Posted by Pete Albano - January 23, 2011 | Updated October 8, 2011 | November 21, 2012 | December 9, 2012 | August 18, 2015
Legion of Super-Heroes v.2
I bought Legion of Super-Heroes because no other superhero book had as many heroes as LSH. At the time, more heroes seemed like more bang for the buck. I also had the good fortune to read during a time when Levitz and Giffen were working on the books – their run would eventually be acknowledged as legendary. I realize that the names are being made fun of these days but, at the time, the names were magic: Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Princess Projectra - ok, it's still magic. And Colossal Boy, he was the most gigantic hero I knew – bigger than Hank Pym’s Giant-Man or Bill Foster’s Goliath. And Wildfire, all energy under that suit. And I really loved the costumes on the women. Dawnstar. Oboy. Princess Projectra. Wow. And my absolute favorite Laura Kent.
A Guide to Legion of Super-Heroes Comics
I've never seen a publication history more confusing than the various runs of Legion of Super-Heroes : For long stretches, the Legion have headlined ongoing series or appeared as backup tales in different books. Then there are terms like "reboot" and "threeboot". All very confusing. This guide should help cut through all that mystery.
The Legion of Super-Heroes began in Adventure Comics 247 (1958) then reappeared in issues 267, 282, 290 and 293 of the series. From issues 300 until 380 (1969), Adventure Comics featured the Legion.
After their Adventure stint, from 1969 to 1971, Legion of Super-Heroes stories appeared as a backup feature in Action Comics issues 377 to 392.
In 1973, Superboy became Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes with issue 197. With issue 222 the comic became Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. With issue 259 the comic became Legion of Super-Heroes . Issue 314 saw yet another renaming to Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The last original story from the series was issue 325 (1985). The rest of the run became reprints. This entire run is known as volume 2.
Where is volume 1 you ask? Volume 1 was a four issue mini-series of Adventure Comics reprints during the 70's - and therefore, no new stories there.
The stories continued in a renumbered 'Legion of Super-Heroes' series from issue 1 (1984) to issue 63 (1989). This is volume 3.
1989 saw a new series of 'Legion of Super-Heroes' that lasted until issue 61 after which the LSH was re-imagined or, as is popularly termed, 'rebooted'. This is volume 4.
Let's stop here before going into the reboot era, because at this point we have the entire confusing set of runs of the original Legion of Super-Heroes. To summarize :
Whew! That's pretty much the original Legion.
With Legion of Super-Heroes volume 4 no. 62 (1994), the Legion of Super-Heroes was rebooted. The series lasted until issue 125 (2000). Another series called 'The Legion' (2001) lasted for 38 issues, after which the Legion of Super-Heroes was rebooted yet again. The threeboot.
The threeboot. The third re-imagining of the Legion of Superheroes is covered in 'Legion of Super-Heroes' volume 5 issues 1 (2005) to 50 (2009).
For 2010 the original Legion of Super-Heroes returned for 16 issues. This is volume 6.
In 2011, every comic in the DC Universe got a reboot as part of the 'New 52' initiative. The current Legion titles are 'Legion of Super-Heroes' (volume 7) and 'Legion Lost'.
Limited series and other special appearances have been left out of this guide in the interest of clarity. I hope this makes things clearer. Happy reading!
The Great Darkness Saga
Although the story arc called 'The Great Darkness Saga' only comprises the five issues from Legion of Super-Heroes 290 to 294, the collected edition contains additional issues before and after the saga itself. Not a bad thing since you get more Legion of Super-Heroes goodness that way.
I invite you to go with me as I take you through issues 284 to 296 making lots of stops in all the best places. I won't go through each issue in turn but rather, we'll tackle topics and subplots that appear across the stories.
The United Planets has imposed a 25 member cap to the Legion's active roster. Even with this limitation we're looking at a fairly large group. It's common for the Legion to divide itself into smaller teams in order to tackle multiple problems at once. It's always fun to see who's teamed-up with whom and how they stack up against the threat they're facing.
First up, in issue 284, Medicus One, a floating hospital in Earth orbit, is attacked by organ pirates. Here's the team the Legion sends out in pursuit:
Dawnstar, Wildfire and Ultraboy
Since Lightning Lad is the leader of the Legionnaires, I must commend him on his selection. This is exactly the kind of pursuit team you want to assemble if you want to go with the minimum amount of warm bodies yet still make the team tough enough to handle anything. Look at this balance : Dawnstar is a super-tracker, her presence here guarantees against the quarry escaping. Then you have Wildfire and his energy blasts for range capability. For closed in work Ultraboy, one of the Legion's most potent members. Super-strength, invulnerability, flash vision, he's got it all.
A caveat about Ultraboy though, he can only use one power at a time. Look at him here, wearing a space helmet. My guess is he's invulnerable right now and is using his Legion flight ring. If he needs to switch to super-strength or super-speed he won't be invulnerable anymore so he needs the helmet to survive in airless space. This peculiarity of Ultraboy's makes for some very interesting scripts, unfortunately, writers tend to treat him much like Superboy and Mon-El, Legion heavy-hitters that have all their powers on all the time. I view Ultraboy as one notch beneath the Legion's top level powerhouses. Wildfire, on the other hand, is definitely a member of the topmost tier in the power hierarchy. Those energy blasts are extremely powerful plus he's all energy - there is no body underneath that suit - so he's virtually unkillable. This next shot showing Wildfire blasting through his faceplate never grows old.
