The Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 3) #1-16 , Annual #1 (August 1984 – November 1985)
Written by Paul Levitz (#1-16)
Co-Plotted by Keith Giffen (#1-5)
Designed by Keith Giffen (#3-5)
Pencilled by Keith Giffen (#1-2, 11, Annual #1), Steve Lightle (#3-5, 7-10, 12-14, 16), Joe Orlando (#6), Ernie Colón (#11-12), Greg LaRocque (#15)
Inked by Larry Mahlstedt (#1-6, 8-15, Annual #1), Mike DeCarlo (#7, Annual #1), Karl Kesel (#11, Annual #1), Mike Machlan (#12), Bob Smith (#16), Ernie Colón (Annual #1), Steve Mitchell (Annual #1)
Colour by Carl Gafford (#1-16)
Spoilers (from thirty-four to thirty-five years ago)
In the mid-80s, DC started to experiment with better paper, and putting comics out through the direct market only. They took one of their best-selling comics, The Legion of Super-Heroes, and gave it this format, and the difference in quality was striking. The better paper really showed off the strong colours, and made the book feel even more special.
At the beginning, Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen continued their collaboration, which began with the Great Darkness Saga, and saw the Legion become a total powerhouse. Their run, once Giffen began co-plotting, was exciting and groundbreaking, and juggled an absolutely massive team in such a way that every character got some important moments, just not every issue.
I didn’t start reading this book until around issue 45, so my memories of these issues came from hunting down back issues, and reading the series out of sequence. I’m excited to see how they read in order for the first time. I know that Giffen didn’t stick around for long, but that gave space for some amazing other artists like Steve Lightle and Greg Laroque to put their stamp on the book, with regular returns by Giffen.
I’m excited to just get into these books.
Let’s track who turned up in the title:
The Legion of Super-Heroes
- Dream Girl (Nura Nal; #1-7, 9-12, 14-16)
- Star Boy (Thom Kallor; #1-5, 7, 9-11, 13-16)
- Colossal Boy (Gim Allon; #1-5, 7, 9-11, 14-16, Annual #1)
- Mon-El (Lar Gand; #1-5, 7-11, 13-16)
- Shadow Lass (Tasmia Mallor; #1-5, 7-11, 13-16)
- Chameleon Boy (Reep Daggle; #1-11, 14, 16, Annual #1)
- Timber Wolf (Brin Londo; #1-3, 5, 7, 9-15)
- Ultra Boy (Jo Nah; #1-11, 13-14, 16)
- Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby; #1-11, 13-16, Annual #1)
- Light Lass/Lightning Lass (Ayla Ranzz; as Light Lass #1-3, as Lightning Lass #4-11, 14, 16)
- Wildfire (Drake Burroughs; #2-3, 6-12, 14-16)
- Dawnstar (#2-5, 11-12, 14-16)
- Element Lad (Jan Arrah; #2-16)
- Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn; #2-4, 6-12, 14-15)
- The White Witch (Mysa Nal; #2-5, 7-11, 13-14, 16)
- Phantom Girl (Tinya Wazzo; #2-14 16)
- Blok (#2-3, 5, 7-14, 16)
- Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen-Ranzz; #2-3, 10-12, 14, 16)
- Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz; #2-3, 10-12, 14, 16)
- Queen Projectra (#2-5)
- Karate Kid (Val Armorr; #2-4)
- Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox; #3-5, 11-12, 14-16, Annual #1)
- Sun Boy (Dirk Morgna; #3-5, 7, 9-16)
- Duo Damsel (Luornu Durgo; #4, 14)
- Bouncing Boy (Chuck Taine; #4, 9, 11-12, 14, 16)
- Invisible Kid (Jacques Foccart; #6-11, 13-14, 16)
- Superboy (Clark Kent; #11-12)
- Tellus (#14-16)
- Magnetic Kid (Pol Krinn; #14-16, Annual #1)
- Polar Boy (Brekk Bannin; #14-16)
- Quislet (#14-16)
- Sensor Girl (#14-16)
- Lightning Lord (Legion of Super-Villains; #1-6)
- Micro Lad (Legion of Super-Villains; #1, 5, 8)
- Radiation Roy (Legion of Super-Villains; #1-5)
- Ol-Vir (Legion of Super-Villains; #1-5)
- Ron-Karr (Legion of Super-Villains; #1-5)
- Sun Emperor (Legion of Super-Villains; #1-5, 8)
- Lazon (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5)
- Magno Lad (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5)
- Titania (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5)
- Cosmic King (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5, 8)
- Spider Girl (Legion of Super-Villains; #2, 4-5, 8)
- Esper Lass (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5)
- Neutrax (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5, 8)
- Chameleon Chief (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5, 8)
- Mist Master (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5)
- Silver Slasher (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5)
- Zymyr (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-6)
- Tyr (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5)
- Terrus (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-5)
- Hunter (Legion of Super-Villains; #2-4)
- Nemesis Kid (Legion of Super-Villains; #3-5)
- The Armorer (#7-8)
- Ghorbak (Khund; #10)
- Khidrack (Khund; #10)
- Steggus (#13)
- Gorax (#13)
- Myg (#13)
- Leland McCauley (#13)
- Charon (#13)
- Ontiir (Dark Circle; #14)
- Doctor Regulus (#15)
- Polar Boy (Legion of Substitute Heroes; #4)
- Fire Lad (Legion of Substitute Heroes; #4)
- Energy Boy (#14)
- Mentalla (Delya Castil; #14)
- Dev-Em (#14)
- Don Allen (Annual #1)
- Dawn Allen (Annual #1)
- Yera Allon (#1, 9-10, 16)
- Computo (#1, 7, 9, 13, 15)
- Shvaughn Erin (Science Police Legion Liaison Officer; #2-3, 7-10, 12, 16)
- Gigi Cusimano (Science Police Executive Branch; #2, 5, 8-9, 12)
- Doctor Gym’ll (Medicus-One; #2)
- Night Girl (Lydda Jath, Legion of Substitute Heroes; #3-4, 8, 15)
- RJ Brande (Legion funder; #3, 9, 14)
- Marte Allon (President of Earth; #3, 7, 10)
- Graym Ranzz (son of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl; #3, 10-12, 16)
- Magnetic Kid (Pol Krinn, Legion Academy; #4, 8-9, 12)
- Shadow Kid (Grev Mallor, Legion Academy; #4)
- Laurel Kent (Legion Academy; #4, 8-9, 12, Annual #1)
- Power Boy (Jed Rikane, Legion Academy, #4, 9, 12, 14)
- Comet Queen (Grava, Legion Academy; #4, 8, 11-12, 14)
