Retro Reviews: L.E.G.I.O.N.’92 #40 – L.E.G.I.O.N.’93 #60 By Barry Kitson, Mark Waid & Others For DC Comics

L.E.G.I.O.N.’92 #40-47, L.E.G.I.O.N.‘93 #48-60, L.E.G.I.O.N.’92 Annual #3, and L.E.G.I.O.N.’93 Annual #4

Written by Barry Kitson (#40-50, 52-55, 57-60, Annual #3), Mark Waid (#49-50, 52-60, Annual #4), Alan Grant (#50-51)

Pencilled by Barry Kitson (#40-43, 46-47, 49-55, 57), Rod Ramos (#44-45), Dan Lawlis (#48), Denis Rodier (#50), Enrique Alcatena (#51), Scott Kolins (#52), Val Semeiks (#56), Stephen Jones (#58, 60), Chris Hunter (#58), Arnie Jorgensen (#59), Mike McKone (Annual #3-4), and Tom Tenney (Annual #4)

Inked by Robin Smith (#40-43, 46-47, 49-50, 56-58), Jimmy Palmiotti (#43, Annual #3), Shephard Hendrix (#44-45), Matt Banning (#44-45), Denis Rodier (#45, 50), Romeo Tanghal (#46), Ande Parks (#48), John Stokes (#50, 53-55, 57, 60), Enrique Alcatena (#51), Frank Percy (#52), James Pascoe (#59), Dennis Cramer (#60), John Dell (Annual #3), Jack Torrance (Annual #3), Peter Gross (Annual #3), Bob Smith (Annual #3), Scott Hanna (Annual #4), Andrew Pepoy (Annual #4), Mark McKenna (Annual #4), and Tom McQueeney (Annual #4)

Spoilers (from twenty-two to twenty-three years ago)

This batch of issues of L.E.G.I.O.N. make up the era after writer Alan Grant left the book, when original series artist Barry Kitson was more or less the showrunner, writing and drawing the book on his own, and then was then joined by co-writer and scripter Mark Waid.

The tone and focus of this book moved more towards space-based superheroics during this run, with less emphasis on characterization and the squabbling that fueled this book from its very beginning.  The large cast became a bit of a problem during this run, as many key characters disappeared for issues at a time, and many long-running plotlines built around character relationships were left abandoned.  It’s easy to assume that either Kitson or Waid disliked characters like Captain Comet, as they were more or less left out of the book for much of the second year these writers worked together.  Similarly, after being given an excellent issue where he was the focus (written by Alan Grant as a one-off), Telepath was barely seen again.

With a book as full as this one, it’s helpful to keep track of the cast:

  • Vril Dox (Coluan ancestor to Brainiac 5; manipulative leader of the organization)
  • Garryn Bek (Cairnian; possessor of the Emerald Eye)
  • Strata (Dryadian, possible ancestor of Blok?)
  • Stealth (race unnamed)
  • Lobo (Czarnian; psychotic)
  • Lydea Mallor (Talokian; artificially aged daughter of L.E.G.I.O.N. founder)
  • Phase (time-lost amnesiac Phantom Girl from the Legion of Super-Heroes; second-in-command)
  • Garv (race unknown; quits in #50, appears as Masked Avenger in #56)
  • Telepath (Zsiglonian)
  • Marij’n Bek (Cairnian)
  • Lady Tashana Quark (race unknown)
  • Captain Comet (Adam Blake, Human)
  • Bertron Diib (race unknown; killed in #58)
  • A.I.-II/Darius (human cyborg; quits in #55)
  • Amon Hakk (Khundian)
  • Zena Moonstruk (race unknown)
  • Borb Borbb (race unknown)
  • Davroth Catto (Ozimanian)
  • Dox and Stealth’s son (reappears in #41, moves to Cairn in #49)
  • Lyrissa Mallor (Talokian, deceased; appears in ghost form to defend her daughter Lydea in #55)
  • Layla (race unknown, only appears in Annual #4 as part of core team)

Let’s look at the events of this series in more detail, with some commentary as I go along:

