Friday, February 9, 2018

Legion of Super-Heroes #290 (August 1982)

In the 30th Century, Earth has become a world at peace. A technologically-advanced paradise where science and reason reign, and things such as poverty and prejudice have become a thing of the past. Despite this, a world like this still needs heroes to protect it. And that is where the Legion of Super-Heroes come in.

First appearing in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), the Legion were a team of heroes set in the future of the DC Universe, closely associated with the Superman mythos, particularly Superboy and Supergirl.

In 1977, Paul Levitz, a fan of the Legion, became the chronicler of their adventures. His 1977-1979 and 1981-1989 runs with the futuristic heroes became regarded as classics that brought the group a new level of quality and popularity to the group.

Over the years, the group would be rebooted several times. In The Lightning Saga, a 2007 crossover between the Justice Society and the Justice League in their books, a version of the Legion based on the classic version was reintroduced to DC continuity, which also restored Superman's time as Superboy to DC continuity. Yeah, DC's been constantly rewriting their continuity since 1985. People complain about Marvel's relaunches, but MARVEL HAS NEVER REBOOTED THEIR WHOLE UNIVERSE EVERY FEW YEARS AND THEN DID A HALF-ASSED JOB KEEPING EVERYTHING STRAIGHT.

In recent years, the Legion has sadly become dormant. Last appearing in Justice League United in 2015, the Legion in any form has not been seen since...well, in the comics anyway. The Legion has appeared in other media. Members of the group have appeared in Superman: The Animated Series, Smallville, the Supergirl television series, alluded to in The Flash's TV series, and even had their own cartoon in 2006. Considering these have helped keep the Legion in the public eye, it may only be a matter of time before the Legion make a comic book comeback. After all, Phantom Girl is going to be a member of DC's Fantastic Four, I mean, The Terrifics. This might be a sign.

But for now, let's look at the beginning of one of the Legion's greatest stories, The Great Darkness Saga. Let's dig into Legion of Super-Heroes #290!

The cover is a Keith Giffen and Frank Giacoia piece, and it's pretty cool. It depicts one of the Servants of Darkness (Who doesn't resemble any of the Servants in the actual comic) marching over the title of the story in the rubble. Nice touch there. One question, though. Is his body reflecting the Legion floating in space, or is his body a void which the Legion are trapped in. It has to be the latter, as the background is solid white.

"Great Darkness Saga, Chapter One: And the Servant Shall be a Sign..."
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciler: Keith Giffen
Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: John Constanza
Editor: Laurie Sutton
Executive Editor: Joe Orlando

The story begins with members of the Legion (Superboy, Wildfire, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, and the Jacques Foccart Invisible Kid), floating down towards a fire.

Poor Jacques. Yeah, he's rather new to the Legion life, and the flight ring still gets his stomach going.

The fire has hit a place in "Mega-California" called the Museum of the Mystic Arts. You can probably guess what they show off. Interestingly, this comic reveals that a thousand years in the past, it was known as "The Magic Castle". Yeah, you'd think a place that has many magical artifacts all lumped together would be a big-time target for supervillains looking to get some power quick.

The group arrive, but the Science Police and the Pyro-Nullifier Team (Firefighters) have got it handled. Jacques gushes over getting to hang out with the legendary Superboy, but Superboy is also honored to be working with Jacques. Wildfire thinks this was an attack by Validus, but Superboy notes the wreckage is too thorough and systematic to be Validus. Not to mention there's no traces of ozone, which his mental lightning leaves behind.

The Science Policeman explains that nothing was taken and nobody was attacked. The policeman theorizes the culprit was looking for something here, but couldn't find it. However, the curator, one Antonio Stefanacci, explains he knows exactly what the perpetrators of this attack were here for.

Yeah, magic really does a great job at keeping you youthful. Just ask Doctor Strange here. And evidently Stephen also decided to try out the Wolverine hairstyle. Ehhhhh, I don't think it fits him. Anyway, the Strange cosplayer explains to the Legion the wand is made of "Mentachem", a powerful material with mastery of the natural elements. It's the most powerful item in the museum. He then notes that it's getting darker. And the reason shows itself: A man-monster in a gray cape and a triangular chest symbol.

