Legion of Super-Heroes #19 came out this week, another chapter in the Fatal Five storyline, another episode filled with death and devastation. While I certainly applaud the breakneck pace of this arc, especially given the doldrums it was in earlier, I hope that writer Paul Levitz doesn't fall into the lazy trap of thinking that more death in a comic means more 'relevance'. Or even worse, that more death equals more publicity and more sales.
And, as I said, there is more death in this issue as well as some gruesome maimings. It is hard to believe that Levitz or even DC wants to pare the Legion roster down this much but who knows, I suppose.
Paul Levitz is the writer here but Keith Giffen gets a sort of co-plotter credit. I can recall the Giffen announcement followed quickly by the announcement he was leaving. Was he one of those creators who left because of editorial control? I wonder if he wanted more death or less.
The art is done by Scott Kolins and his crude and rough pencils fits the content of this story. The universe is unraveling as technology erodes around people. I don't know if Francis Portela's clean lines would evoke the sort of griminess of the situation as well as Kolins' art does.
We have seen three of the Fatal Five before this issue. Now we finally get to see number four, the Emerald Empress. She is on Weber's World, terrorizing the diplomats and generally causing mass destruction.
But this doesn't feel like the Emeral Empress I am used to. The old Emerald Empress was cold, distant, regal in that 'I am simply better than you' sort of way. Sure, she killed and destroyed before but it always felt as if she couldn't care less about it. Her victims were like insects to be squashed. That was the royal air she gave off.
This one is much more unhinged, much more drunk with blood lust. She seems eager to kill, to get her hands dirty, and is enjoying this work. There isn't any of that aloof regal feeling in her at all in this issue.
And she looks different too, moving away from the more staid and stately Empress I have seen. Clearly Kolins is channeling Jack Kirby here. She looks like a cross between Morgan LeFay and Mad Harriet. But her busting out all over, her speech, and her ludicrously huge hair gives her a much different feel.
It has been a while since I have seen the Empress. Did the original die? Is this a new Empress anyways?
The gatefold cover promised a battle between the Empress and Mon-El and we sure do get one. This is extreme power against extreme power. And the melee doesn't let the reader down. It is massive and brutish.
Again, I think the Empress does seem to relish this confrontation more than I would expect her to in prior incarnations or stories.
Meanwhile on the Promethean Giant world, Tharok continues to have the giant try to crush the Legion team on the surface. In another death stroke, it appears that Polar Boy and Invisible Kid are crushed by the giant's fingers.
After seeing her teammates die, Phantom Girl prays for the release of death. This also seems like a departure from her typical personality. Yes I know this is a stressful time and she has witnessed the death of three of her friends. But one of the reasons I think she won the election is that she has been portrayed as a very level-headed Legionnaire, a sort of no-nonsense seasonsed veteran.
I hope she has not died. That might be too painful.
This issue at least gives me the best idea of what Tharok has become since this story opened. He seems to be some sort of disembodied technological spirit which can possess machines. Now how that works on a Promethean Giant, I have no idea.
Here we learn he needs to concentrate to maintain that control. Somehow I think that is a bit of foreshadowing. Somehow he must lose control and the Giant retaliates.
I also like this scene where the Persuader says he will follow Tharok ... for a while. The Fatal Five were never a real team, just criminals thrust together from time to time.
Back in space, Mon-El gets the worst of the fight, all while Brainy and his team of Legionnaires stays huddled in their disabled cruiser. This is a gruesome end for Mon-El, battered and literally fighting for life and limb. I don't necessarily remember the Eye wielding this much raw power.
Who knows if he will survive? If he does, he won't be the first Legionnaire sporting a robot arm.
If he does die, the death toll is starting to mount. Maybe we should start a death pool raffle?
The other Legionnaires decide to risk flying out of the cruiser to engage ... just a bit too late for Mon-El.
Amazingly, Element Lad puts a quick end to the fight, encasing her in two layers of inertron. Why didn't he think to do that earlier?
Lastly, it does reinforce my belief that Element Lad just might be the most powerful Legionnaire of them all.
The fourth member of the Fatal Five to appear is Validus, deployed on and tromping about the Sorcerors' World. There shouldn't be the chaos here that we have seen elsewhere. I doubt they are using quark tech here. But I don't know if that matters given that we are talking about Validus.
If we had a death pool raffle, I would put all my chips on poor Blok, living on the planet as Black Witch's consort.
But where ... in all this ... is Mano?
Boy this is a fast moving story. The death numbers keep climbing. But I worry that this might be overkill, no pun intended. I don't need less Legionnaires to make this book better. I need the right interplay and the right stories. I mean ... how many more will die in this arc.
And I suppose I have to wonder if Levitz will make the next leap in 'relevance' and have a Legionnaire kill.
But Phantom Girl and the Empress seem not quite themselves in this issue.