  • Strata and Stealth lead a group of the recruits to the planet Enballinn, where the isolationist race the Kyaltecs have been making use of their mining rights.  One of the Kyaltecs have killed the daughter of a local L.E.G.I.O.N. agent.  They refuse to extradite the guilty party, but when the L.E.G.I.O.N.naires attack their mining vessel, they give the guy up (secretly, Dox has been negotiating for this to happen at the same time).
  • On Cairn, Phase and Garryn Bek have been working to reorganize the structure of L.E.G.I.O.N., putting the main cast members in a variety of key roles.
  • Bek reluctantly gives Captain Comet his permission to pursue Marij’n, the wife he married under false pretenses.
  • Lady Quark hallucinates seeing her lost lover, Lord Volt.
  • Dox sends Quark and Garv on a mission to investigate a large vessel that is very well-shielded. They are trapped there, but later freed by Stealth and much of the core cast; it turns out that the living vessel is the nursery where Stealth has hidden her child.  We learn about the creature’s recent history.
  • L.E.G.I.O.N. is brought to the planet Arga-Prime, where the people have begun to violently protest their government.  Dox believes that he is working with a democratically-elected, legal government, but we learn this is not the case.  A large number of L.E.G.I.O.N.naires are killed in a battle, and Amon Hakk is taken prisoner by the rebels.
  • The rulers of the planet plan to kill Dox and the rebel leader when they meet to return Hakk and to discuss the rebels’ grievances.
  • Phase infiltrates the ruling class’ computers, and learns of their plans to kill Dox, and the complicity of all the native L.E.G.I.O.N.naires.  Dox already suspected this and had a plan in place to flush out any traitors.  L.E.G.I.O.N. sides with the rebels, and the recruits end the siege of government buildings, taking the ruling council into custody.
  • Lady Quark has another hallucination, this one coinciding with one of Captain Comet’s headaches.
  • The ruling council of Arga-Prime have released a virus into the planet’s oceans, which will cause the death of everyone on the planet once it begins to rain.  While the powered team members try to maintain the rapidly decaying social structure on the planet, Dox and Marij’n try to find a way to stop the virus.
  • Captain Comet suffers another headache, and it becomes clear that whatever’s going on in his head may be killing him.  Later, we learn that he’s been possessed by something that wants to have sex with Lady Quark.
  • Dox makes it rain on Argus-Prime, but that’s just to forestall the virus-laden rain that will soon come.
  • L.E.G.I.O.N., aided by Green Lantern Hal Jordan, begins to evacuate the Argites.  Unrest persists on the planet, but they are able to get everyone off-world before the rains fall, in a large convoy of ships provided by other worlds.
  • The creature possessing Comet continues to try to impregnate Lady Quark, but Dox is able to work up a solution involving a pile of bio-matter with Quark’s DNA while the team’s heavy hitters keep Comet busy.
  • Dox talks the creature down after it creates itself a new body out of the bio-matter.  It flees, punching a hole in the L.E.G.I.O.N. cruiser, which is in the middle of the Argite evacuation fleet.
  • Pursuing the creature, Lobo runs into one of Hal Jordan’s ring constructs, wrecking his bike.  He then attacks Jordan, who has to maintain his various constructs in order to keep thousands of Argites alive.  Eventually, Telepath convinces Lobo to stand down, by impersonating Dox telepathically, after the L.E.G.I.O.N. leader falls unconscious.
  • We meet a mixed-race family of Argites who, through the death of the parents, convince an Argite scientist to not use the remaining vial of the virus to kill everyone when they arrive at their new home, Cairn.
  • In the 1992 Annual, which tied in to the Eclipso: The Darkness Within saga, the core L.E.G.I.O.N. team comes to Earth, ostensibly on a goodwill mission to meet with the UN.  In reality, Dox is looking from one of the Black Diamonds (which, he doesn’t know, give Eclipso the ability to possess its holder).  He finds it, but it possesses first Lobo, then Lady Quark.
  • The team, with the help of some of the Justice League, are able to hold their own, but Quark takes off, still possessed.  This story is completed elsewhere in this event.
  • Stealth and Amon Hakk go undercover in an effort to break up a trafficking operation, with Telepath and Lobo providing support.  When it becomes clear that Telepath can’t read the targets’ minds to find out where the ring is operated from, Stealth allows herself to be sold.
  • It turns out that Ig’nea, a former recruit, Dox’s ex, and the inheritor of Max G’Odd’s criminal empire is behind this plot, and she uses her abilities to discover the whereabouts of Stealth and Dox’s baby, and then abducts the baby to use as a bargaining chip against Dox, demanding he exchange himself for the child as her prisoner.  Ig’nea has put together a large group of powered individuals as her own team, including her father’s former pet, and she seemingly kills Stealth on-screen during her negotiations.
  • Garv expresses his growing distaste for working for L.E.G.I.O.N., while Captain Comet, now in a regular trooper’s uniform, breaks things off with Marij’n, mostly becasue for as long as he’s been in this comic, he’s been under the control of the energy alien from before.
  • The team flies to the world where Ig’nea has agreed to meet Dox.  While he goes after his son, the rest of the team fights Ig’nea’s squad in a swamp; Darius is badly damaged, leaving only his head intact.  Eventually the team is able to stop their enemies, allowing the last remaining few to flee.
  • Dox manages to revive Stealth, and the two of them fight Ig’nea.
  • In exchange for the baby, the team allows Ig’nea to flee.  Dox acts like he’s going to keep the child away from Stealth, but then has a change of heart after thinking about his own childhood.
  • Garv quits the team.
  • Issue 50 has a strange back-up story imagining how a L.E.G.I.O.N. comic would have worked in 1967.
  • Issue 51 is a fill-in issue by original series co-writer Alan Grant (with terrific artwork by Enrique Alcatena).  Lobo, Telepath, and their prisoner are stranded on an asteroid after Lobo’s bike has broken down, and to pass the time, he forces Telepath to tell his life story, which involves him betraying his hive to try to gain passage off his homeworld, resulting in Dagon-Ra killing his people and taking him prisoner.  This reminds me that Telepath was always originally shown as a reluctant member of L.E.G.I.O.N. under Grant, but since Kitson has taken over, that aspect of his character has not been remarked upon.
