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 proclaiming 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 in 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 Michelangelo 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, and 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? The 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 been 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!