- Kimball Zendak (Science Police Chief; #7, 9, 11)
- Rond Vidar (Time Institute; #9, 16)
- Ziirf (#9, 13)
- Officer Dvron (#9, 12, 16, Annual #1)
- Tellus (Legion Academy; #9, 12)
- Sensei (#10, 13, 15
- Mojai Desai (President of Earth; #10-11)
- Vid-Gupta (#10)
- Myg (#15)
- Circadia Senius (Chronarch, Time Institute; #16)
- Proty II (#16)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- The series opens with a number of shadowy figures gathered in a spooky castle surrounded by lightning, standing around a stone mosaic featuring all of the symbols of the various Legionnaires (I momentarily thought it might have been a cake). Lightning Lord, the only of these people to be clearly identified, swears to kill his brother, Lightning Lad. Ranzz calls their group the Legion of Super-Villains. On Ventura, Dream Girl and Star Boy continue to enjoy their vacation by gambling (poorly, for a precog), as Nura worries about her vision of a Legionnaire dying. They see some guy and two robots shooting at someone, and go to help out. Their opponent is Micro Lad, robbing the casino to fund his Imskian independence movement. Thom and Nura take out his robots, but Micro Lad shrinks and hides from them. Colossal Boy is moving out of Legion headquarters, so he can have his own place with his wife Yera. Computo deletes him from the directory. Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy, and Timber Wolf have finished their work on Daxam when they receive news that a Daxamite is destroying the prison facilities on Takron-Galtos; Mon-El grabs Shady and takes off at full speed. Micro Lad continues to evade the two regular-sized Legionnaires, but they’ve called in Shrinking Violet, who takes out her anger on him. Just as they are about to arrest him, a teleportation portal opens and he’s pulled away. On Winath, Ayla Ranzz, once Light Lass, hangs out with a friend, enjoying the agrarian paradise that is her world. Someone sees her and says he’s going to report in. As she takes the day’s harvest to processing, she’s attacked by a man who looks like he’s dressed in classic Lex Luthor purple and green. He takes her down, and we see the same teleportation portal take the two of them away. Arriving on Takron-Galtos, the Legionnaires find a big mess. It’s been caused by the kid that fought Chameleon Boy during the Great Darkness Saga; he’s freed many prisoners, and is praying to Darkseid. He offers up one SP as a sacrifice, and kills him before Ultra Boy can save him. Mon-El enters into battle with the kid. As Gim and Yera finish moving into their new place, Gim learns that his mother has resigned as president of the Earth. The guy who saw Ayla makes a report that he’s found her, and sends it to Timber Wolf, who I guess has hired him to do that. As Mon-El fights the kid, who is named Ol-Vir, Ultra Boy fights a bunch of freed prisoners. The others join in, but that same teleportation portal appears in the sky, offering Ol-Vir a place in the Legion of Super-Villains. He happily agrees, and other prisoners are brought through as well. Mon-El tries to fly through but is blocked. The Sun Emperor comes to Lightning Lord to tell him that Ol-Vir, Chameleon Chief, and Ron-Karr have joined them.
- It’s a little hard to keep track of the sheer number of characters in issue two, as the Legion of Super-Villains appears to have more active members than the LSH. Lightning Lord visits the captive Light Lass, trying to get Ayla to join him in his Legion, claiming that the “storm” says so. A trio of Villains (Lazon, Magno Lad, and Titania) are stealing fusion powerspheres, whatever those are, when they are interrupted by Wildfire and Dawnstar. Magno Lad ruptures Drake’s suit, rendering him useless in the fight. Element Lad has warned everyone that the LSV is back, and learns from Shvaughn about the powersphere situation. Dream Girl and Star Boy make their way back towards Earth with Shrinking Violet, who wants to get in on the action. Lazon hurts Dawnstar badly, and she almosts falls, but is saved by the timely arrival of Mon-El and Ultra Boy. They get into the fight, but the Villains teleport away. They, with Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, and Timber Wolf, patch up Dawny and get Wildfire a new suit. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl are on Medicus One, where Imra is now very pregnant (seriously, that was fast!); Cosmic Boy tells them what’s going on, and Garth worries that his brother is involved. On the world that the LSV has taken over, Mekt meets with his Legion, some dozen villains who recreate the painting of the Last Supper. Ol-Vir appears to be a little unhinged, talking about Darkseid until Esper Lass gets him under control. Sun Emperor kills one of their local servants. Element Lad strategizes, and worries that he might not be doing a great job, when he gets an alert. Some of the LSV (Sun Emperor, Radiation Roy, Tyr, and Zymyr, a Gil’Dishpan who has been providing the teleportation support) are stealing the polymer shield that surrounds the Earth, and have taken SP Officer Gigi Cusimano prisoner. Garth, Imra, and Jan attack them, but Imra goes into labor, and the Villains teleport away. Dawnstar leads her squad in tracking the Villains from the powersphere scene, but as they pass some asteroids, Terrus launches a trap. On Medicus One, Garth and Jan wait for word of Imra’s condition; Doctor Gym’ll comes to tell Garth that it’s baby time. Queen Projectra and Karate Kid approach Orando after their long honeymoon vacation, but their ship is attacked as they approach their castle; it would seem that the LSV has taken up residence there. Someone wearing white gloves, who I guess is really in charge of the LSV, gets one of their flight rings, makes reference to having once been a Legionnaire, and twists it, sending the alarm signal to bring the team into their trap.