  • The Recruits try to figure out a way to fix Darius, their cybernetic friend, but are annoyed to find that Lobo has stolen his head to attach it to the front of his motorcycle.  Bertron, the giant rock guy fights Lobo, until Dox stops them and sends the Recruits to a distant planet to look for Darius’s creator.
  • A mysterious man infiltrates L.E.G.I.O.N. HQ, looking for Lydea Darkstar.  He fights his way through some guards and Phase before finding Lydea and revealing himself to be her father.
  • Lydea’s father convinces Phase to take a L.E.G.I.O.N. contingent to Talok VIII because an insane priest has been sacrificing infants in an effort to replace Lydea as the planet’s champion.  While there, Lydea manifests her power the way her mother always did, but there is still a threat in the cave where new champions are tested.
  • The Recruits arrive on the planet that Darius was built on, and find it to be a very strange place.  They are attacked, until the robotic beings coming at them recognize Darius’s head.
  • They that Darius was built by some guy named Mardok, who then tried to build more sophisticated computer life.  When that failed, he expelled his rejects, which then tried the same thing, creating a city of concentric circles, with each ring being less advanced.  Darius is seen as a protector and father figure to them all.  When they turn him back on, he agrees that Mardok should be stopped.
  • On Talok VIII, Lydea, Phase, Strata, and Lady Quark fight the Shadow God, which is a multi-tentacled thing.  Lydea enters its cave to try to stop it according to her people’s’ customs, and finds the spirits of her ancestors, who want to judge her for her role in her mother’s death.
  • Darius leads the robots of Acheron in a rebellion, and confronts Mardok, ultimately killing him, to the horror of some of his Recruit friends.  Darius chooses to remain on the planet to help usher his people to a life of free choice.
  • In the Shadow Cave, Lydea meets the spirit of her mother, Lyrissa, who defends her in front of her other ancestors, thereby confirming that Lydea is the new champion of Talok VIII.
  • Someone has been killing L.E.G.I.O.N. officers on Cairn, by flattening them with large spheres.  The officer in charge of investigating does not want to involve Dox or the others in this case, as he is concerned with his own promotion.
  • Strata is called in on the case and discovers that the killer is Jiv Reddu, a possible ancestor of Bouncing Boy.  He wants revenge on Strata for washing him out of the academy and laughing at him, so he’s been killing her other academy students.  In the fight, Strata is assisted by the Masked Avenger, who is obviously Garv, but no one seems able to figure that out.
  • The Trinity cross-over event had the L.E.G.I.O.N. come together with the Darkstars and the Green Lantern Corps (or at least, just Hal Jordan).  The event, which ran eight chapters, was bookended by the Trinity mini-series, and also took place in Green Lantern and Darkstars.
  • The first L.E.G.I.O.N. comic in the crossover is chapter three, and it doesn’t do much to fill in the backstory (nor can I find very detailed synopses on the Internet).  The book opens with three gigantic god-like creatures (the Triarch) creating destruction on the planet Maltus, while Dox tries to stop Hal Jordan from doing anything about it.
  • L.E.G.I.O.N. fights the Triarch and tries to rescue civilians, while Dox has Lobo and Comet fight Jordan.
  • Dox calls in the Darkstars to fight against Jordan so he can focus his forces on stopping the Triarch from wrecking things for reasons I don’t understand.  I also don’t understand why Dox doesn’t want GL help, or why the Darkstars and the GLC have beef.  Like I said, nothing is explained here.
  • In the sixth chapter of Trinity, the L.E.G.I.O.N. and engaged in a three-way battle with the Darkstars and the Green Lantern Corps, while the Triarch continue to wreck the planet Maltus.  It doesn’t seem like much has happened in the two chapters I haven’t read since the last issue of L.E.G.I.O.N.
  • Dox gets the history of the Triarch, who aren’t gods, but are instead regular people enhanced by a Controller to believe that they are gods.
  • Captain Comet and Hal Jordan work out a truce, so that all three teams can take the fight to the Triarch, who in turn pool their resources to kill more people.
  • Bertron Diib spends the issue rescuing folk and telling them he is impervious, right up until the moment when a powerful blast from the combined Triarch kill him.
  • Lobo hooks up with Boodikka, mostly off-panel.
  • Trinity doesn’t appear to have any lasting effect on the comic, aside from killing off a mostly superfluous Diib.
  • A faction of the core team is sent to the planet Dexll, a new L.E.G.I.O.N. client, where residents are complaining that the appearance of a new race of people, called the ‘Phantoms’ who have abilities like Phase’s, have been making friends with their children and influencing them.
  • The team check out the Phantom’s circus, where one of them, who overheard Phase talking to Stealth, manipulates Phase into thinking that she is one of them.
  • Later, the children of the planet start to become phantoms themselves, and stream into their circus.
  • The long-dormant plotline about the love triangle involving Comet, Marij’n, and Bek, finally gets some screen time again, but is left unresolved.
  • Dox is surprised to learn that his as-yet unnamed child can speak in full sentences.
  • Phase learns that the phantoms have been reluctantly working for a demon named Bhargast, who steals childhood from children, aging them, and leaving with the abilities that the Phantoms have.
  • Phase fights him, and is joined by the Phantoms.   After Bhargast is killed, the Phantoms decide to remain in his dimension.  At the end, we learn that the guy Phase has been talking to is named Bgztl, which Legion of Super-Heroes fans would recognize is the name of Phase’s homeworld in her own era, where she was known as Phantom Girl.
  • In 1993 the Annual cross-over was Bloodlines, which had stupid-looking gigantic parasite creatures trying to feed off people, with the result being that some of them became very lame new heroes.  Each Annual was supposed to launch a new character, and a few of them stuck around for a little while, but Hitman was the only one that ever got his own book.
  • Layla was apparently introduced in the Lobo Annual, which kicked off the event.  When the L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual opened, the core team, buttressed by Layla and a group of pirate-sounding dudes who are never introduced or explained, were entering an odd dimension where the Bloodline parasites have come from.
  • In this dimension they meet Pax, the only survivor of his dimension, and they fight the parasites, eventually destroying the dimensional rift that has allowed them to come to the main DC Universe.
  • Pax, who has bonded some with Lady Quark over their similarities, comes with them but I don’t believe he is ever seen again.

