Tuesday, February 26, 2013

LSH Reread, part sixteen

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 # 54-59, 1988-89)

Major developments:

*The team's morale is low and so is the active membership. Seven heroes are missing or on leave when a Khund calling himself The Glow attacks the prison world of labyrinth, freeing dozens of dangerous prisoners on his quest to release the Emerald Empress.
*Meanwhile, the White Witch looks to be returning to Earth, Dream Girl is having second thoughts about her fling with Atmos, Brainiac 5 has put the LSH completely behind him, and Blok has stumbled into a trap and is held prisoner by a strange reptilian "inquisitor" and his odd, short, blue associate - slash - servant. The inquisitor wants to learn the secret of Blok's long life (he is a silicon-based lifeform). They also abduct Shady and the very badly wounded Mon-El, who are still searching for medical help. Blok's body contorts and he grows and changes again - what had previously seemed like artistic fancy is established as his rocky body actually growing - and they escape back to Earth.
*Lightning Lass makes one more play for Pol, who finally figures out what she's after and gets spooked that this older woman is throwing himself at him. Violet makes herself available to Ayla for another of her "talks," only to have Ayla, who's probably still in denial about her sexuality, bite Vi's head off. They apologize and walk off together. Just as well Pol shot her down; that wasn't going anywhere.
*The "inquisitor" is revealed to be in the employ of the Empress, who murders him for his failure and kills dozens on her quest for immortality.
*The Empress and the Eye are slowly turning into a gestalt entity. Quislet attempts to possess the Eye and is baffled that he fails. The Eye destroys Quislet's ship, forcing the weird being to promptly say farewell to his friends and pop back to his home dimension of Teall.
*The Empress begs Sensor Girl for death, and for help in freeing herself from the Eye. After some hesitation, Jeckie uses her power to hide the Empress; the Eye cannot possess what it cannot sense. But in a stunning twist, we learn that the Empress is decades older than we thought, and that the Eye had been keeping her young and beautiful. She ages instantly into dust at Jeckie's feet.

Apparently, to read some fans tell it, this run of LSH is supposed to feel like an afterthought, and a loss of time on my end isn't going to counter that impression. It's actually really good, although I do wish that Levitz and Giffen had done something with Mon-El and Shady instead of leaving the couple in effective limbo for so long. It could have been tragic and stunning to have Shady force the decision and send them both into the Phantom Zone, for instance, for however long it would take for medical science to find a solution to how Mon-El's body could be repaired.

Anyway, this run of six issues is built around disasters and trying to find closure in the wake of the battle against the Time Trapper. It's actually kind of sad when Pol finally realizes that Ayla's been coming onto him and rebuffs her, but it gives Ayla/Vi fans as much resolution as they were going to get in 1988. It's even sadder when Quislet's ship is disintegrated by the Emerald Eye, leaving the weird little energy being from another dimension no choice but to quickly thank his friends for all the fun and pop out of our world entirely.

I love the way that Giffen draws Tellus immediately after Quislet goes. There's this one little panel of Tellus fruitlessly calling out to him, asking for his friend to come back. It is the saddest thing ever.

But it's the final fate of the Empress that really impressed me the most this time through. I can't believe that I forgot about this. Comic book supervillains never get to go out this cool. Three years previously, Levitz and artist Greg LaRocque had turned the Empress from a villain who was rarely depicted as all that threatening into one of the greats. She goes out in style, with a huge body count and a final revelation about her own age before disintegrating into dust. Those final few pages between her and Sensor Girl are completely amazing.

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