- Issue three follows closely on Annual #3, which I slotted into the Tales of column. Sadly, Keith Giffen’s art credit is just that of “designer”, which I think means layout. Steve Lightle debuts on art with this issue, as Dawnstar leads a group of Legionnaires off The Sorcerers’ World towards Orando, having learned that the Legion of Super-Villains is there. As they head out, we get a bit of exposition. As they fly, they come through a trap laid by Terrus and Zymyr, which teleports all of them except Dawnstar away. On Earth, the rest of the active Legionnaires, except for Cosmic Boy, board a cruiser, heading to Orando as well. Element Lad kisses Shvaughn Erin goodbye, and then she and Rokk talk about how they feel a little understaffed. Just then Night Girl calls to see if they need help from the Subs. On Orando, Karate Kid and Queen Projectra are being kept unconscious, while Light Lass watches over them. Lightning Lord comes to her, again offering to let her join the LSV. When she says she would rather die, he gets angry and blasts her with his lightning and disowns her. Something has happened to the cruiser that Dream Girl, Star Boy, and Shrinking Violet were on. They are surprised by the Hunter and and Silver Slayer. Nura is also surprised to see the castle on Orando, which she recognizes as the one in her vision of a Legionnaire dying. On Earth, RJ Brande meets with Marte Allon to discuss how she is going to return to teaching. In space close to Orando, the Legionnaires that were teleported by Zymyr are fighting a larger group of Villains. They are doing alright, and then Dawnstar leads the group that Jan was bringing into the fight. We get confirmation that it’s Nemesis Kid leading the LSV (Terrus mentioned him earlier in this issue), and we see that he’s coordinating a group of Villains to place the polyshield around Orando, connected to the fusion powerspheres, so they can teleport the planet away. He gloats, while the two Legions keep fighting. Zymyr wants to teleport away immediately, but Nemesis Kid wants to keep things going for a while longer. Many of the LSV are falling, but so does Timber Wolf. Chameleon Boy turns his fist into what look like the Thing’s to defeat Chameleon Chief. Zymyr insists on starting, and Nemesis Kid agrees. A huge space warp forms, and most of the Villains vanish. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl are on Medicus One talking to Cosmic Boy over vid screen about how he thinks the Legion needs new members. Some Legionnaires are left in space, while others were teleported away. Wildfire bristles at Dream Girl trying to take charge, and then they see the entire planet of Orando teleport away. It appears in another dimension, and Nemesis Kid gloats that the journey he’s going on is halfway finished.
- The LSV gather around a table in their castle on Orando. Tyr is upset that he didn’t get to kill any Legionnaires yet, and lightly challenges Nemesis Kid on his plans, which appear to centre around moving the team to another dimension to find planets to conquer, instead of following up on their earlier pledge. Lightning Lord and Sun Emperor put a stop to Tyr and Chameleon Chief’s bickering, but Nemesis Kid decides to allow some of the Villains to return to kill Legionnaires. Tyr leaves with a group. Eight Legionnaires left in their home dimension try to figure out what to do. Wildfire has gone missing after the last issue of Tales of the Legion, when he disappeared, and we are never shown where Timber Wolf or Blok have gone. Brainiac 5 figures that the LSV has teleported Orando away. Ayla finally comes to after Mekt’s attack, still in her cell. She makes the distorters on her hands explode, freeing herself from her cell. She sees that a group of Legionnaires have been captured – Element Lad, Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, and Shrinking Violet have joined Karate Kid and Projectra in their bonds. Val is awake, but Ayla doesn’t want to free him, figuring that his bonds must have alarms in them. She leaves but he decides to free himself, with Projectra’s encouragement. Tyr’s group flies through the dimensional space in a craft Zymyr gave him, joined by Hunter, Silver Slasher, Terrus, and Titania. It turns out Ayla is on their ship too. The Villains prepare to blast the Legionnaires who are standing around on an asteroid once they return to their dimension, but Ayla shorts out some equipment, frying Tyr, Hunter, and the Silver Slasher. It turns out her lightning powers are back, and she uses them to take out Terrus and Titania too. She can’t figure out how to return to her own universe, but she can return the ship to Orando. Dream Girl contacts Cosmic Boy, who has gathered the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Legion Academy in case the LSV attacks Earth. Karate Kid has freed and revived the prisoners on Orando. They decide they should wreck the powerspheres to stop the LSV’s plans, and since they were shackled with their flight rings (except for Val, who has lost his), they fly up to the polyshield. Val spots Nemesis Kid, and drops down to confront him. When Jan tries to use his powers to wreck a powersphere, Cosmic King blocks him (I’d assumed he’d have magnetic powers, based on his costume and name, but I guess not). He has some other LSV members with him, and they begin to fight. Val and Nemesis Kid fight, and Nemesis Kid is pretty arrogant. The others aren’t faring very well either, with Ol-Vir dropping Ultra Boy. Projectra moves to help Val, but Nemesis Kid is immune to her powers, and starts beating on her. Val rallies and fights harder, but Nemesis Kid gives him a real beating. Val manages to get his ring back from him, and putting it on, he knocks out Nemesis Kid before sacrificing himself by flying into one of the powerspheres, blowing it up. We see that he’s dead, that the others are unconscious, and that Ayla is on her way back. Really, I don’t see why Val had to die to blow this thing up, or how he did, when the others heroes couldn’t. This sacrifice feels very forced.
