Legion of Super-Heroes #18 came out this week and continued the breakneck pace of the Fatal Five storyline which started in earnest last month. Like the best of Legion books, writers Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen are able to juggle a large roster of characters throughout the book, giving each sub-group of Legionnaires time to shine in their corner of the story. And by shifting the focus of the plot quickly among those groups, it really gives the book some kinetic energy. As a reader, I can't get too comfortable when the scene keeps shifting and so I also got caught up in the action as well.
This main plot reads like a reverse 'Magic Wars' story. Instead of magic destroying technology and causing chaos throughout the universe, it is 'old tech', used by Tharok, to destroy any 'quark based' technology. With all machines on planets not working, the worlds rather rapidly descend into anarchy. Everyone is caught off guard here.
And, like any big arc, there are deaths and major changes in characters. This really feels like a different Legion book than the last few stories.
The one complaint about this issue is the art. Last issue's art was done by Giffen and included many 6 panel pages stuffed with appropriately muddy art. This issue, the art is split between Tom Derenick and Scott Kolins. It just doesn't seem to work as well as Giffen's did last issue. I am intrigued to see how Francis Portela fares with this arc moving forward. I think Portela shines in drawing the sleek beautiful 31st century world. How will he handle this universe filled with detritus and catastrophes?
On Earth, civilization seems to be crumbling. The lack of technology seems to have lead to explosion, fires, rioting, and the gathering of mobs. That didn't seem to take too long.
Interestingly, at least some citizens are blaming the Legion saying only they had the power to bring about this apocalypse. Now why the Legion would do this, who knows. Mobs are unruly. At the very least, the mob should see that the Legion are suffering too.
I did like the combo of Harmonia Li and Dragonwind to calm the crowd down. Li wants to use words. Dragonwind wants to use fire. Nice dichotomy.
It is interesting that Harmonia was elected the deputy leader. And I like that she lashes out with tornadoes when Brainiac 5's sanity is called into question by the mob. I do think it is fascinating that she is romantically interested in him.
As I said above, it is 'quark' based technology that Tharok seems to be able to shut down. Older technology seems to be able to work but is harder to find because it has been replaced.
A team from Earth including Rokk, Mon-El, Lightning Lass, Vi, and Shady are trying to get a cruiser functional to help out off-world.
As a long time Legion fan, I love the Weber's World comment. Sort of the seat of power of the UP and a man-made machine world, it is probably in big trouble if not destroyed. So seems like the right place to start.
The stress from this anti-tech attack seems to be hitting the Legionnaires as well. Rokk asks Ayla if she will use her lightning to power up the ship. Seems reasonable to ask and certainly something I have seen her and Garth do in the past.
Vi seems to take offense to the proposal, at least until Ayla says it's okay. Of course, way back in the Legion Annual #1 from the last series, it was hinted that Vi might be possessed by the Emerald Eye. We haven't seen the Empress yet in this arc. Could Vi be an embedded Fatal Five villain? Maybe, even unwittingly, she is trying to stymie Rokk's efforts?
The Rimbor team of Ultra Boy, Cham, and Glorith figures out a way to get off the planet which is in complete disarray. Glorith can use her magic to open up a portal back to the Wizards' World and Mysa, the Black Witch.
Of all places, the Wizards World might be the least effected by Tharok's ploy. It might be the perfect place to make a last stand.
One thing I like about the Legion is the sense of internal history and the breadth of its characters. In this issue we hear Shady talk about the barbarism of her home world. We hear Cham talk about the devastation of the 6 minute war. These heroes have such diverse histories; interesting to hear it still impact them during times of crisis.
Meanwhile, on the Promethean Giant world, the team of Phantom Girl, Polar Boy, and Invisible Kid continue to mourn Sun Boy's passing but also keep trying to figure a way off the surface so they can help out.
Even here some of that Legion history comes out. Phantom Girl wonders if she will be thrown out of the leadership spot because of this massive attack.
I love how Polar Boy supports her while sheepishly rubbing his own head. His tenure as leader wasn't that easy most remembered for him trying Brainy for violating Legion code and an internal conspiracy within the group to kill the Time Trapper. He was blamed for all the stuff that happened while he was leader. He would know about crushing self-doubt.
And on Earth, some other Legionnaires are also trying to but together a working cruiser. When the protesters break in, the Legionnaires (Brainy, Element Lad, Chemical Kid, Dream Girl, and Star Boy) actually need to make a break for it. They jump into their barely functioning cruiser.
In dramatic fashion, Star Boy is crushed at the doorway, right in front of Dream Girl.
I have been saying for some time that Star Boy wasn't long for this world. His yearning to retire. His walks through the garden of statues of fallen Legionnaires. It was written on the wall.
It also might set up the Dreamy/Brainy romance I have been saying is coming since they were kidnapped together.
Now that is a lot of stuff going on in this issue. But it ends with an unexpected cliffhanger. The Promethean Giant has awakened, is trying to literally scratch the Legionnaires off him, and ... somehow ... is being controlled by Tharok. He really does seem to be a sort of Cyborg Superman now. And I suppose I should just roll with this massive increase in his power level? Or should I hope for more of an explanation?
So, another good issue with a lot of action. The one thing that I liked about this was the Legionnaires ability to continue to keep their eye on the big picture. With death of friends and devastation all around us, they continue to be goal-oriented, to try to get into the action and stop the Fatal Five. Their will be time for mourning. But later.
So another turbo-fueled issue of Legion. And about these monthly Legionnaire deaths, to quote Fleming "Once is happenstance, Twice is coincidence, Three times is enemy action." I fear there will be many more. It is a shame that Giffen is leaving so soon after revving up the title. That said, I will be thrilled when Francis Portela is back on art. Overall grade: B+