on her. Sure you are, Brainy, sure you are. All in all, rousing ending to a tale that was a bit slow for me in the early stages.

Doug: Lots and lots of fun. For me, this showed that DC could do a long story that was interesting. Going over some of the Bronze Age material from DC that we've already looked at, there's some pretty weak stuff. As has be
en well-documented in these parts, Marvel was just such a fine-tuned machine in the realm of multi-part, multi-layered stories. This was output from the Distinguished Competition that easily could have been published under the Marvel Comics banner, and that's about as high a compliment as I can pay a DC story from this era. I'm glad we read this!


Jonathan Stover said...

"The Curse" plays out over the next few years, climaxing with one of the annuals for the Baxter LSH. Basically, Darkseid steals one of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl's twins at the moment of birth (without them knowing it), throws the twin backwards in time and turns him into long-time giant, child-like Legion foe Validus. Eventually, Darkseid reverses the process because he's successfully made some sort of obscure metaphysical point. The end. No, it doesn't really seem to mesh all that well with the original curse. So it goes.

Doug said...

Thanks, Jonathan. I believe I have the annual you mention, so I did know that about their children. I did not recall, however, that Darkseid was involved.

Thanks for helping us out!



Jonathan Stover said...

NP. Annoying evil Daxamite child Ol-Vir makes his first appearance in the Great Darkness saga as well, and while Darkseid seems to terminate him in the Annual, he was back in the LEGION OF THREE WORLDS miniseries. Good old Ol-Vir. The wikipedia entry on him seems to be pretty much accurate:

Edo Bosnar said...

All I remember about the curse was that Validus ends up being the stolen child of Saturn Girl and Ligthning Lad - I'd stopped reading Legion by the time all of that stuff described by Jonathan transpires.
As for this issue - I agree with all the accolades. I thought it was a fantastic, action-packed conclusion to a storyline that I thoroughly enjoyed all the way through. Great comics - and great review, Karen & Doug.

Terence Stewart said...

At the time, and before the Validus reveal, I believed Darkseid's Curse came into effect in the very next issue, and was foreshadowed in the epilogue;

"and that which is purest of you shall be the first to go"

Then Ayla 'Light Lass' Ranzz gives Brin 'Timber Wolf' Londo an ultimatum, and promptly leaves the Legion.

I've just re-read this story in the deluxe edition and though it still held up, I can't forget how captivating the story was originally when I had to wait a month between issues. And there was no internet to spoil it.

giantsizegeek said...

I still have these issues and re-read them--I think they are a perfect example of the good mojo DC Comics had during this period, along with the New Teen Titans.

Curious if you also read the new Legion series by Paul Levitz? It has not ascended to the heights of the Great Darkness saga yet, but I think it is pretty good.

Karen said...

Richard -I have been reading the new Legion but I am only feeling luke warm about it. I'm hoping that will change because it's the only DC book I buy any more.


dbutler69 said...

I was reading the new Legion series, but stopped after #6. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I mostly stopped for financial reasons, though. I may very well pick up the subsequent issues in TPB, which is one reason why I chose #6 to stop with.
As far as the Great Darkness Sage, I re-read that (as well as all of my other old Legions) a couple of years ago, and it held up, for me. It was still awesome! I love the way they built things up, including little tidbits in the issues prior to where the Saga is supposed to "officially" start.

giantsizegeek said...

Doug and Karen, you two may want to check out the new Legion Academy series that Paul Levitz is doing with Phil Jimenez. That looks like it could be fun. Started this week in Adventure Comics #523.

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