- Projectra cradles Val’s body as the Villains approach, carrying the unconscious Legionnaires. Projectra prepares to fight them all, but Neutrax, who seems to have borrowed Metron’s chair, shuts her powers down. Ayla watches this from her stolen ship, and pilots it to go help. When she emerges, the Villains all fire on her, but Lightning Lord steps in to stop them. In the space where Orando was, the rest of the Legion mostly stands around. Officer Cusimano arrives in an SP ship, with orders for the team to return to Earth. Dream Girl leaves Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Brainiac 5, and Sun Boy behind to watch for the LSV’s return. Mekt attacks Ayla himself, saying he’s going to kill her. He’s surprised that her lightning powers have returned, and is enraged when Sun Emperor tries to step in. In the end, Ayla bests him, which means she has to face the rest of the Villains, except that the other Legionnaires have revived, and Element Lad turns the air around the Villains to helium. Nemesis Kids call Zymyr for help, but Projectra makes it clear she is going to kill him. Element Lad turns Ol-Vir’s clothes to lead, causing him to strip and fly away. The other Villains move in, but are scared off by Chameleon Boy and Ultra Boy. Ron-Karr and some others take off in Zymyr’s ship, while various Legionnaires take down whoever is left. Violet gets to knock out Micro Lad again, and when Phantom Girl phases into Zymyr’s containment bubble and touches him, she causes him great pain. He teleports away, but ends up taking Lighting Lord and Lightning Lass with him. Projectra uses her powers on Nemesis Kid, but he’s immune. The anger in her eyes scares him, and as the art shows Val’s dead body, we hear the crack as Projectra breaks Nemesis Kid’s neck. When Jan questions what she’s done, she points out that she has used her royal privilege to execute a criminal. The group waiting in regular space with Mon-El manages to capture everyone using Zymyr’s ship, and Brainy interrogates Ron-Karr on how to get to Orando. Unfortunately, Zymyr’s ship is wrecked, and Brainy can’t understand the Gil’Dishpan tech. On Orando, Projectra addresses her people. She’s decided to use Zymyr’s tech to move the planet to a new dimension, and to stay with her people forever, resigning from the Legion. She leaves the Villains with the Legion, and while they stay in two Gil’Dishpan bubbles, the planet teleports away beneath them. Floating in limbo, they figure they are going to have to wait for the Legion to come and find them, but the Villain’s bubble teleports away, since Esper Lass has read Zymyr’s mind. That leaves Cham, Jan, Vi, Tinya, and Jo stranded in Limbo). Projectra has left Nemesis Kid’s body with trash, unburied.
- With issue six, Keith Giffen’s name is gone from the book, and Joe Orlando has stepped in as a guest artist. On an unknown world, in a large complex staffed by robots, Zymyr is unhappy that Lightning Lass and Lightning Lord hitched a ride when he teleported away. He has them in stasis, and when they awake, they start to fight off the robots that work for the Gil’Dishpan villain, so he knocks them out again so he can read their memories. We see how they, with Lightning Lad, gained their electricity powers on Korbal. Zymyr wants to use their powers to provide energy for his machines. Ayla and Mekt talk a bit. On Earth, Dream Girl speaks holographically to Cosmic Boy, Wildfire, and Invisible Kid; everyone is worried about the five Legionnaires that have gone missing. Ayla and Mekt agree to work together to escape Zymyr, and end up swimming away from his complex. A tentacled thing grabs them, and it makes Ayla think of how she became a Legionnaire after Garth “died”. Zymyr’s robots capture Mekt and Ayla again, and Ayla keeps remembering how Garth lived, and she became Light Lass to stay on the team, and eventually fell in love with Timber Wolf. Zymyr comes to his captives, who again destroy his robots. Some large beasties arrive and attack all three of them. Mekt saves Zymyr, and in return, he agrees to teleport them away. In the interdimensional limbo, Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, and Element Lad try to figure out what to do. Jo spots an inhabited planet, and somehow pushes the bubble vessel they are in towards it. Ayla and Mekt arrive on Winath, their home planet, and immediately Mekt reverts to form, wanting to control her actions. One of the kids she knows attacks Mekt, and Ayla fights back, takes him down. Later, Ayla thinks about how much she has loved staying on Winath, but feels it’s time for her to return to the Legion, in a spiffy new outfit.
- Ultra Boy carries the bubble containing the other Limbo Legionnaires onto the planet they spotted, which appears to be one giant factory for something. They see no signs of life, and learn they’ve landed on a giant conveyor belt. Chameleon Boy flies off to do some recon, while Ultra Boy looks around with his penetra-vision. Element Lad learns that the planet is smelting metals to extract radioactive energy. On Earth, the Proteans hold a protest demanding citizenship in the UP and the rights that go with it. The Legion is meeting, and Lightning Lass demands to be let back on the team, despite duplicating her brother’s powers. She is welcomed back on the team, and learns that her brother has left, and that she’s an aunt. Cosmic Boy has plans, and wants to talk to Wildfire about them. Blok is grumpy, but not as grumpy as Timber Wolf, who is upset that Ayla did not return to him. He mentions that he got a fax (!!!!) from the PI he hired, telling him that Ayla was on Winath, but it’s too late for him to make romantic gestures. The Lost Legionnaires aren’t sure what to do, but Cham tells them he’s found a large control centre, and they head towards it. The three Legionnaires with more subtle powers do some recon, and Phantom Girl checks out a large facility, where she learns that Sun-Eaters are being built. Gim chats with his mother about her stepping down as President. While he’s there, she receives a call from Zendak, telling her that he has asked for the Legion’s help in tracking down the six members of the LSV that have escaped custody (although how he knows that…). Gim leaves to help. Shrinking Violet and Cham check out a different facility, where they end up fighting some robots. The Legion prepares for their mission, boarding a cruiser. Timber Wolf crosses paths with Ayla, who tells him that she doesn’t love him anymore, and that she expects them to have a professional relationship. On Winath, two Science Police officers (twins, naturally) investigate the murder of Timber Wolf’s PI, and we learn that he is a distant descendant of Bruce Wayne, Batman. Cham leads the Lost Legionnaires (without Phantom Girl) to the control centre, where they see an alien speaking a language their telepathic plugs can’t translate working at a computer. As they watch, a Controller comes through a dimensional gate and has the alien follow. They realize that one of the gates in the room leads to Earth. Tinya catches up to them and tells them about the Sun-Eaters. Jan decides they have to destroy the planet, even if it means they can’t return to their home universe.