Needless to say the team gets the job done, no problems.
Medicus One was heavily damaged by the attack. The Legion has a team for that too. Let's look at the Legion repair team:
Repairing Medicus One
At the foreground is Element Lad creating metal out of hydrogen to use as a patch for the breach on Medicus One. Down below magnetic force bubble being generated by Cosmic Boy, founding member of the Legion. Sun Boy is making out like a human torch (oops!) while Brainiac 5 directs everything with his computer mind. Once again the combination is dead-on for the job.
It's not over though, during the attack something was planted inside Medicus One. Namely, this guy . . .
Organus. As you can imagine, during the 30th century the catalogue of flora and fauna from all the worlds of the United Planets would be quite extensive; but Organus doesn't make the list. He's an unclassified extra-terrestrial. I wouldn't waste my time with him because he looks so ridiculous except for the fact that he's incredibly powerful. He has the ability of absorbing the power of every creature he touches, or rather, sucks. Yecch. Timber Wolf and Light Lass couldn't take him on successfully, so let's see the team the Legion sends over:
Legion team confronts Organus
Let's see, that's Blok, Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy and Element Lad. This is basically the repair team plus Blok. Unfortunately, Organus is as powerful as he is stupid looking and he manages to throw this team around, that is, until the uber-tough and strong Blok wades in and saves the Legion from the embarassment of getting beaten up by a giant, ugly teddy bear.
Let's leave Medicus One and head over to Nullport were the Legion sends a team to have one of their space ships repaired - a peaceful assignment that will not remain so for long. Fortunately, Lightning Lad sent a team to be reckoned with.
Legionnaires at Nullport
The big guy is Colossal Boy. Up top, sitting on the cruiser is Star Boy, at the forefront is Mon-El, Shadow Lass and Shrinking Violet.
Mon-El is the most powerful Legionnaire of them all. Colossal Boy is the most gigantic of giant heroes. Both provide this team with raw power. Star Boy has the power to add mass to any object - the power to make any object heavy. Shadow Lass weaves darkness and Shrinking Violet can shrink down to microscopic size. These last three add flexibility to the team. Star Boy's power is also quite formidable.
Nullport is an asteroid cluster that doubles as a manufacturing and repair facility. For the purposes of the United Planets it is the facility for spacecraft and therefore, strategically important. It is because of this that the Khunds attack the spaceport.
Comic book tradition dictates that this Legion team fights the Khund fleet blah ... blah ... blah. Tsk tsk. This is Paul Levitz's Legion of Super-Heroes, which means we are in for a treat. Nullport, you see, was supposed to be a secretly located spaceport. With this attack, the port is secret no longer, placing the U.P. on a strategic disadvantage. Enter the Legion, this team in particular. This team will relocate Nullport. That's right, relocate an entire space port in another part of known space - amazing! And this is how they do it:
Shadow Lass hides Nullport
Shadow lass weaves a vast shadow around Nullport to hide the base from the Khund fleet. It helps that the fleet is distracted by both Mon-El's and Colossal Boy's counterattack (raw power remember?). Next it's Starboy's turn :
Star Boy in action
In order to keep things together in Nullport during the move, Star Boy increases Nullport's mass until the asteroid cluster is able to naturally generate its own gravity.
With Nullport hidden and everything on it tied down by gravity, the last remaining thing is to move it; and there's only one member of this team that can do that.
Mon-El moves Nullport
The Administrator of Nullport was so happy that instead of repairing one starship, he gave the Legion six new ones.
What's Up with Chameleon Boy?
Question : You are Chameleon Boy and you just found out that R.J. Brande, the richest man in the universe (of the 30th Century) is your father. He adores you. What will you do?
a. Resign from the Legion of Super-Heroes and finance/lead your own team.
b. Date the hottest girl in the galaxy.
c. Bum out for the rest of your life.
d. All of the above.
Answer : Run out on your Dad, endanger your fellow Legionnaires and wind up a convict in Takron-Galtos, the infamous prison planet.
Unbelievable but true. And here's how . . .
In the 30th century, if you're a rich man, you don't have your own island - you have your own planet. R. J. Brande's planet is called, fittingly - Brande's World. As issue 286 begins, we see he has invited some members of the Legion for some R & R.
The Legion at play
Everybody seems to be having a lot of fun, except Cham. He's obviously troubled by the revelation that he's Brande's son, I don't know why exactly, but its enough of a problem for him to transform and leave the planet.
Chameleon Boy runs away
Chameleon Boy is so upset that he doesn't just leave for another part of the planet; he leaves the planet entirely, changing into a form that can travel space, Chameleon Boy heads back to Legion HQ.
The trip back to Legion headquarters has apparently done Cham no good; it didn't clear his mind at all. When he comes in hearing the others talk about Khund actions in Nullport he immediately pulls rank to order an inspection of the Khund Homeworld. That's right. Pulls rank. And what rank is that? It turns out that Chameleon Boy is the permanent leader of the Legion Espionage Squad. This makes perfect sense considering that Chameleon Boy can turn into any creature. At this point let's go back to the "pulls rank" part : Chameleon Boy simply orders the Legion Espionage Squad to undertake the mission, no discussion. Well, actually, a lot of complaints from the team. But they follow him anyway. What does this tell us? The Legion is set up much like the military. Leaders are autocratic and must be obeyed. For good reason. Military units must move fast and decide faster. In this case, its just too bad that Chameleon Boy isn't in the best frame of mind to start spouting orders. Who exactly are the Legion Espionage Squad? Let's take a look.
