Sunday, January 20, 2013

LSH Reread, part twelve

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 # 30-36, 1987)

Major developments:

*Universo's pawns manipulate the most powerful Legionnaires into off-world assignments. Some of those who remain on Earth round up some restless lightning monsters, mindless natives of the planet Korbal, who have been let loose at the Niagara nuclear power plant.
*Brainiac 5 receives word that his old friend, longtime supporting player Rond Vidar, has died in the hospital. Vidar is Universo's son.
*Everyone on Earth falls asleep, and wakes up under Universo's control. Some days later, Saturn Girl awakens on a strange planet, finding Brainy, Dream Girl and Cham also present along with several other heroes, but all are amnesiac and patiently doing manual labor together.
*Universo is eventually defeated; Saturn Girl rejoins the team on active duty while her hubby takes care of the twins.
*Polar Boy is elected Legion leader.
*Cosmic Boy and Night Girl return from a vacation in the 20th Century with incredibly troubling and ominous news...

Now here's a weird period of the book. The Universo subplot has been building for about a year, and, in any other period, the resulting four-part story would be thought of as a real epic. It's helped by Greg LaRocque's artwork continuing to improve, visibly, with each month. After a rough start in 1985, he seemed to really work at it, and the results are often striking. Early in the story, Saturn Girl breaks one of her self-imposed rules and intrudes into Cham's, Brainy's, and Dream Girl's minds to break Universo's hypnotic control. Their mindscapes are brilliantly realized, and the story looks set to be a major game-changer.

And yet... it is wrapped up so quickly and so tidily that the whole story feels really forgettable. Perhaps this is not entirely Levitz's fault; as we'll see in the next recap, what happens next required a scheduling beast, since LSH was about to cross over into two other DC Universe titles, and since John Byrne, co-architect of those, was the big bear among DC's creators at the time.

It was a real interesting development to see Rond Vidar, one of the book's longest-serving supporting players, killed off. I don't suppose anybody was starting clubs or writing fanfic about the guy, but it really cements Universo as one of the most evil and awful enemies of the LSH, somebody who recognized that his own son, nice-guy that he is, was his Achilles heel, so he murders him.

Through this, and the months and months of planning and manipulation, Universo becomes one of the greatest threats in the history of the comic, and the villain who came closest to global domination - in fact, for a few weeks, he did control the Earth. It's a shame that the ending wraps everything up so incredibly quickly, especially after spending two issues breaking Saturn Girl and the other three out of his prison planet, and a shame that LaRocque didn't elect to update Universo's appearance to reflect his much more intriguing characterization. With his monocle, chrome dome, and Baddies-R-Us facial hair, he looks exactly like a kiddie TV version of a bad guy.

Another surprise here is how strange the pacing feels. A small team including Tellus, Quislet, Wildfire, and the White Witch is assigned to a mystery on Tellus's home world, another trap by Universo to get more of his enemies out of the way. It must be said that Levitz completely blows the timeline here. Saturn Girl's experiences (several days), Mon-El and Ultra Boy's experiences (maybe a day or two), and Tellus's team's experiences (maybe hours) simply do not line up, but the comic insists that they're happening simultaneously.

Element Lad resigns after blowing this case so badly, setting up another Legion election. In keeping with tradition, the readers have their say, and Polar Boy, of all people, is elected. This won't go well. Interestingly, a letter is printed suggesting that Levitz look into what became of the rest of Polar Boy's old Substitute Legion. It's neat and fun that the longtime C-lister is given the chance to shine, but I don't know that we ever did learn what became of the rest of the Subs, and whether they settled for being disbanded so abruptly. I guess we'll see over the next 27 or so issues whether that plot thread is mentioned.

But first, everything's got to fall completely and totally apart. I'm really looking forward to seeing this next story again.


Kit said...

Cosmic Boy and Night Girl return from a vacation in the 20th Century with incredibly troubling and ominous news...

Is this from the Cosmic Boy miniseries? I'd be mildly disappointed that you didn't cover it, if it wasn't for the fact that I can't recall anything at all about it except for the Legends crossover logo on the covers.

At least the Legionnaires 3 mini I remember being about the founders coming to terms with aging and moving on, and pretty Ernie Colon art.

(Now that I've typed that I suspect Colon did Cosmic Boy too.)

Grant, the Hipster Dad said...

Yes, it is. I've never read either of those miniseries, sorry.