- The Lost Legionnaires confirm that they are dealing with a Sun-Eater factory, and agree they have to destroy it. Ultra Boy flies through a ceiling, drawing the attention of repair robots that the team has to fight. (There is an ad here for Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths – I don’t think I ever knew that Crisis had a different title at first). Cosmic Boy is visited by Night Girl while he works on whatever his secret project is. He agrees to go with her to her homeworld for a visit, and surprises her by telling her that she’s thinking about not returning to active duty. A team of Legionnaires, supported by the Science Police, have tracked some of the remaining Legion of Super-Villains to S’Cardis IV. Shadow Lass and Shvaughn Erin take down the Sun Emperor, with some help from Invisible Kid. Wildfire takes out Cosmic King, while Gigi Cusimano’s new battle armor is enough to capture Spider Girl. Blok’s taken out Neutrax, while Mon-El and White Witch find and capture Chameleon Chief. Lightning Lass zaps Micro Lad. The alien returns to the Limbo planet, and discovers that there are intruders wrecking things. The Legionnaires are trashing the Sun-Eaters, when they are attacked by a large robot that captures the three guys, leaving Phantom Girl and Shrinking Violet to figure out what to do. They head to the Armorer’s control centre; Vi thinks about taking things apart, but Tinya has another idea. On Earth, three of the Legion Academy students are enjoying the beach when someone shoots Laurel Kent. Magnetic Kid pulls her out of the water, and sends Comet Queen for help. Everyone is surprised that Laurel, who is invulnerable, is actually bleeding. The Armorer examines Jo, and begins to speak Interlac. He’s surprised to learn that the Legion has defeated a Controller before. Jan frees them from the robot’s grip, and they begin to fight. Vi and Tinya arrive, and share their plan. As Jo faces the Armorer, they are both surprised to see that the Controller has returned. Jo uses the distraction to knock the Armorer out, but of course the Controller is really Cham. Jan turns the floor of the building into a different element, and Jo grabs a rock that Jan has also transmutated. Tinya tosses the Armorer through the gate to the Controllers’ world, and as the rest of the team goes through the Earth portal, Jo tosses the rock against the floor, setting off a nuclear explosion (that I guess can’t go through the portal?).
- Dream Girl is running a meeting, where the Legionnaires are talking about their diminished numbers (although there are no empty seats at their table), and they agree that they should run a membership drive, which is Wildfire’s responsibility. The Lost Legionnaires surprise everyone by returning, and Element Lad resumes control of the team. Shvaughn is searching for Chief Zendak’s nephew, who has gotten lost in a park. She finds him, but they child is trapped under a fallen tree. The tree suddenly disappears, and Shvaughn is happy to see that Jan is home. The Legion holds a large party, and in a sideways page spread, we get to see bits of their conversations. Shrinking Violet pulls Yera aside, and acknowledging that she understands Yera was duped into impersonating her, she threatens her to never do it again. Timber Wolf slips out and gets into a flying car with someone named Ziirf. Shvaughn and Jan are together and about to have sex when Chief Zendak calls to say there’s an emergency in Hong Kong that the Legion have been called in to deal with. Dreamy calls Jan, and he says that he’ll go with Invisible Kid, Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Lightning Lass (even though he doesn’t know what the problem is). RJ Brande is seen meeting with some Proteans. Officer Dvron is checking in with Laurel Kent at the Legion Academy, where they suspect she was shot with a kryptonite bullet. Dvron seems excited. In Hong Kong, some unseen criminals are shooting up a market. The Legionnaires get involved, and as they escape, Jacques identifies them as Sklarian. At that moment, Timber Wolf and Ziirf are flying overhead in an airliner headed to Tokyo; we learn that Brin was chosen as Karate Kid’s executor, and that billions of credits are involved. The Legionnaires gather outside the Sklarian embassy, and send in the espionage squad to figure out what’s going on. Cham and Violet manage to get detected, but escape without being identified. Jacques, meanwhile, finds proof that the Sklarians are stealing and trafficking in organs. They head to the spaceport and disable the robots loading their ship. They call all the Sklarians to help out, and when they arrive, they capture them. Jan heads right back to Shvaughn’s place, to make out.
- The Earth’s central computer has picked three candidates for President (the election is apparently only one day long). Sun Boy ends up waking up one of the candidates in Acapulco by stopping a Khund assassin who has come to kill him (I’m not sure why the Khunds know who the candidates are before the candidates do). Most of the Legion is in space, joining the SP in blockading the Earth against a potential Khundian attack; not all the Legionnaires believe this is how their time should be spent. Another Khund attacks another candidate, in Asia. Invisible Kid is there to stop him, but the Khund’s mechanical eye can still see him. In Tokyo, Timber Wolf meditates, thinking of how Karate Kid has left him with a difficult quest that, because Val is entitled to half the credits abandoned by Orando when it left this dimension, will now lead to a massive payoff. Sensei, Val’s teacher and friend, offers to join him. When the Khund fires at Jacques, his powers open a portal to somewhere else. When the Khund starts to choke him, Jacques somehow teleports them both to space, where his transuit protects him, but the Khund implodes. Jacques is joined by three Legionnaires who saw him appear, and Element Lad says they need to have an inquest to see if he violated their code. Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad vacation with their baby, and talk about balancing their return to the Legion with being good parents. Wildfire is in India with Mosai, another candidate (and very rich man). Another Khund attacks, inadvertently charging up Wildfire and making him more powerful. Mosai’s family escapes from their floating mansion, and the Khund starts wrecking it, bringing the massively rocky ceiling down on himself while Wildfire saves Mosai. He then goes backs for the Khund. The emergency apparently over, the Legion is about to return home when Cosmic Boy takes a moment to announce that he is going on leave with Night Girl for a while, and enigmatically hints at other big changes to come in his life. Colossal Boy and Yera hang out with the Allons, as Marte prepares to give up the Presidency. A fourth Khund shows up, and neutralizes Gim and tosses him out a window. He’s about to shoot Marte when Gim flies back in, and manages to take out the Khund, named Khidrack. Later, we see Mosai celebrate his victory. There’s two awkward panels, where he refers to one of his congratulators as Vid-Gupta, which the man finds amusing, and we see his eye twinkle. I’m not sure what’s amusing about that…
- Ernie Colón drew the lead story in issue eleven, which begins after a lengthy Legion meeting lets out. Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy are hanging out together, and talking about their role in the Legion now. Lightning Lass pops by so we can learn that the team has made an exemption to their rules, allowing Ayla and Garth to both be active at the same time despite having identical powersets; it’s interesting that Ayla would have had to be the one to leave if the rules didn’t change. Garth and Imra mention that they might not stay on the team, feeling more committed to spending time with Graym now. Rokk talks about how he feels that they should always play a role in the Legion on a level of conscience, but that he’s thinking of leaving too. Chief Zendak complains about all the papers he has to sign, when Sun Boy, turning up in his office, burns them all and says he wants to talk to him about Gigi. Garth, Imra, and Rokk fly a car to Antarctica, where a massive geo-thermal plant doubles as a prison. The security drones attack them, and then they continue to the prison. President Desai (called Mojil, not Mosai) is sworn in, and addresses the people of Earth, talking about how he wants to make changes to the economy, government, and the institutions of law and order. The three founding Legionnaires are at the Antarctic prison because the two men whose attempt to kill RJ Brande led to the formation of the team are due to be released. They wanted to come and get them, so they fly into the work camp. The men attack them right away, but don’t even recognize them. They are happy to learn they are being freed. An SP officer tells the Legionnaires that the two men will go through some psychic rehabilitation before being released, which makes sense, given that they just attacked people with no reason. Back at Legion HQ, Bouncing Boy is chatting with Superboy about the upcoming membership drive. Superboy suggests he might stick around, but Chuck knows he won’t, and decides to tell him about one of the candidates.