The Legion Espionage Squad
The Squad is composed of Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet and Timber Wolf. Chameleon Boy can change into anything, Shrinking Violet can shrink into nearly nothing and Timber Wolf has super speed. All very stealthy. Another natural for this team would be Phantom Girl.
Stealth is a byword among the Legion Espionage Squad. Abandoning their space cruiser some distance from Khundia, the Khund homeworld, they approach the planet from the inside of an asteroid that Timber Wolf hollowed out with his super strength. Chameleon boy wraps around the streaking asteroid taking the form of an organism that looks like rock. Doing so also allows Chameleon Boy to look out while the others are inside the asteroid.
The Legion Espionage Squad nears Khundia
I like the detail of Timber Wolf burying the asteroid at super speed to conceal their arrival. Fantastic layout on this panel.
Timber Wolf buries the asteroid
Ah Khundia. How does Levitz describe this place? It's very overcrowded. Everybody's paranoid - and armed to the teeth. They should've named the planet 'Powder Keg' instead.
A street in Khundia
Our three heroes walk the streets in disguise but it isn't long before they bump the wrong person in a planet full of wrong persons. The hothead's name is Kharlak and as tradition dictates he challenges the disguised Legionnaires to trial by combat. Remember that name, Kharlak will appear in a future Legion issue when new member White Witch will hand him his arse - but that sumptuous tale is for another day. Let's check out this immature grudge match :
Timber Wolf vs. Kharlak
To be fair to Kharlak, the skirmish goes on for some time but when your up against someone with super strength, super speed and the aggressive nature of a Timber Wolf you're going to go down. Thanks for the great visuals Mr. Giffen.
The Khund, ever the sore losers, send an entire warship against our three victors. The Legion Espionage Squad's cover is definitely blown as they make a run for it. Just as the situation is about to get truly dire a Legion cruiser arrives. Let's check who's in it.
Inside the Legion Cruiser
Just two Legionnaires, Saturn Girl and Colossal Boy. After getting their friends, C.B. pushes the cruiser to warp speed. All is not well though, as a faulty navigation system crashes the cruiser into an asteroid. The Legion Espionage Team and their rescuers are marooned.
Timber Wolf is not very happy about the state of affairs, while Chameleon Boy goes into a well-deserved guilt trip
Wait a minute you say? This picture is all wrong! The Legion is a space traveling group; how could they be marooned? First of all, no cruiser. Secondly, no flight rings, that's right. Some strange ice formation is on the asteroid that has seeped into the rings making them useless. Outside of the flight rings let's check out the space traveling capabilities of each of the Legionnaires we have here. Saturn Girl, nope, telepathy. The Wolf, nope, can't fly. Ditto for Shrinking Violet and Colossal Boy. Only Chameleon Boy can change into a space faring creature but he claims they are too far out in space, no creature he can turn to has the range. Marooned.
I've been waiting all throughout this adventure for Chameleon Boy to change into something interesting. He finally does - a creature called a Spotlighter.
Chameleon Boy looks through the wreckage for anything to help them out
The Espionage Squad's hapless adventures started in issue 287 now its issue 289 and they're still stuck in that cold rock. Fortunately both Dawnstar and Light Lass have gone looking. Unfortunately, their ship gets fried by a solar flare. They're both beat but still fit to travel - thanks to Dawnstar's space travelling capability and tracking capability our lost Legionnaires are found.
Rescue Team No. 2
Before this rescue, one final calamity is foisted on our hapless team - the cruiser explodes and they have to make a mad dash to avoid any damage. The panel showing that is particularly dynamic.
Great panel by Giffen
The use of shadows and the particular way Saturn Girl's head is drawn reminds me of Gene Colan - I wish he could have tried his hand at an LSH comic.
So that's it? Right? Not quite. There is the small matter of Chameleon Boy's impulsiveness. A matter that has not gone unnoticed by the United Planets.
You are the son of the richest man in the United Planets, fool!
The panel says it all : "convicted, treason and willful endangerment"; "antennae bindings ... required to neutralize convict's Durlan shape-changing ability". If I were in his place this is the exact point when I would be saying to myself that I should've just joined the beach party in Brande's World, or rather, Dad's World. Bummer.
Cham's place of incarceration is Takron-Galtos were he does time all throughout the incident known as the Great Darkness. During that time, Chameleon Boy, powerless but ever the Legionnaire, manages to foil a Daxamite attack. This feat earns him his freedom but it costs him his power - a mystery to be solved for another time.
Princess Projectra's and Karate Kid's adventures are scattered among several issues and takes up most of issue 288. The art is topnotch, this being my favorite panel :
It's moves like these that make Karate Kid stand out
Karate Kid combines super-strength with martial arts skill, that's why he's able to carve a dagger out of bare rock. Later he has opportunity to use his self-made weapon.
Apparently, stone knives are not sharp enough to cut through skin
My first thought was that the knife should have gone into this guy's neck. It is a knife after all. On the other hand the Comics Code Authority people would've tagged that as a violation. KK should've carved a mace instead.
