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Thursday, 18 October 2018

Legion of Super-Heroes 51 - Brainiac 5 on trial

Polar Boy makes another poor leadership move in the Levitz, Giffen and DeCarlo story from Legion of Super-Heroes 51 (Oct 88).

He puts Brainiac 5 on trial for the murder of Jaxon Rugarth. This is not a popular move among many members of the team, and the founders really don't like it when Polar Boy tries to explain to them that it was to deal with cases like this that they wrote the Legion Constitution in the first place. Saturn Girl acts as Brainiac 5's defense, although the Coluan shows no interest at all in the proceedings.

Meanwhile, Phantom Girl gathers together Shrinking Violet and Invisible Kid, the remaining members of the Espionage Squad, in order to find out what has happened to Chameleon Boy. This involves apologizing to Dawnstar, and requesting her help again. Dawnstar is actually not a bitch for once, and agrees.

Magnetic Kid and Lightning Lass take down a new villain, Garak of the Glow, who will return a few issues down the road. Lightning Lass has a new costume, and is now romantically interested in Magnetic Kid. Poor boy doesn't know what to do.

Brainiac 5 makes a big speech during the trial, about how the whole thing has no value. There is no disputing the events, the evidence, his motives, or anything like that. Only the question as to whether his actions were morally valid or not. Earthgov has no interest in pressing charges, Brainiac 5's throwaway inventions bring them massive prosperity. Rond Vidar beams in a message of support, but this doesn't change anything. Vidar cannot come in person, because Green Lanterns have bee banned from United Planets territory.

I like that we get to see the votes as they come in. There aren't a lot of surprises, as the conversations the Legionnaires have with each other clearly indicate the side they have chosen. Shadow Lass heads for Daxam with Mon-El, hoping to find some way to save his life.

As Brainiac 5 expected, the vote goes against Polar Boy, and for him. But by then he has already left, abandoning his lab and everything in it. He makes one stop, giving Duo Damsel his force field belt, and then returns to Colu.

Legion of Super-Heroes 50 - using the Infinite Man to get to the Time Trapper

Keith Giffen joins Levitz and DeCarlo for the oversized Legion of Super-Heroes 50 (Sept 88), as the team confronts the Time Trapper, in the villain's greatest appearance to date.

Giffen starts to give the Legion new costumes in this issue, beginning with Ultra Boy, although all he gets is a choppy haircut and a jacket.

Rond Vidar keeps quiet about his return to life, which makes some of the Legion suspect that he might be a pawn of the Time Trapper. Nevertheless, Brainiac 5 likes Rond's idea to turn Jaxon Rugarth back into the Infinite Man, and use the power of his transformation to energize the time cube. Rugarth has been brain dead since being released from the Infinite Man, and for Brainiac 5 that's as good as dead. He wants White Witch to help in the process, but she is disgusted at the very idea, and departs. Not just the room, but Earth and, presumably, the team.

The Legion believe that they are going to attack the Time Trapper en masse, but the conspirators have another trick up their belt. Literally. Brainiac 5 activates the time cube, and has it bring along only him, Saturn Girl, Mon-El and Duo Damsel.

But somehow Rond Vidar winds up in the cube as well, and still refuses to explain how he did this.

They reach the end of time and confront the Time Trapper. It looks like a terrible idea. The villain is immensely powerful on his own turf, and he kills one of Duo Damsel's bodies. Or at least seems to. A few years down the road we will find out that he kept the other body alive.

Mon-El's vast strength proves futile against the Trapper, and he winds up so extensively injured that he is barely alive at the end of the story.

Rond finally reveals his hand. He is a Green Lantern, having inherited the ring from his father, when Universo was kicked out of the Corps. Brainiac 5 is revealed to have known Universo was a Green Lantern, although it appears he just never shared this information with the rest of the team. The Green Lantern ring kept Rond alive, but apparently was not strong enough to be noticed by Laurel Kent. But even the Green Lantern power is not enough to faze the Trapper.

But when the villain starts to gloat about his success, Brainiac 5 laughs in his face. This does not go over well with the Trapper.

Rugarth's transformation into the Infinite Man is now complete. While the Time Trapper is the physical incarnation of entropy and the end of time, the Infinite Man represents time as a circular continuum.

Thus, the two effectively cancel each other out. The Infinite Man sort of consumes the Time Trapper, and it appears that both are destroyed at the end of the story. Of course they aren't, but it will be a while before we see either again. The Legion has achieved their victory, but the cost has been high, not just in terms of deaths and injuries, but in the rift they have created within the team.