- The backup to number 11, drawn by Keith Giffen, is that story that Chuck tells. While on a goodwill tour of some outer planets, he met a young woman calling herself Comet Queen, who was a big fan of the Legion, and who spoke in a very annoying slang. Chuck explained to her that he had to prove himself to get on the team. The next day, the locals came to tell him that she ran off, looking to prove herself. Chuck followed, having to bounce since he left his flight ring behind (which seems unlikely). He found her in some lava fields, but because of his erratic bouncing, they ended up in a cave, with her leg broken, making it impossible for her to fly. Her origin is that she wanted to get powers, so she dove into a comet, hoping for a transformation like Star Boys. Instead, her whole body changed, and she gained comet powers. They realized that the cave they were in contained vents designed to let the volcanic landscape discharge excess energy. Chuck had her release her comet gas to short out the vents, saving their lives and signalling for help. Later, Chuck helped Comet Queen get into the Legion Academy, and had his wife protect him from her aggressive crush on him.
- A squad of Legionnaires (Wildfire, Superboy, Dawnstar, Brainiac 5, and Sun Boy) are in deep space searching for pirates. They engage them in battle when they try to take over a cruiser. The team enjoys the chance to cut loose a little, until Brainy points out that the second raider ship is trying to flee. Dawnstar pursues it, with Superboy and Wildfire behind her, but the ship just disappears; Dawny is worried that her powers aren’t working properly, since she can’t find any trace of it. Timber Wolf gets himself a new uniform before heading out to fulfil Karate Kid’s will. The founding Legionnaires salute the team’s flag before going inside to vote. They tell Element Lad that they support him in this latest team election. Dream Girl irritates Shvaughn by kissing Jan. Superboy and Wildfire fix the damaged freighter while the others try to figure out what happened to the pirates; Brainy has a theory and sends for some backup. When the missing cruiser returns, Dawnstar leads the others right to it, and Phantom Girl, who Brainy called for, slips onboard. She figures out that one of the pirates is from Bgtzl, her world, and used technology to phase the whole ship to that dimension. Having voted, the three founders tell Jan that they are all leaving active duty.
- In the backup story to issue twelve, drawn by Ernie Colón, a group of UP analysts gather to try to figure out how to respond to the Legion’s latest election and news of members resigning, but they mostly argue with one another. At the Legion Academy, some of the students (Tellus, Magnetic Kid, Comet Queen, Power Boy, and Laurel Kent) discuss who has a chance of making Legion status. They all assume that Pol will be chosen, especially since his brother left the team, but the speculation makes him angry. The media also speculates as to what’s going on with the Legion. At the SP headquarters, Dvron talks about how he still doesn’t know who shot Laurel, and then they speculate about who the new leader will be. Jan talks with the founders a little more, and then they discover that he’s won the election again, beating out Brainiac 5. Jan decides to go outside the building to tell some guy called Flynt Brojj, who is supposedly the team’s biggest fan. This issue was pretty disjointed and felt like it had a lot of filler to me.
- Blok is outside the headquarters, speaking to some of the candidates hoping to get on the team. Ziirf approaches him with a holomessage from Timber Wolf. We see that Brin and Sensei have arrived on Lythyl, a planet where strength determines social position. Sensei starts a fight with the people who intend to enslave them, and Brin jumps in. At Legion HQ, Shrinking Violet flirts with Sun Boy, while Element Lad and Blok watch Brin’s message and decide they should send a small team to help him and Sensei escape once Karate Kid’s mission is complete. Brin and Sensei are brought to the three top people on Lythyl – Steggus, Gorax, and Myg, who is a young man compared to the others. Their test is that they have to fight off a dragon-like creature. Leland McCauley, the richest man on Earth, listens as his aids discuss his business interests. Charon talks about how he’s observed RJ Brande meeting with Proteans, and McCauley starts to choke his pet, suggesting he thinks it’s a Protean. Brin and Sensei do well against the dragon, and the elder suggests that the creature is tamed and trained. Brin stares it down and sends it away. Myg decides to take charge of the two newcomers’ testing, and takes them to their room on this strange planet. Once they are alone, Myg makes it clear he thinks they’re up to something, and starts to fight against Sensei. In space, Mon-El, White Witch, and Invisible Kid move towards Lythyl, using Mysa’s magic to stay hidden. Mon-El makes it clear that he’s not happy that Jacques doesn’t fully understand his powers, despite the fact that he was cleared in the death of the Khund assassin. Their sparring finished, Brin and Sensei knock Myg out, and Sensei decides to take him with them, seeing as he is young and trainable still. They head out to complete their mission, which puts them into conflict with dozens of locals. They begin to fight, and Brin makes his way to the holiest place on the planet, a barren island full of indestructible rocks. Sensei starts to tire as Brin completes their mission, and then uses his flight ring to send out an alert. He goes to help Sensei, when he, Sensei, and the still-unconscious Myg disappear. Mon-El and company have them, and are heading back. We learn that Karate Kid wanted Brin to plant a seed in the middle of the barren island of rock, as a symbol that the toughness of Lythyl is false.