But, we're getting ahead of the story. A tale that began as far back as issue 285. In that issue, Princess Projectra's father, the king of Orando, has a heart attack, paving the way for this . . .
Magnificent coronation at Orando
The coronation of Queen Projectra. I love the ornate look of the place, Orando mimics medieval Earth in the 30th century, the art is almost gothic, just wonderful atmosphere, I have just one nitpick . . .
A closer look at Princess Projectra and Karate Kid during the coronation.
What is Karate Kid doing standing so prominently during the coronation of Princess Projectra? He is not a part of this process and should have been on the sidelines. Talk about the clinging boyfriend type.
Anyway, the coronation does not go as planned because an old tradition is invoked and Princess Projectra's rule is challenged before it has even begun. Very medieval and appropriate for Orando except for the wording : "By the terms of this challenge, Projectra and her second shall fight on against Pharoxx . . .". And her second? That's two against one right? More than that, it's a lame rule to accommodate Karate Kid yet again. If I remember correctly the medieval tradition was for a lady to choose her champion. But then again we would be missing out on Projectra's illusions. Oh well.
Long story short : Pharoxx defeats both Legionnaires. They are put in the dungeon where we saw Karate Kid carving that knife which he uses to try for an escape - an unsuccessful escape. That's it for KK and Projectra; it's time for the Legion to send in a team.
Orando rescue party : Shadow Lass, Dream Girl, Ultraboy, and Mon-El
Let's look at this group : Immediately I see two heavy hitters. First up is Mon-El, a Superman-class Legionnaire, in the world of the LSH, they are considered to be the most powerful. Examples are Superboy and Supergirl themselves, Dev-Em, and, potentially, the entire planet of Daxam (more on that later). Ultraboy, is only one rung below the power scale. He has all of Mon-El's powers (speed, strength, invulnerability, heat vision, x-ray vision) except he can only use each power one at a time. I pretty much consider the problem solved with this two on the job. I would dismiss the other two Legionnaires as decorative light weights. Shadow lass with her control of darkness, and even more useless, Dream Girl's non-aggressive power of prophecy. I would be proven all wrong by the end of all this.
I had not taken into account the power levels of one Hagga.
Hagga is Orando's chief practitioner of magic. A sorceress who used to teach Projectra. Because of Projectra's non-traditional, non-xenophobic (marrying an outsider!), and cosmopolitan ways, Hagga considers her former pupil a poor fit to be regent and has thrown in with Pharoxx. Hagga can also do this :
With one sorcerous blow our entire Legion rescue team is in shackles.
The Legion is trussed up in Orando
How could they do this to Mon-El and Ultraboy? With Ultraboy, the explanation is easy - he must not have had his invulnerability turned on. I was about to say that Mon-El is vulnerable to magic, but he's a Daxamite not a Kryptonian. Maybe he took the brunt of the blast. Bottom line is I don't know.
Those who bet good money on Mon-El based on my statement about Superman-level powers should count their losses. The most powerful Legionnaire of all will play no part in the subsequent escape. It is the women, who I was so quick to dismiss, who will pave the path for a Legion victory here. Let's see how . . .
It is, surprisingly, Dream Girl, who takes the initiative, using her superior mastery of her Legion flight ring - an object that, to a strong enough will, grants telekinetic powers - and her ability to bluff.
Dream Girl uses the Legion flight ring
This ability was first demonstrated in a backup story in issue 285 when Dream Girl went back to her home planet of Naltor to help resolve why the Naltorians were losing their prophetic powers.
On top of Dream Girl's moves, Shadow Lass surrounds everything in darkness.
Within the embrace of the shadow, both Legionnaires complete the end game against Hagga :
Shadow Lass and Dream Girl in action
After this it is a simple matter to free the other Legionnaires.
Late, and relatively ineffective a while back, they may be, but Ultraboy and Mon-El still provide a stunning visual when they take on the magic of Pharoxx.
Mon-El and Ultraboy in action
That was very satisfying, but even more satisfying is this kick from the long-suffering Karate Kid.
Karate Kid delivers the coup de grace
With that, the people all hail Princess Projectra as Queen of Orando:
Princess Projectra being hailed as Queen
Now let's consider that for a moment. When Projectra and Karate Kid lost the traditional trial by combat, Pharoxx was loudly proclaimed as King by the populace. Now when Projectra regains her thrown by non-traditional means, with the help of Outsiders, no less, she is still hailed as Queen. What gives? Medieval rules that's what, in medieval society there is only one rule : If you piss off the ruling power life will be difficult. So it doesn't matter who's sitting on the throne, you hail them as ruler and keep your head. Sad but true and extremely pragmatic.
Where Is The Green Lantern Corps In The 30th Century?
A Guardian of Oa tells us where
There you have it. There are still Green Lanterns in the 30th century, but evidently the United Planets have no more need of the vaunted Universal Police of Oa. There is more to issue 295 than this brief explanation, of course. It's a flashback issue that involves the Time Institute and Krona's mad experiment to see the beginning of the Universe. The Krona event is one of the most enduring aspects of DC lore. The flashback panels are illustrated in the classic style (think Curt Swan). Around the flashback is quite an entertaining conversation between Blok and Timber Wolf. Worth checking out.
The Great Darkness
Now for the main event.