Jacques tells the Science Policeman that he and his men must evacuate in French. You know, according to Star Trek: The Next Generation, French had become an obscure language in the 24th century. Nice to see it made a comeback in the 30th. Superboy and Wildfire charge the monster, but it's able to swat the Boy of Steel away like a bug. Cosmic Boy attacks, but gets a dose of freeze breath for his trouble.

The creature then tries to attack Phantom Girl, but she passes through him. However, she ends up feeling very cold, making her pass out. Wildfire keeps trying to fight the monster, but he's not having much effect. Superboy is able to get the curator and Invisible Kid away, but the curator drops the wand, allowing the creature to catch it. The creature cries out to a mysterious master, and this "master" summons a portal, allowing the creature to escape.

The scene then shifts to Legion HQ. A flying tour bus is outside the HQ, observing the damage to the building thanks to a battle with a villain called Computo. Blok, a Legionnaire who is a essentially a living rock, asks Brainiac 5 if he should be concerned about it. Brainiac 5 reassures him that they're just tourists. He then leaves to check on another Legionnaire, Matter Eater Lad. Matter Eater Lad had recently saved the universe by eating a powerful device called the Miracle Machine, but it cost him his sanity.

Elsewhere, Timber Wolf is talking to Chameleon Boy. Wolf is furious with him, because Chameleon Boy dragged a group of Legionnaires into some espionage activities against an alien race called the Khunds. As a result, there is now the threat of war between them and the United Planets. Chameleon Boy realizes his mistake, and asks that it be enough, as nobody got hurt. Wolf's like, "Nah, get outta here and never come back." He then awkwardly runs into Saturn Girl.

Back to our first group of Legionnaires, they're headed to London. In the 30th century, London has become essentially a suburb of the massive city called Europolis. So much for Brexit, huh? Cosmic Boy explains that the curator of the magic museum told him there was a crime wave of magical artifacts that had been stolen. One object that hadn't been taken yet was Excalibur, the legendary sword. And it's at the Tower of London. The group arrive, landing near some tourists.

Yeah, and you thought people getting a celebrity's hair was weird. Wildfire and Cosmic Boy head inside, only for the door to explode into little pieces. Cosmic Boy is sent flying, but tries to use his powers to keep the rubble away from the civilians. A furious Wildfire flies back into the building, wanting to throw some hands. Phantom Girl and Superboy deal with the civilians, while Invisble Kid joins Wildfire. He sneaks inside, and finds the culprit.

Big-Head here is able to protect himself from Wildfire's blasts. Invisible Kid tries to sneak the sword away, but Big-Head is able to expose him with a powerful flash of light. He then blasts Invisible Kid, and gets the sword. Wildfire hits him with an energy-charged punch, and it's able to hurt the creature. Wildfire looks at the yellow energy around his fist and wonders why that worked on the monster. Big-Head taunts Wildfire as he flees through a portal, saying that the darkness is coming.

Back to Legion Headquarters! In their medical facility, Doctor Gym'll, the Legion's doctor, is examining Lightning Lad. I like Gym'll, he reminds me a lot of Dr. McCoy from the original Star Trek series. He had been acting strangely these last few weeks, which led to him collapsing that morning. Gym'll diagnoses the problem as severe electrical dysfunction of his brain. The cause is unknown as this time. Element Lad heads out to get Saturn Girl.

Timber Wolf and Saturn Girl do some talking about their relationship troubles. They had been recently found on an asteroid embracing, which led to some problems with their significant others, respectively Light Lass and Lightning Lad...who are twin siblings. Yeah, the Legion was a soap opera with superpowers. Element Lad comes in and tells Saturn Girl that Lightning Lad needs her. she heads to him. Timber Wolf wonders if Element Lad will get the job of leading the Legion in the next election. Element Lad is unsure, but at least he's going after something Lightning Lad gave up voluntarily. Uh, E-Lad? Lightning Lad clearly has some brain issues right now, maybe "Voluntary" is not the best word.

In an unknown region of space, Big-Head presents Excalibur to his mysterious master.

