Saturday, May 11, 2013

LSH 1994 Reread, part one

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 issue zero and # 62-64 and Legionnaires issue zero and # 19-20, 1994)

Major developments:

*Rokk Krinn, an athlete from the planet Braal with the native power to control magnetism, Imra Ardeen, a cadet police officer from Saturn's moon of Titan with the native power of telepathy, and Garth Ranzz, a runaway from the panel Winath who has the power to generate electricity, meet on a shuttle to Earth. They save the life of RJ Brande, one of the richest men in the universe thanks to his invention of stargate technology. The nascent United Planets is a fragile alliance, and he proposes that they join forces with his backing as a Legion of Super-Heroes as symbols to unite the many squabbling planets in the systems.
*The next assassination attempt comes when Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Live Wire are introduced to the diplomats. Tinya Wazzo of Bgtzl and Luorno Durgo of Cargg help the new heroes and are drafted to join them as Apparition and Triad. The UP and the public loves the kids. Their ranks are swiftly increased as new members are drafted to join them: Leviathan (Gim Allon) of Earth, Kid Quantum (James Cullum) of Xanthu, XS (Jenni Ognats) of Aarok, Chameleon (Reep Daggle) of Durla, Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg) of Earth, and Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox) of Colu, who initially ignores his draft.
*The team does not work well together. Chameleon does not speak Interlac, and only Invisible Kid can converse with him. The initial five mildly resents the draftees, especially when it's learned that the UP has decided that Leviathan, a Science Police officer, will be team leader. James Cullum, who uses a device housed in a belt to generate stasis fields, strongly resents being drafted at all, or taking orders. On their first mission together, Cullum is killed by an alien calling itself Tangleweb, who escapes.
*Brande shells out for a huge new headquarters for the team, which comes with its own chef in the cafeteria, a Bismollian named Tenzil Kem.
*Leland McCauley, Brande's most ruthless competitor, asks for the Legion's help. A criminal named Mano is killing his technicians on the moonbase. Mano wants vengeance after McCauley sold one warring faction on the planet of Angtu untested chemical weapons that ended up killing everybody.
*Winath drafts Garth's twin sister Ayla to be their formal representative in the Legion, replacing Garth, a runaway, who the UP President kicks off the team. Ayla takes the code name Spark. Garth agrees, grudgingly, that he's still a minor under Winath law and represents a possible PR nightmare and willingly leaves.
*A superpowered stranger who calls himself Ultra Boy and can use one of several different powers at a time tells Garth about a new opportunity for him. McCauley, impressed by the Legion, is assembling his own team...

Several chapters back, I explained briefly how DC decided to end the troubled Legion of Super-Heroes franchise in 1994 with its most audacious change to continuity, ever. The entire universe was wiped out, closing the doors for good during a silly crossover event called Zero Hour. When things returned to normal for the comic book world of the present day, it gave the editors the chance to relaunch a few titles and create several new ones, the most celebrated of which was certainly the extremely good Starman by James Robinson and Tony Harris.

But darned if Legion of Super-Heroes didn't also emerge from the Zero Hour debacle stronger than it had been in years. The editors decided to go in for the really audacious move of just starting clean and brand-new, despite, foolishly, the holdover numbering from the previous issues. The new Legion was being told across two issues, with a new installment published every other week. Initially, it was being written by a team of three, Mark Waid, Tom McCraw, and Tom Peyer, and a host of artists. The leads were Stuart Immonen, Jeffrey Moy, and Lee Moder, with lots of fill-in work. A typical issue (take LSH # 63) credits Waid and McCraw with story, and Moder for pencils on pages 1-15, Brian Apthorp for pages 16-20, and Scott Benefiel for pages 21-25, with inking by Ron Boyd on pages 1-13 and 21-25, and Tom Simmons on 14-20. This would settle down in 1995, but it's obvious that this team hit the ground running, and breathlessly at that.

Somehow, I guess because the writers are paying such close attention to characterization and motive, giving these teen draftees a reason to trust each other and provide an image of unity, it really works. The tension between Leviathan and Cos is short-lived but natural; the founding three are happy to welcome Apparition and Triad as members, but are surprised and baffled that the United Planets are instantly in their affairs and telling them who is in charge. Leviathan, with his police background, is simply told by the government that he is the leader. This does not last long. After a disastrous first mission, he asks Cos to be in charge again. This will set up considerable, and reasonable tension between the heroes and the government.

So far, the "history" of this group has strong similarities to the Legion that readers remember. It was a bold and brazen move to just cancel things and start again, but so far, the payoff is really good. I dismissed it when I first heard about it, enjoyed it when I gave it a fair shake a few years later, and think it's just terrific today. Very fun stuff!

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