The Great Darkness Saga story arc may cover issues 290 to 294 but foreshadowings of the event appear as early as issue 287. In the backup tale of that issue, Mon-El and Shadow Lass are asked to investigate a mysterious planet that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Levitz's description of the planet sets the stage : "It begins here, above the charred remains of a world that has been forgotten . . . no, let us say instead, erased, from human memory. A world whose inhabitants where too cruel, too cold, too calculating to survive into this enlightened thirtieth century". Admittedly its all very standard fare until I realized that Levitz was introducing Apokolips into the Legion milieu. Apokolips. Darkseid's world. I love it. So this is what happens to Apokolips a thousand years from our time. It has grown cold and abandoned. An uncharted planet - a curiosity for the Legion. A planet on which Mon-El, the Legion's strongest member is attacked by machines so strong they damage even the immensely powerful Mon-El.
Uncharted. Yes. Cold. Yes. But not lifeless. The backup tale gives us our first hazy glimpse of Darkseid :
By the time issue 290 roles in, Darkseid has regained his full strength and begins to move against the Legion - all part of a campaign to do to the 30th century what he failed to do to the 20th : rule all. He does so with the aid of four shadowy and nameless servants, each of whom are cloned from familiar beings.
The first is cloned from the 1940's Superman
The second is cloned from a Guardian of Oa - creators of the Green Lanterns
The third servant is cloned from a heroic ancestor's of Shadow Lass
The last servant is cloned from Darkseid's own son, Orion
The dark nature of these servants and the way they pop up out of nowhere reminds me of the shadow creatures in Crisis on Infinite Earths Come to think of it, there is a passing resemblance between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor. The first task given to these servants is to recover certain power objects, like King Arthur's sword, Excaliber, so that Darkseid can leech their power. Along the way the servants encounter the Legion. Let's look into those battles . . .
It is the Superman servant that strikes first. His (or its?) goal is the Wand of Mentachem, currently in the possesssion of one Antonio Stefanacci.
Reminds you of someone?
Apparently, "Mr. Stefanacci" is Dr. Strange, on loan from the Marvel Universe.
Here are the Legionnaires out to prevent the acquisition of that wand:
Clockwise from the guy with his feet on fire : Wildfire, Superboy, Phantom Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Invisible Kid
From a power level standpoint, Superboy is top-tier with Wildfire a rung below. Phantom Girl has formidable defensive capabilities with Invisible Kid being the least powerful of this group. Cosmic Boy is every bit as powerful as Wildfire, but Wildfire is unkillable. Let's see how these guys do against the Superman servant.
Superboy vs. the Superman servant
It makes sense that Superman would be stronger than Superboy.
Cosmic Boy and Wildfire vs. the Superman servant
I always wondered why the Legion team didn't move like a team. I suppose that with Superboy on the roster the others are likely, as in this confrontation, to hang back and let him handle it, since nearly everything can be handled by Superboy. When the expected victory didn't happen, there could have been a bit of a panic and the others would attack simultaneously like Cosmic Boy and Wildfire in this panel. It looks very impressive but magnetics and anti-matter energy won't be enough to stop the Superman servant.
With the heavy hitters being ineffectual, both Phantom Girl and Invisible Kid pretty much sit this one out. The servant claims the wand and goes.
Next up, this exact same team gets another chance - this time against the Guardian servant.
This is a great show of Legion heroism. The Guardian servant causes an explosion scattering debris over a populated area. Cosmic Boy bears the brunt of the blast, but instead of just taking his lumps he thinks about the people first as the panel below can attest.
The mindset of a defender
Wildfire gets first dibs.
Wildfire vs. the Guardian servant
As before, anti-matter energy is ineffectual.
Wildfire tries again
But a good punch gets some results. In spite of that, the Guardian servant still manages to get away with Excalibur.
As if our team wasn't unsuccessful enough, the Legionnaires have to meet a two-pronged attack from both the Orion servant the the Shadow servant. Cross your fingers . . .
Superboy takes a successful shot at the Shadow servant.
Superboy takes on the Shadow servant
Having failed miserably during the first two times, there is no let-up from this team. Wildfire joins Superboy for a double header.
Anti-matter energy and heat vision take on the Shadow servant
Sweet victory is within reach at last! But just at that moment, the Orion servant strikes!
The Orion servant shreds Phantom Girl's outfit
With that move, and having the power object in hand (that orb thing he's holding), the Orion servant makes a fast getaway with the Shadow servant close on his heels. But the Invisible Kid prevents "her" from escaping while Superboy administers the coup de grace.
The Shadow servant is defeated (for now)
This Shadow servant, as you might imagine, will be scheduled for some kind of interrogation or analysis, but it is the charter members Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy who will deal with "her" next as the servant regains consciousness while in a Legion holding facility.
After a brief struggle, Cosmic Boy is overpowered :
What does that darkness taste like?
Engulfed by the dark, Saturn Girl fairs no better :
Saturn Girl out only Lightning Lad remains
It is the electrical powers of Lightning Lad which manage to overcome the Shadow servant :
Lightning Lad overcomes the Shadow servant
Let's see another battle with Orion servant, this time with a different team of Legionnaires. Here they are :
Phantom Girl, Ultraboy, Shadow Lass and Mon-El
This team is only slightly more powerful than the last one with Superboy. I consider Mon-El, a Daxamite, to be in an equal power footing with Superboy, a Kryptonian. I consider Wildfire slightly more powerful than Ultraboy, who can only use one power at a time. Phantom Girl is common to both teams while Shadow Lass has greater offensive capabilities than Invisible Kid.