One thing I noticed about this run is that the story arcs became much longer, more similar to the ‘written for the trade’ style of today, and I think that’s largely why so many plotlines were abandoned.  A prime example of this is the Arga-Prime arc, which lasted too long.

As the series became less character-driven, the storylines did focus more on policing in space, although we continued to cycle through familiar adversaries, such as when Ig’nea returned to mess with Dox and Stealth.  That arc resulted in Stealth’s son coming to live on Cairn, yet he was almost never shown in the book, and weirdly never named.

Barry Kitson’s art on this title continued to be very nice, although the constant churn of inkers left things looking a little inconsistent.  The various guest artists who filled in from time to time (especially when the book went bi-weekly each summer), with the very notable exception of Enrique Alcatena, were not very impressive.  I remember liking Arnie Jorgensen’s work when I first read it, but his issue here is really pretty terrible.  He became the main artist in the next batch I’m going to review, and now I’m a little nervous that his style hasn’t held up, and I’m not going to enjoy it very much.

There are some very good comics in this pile, but by the time Kitson and Waid moved on, the book was not working all that well.  The cross-over with Green Lantern and the Darkstars felt a little desperate, and my love for the book was definitely waning.  Things have fallen far from the earliest issues of the title, when Keith Giffen was involved and the book felt like it had a lot of potential.  At the same time, these comics were being published in the mid-90s and were readable, which in itself is impressive.

If you’re interested in reading my first two articles about the L.E.G.I.O.N., you can find them here:

#1-12

#13-39

Next time we’l look at the end of this series, up to the point where Zero Hour had the series re-launched.

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