The master, in that outfit, absorbs the power of the sword and the mentachem wand, presumably to increase his own. Back in London, Cosmic Boy's Legion group, well...regroup. Invisible Kid suggests that they follow the monsters back to where they came from...and he volunteers to do so. Superboy is warning that it would be a rough first mission for him, but Invisible Kid counters by reminding that his power allows him to disappear and follow the monsters. Wildfire decides to go tell Brainiac 5 to look for any other powerful magical artifacts that have gone missing.

Later, the group head to the planet Talok VIII, particularly the Institute of Parapsychological Phenomenon. The group also brought another Legionnaire with them: Shadow Lass, who is native to the planet. She remarks that the last time she visited this place, it was on a class trip. She is also surprised that Brainiac 5 had heard of the object they are protecting, a big green sphere called the Orb of Orthanax. I'm guessing it was some big secret on Talok VIII.

The room gets engulfed in darkness...and Shadow Lass isn't causing it. A new monster, this one clearly a female, goes for the Orb.

The She-Creature blasts Wildfire and goes for the Orb, but Cosmic Boy is able to use his magnetic powers to keep it away from her. Superboy gives the She-Creature a blast of freeze breath, and the orb lands in the hands of Phantom Girl. Wildfire and Superboy blast the tar out of the She-Creature, but she has some backup.

This new monster flies in on what looks like some strange harness thing with handlebars. The new monster blasts Phantom Girl with some "Astro-Force" and grabs the orb. He flees to a portal, but Cosmic Boy tries to block it with some debris. He fails. The She-Creature tries to flee towards the portal, but Invisible Kid shoulder-tackles her away from the portal as it closes up. She then is knocked senseless by Superboy. The Legion lost the Orb, but they got a prisoner. Hopefully, she'll come with some answers.

Later at Legion HQ, Element Lad has called some other Legionnaires together. He wants to schedule the election of Legion leader...and put his name in the running. Blok wonders why he wants to do this, and Element Lad explains that he's served three terms as deputy leader, and filled in for Lightning Lad. He likes the leadership job, but wants to earn it. The Legion is his home, mainly because his homeworld was destroyed, and this group is the only family he has left. However, Element Lad is going to have some competition.

Yup, Dream Girl and Ultra Boy are also throwing their names into the hat. Sorry about the panel getting all stretched. My tablet scanner hates me sometimes. Anyway, the conversation is interrupted by Superboy and his Legion team arriving with the She-Creature in dreamland. The group gets a call from President of Earth Marte Allon. She's the mother of the Legionnaire Gim Allon, aka Colossal Boy. She tells them that Chameleon Boy's treason trial is tomorrow if they'd like to attend it.

Superboy and Shadow Lass take the She-Creature to get locked up. Shadow Lass admits that seeing the creature gives her goosebumps, like she should know the monster. Superboy admits he had the same feeling when he fought the creature with the cape and chest symbol. Nearby, a young girl lies in stasis. This is Danielle Foccart, the younger sister of the Invisible Kid. She was the host body of the malevolent AI known as Computo, and she's in stasis until Brainiac 5 can find a cure for her. The readouts that monitor her are going wild. The servant's presence is causing her to have nightmares, much to the shock of Superboy and Shadow Lass.

In an unknown area of space, the harness-riding monster presents the master with the Orb of Orthanax. The master eagerly absorbs its power. The master now feels it is time. He has gotten all the power he needs, and now it's time to meet his destiny: A destiny of darkness ruling the universe. A destiny of all life being his slaves, a destiny of never ending pain and suffering. The story ends with him saying has had enough of this world, and vanishes.

This opening chapter was pretty good. It set up an interesting mystery. One of the things that the Legion is known for is massive cast, and you get the idea of that here. With such a big cast, there would be multiple storylines going on, and this comic really touches on them. Blok's struggles with certain phrasing, the fallout of Chameleon Boy's rogue actions, even on Danielle Foccart's being kept in stasis from Computo. The only storyline that got me confused was the whole Timber Wolf/Saturn Girl thing. I didn't quite get what was going on. Otherwise that, I can't complain. Keith Giffen also turns in some good artwork. His art style had not quite evolved into the style that he is more famous for yet, so it is neat to see where he started from.

Next time, in honor of Black History Month, we'll take a look at an issue of Luke Cage...

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