Before we go into the battle with the Orion servant, let me indulge one of my pet peeves:
Crowd control at Takron-Galtos
The panel above shows Mon-El and Ultraboy flying together and getting control of some prisoners in Takron-Galtos by raising up a makeshift wall of debris. Mon-El can do this, no question. But Ultraboy? Let's see, he can only use one power at a time. Let's assume he's getting flight from his Legion flight ring. So that leaves two powers. If he chooses invulnerability, he won't have the strength to raise up the debris. If it's strength, he's now vulnerable so those sharp rocks should have cut him up. Obviously, he hasn't been cut up, so it has to be invulnerability with Mon-El doing all the strength work. Though formidable, I simply don't think Ultraboy should be treated as being in the same power class as Mon-El and Superboy because of his particular quirk of only being able to use one power at a time.
Ok, back to the fight with the Orion servant. Darkseid's minion takes Ultraboy by surprise :
Ultraboy gets hit
Next, the servant manages to repel Mon-El.
Mon-El is hit
Then both Shadow Lass and Phantom Girl falls :
Shadow Lass and Phantom Girl go down
The two powerhouses recover and manage to give the Orion servant a helping of heat vision and flash vision.
Heat vision + Flash vision
The attack hurts the creature but the Orion servant still manages to escape.
The conclusion is that these servants (Darkside calls them his 'little mockeries') are very powerful. I suppose it would take the entire 25 or so Legionnaires to take them all on with their master Darkseid.
Speaking of Darkseid he has been absorbing the power of every object his servants bring him, but that is not enough. The next stage sees Darkseid absorbing the power of two major Legion villains:
The Time Trapper
Both these villains get there energy absorbed into that huge, evil battery known as Darkseid
There are more battles between the servants and the Legion throughout the Great Darkness story arc but I'd like to focus on my favorite Legionnaire, Wildfire, as he hands out some wup-ass to some of the most formidable foes in the United Planets.
Here's Wildfire taking on all the servants on his own!
This is how to do it
Not even Superboy or Mon-El can claim taking them all on alone. In the end, Wildfire does get blasted by the Orion servant, but that's just Wildfire's suit - the sentient energy that is Wildfire is unkillable.
Now back to Darkseid, you'd think that after sating himself on the energies of some power objects and super-foes this guy would be happy. Nope. He's only just begun. What he does next will not only call the survival of the Legion and the U.P. into question, its effects would be felt long after the events of the Great Darkness.
Enter Daxam. Mon-El's home planet. Darkseid unleashes the latent potential of each Daxamite, billions of them, while he controls their minds. By latent potential I mean that each Daxamite becomes a Superman-class emissary under orders from Darkseid. Darkseid is now in possession of billions of Supermen. Suddenly the Anti-Monitor doesn't look so tough.
This is the point when I realize that the Legion, many and powerful as they are, cannot win through sheer power alone. I mean, they're barely succeeding against Darkseid's minions, now this. The Daxamites begin to attack the United Planets and the crisis is at an all-time high.
Daxam becomes a planet of Supermen under the control of Darkseid
The panel above shows the powerful Daxamites as Darkseid's slaves. Somebody tell Thor that his wardrobe has been raided.
Because of the crisis the mystics of Sorcerer's World hold a ritual of sorts to ask the strange powers they worship for aid. So intense is the ritual that one of their number dies during the rite. In answer to their request for a solution they are given a child:
Help against Darkseid
This child, coming from nowhere, begins growing at an excessively fast rate. He once again reminds me of Crisis on Infinite Earths where the baby Alexander Luthor also arrives, is subject to a fast rate of growth, and plays a role in the eventual defeat of the Anti-Monitor.
Anyway, the child will grow and reveal himself to be Izaya, Darkseid's counterpart among the New Gods. This panel from the concluding issue 294 shows things clearly :
Orion, Izaya and Darkseid
This panel is pretty much a Kirby panel, featuring characters created by Jack Kirby for the DC Universe - the 'New Gods' universe is a whole mythos that makes the DC Universe all the more richer. This also explains the dedication in page 1 of issue 294 : "Dedicated to Jack Kirby with Respect and Thanks". It's great to see the King of Comics so honored.
So, yes, this puts an end to Darkseid's bid vs. the United Planets. But he isn't permanently defeated, just vanquished. From here on end, Darkseid is part of the 30th century.
A Word About Keith Giffen's Art
That is, you get both kinds of Giffen art. What do I mean by both kinds you say? Well, just like Jack Kirby and John Romita Jr., Keith Giffen "transitioned" as an artist. He changed his style of drawing making it more abstract, more dynamic. One of the treats of this collection is you will be able to see the transition. Giffen uses his 'old' style up until issue 306. Here's a sample of that style
Giffen art before issue 307
From issue 307 onwards Giffen showcases his new style :
Giffen art from 307 onwards
Annual 2 is drawn by Dave Gibbons, famed Watchmen artist. Annual 3 is by Curt Swan (Superman) and Romeo Tanghal (Teen Titans). Issue 300 is an anniversary issue and you'll get to see a whole slew of past Legion artists. Three issues have backup stories by other artists : 308, 309, and 311. My favorite is Gene Colan from 311
Gene Colan's Dawnstar
Even with this boatload of guest artists, the majority of the collection is drawn by the incredible Keith Giffen.