Legion of Super-Heroes 49 - the nature of the conspiracy

Levitz, Broderick and DeCarlo reveal what the four Legionnaires have been scheming about in Legion of Super-Heroes 49 (Aug 88).

Sensor Girl opens the issue by confronting Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Mon-El and Duo Damsel about their actions. This escalates surprisingly quickly, and Mon-El even physically threatens Sensor Girl, but then they, and all the other Legionnaires, suddenly feel intense pain. Starfinger has put his machine into operation. But it fails to kill any of the Legionnaires, and Starfinger is not pleased.

Colossal Boy makes excuses, insisting that he just needs more time to test his machine, but Starfinger is running out of patience. He threatens to kill Colossal Boy if he doesn't get his machine working in a day.

With so much having been revealed already, Saturn Girl chooses to share with the team how she, Duo Damsel, Brainiac 5 and Mon-El made a vow at Superboy's grave to find a way to get to the Time Trapper and get vengeance. She leaves out one fact, which Sensor Girl knows, that the four vowed to give their lives to achieve their goal, and protect the rest of the team. Still, they now have no choice but to work openly with the rest of the Legion to find a way to get to the Time Trapper.

There is an odd scene, in which Sensor Girl seeks out someone believed dead, bringing him back to headquarters.

This turns out to be Rond Vidar. How he is still alive is not explained at this point. But he shows up at the right time. Brainiac 5 is at the end of his rope. Everything he believed he knew about time travel was wrong, and he lacks any power source large enough to try to break through the inertia of time. But Rond Vidar has a plan.

The issue closes with Starfinger seeing through the disguises of Chameleon Boy and Colossal Boy. He takes both of them down, and delights in having them his captives. This storyline culminates in this years annual, but that is not released for a few more months.

Legion of Super-Heroes 48 - trying to harness a star

Strafinger's plans, and those of the conspirators, progress in the Levitz, LaRocque and DeCarlo story from Legion of Super-Heroes 48 (July 1988).

Duo Damsel lets Brainiac 5 and Saturn Girl know that Tellus has learned about their conspiracy. We still do not know what they are up to, but Mon-El's part in it is retrieving a power source that Brainiac 5 needs for something he is constructing.

And the power source itself turn out to be a white dwarf star, part of a binary system. It strains even Mon-El's powers to grab it and bring the dwarf star back to Earth. And on top of that, it proves pointless, as Brainiac 5 is unable to control its destructive energy.

Chameleon Boy, in his disguise as Reefeg, is now a part of Starfinger's crew, and gets tasked with stealing a Legion flight ring. Another of Starfinger's men has created a projector machine capable of killing the Legionnaires at a distance, but it needs a way to focus on them. The flight ring is the key to that. Chameleon Boy breaks in to the Science Police headquarters to try to use their duplicator machine to create a flawed copy of the ring, which would prove harmless, but is unable to pull that off.

Sensor Girl teams with Tellus and Magnetic Kid to form a sort of anti-conspiracy. She knows what the other four are up to, and shares this knowledge with the two new Legionnaires, as they try to figure out how to stop the four.

But by the end of the issue the conspiracy is becoming more obvious. Everyone has to go into action to get the white dwarf star safely away from headquarters before it gets destroyed. Saturn Girl and Duo Damsel are with Brainiac 5 in the lab, and so evasive about what they are doing that everyone can tell something shady is going on.

The story closes as Chameleon Boy returns to Starfinger to report his failure. But it turns out not to matter, Starfinger now has another scientist working with him, who provided him with a ring. But Chameleon Boy can tell this is really Colossal Boy in disguise.

Legion of Super-Heroes 47 - the fourth member of the conspiracy

Levitz, LaRocque, Broderick, and DeCarlo continue both the conspiracy and Starfinger storylines in Legion of Super-Heroes 47 (June 1988).

Phantom Girl admits to lying to Dawnstar, Ultra Boy and Shadow Lass about not finding Chameleon Boy on Rimbor. Dawnstar is not at all pleased about this, and even less so when Phantom Girl claims that her seniority as a Legionnaire justifies her actions.

Tension is also mounting back at headquarters. Although she has no direct knowledge of the conspiracy, Sensor Girl is aware of what the four Legionnaires are up to, presumably because of her own powers. She warns Brainiac 5 about his course of action, but that just makes him want to succeed more quickly.

Most of the story deals with Chameleon Boy proving himself to Starfinger's people. We see him pull off some money laundering at a casino, and then get out of having to commit a murder by taking on the form of the supposedly murdered man.

Mon-El continues on his mystery mission, taking some time to cripple a Khund warship approaching UP space.

