Monday, June 17, 2013

LSH 1994 Reread, part five

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 # 75-78 and Legionnaires# 32-34, 1995-96)

Major developments:

*The Legion battles the 20th Century villain Chronos, whose powers have recently been augmented via a big crossover event called "Underworld Unleashed." In the wake of the fight, the Science Police arrest Brainiac 5 for unlicensed experiments in time travel.
*Gates and Star Boy are the newest Legionnaires. Gates is an insectoid alien who resents being drafted by forces he sees as political oppressors, and Star Boy, sent by Xanthu to replace the late Kid Quantum, is still recovering from an injury. Both of his arms are broken.
*Kinetix finally awakens on the Sorceror's World. An aging magician named Mysa tasks her with retrieving a magical talisman called the Emerald Eye of Ekron.
*The team is attacked by a brainwashed enemy in an armored suit. Vi finally knocks him cold and they learn it is Jan Arrah, the sole survivor of the planet Trom. They learn that it was Ambassador Wazzo - Tinya's mother - who sent Jan to kill the Legion as vengeance for her daughter's death.
*While showing their evidence against the ambassador, there's an interruption: a cloud-creature called the Sun Eater that last appeared in the Milky Way a thousand years ago, has been seen again in space between Earth and Trom.
*The UP president explains "With so little data available, many worlds live in fear of this creature through their mythologies. Five of these cultures have engineered genetically-enhanced living weapons to use against it." These are the team's old foe Mano, Tharok of Zadron, Validus of Pasnic, the Persuader, and the Empress of Venegar: the Fatal Five.
*The basic creative team is Tom McCraw, and Tom Peyer writing, with Lee Moder and Jeffrey Moy the principal artists.

This is the second time that the Legion has crossed over with the mainstream, contemporary DC Universe, and the second time that the creators confounded my fears. The premise behind "Underworld Unleashed" is that a bunch of C-list costumed bad guys make a deal with a devil to get their powers amped up so they can defeat their superhero opponents. Naturally, they all get betrayed in ironic ways, because that's what happens when you make deals with devils. The bad guy in this case was a fellow named Chronos, who uses time travel powers, and who'd been around since the 1960s, but for the purposes of this adventure, he might as well be anybody - a brand new character, even. The flashbacks explaining the deal with the devil are done quickly and are unobtrusive, allowing the writers to try and tell a story that is happening in two time periods a thousand years apart at the same instance. It's tricky, but clever.

What's not clever, however, is Ambassador Wazzo. Grief-stricken over the death of her daughter, she's turned into a predictable comic book supervillain. This leads, unbelievably awkwardly, into the simply unreal and silly Sun-Eater and Fatal Five plot. Now, I'm all in favor of the Fatal Five conceptually, and this story does a great job convincing me that they really are the Legion's biggest challenge yet. What I don't buy is this "genetically enhanced living weapon" malarkey. I also have a big problem with the magic TV set that turns memories into video images, and the amazing coincidence of a Sun-Eater just happening to show up on a video screen in the background of the magic TV set's picture.

Perhaps we're not getting the whole story, but this is the first time since the reboot that I've put the book down and said "that is kind of stupid." That said, the artwork is certainly consistent and excellent, and the new Eye-less Empress reminds us that what we're reading isn't quite like what came before. This time out, there's not even a Ferro Lad to throw at the Sun-Eater. Yet.

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