Paul Levitz, Storyteller of the Legion
The overall effect of the collection is that of a series of short stories weaving in and out of each other, drawing the reader deeper into Legion lore. This in contrast to collections that feature one overarching storyline. Here's a synopsis of the stories in the collection divided according to issue :
297 : This issue showcases Cosmic Boy. An action pack issue that has him demonstrating his magnetic powers. It also highlights the character of this Legion charter member. Cosmic Boy fans will love this issue.
298 : This issue has two major storylines. One features a Legion team led by Wildfire as they investigate a murder in an asteroid mining colony. The other story features a throwdown between Legionnaire Colossal Boy and Duplicate Boy, mightiest of the Heroes of Lallor.
299 : The mining colony adventure began last issue wraps up in this one as the White Witch shows just how powerful she is. Plus we have the mysterious return of the long dead Legionnaire - the Invisible Kid.
300 : One thing about anniversary issues is that they are easy to predict. Everybody is celebrating then some super-villains attack. Right? Wrong! Levitz takes us to the celebration but its a peaceful one. What we get is salvation courtesy of the uber-smart Brainiac 5.
301 : This issue showcases Chameleon boy as he goes back to Durla in a bid to get his powers back. The story of Durla is a must for anybody interested in Legion lore. Very tight, wonderful scripting in this issue.
302 : The villainous Lightning Lord goes on a rampage.
303 : A straightforward action issue as the Emerald Empress takes on a Legion team.
Annual 2 : The wedding of Karate Kid and Princess Projectra plus Legionnaires stuck in planet Earth during ancient times.
304 : Take a peak at the Legion Academy.
305 : An imposter has taken the place of Shrinking Violet. Some of the best Colossal Boy action panels are here.
306 : Spotlight on Star Boy. Gorgeous cover and a virtual review of the classic Adventure Comics stories.
307 to 310 : The only multi-issue story arc in the collection is the beginning of Giffen's new art style. It also pits the Legion against the impossibly powerful Omen and his impossibly annoying herald, the Prophet. Nail-biting suspense as the Legion is outmatched.
311 : How Brainiac 5 blew up Legion HQ and built it up again. Plus the Gene Colan backup issue focused on Dawnstar.
312 & 313 : A seemingly undetectable blackmailer baffles the Legion in this two issue mystery tale.
Annual 3 : The return of Darkseid (sort of), the birth of the first Legion baby, and the threat of Mordru.
Story Highlights: issues 297 and 304
297 : Mettle
For all Cosmic Boy lovers out there, this is the issue for you : Spotlight on Cosmic Boy.
Right from the page one splash page we get a demonstration of just how powerful Cosmic Boy's magnetics are. Here he is holding back a starship!
I've never seen magnetic powers better rendered than Giffen's way of doing it.
Cosmic Boy doesn't only pull down the ship. He rips it apart.
Inside the ship are three terrorists who put Cosmic Boy's family in the hospital. He explains how he is able to pull them out.
I'm not even going to ask whether blood has enough iron for magnetics or if its possible to move the body around using it. Just enjoy the comic, man. Before Rokk (Cosmic Boy's real name) becomes a murderer his girlfriend stops him.
This is Night Girl from the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
Ok, that needs some explaining. The Legion of Substitute Heroes is a group formed by a bunch of, well, Legion rejects. They got rejected because of 'insufficient powers'. Nonetheless, its a free United Planets, so the Substitute Heroes continue to operate and lend a hand from time to time. Night Girl is a founding member. She has super strength. We're talking Superman-level strength here, but, yes, but, only at night or in deep shadow. Awesome power, awesome weakness, Night Girl deserves a limited series.
When Cosmic Boy finally wakes up, he realizes what happened and hugs Night Girl for stopping him. There are just some moments when we are not in control. Today I was in one of those malls were there was just no parking space. My family was with me and I made some wrong decisions and lost a precious parking slot to another driver. My entire family ripped into me, really talking me down. But I've been around a long time, and I realized that it really wasn't them talking; it was the out of control emotion. There are just moments when our mind plus our emotions combine and make us talk or act in a way that we wouldn't if we calmed down and really looked at the situation. I advised them to be patient and we found parking a few minutes later.
Now we get a flashback to the origin of Cosmic Boy. Amazingly, there really isn't any origin. Everybody on his planet, Braal, has magnetic powers! The next question is what makes Cosmic Boy so special. The slightly lame answer is that he is a bit more powerful than the average Braalan - at least I'm hoping the average Braalan can't take down and rip apart a starship. But really, an entire planet of people with magnetic powers?
Oh yeah, Cosmic Boy mentions one other thing just as crazy. In Braal they have a five generation recession. That's just so insane its funny.
The flashback also shows the first Legion Headquarters. The clubhouse that looks like the bottom half of an upside down rocket - very Golden Age.
Then we have this great snapshot of the early Legion.
Cosmic Boy then visits his parents and brother, victims of a nuclear explosion. He's not allowed to go to the intensive care unit; an occasion were we get to see him magnetically break electronic locks.
Rokk soon learns that his Mom has died. Once again the rage takes over and we get to see yet another use of his power - flight. It turns out flying by utilizing a planets magnetic waves is faster than via Legion Flight Ring.
