Monday, June 24, 2013

LSH 1994 Reread, part six

(Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 # 79-81 and Legionnaires# 35-38, 1996)

Major developments:

*The Fatal Five takes the Legion down and they take them down hard. It is an amazing beat-down.
*The eleven heroes who fell - Cos, Imra, Triad, Lyle, Gim, Cham, Brainy, Spark, Vi, Thom and Gates - get one heck of a rescue from Live Wire, XS, Valor, Ultra Boy, Jan Arrah, and - surprising everybody who thought she was dead - Andromeda. Kinetix also finally shows up, having no idea what kind of crisis is going on, having been teleported to the action by the sorceress Mysa in search of the Emerald Eye.
*The Fatal Five - who are in communication with an unseen ally directing them - teleport away to the planet Drak IV on the Braalian frontier. Some foe is orchestrating a war between Titan and Braal, as if our heroes didn't have enough to handle.
*It turns out that Cos has been handling it quite well for quite some time! Some months previously, the Titanian healer Aven had told Cos of his suspicions that the first Titan-Braal war had been manipulated by President Chu. It was her - not Wazzo - who had been behind all of the recent escalations. The Legion Espionage Squad - including Cham posing as Wazzo - trick Chu into revealing everything on camera. The other Legionnaires handle the Fatal Five, a task made easier when Mano turns on Tharok.
*RJ Brande is drafted as president of the UP. He pardons Andromeda and Brainy and abolishes the Legion draft, letting the heroes be a volunteer unit and pick their own teammates. Valor takes the name M'Onel so that he can operate without religious fervor.
*The basic creative team is Roger Stern, Tom McCraw, and Tom Peyer writing, with Lee Moder and Jeffrey Moy the principal artists. Stern, who, at this time was also among the rotating writers across the five Superman titles, steps in to replace Mark Waid and will remain part of the LSH's writing team for more than three years.

This turned out just fine in the end, with the exception that I noted last time about the incredibly convenient - while simultaneously absurd - bit of evidence planted on the magic TV of Jan Arrah's memories that suggests a Sun-Eater is out there in space somewhere. Still, only one bit of unbelievable baloney over the course of forty-something issues is really a remarkable achievement.

And I'm certainly willing to overlook it, because McCraw, Peyer and Stern pull off a simply masterful bit of misdirection. It is actually Chu, and not Wazzo, who is the real mastermind behind all this. That doesn't mean that Wazzo is any less of a completely loathsome jerk - in fact, she is shown, at the end of # 80, to be every bit as resolved to see the Legion disbanded - but she isn't the Snidely-Whiplash baddie that had been implied. It's a very classy twist, done brilliantly.

As much as I enjoyed the climax of this first long (long!) story, it's the fight with the Fatal Five that really impressed me the most. The heroes just get their rears kicked. They don't take any of the bad guys down. Sure, the kids have some superpowers and some martial arts training, but not nearly enough to make a difference against these toughs. I honestly can't remember reading any superhero team fight scene where the good guys are so mercilessly and unflinchingly given such a remarkable beatdown. When the cavalry shows up, even the most jaded and seen-it-all of critics is certain to smile.

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