Chameleon Boy's impersonation succeeds, and he gets brought before Starfinger. We see that Starlight and Starbright spend their time inside Starfinger's ring, when he isn't using them to terrorize people.

And the story closes back at the Legion Academy. Tellus chooses to confide in Duo Damsel about the conspiracy, and asks her what to do. He figures she is safe to talk to, as when he read Saturn Girl's mind, she was thinking of four Legionnaires. But it turns out Saturn Girl thinks of Duo Damsel as a Legionnaire, even though she left the team long ago. She is the fourth conspirator, and all Tellus has done is alert them that he is on to them.

Legion of Super-Heroes 46 - who are the conspirators?

A very different feeling cover for Legion of Super-Heroes 46 (May 1988) by Ken Steacy. This accurately reflects the change in mood and direction that the book makes now, as Pat Broderick joins Levitz, La Rocque and DeCarlo for this tale.

We learn that there is a conspiracy among four members of the Legion on the very first page, though what they are conspiring to do remains a mystery for now. Brainiac 5 is the easiest to identify, and Mon-El's costume gives him away, but the other two are not clearly identified as yet. One seems to have a distinctive skin colouring that doesn't actually match anyone on the team, but I think that was a colouring error.

Knowing that Mon-El is a part of things makes the scene in which he leaves Shadow Lass, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl to take off on a mission of his own much more significant.

Meanwhile, at the Legion Academy, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel put Atmos through some more tests. Though they are impressed with his abilities, they are less so with his personality, and decline to recommend him for Legion membership.

We also spend a fair amount of time this issue with Chameleon Boy, who is finally getting in with Starfinger's people. He has another new identity, and finds himself in the usual undercover dilemma, of having to commit crimes to prove himself to the gang.

Polar Boy sends Dawnstar, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy to find Cham, and they track him to Rimbor. Phantom Girl actually finds him, but he signals her to not expose him. Phantom Girl opts to lie to the others and pretend she didn't find Chameleon Boy. It's clear she trusts Cham more than Polar Boy.

And by the end of the issue, trust is getting harder to find. Tellus is working on expanding his telepathy, with advice from Saturn Girl, but winds up reading her mind, and learning that she is part of the conspiracy.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Legion of Super-Heroes 45 - the Luck Lords watch Lightning Lad

Legion of Super-Heroes 45 (April 1988) is an oversized 30th anniversary issue, dating from the Legion's debut in Adventure Comics 247. This same month, the Legion's founding was re-told in the pages of Secret Origins, and a Who's Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes miniseries began. Levitz is joined by LaRocque, Kurt Schaffenberger, Curt Swan, Dave Cockrum, Mike Grell, Keith Giffen, DeCarlo, Starr and Dick Giordano for this story, which puts the spotlight on Lightning Lad.

The Luck Lords watch and manipulate events in this story. The three strange creatures are the real Luck Lords, unlike the impostors who had been featured in a Legion story in Adventure Comics back in the 60s.

As the tale begins, Lightning Lord is undergoing therapy on Labyrinth, and we learn of his destructive envy of his younger siblings. Most people born on Winath are twins, but Mekt was an only child, and an outsider from birth because of that. The Luck Lords ensure a series of accidents that allow Lightning Lord to escape, and he goes after his brother.

The issue looks at most of the major events in Lightning Lad's life, as the Luck Lords reflect on them. So of course we get the origin story of the three Ranzz siblings. Mekt is blamed for allowing their ship to run out of energy, stranding them with the lightning beasts who give all three their powers.

The story scans over Lightning Lad's early days with the Legion, and his death at the hands of Zaryan the Conqeror. Proty sacrifices his life to bring Lightning Lad back from the dead.

There are very few cutaway scenes in this story, despite its length. The Legionnaires continue to debate what to do with Atmos, who is not shy at all about pursuing Dream Girl.

The impostor Luck Lords even make an appearance in the flashbacks, their sole appearance, back after Lightning Lad had lost an arm. His possession by the original Starfinger is mentioned as well, and then the new arm he was given later on.

Lightning Lad's marriage to Saturn Girl is shown, as well as his first battle against his brother. The one drawback to this tale is that it is all about the fights between Lightnings Lad and Lord, and so gets a bit repetitive in the re-tellings.

Finally it reaches the current time for Legion. I love the mention of Lightning Lad's inability to program an autochef, which had been the basis for more than a few jokes in past years.

The story culminates in yet another battle between the brothers. The Luck Lords really built this up, to make it look like there was a chance Mekt could win, but it ends as they always do, with Lightning Lord defeated.

Still, this did serve an a very good recap of the 30 years of Legion stories, and ends with a two page spread of the current line-up of the team.