- The Legion is holding their membership drive, with contestants demonstrating their powers for some Legionnaires (Element Lad, Wildfire, Colossal Boy, and Timber Wolf), while others watch via holographic relay. Power Boy seems to do well for himself, but is rejected. Comet Queen is somewhat less impressive, but moves on to the second round. Mentalla uses her powers to take control of Ultra Boy, and to confuse him. Jan sends three of the prospects – Comet Queen, Magnetic Kid, and Tellus – on a mission with Brainiac 5 and Mon-El. Part of the California coast has sunk, and this team has to help raise it, and rescue people. Magnetic Kid does well, and Tellus detects the thoughts of someone responsible for the catastrophe. At the headquarters, someone named Energy Boy demonstrates his powers, but is interrupted by the arrival of Polar Boy, who informs everyone that the Legion of Substitute Heroes is disbanded, and that he wants in the Legion, and wants them to waive their under 18 age restriction for new members. RJ Brande meets with the three founders, to talk about their plans after stepping down. Imra has some sort of plan that we don’t get to hear. Tellus leads his prospective squad to another part of the coastline that looks like it’s about to collapse. Flying underneath, they find Dev-Em working to prop things up, and being a bit of a dick as usual. They discover that Ontiir (or a clone of him, I guess) is behind the collapses. His forcefield protects him from Dev-Em’s attack, and he starts his latest collapse. Just as Brainy is about to attack, a small craft flies in, which puzzles the Legionnaires watching the proceedings. Phantom Girl identifies it as Quislet, and Shrinking Violet reads out its file, revealing that it’s from a micro-dimension. Quislet takes control of Ontiir’s weapon chair thing, and animates it so that it fights and subdues him before it crumbles into dust. Later, the Legion gathers to make its choices. They want Polar Boy on the team, and are trying to decide between Tellus and Mentalla when Saturn Girl interrupts to say that she has a candidate, Sensor Girl, who she wants them to accept without meeting or knowing anything about. Soon after that, we see that Magnetic Kid, Tellus, Quislet, Polar Boy, and Sensor Girl made the cut. Garth comments on the species diversity of the new members (referring to Tellus and Quislet), while Star Boy comments on the fact that Sensor Girl is masked, a first for the team (not counting Wildfire, I guess).
- Wildfire returns to the Headquarters in his energy form, looking for a new suit. We learn that something happened in space while he was out with the new Legionnaires doing some training. We also learn that each new suit he wears reacts a little differently with his powers, which I don’t think we knew before. In space, near Imsk, a squad of Legionnaires (Shadow Lass, Mon-El, Sun Boy, Colossal Boy, and Shrinking Violet) work together to try to redirect a group of space dragons away from Imsk, while restoring the usual space beacon that does just that. Finished, they receive word that the new Legionnaires have been abducted, and are sent to investigate. Timber Wolf pays his respects to Karate Kid on Shanghalla, the cemetery asteroid, and we learn that Sensei is going to take Myg, the kid from Lythyl, under his wing. As Mon-El investigates the last place the missing Legionnaires were seen, a solar flare seems to reach out of the sun and drag him towards an asteroid. A similar flare drags their cruiser down, but Mon-El saves them from crashing. He’s seen that the flares were coming from the asteroid. Dawnstar and Wildfire lead a second cruiser towards the current trouble, while Dream Girl flirts a bit with Element Lad. Mon-El’s squad investigates the asteroid, and find themselves confronted by Doctor Regulus, who has the new Legionnaires captive. He wants to kill Sun Boy, and says he’ll let the others go after he’s done that. The others leave. Night Girl presides over a ceremony reopening the Legion of Substitute Heroes’ former headquarters (which they got from the Legion) as a super-hero museum. She and Cosmic Boy get surrounded by admirers, and they fly off, ready to finally start their vacation. The new Legionnaires wait in their cruiser with the others to learn what will happen to Sun Boy. He and Regulus fight, but since the flame creatures on the asteroid (apparently that’s what grabbed Mon-El and the others) react to Sun Boy’s powers, he is at a disadvantage. Shrinking Violet decides to break the team’s word and go to help Dirk, but the others stop her. In the end, Dirk slips his flight ring into Regulus’s costume, and uses it to crash him into the walls. At the Time Institute, Brainiac 5 searches through historical events, hoping that history was incorrect. It seems it’s the thousand year anniversary of the saddest day in history (which clearly is a reference to something about to happen in Crisis on Infinite Earths).
- The first Annual in the offset format ties up the long-running plotline involving the attempted murder of Laurel Kent. All of the Legion is away assisting the Science Police on Takron-Galtos, save for Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy, and Magnetic Kid. Brainy decides it’s a waste of time for them to just sit around, and wants to do something productive. Pol suggests solving the Kent case. They go to interview Laurel, who is packing to leave the Academy having not made it onto the Legion, but she decides she doesn’t care about it. They tail her through the Montauk shopping district, and find she is being followed by someone else. They confront him, but it turns out to be Dvron, the SP assigned to her case. They all decide to go to Thanagar, where they learn that a weapon that can fire kryptonite bullets was stolen from the SP museum, with two Hawk-police killed in the process. Shrinking Violet goes to Winath to check out the murder of the private eye Timber Wolf had hired, on a hunch that it is somehow related. She ends up triggering a trap, and the PI’s office blows up; Vi is able to survive by shrinking into a sub-atomic universe. Once everyone’s back together at headquarters, Brainy makes it clear that he’s figured everything out, and that the next attempted murder is about to happen just outside. He has the team sit and watch as an attempt is made on the life of the guy who drives the tourist bus, but he’s given him his force shield belt, saving his life and the lives of his passengers. He points out that the murders only happen during a full moon on Earth, although it’s strange that no one made any moves to catch the perpetrator. Colossal Boy asks if there are other potential victims, and there are, so the team heads out. Dvron asks Laurel if she’s ever thought about joining the SP. The squad arrives at the home of Don and Dawn Allen, and Vi and Cham head inside to watch over them. A giant robot breaks into their place, and kills the SPs standing guard. Vi flies the twins away, while Cham turns himself into a patch of metal and attaches himself to the robot, trying to find out where it comes from. It shocks him off, but Cham has already figured out where it’s going. The team gathers at the north pole, where a cryogenics facility houses some people that have been frozen since the 21st century. Brainy explains that an old villain of the Justice League is kept there, and that he is only ever revived for a few days at a time, as his illness cannot be cured. He has been killing descendants of the Justice League (the PI was a Wayne, the tour bus guy a Queen). The robot attacks them, but Pol pulls it apart. We never learn the identity of the killer though, which is a little odd.