What's about to happen is that Cosmic Boy really is about to kill his Mom's murderers; then some Legion members arrive. They are about to stop him but Sunboy does something brilliant: He tells the others to leave Cosmic Boy alone. Not because Sunboy wants him to kill, but because Sunboy realizes that Cosmic Boy has to face this on his own - Cosmic Boy needs to know who he is in the face of this. I'm shocked. Isn't Sunboy supposed to be a bit of an airhead? Anyway. . . I was watching Suze Orman's show a while back and she was talking to a Mom who kept giving her thirty-something daughter financial assistance and Suzie was like, you have to stop doing this Mommy, you have to let your daughter face this on her own and grow. This Cosmic Boy situation is exactly the same thing.
Here's the final decision
And here's how Rokk feels about that decision of his
I'm very satisfied about how this issue not only gives us the story but manages to showcase the many ways Cosmic Boy can utilize his powers. Compared to the other Legionnaires I'm placing Rokk's power levels right under the big guns : Mon El, Ultraboy and Superboy. I'm still bothered by his entire planet having the same power he does though. Somebody retcon this one in the DCU.
304 : Siege Perilous
Decades before Avengers Academy we have the Legion Academy. Its purpose is to train up future Legionnaires.
Let's look at that cover. The purple-skinned guy front and center is Power Boy, Jed Rikane. His power is super-strength and super-toughness. He stayed in the Academy for many years after which he worked as a security guard in Takron-Galtos, the notorious prison planet.
Jumping up from the water beside him is Lamprey, Tayla Scott. Tayla will also eventually be part of the security team at Takron Galtos. She can breath underwater and can control electricity by storing or projecting it out.
The girl flying in the upper right is Laurel Kent. Thought to be the 30th century direct descendant of Clark Kent and inheritor of Superman's invincibility. It was later revealed that Laurel was a Manhunter robot from the 20th century. manhunters typically look like this:
So Laurel makes it in my book as the sexiest Manhunter of all time. Going back to her stint at the Academy, she's been around a long time, having joined together with Dawnstar.
Next up is the guy in pink. That's Pol Krinn, Magnetic Kid II, wearing his brother's, Cosmic Boy's old uniform. Born with magnetic powers like his brother (and the rest of their people), Pol would become a full-fledged Legionnaire (this is both nepotism and a violation of the legion rule forbidding members with the same powers) but would die in the line of duty.
The blue ball, if you didn't know already, is the galaxy-famous Bouncing Boy, full fledged Legionnaire and Academy teacher.
Ok, let's dive into the issue.
The issue opens with a meeting. There's a lot of gabbing but one important gem comes out: With the resignations of the newly married Karate Kid and Princess Projectra (I don't care what they say, I love the funky Legion names), there is an opening in the Legion, so every Academy member has a shot.
We've got some Academy students here that I haven't mentioned yet. Here's Shadow Kid II.
Shadow Kid has the power to create and manipulate darkness. You know the obvious team-up partner for him? Night Girl of the Legion of Substitute Heroes. Night Girl has the strength of Superman only at night or in shadow. Shadow kid can create shadow. Perfect team-up. Anyway, Shadow Kid is Shadow Lass' cousin. There can be no duplication of powers in the Legion as per the Legion charter so Shadow Kid knows he doesn't have a chance at membership.
And here's Nightwind.
Nightwind can create and control winds.
Then lastly, Crystal Kid.
Crystal Kid can change things to crystal and create crystal constucts. He's the male version of the Teen Titan's Kole.
Both Nightwind and Crystal Kid are the creations of Legion fans from the 70s.
Ok, now we have Wildfire coming in and saying that White Witch and Invisible Kid need a bit more training so they'll be joining up with the Academy for a while. Both of these new Legionnaires got in immediately, no Legion Academy stint necessary - the Legionnaires were out on a mission and they drafted these two. So everybody's like "Hi!" "Hello!". I don't buy it. Think about it. These Academy trainees are busting there asses and taking flak just for the chance of getting into the Legion and White Witch and Invisible Kid got in just like that? They've gotta hate these two!
Ah, the heck with that. Some action at last. First mission: Power Boy, Laurel Kent, White Witch, Invisible Kid II and Bouncing Boy respond to a Science Police request to contain some animals in a busted zoo ship.
There are three creatures; all of them are gigantic. One of the animals, a Flasher, takes out trainee Power Boy.
Invisible Kid comes in for an assist. I love how Giffen did this panel to 'show' us Invisible Kid.
Now the White Witch, she's always standing around looking mystical so its nice to see this fantastic spell : Feedback Spell - deflects an opponents powers back to the opponent. What else do you need?
After the fight, we encounter yet more Academy students. Here's Comet Queen.
Comet Queen has super-speed and can emit noxious comet gases (maybe this is just a polite way of saying something else). Anyway, she never made it into the Legion but became a member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
Okay, up until this moment, this comic should have been titled "Legion Academy" (actually, they should have done that comic). But now, we have some Legionnaires in action!
Does this look remind you of somebody?
And my absolute favorite Legionnaire: Wildfire!
I love the energy power but Wildfire is a truly tragic legionnaire. He's a formless energy being. This wouldn't be so bad except he's got the hots for Dawnstar (who wouldn't?). It's enough to make him explode with frustration (who wouldn't?)
To end this excellent issue the Legionnaires debated for three hours who among the Academy should join. The verdict: No one because no one's ready yet.