Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #17

Legion of Super-Heroes #17 came out last week, the first of an apparently brief attempt to 'bring the band back together' by reuniting Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen on the book. It is hard to believe that is has been almost 30 years since their heyday on the book. And I guess it is no big surprise that there was a very kinetic feel to this issue, an energy which I think has been lacking on this title at times.
We have seen the Fatal Five plotline sort of simmering on the back burner for a while. But this opening chapter of the true arc starts ferociously and wildly.There is a palpable danger felt throughout the issue as the Legionnaires seem helpless. These aren't Braalian pirates or Dragonwind's sister the Legion is fighting. These are big time arch-villains and their power is felt immediately. I mean it when I say there has been some inertia on this book, issues that barely move me as a reader. This issue was the exact opposite.

The issue starts off in the middle of a disaster. A Legion cruiser manned by Phantom Girl, Sun Boy, Polar Boy, and Invisible Kid has had a catastrophic malfunction, crash landing on some unknown remote planet.

The characters are at a complete loss as to how it has happened and where they are. They cannot communicate with the natives of the world they have landed on. It is a nice technique. As readers we are dropped into the middle of action bringing us into the story immediately. More importantly, we are just as lost as the characters, making us empathize with them as well.

But the easy pace of last issue and the optimism of the election is over. Phantom Girl as Legion Leader is immediately thrust into a crisis.

And if this malfunction and crash isn't considered a real enough crisis, this cinches it. Sun Boy is dead!
He was a 'leaf on the wind', landing a powerless cruiser well enough to keep his teammates alive. But it cost him his own life. And there is little chance of coming back from this. His head is crushed. Rest in peace Dirk Morgna.
Maybe all those scenes of other Legionnaires walking through the hall of fallen heroes was some sort of foreshadowing I should have picked up on?

I suppose that this could be the easiest way to churn up publicity, killing of a Legionnaire. But to be honest, I can't remember the last one (Earth Man doesn't count). So I didn't think this was stunt.
Over on Rimbor, a similar technology collapse has crippled the planet. Ultra Boy, Cham, and Glorith are there to try to track down the Fatal Five and are caught in the backlash.
And the feeling of impending disaster, or danger, is even more palpable. Tharok hasn't had this sort of power before. As readers we know about both disasters making this even more incredible. One such attack, which is all each Legion team is aware of, is crazy enough. It makes Tharok a bigger threat and therefore the Fatal Five even more powerful, as insane as that sounds.

On the other side of the universe, the Phantom Girl led squad is basically marooned. Every piece of technology from their cruiser to their flight rings is off-line. They can't even communicate with the natives who seem to have eaten the corpse of Sun Boy. I guess Levitz and Giffen want it clear - he is not coming back.

In an added twist, this culture seems to have been built on a chunk of the Source Wall. Polar Boy realizes the city they are in is built on the arm of a Promethean giant.
The Fatal Five and The Fourth World? Sounds like an explosive combination.

Back on Rimbor, the fallen worker drones suddenly re-power and attack the Legionnaires. So it is more than just a de-powering technology attack; it is controlling technology, and it has Tharok's designs written all over it.
Glorith, my favorite impending super-villain, a :egionnaire with unknown levels of power, demolishes all the drones because she 'doesn't like to be touched'.
It is a scary moment for me. It has to be a matter of time before she loses it. If she has untapped power, we are (obviously) talking about a Time Trapper like villain. I think the sweet, naive, and innocent young woman is going to change when confronted with the dark realities of the universe. Maybe that happens in this story.

And the Promethean Giant? It comes to life.
Just how does this fit into the Fatal Five threat? Or does it? Maybe when the attack disabled the Legion Cruiser it also disabled whatever tech was holding this thing at bay?
This is an odd wrinkle for this story ... but a welcome one, adding another layer of mystery. And again, adding any excitement to the story and the book is fantastic.

At last we find out that Tharok was indeed behind the two attacks. He has a new power and a new power level. He almost seems like the Cyborg Superman now, able to leave his body to attack machines from afar. I can't tell if this is a device he is sitting in? Or creating himself out of? Either way, it gives a new look to the half man/half machine old idea of Tharok.
Here he is reuniting the Persuader and Validus to the cause. He wants to strike at the Legion like a surgeon, eliminating those who could harm him the most as well as laying waste to home worlds.
He seems vicious here and frightening. It has been a while since I have been worried about Tharok as a villain. So this was great.

And if all this action wasn't enough, the issue ends with the menace of Validus about to be unleashed. If the new Tharok is this powerful, what will Validus be capable of? Even that picture is impressive.

This was an incredible issue for this book, a burst of energy in a sometimes sleepy title. And there was progress here, pushing the Fatal Five arc into the spotlight.
Add the new powers of Tharok and how off guard the Legion was caught, the Five feel like a real threat. And a little Kirby cosmic is a nice spice to add.
But the biggest thing is the death of Sun Boy, a death which happens here in the opening chapter.There is no time to grieve here. This is war. There will be casualties.
Overall grade: A


Dave Mullen said...

Great issue. There have been a couple of other particularly good issues lately but this is in another category as apart from the sudden threat level and upheaval you get several strong ideas thrown in there as well - using a Promethean Giant is a master stroke as this is the sort of cosmic threat the Legion used to frequently take on back in the day. But more than that we get a Fatal Five who are finally living up to their name and reputation!
Even the Legion of Supervillains with Saturn Queen a couple of ears ago weren't this convincing a threat.

Apart from sales oblivion the only thing that worries me is that this will be an excercise like 'Emerald Twilight', where they blow everything for the sake of a quick thrill and sales push up and replace it with nothing... it is far easier to tear down than it is to build something, and the Legion is now getting so small in numbers that "Legion" is really not an accurate description anymore. They've gone from being one of the bigggest teams in comics to being one of the smallest.
So here's hoping this storyline doesn't leave just scorched earth behind it....

Martin Gray said...

Terrific review of a wonderful issue. I feel awful for Dirk but I've been reading the LSH long enough to deal with it - and I've heard an interesting theory about what may come of the death.

Though I'm OK for this to be the end of Dirk's story.

Poor Tinya, she seems overwhelmed but as a Legion veteran, I know she'll overcome the horror and get into the leader zone

'Glorith, my favorite impending super-villain ...' I'm jealous of that line, Anj!

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

It felt great to read a Legion book and be so entertained. Hasn't felt that way in a long time!

Interesting 'scorched Earth' concern and wonder if it jibes with your 'theory' Mart. Of course, Bleeding Cool reports that many more deaths are around the corner. Are we heading to a more lean and mean 5YL size roster.