- Brainiac 5 is at the Time Institute, watching thousand year old footage of Supergirl’s death and crying, while the Chronarch and Rond Vidar watch. Brainy feels her loss very strongly, and regrets that he couldn’t get her to stay in the future with him. Most of the Legion is on Titan for Graym Ranzz’s baptism, which raises some interesting questions about the role of religion in a thousand years, not that the comic explores it. The five new Legionnaires are back on Earth, minding the store. Sensor Girl learns of a crime just before the rest of the squad does – there’s been an explosion at a techno-park. They head there, and Magnetic Kid, having some experience with being caught in a firebombing, heads into the flames to look for survivors. He finds one, but ends up needing Tellus’s help to get the guy out. Sensor Girl and Quislet determine the location of the blast. Brainy moves his pity fest to the Time Institute’s cafeteria, where some of the other employees watch and debate how to help him. Element Lad checks in with Polar Boy, who stayed at HQ when the other newbies headed out, and then the ceremony begins. The newbies talk to Dvron, and they figure that there’s a chance the bombers might strike again. They decide to stake the place out. Much later, they are still there when Sensor Girl detects someone coming. She makes it easy for the team to spot the villains, who are planting another bomb. There is a short fight, and the Legionnaires take down the bombers. An SP cruiser approaches, and instead of picking up the prisoners, it gases the Legionnaires, except for Quislet. Brainy ponders suicide, but also ponders creating a massive paradox, before deciding he’s too cowardly for either thing. Jan checks in with Brekk again. The unconscious Legionnaires wake to discover that the criminals are gone. Quislet explains that he sent his consciousness into the SP cruiser to see what’s going on, and that means the cruiser is about to fall apart. Pol helps bring the cruiser down, and then the SPs inside attack them. They fight again, and knock them all out. Tellus, reading their mind, determines that none of them knew what they were doing, and the newbies worry that their first case won’t be too easy to solve. Brainy seems to have come through his long, dark night, and finds some optimism in facing a new day.
It feels like issue sixteen is the right place to end this column, as with issue seventeen, the series changed format slightly, doing away with ads and adding extra story pages. Sixteen also marks the departure of Steve Lightle (although I think from the looks of this issue, inker Bob Smith had a lot to do here) from interiors, although he continued to draw gorgeous covers for a while. Issue sixteen is also the point after which the reverberations of Crisis on Infinite Earths began to touch this series, necessitating some big changes to the Legion’s founding mythology, as Superboy gets written out of the DCU (more on that in the next column).
There’s a lot to say about just how good this series was. The nicer format feels like a game changer, even from a contemporary perspective. The paper feels nice and thick, and adds a lushness to Carl Gafford’s colours (how long was he on this book, anyway?).
The earliest issues, when the team was up against the Legion of Super-Villains, felt like they carried a lot of weight, and a sense of the unknown. The death of Karate Kid and the departure of Projectra started the Legion on a downward trend, which only started to reverse itself at the end, with the induction of five new Legionnaires. Along the way, we saw a little more conflict than before amongst teammates, and a few breakups.
One of the things that always made the Legion stand out is the eternal optimism of the series and team. Sure, they are still dealing with the same kind of super-crime that their 20th century forebears had to deal with, not to mention the threat of invasion from the Khunds or other galactic powers and the weird preponderance of firebombings that happen on Earth, but at the end of the day, this book has always had a strong utopian vision at its core. How else can a team of heroes barely out of their teens enact so much good in the world, while maintaining hectic social lives, and being celebrities to boot? As DC entered its first, earliest iteration of grim and gritty, the cracks do start to show a little, but at this point, Paul Levitz keeps the heroes committed to their mission and to supporting one another. These breakups and other examples of personal strife begin as part of the journey to Giffen’s brilliant 5 Year Later version, which is still to come.
Levitz’s writing continues to be remarkable, as we see him find a place for almost every member of this massive cast. We see Element Lad grow in confidence as a leader, and see the original founders pull away from the team in a very natural, organic way. This run shows us Timber Wolf’s determination to honor his friend’s memory, Lightning Lass’s desire to chart her own path through life, and introduces so unprecedented non-human characters in Quislet and Tellus. Brainiac 5 is a bit of a mystery to me during this run, mainly because he just doesn’t seem very smart to me. The inclusion of Sensor Girl on the team is interesting, as there has never been so mysterious a Legionnaire before.
Also during this time, Levitz gets rid of the Legion of Substitute Heroes, promoting Polar Boy to the main team, sending Night Girl off with Cosmic Boy, and generally just writing out all the rest. It also looks like the Legion Academy is becoming less of a going concern, as most of its students don’t make the cut for team membership.
Levitz’s ability to plot out a storyline months or years in advance continues to impress here, as the mystery of who shot at Laurel Kent takes just about forever to come to fruition, and is linked to something that happened even earlier. It’s such a joy to see a writer who has planned out multiple stories, and feels no big rush to finish them all. That is probably the aspect of comics from this era that I miss the most.
Artistically, this was an interesting run. Like many fans, I’m sure, I was disappointed when Keith Giffen left the book (although, did he ever really leave? There are many places where I detect his layouts in odd camera angles or intense closeups on issues he isn’t credited for), but that didn’t last long when I saw how wonderful Steve Lightle’s art was. His work is very detailed and clean, bringing to mind both George Perez and sometimes Jim Steranko. I’m not sure why he stopped doing interiors, but I’m glad he stayed on covers. Where Giffen was angling this book into darker territory, Lightle gave the book a lighter and cleaner look that matched the optimism inherent in the team.
It’s crazy to me that when Lightle left and LaRocque took over, that he stayed with the book for a good two years, including the issues that I finally stumbled over and that started my long-standing devotion to this team when I was eleven or so. That’s next time (it’ll be a long one, I think), although I’ll probably be writing about the Legionnaires 3 and Cosmic Boy miniseries first, as I’m reading everything in chronological order.
If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.
If you’d like to read any of the stories I talk about here, you can follow these links for trade paperbacks that encompass some of these issues.
Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye for an Eye
Legion of Super-Heroes: The More Things Change
Tags: DC Comics, Legion of Super-Heroes, Retro Reviews