Retro Review: Legionnaires 3 By Giffen, Newell, Colón & Kesel For DC Comics

Legionnaires 3 #1-4 (February 1986 – May 1986)

Plotted and designed by Keith Giffen

Dialogue by Mindy Newell

Pencilled by Ernie Colón

Inked by Karl Kesel

Colour by Carl Gafford

Spoilers (from thirty-three years ago)

Shortly after Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes switched over to printing reprints of the deluxe edition Legion of Super-Heroes series, the four-part Legionnaires 3 miniseries showed up, featuring the three founding members of the Legion, who had recently left the team to do some other things with their lives.

Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad had expressed an interest in raising their infant, Graym, while Cosmic Boy had intended to go on vacation with Night Girl.  Both Imra and Rokk had made references to their plans, which seemed to involve being inspirations to the Legion. We know that Imra had insisted on Sensor Girl’s inclusion on the team, and that Rokk had spent months talking about doing something, but it was always vague.  Garth, in contrast, just seemed to follow along happily.

I only had two issues in this series, and am not sure that I ever knew where they stood in relation to the main series’s continuity.  I also thought that it was weird that a miniseries with the number three in the title should be four issues, but now I wonder if that just says something about my level of suggestibility.

Anyway, I don’t remember anything about this comic, except that I’d partly always dismissed this because I’ve never been all that fond of Imra or Garth.  Rokk, on the other hand, I always thought of as a cool character, and I like his partner, Night Girl too. I know that this series is about the Time Trapper, and I’m curious to experience it now, within the context of the main series, which I’m also currently re-reading.  Let’s see if it’s any good!

Let’s track who turned up in the title:

The Legion of Super-Heroes

  • Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn; #1-4)
  • Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz; #1-4)
  • Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen-Ranzz; #1-4)
  • Light Lass (Ayla Ranzz; #2-3)
  • Blok (#2)
  • Colossal Boy (Gim Allon; #2)

Villains

  • The Time Trapper (#1-4)
  • Brainiac (#1)

Supporting Characters

  • Otok (#1-3)
  • Graym Ranzz (#1-4)
  • Imra’s Aunt Imra (#2-3)
  • Yera Allon (#2)
  • Rond Vidar (Time Institute; #2)
  • Circadia Senius (Chronarch, Time Institute; #2)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • This book opens in the Time Trapper’s realm, which is in a primitive time, yet he lives in a large facility staffed by soldiers from a variety of times.  He plays chess with Brainiac (the 80s big robot head version), until he is interrupted by her servant Otok, who has brought him the man that impersonated the Time Trapper in his previous dealings with the Legion.  The real Trapper saved this man from his imprisonment on Takron-Galtos just before it was destroyed in the Crisis, but he kills him now for failing him. The Trapper enters into a long set of thoughts about the Legion, and how he doesn’t know how that team will meet its end.  He wants to defeat them, and toy with them, but thinks that researching their finish would be cheating. He decides to focus on the three founding members of the team, reviewing their origin story, before deciding that Lightning Lad is the weak link he wants to exploit. He sees Garth as a tormented, insecure child, and wants to toy with him a little.  He summons some soldiers, and turns his hour glass over. In Metropolis, Garth and Rokk buy snacks (in their Legion uniforms, which feels kind of weird). Rokk is coming to the Ranzz’s to watch a sports thing. The Ranzzes look happy, and Garth checks on the baby. The Time Trapper gives his commander his orders, and sends him on his way. While the two guys watch their sports, and Imra putters around the house (in her uniform), the Trapper’s soldiers grab baby Graym out of his crib.  Imra goes to check on him, and gets knocked out. Graym’s cry alerts the others, and there is a brief firefight (every few panels we see that the Trapper is playing chess again). Garth can’t use his powers safely, until Imra plans with them all using her telepathy. The soldiers’ retrieval is not happening, so Cos uses his powers to grab the baby, while Garth zaps the soldiers. They recognize the Trapper’s insignia on the soldiers, but then they all rapidly age to the point of being skeletons.  Their apartment trashed, they decide they should go to Legion HQ and figure out what’s going on. Suddenly Imra screams – she’s not holding Graym, but a rag doll with a warning written on his blanket that if any other Legionnaire gets involved, the Trapper will kill the child. Our heroes despair, while the Trapper moves his queen into check, and we see that he is holding Graym.
  • Not wanting to endanger Graym, Garth lies to his sister, Lightning Lass, to put her off from visiting, while Imra despairs in the corner.  Ayla suspects something is wrong anyway. Rokk goes to Metropolis University to get time off his new job of coaching the magno-ball team, and the dean reluctantly agrees.  Imra’s Aunt Imra tries to visit the family, but knowing that she would tell the Legion what’s happened, Garth and Imra instead slip out their window (do they not still have their flight rings?), and sneak off to meet up with Rokk.  They almost run into the Allons – Colossal Boy and Yera – but manage to slip away from them too. The Time Trapper talks to Otok about the importance of keeping the baby happy until the Legionnaires arrive. The three Legionnaires meet up at the Time Institute, which they slip inside of.  When Rond Vidar returns to his quarters in the Institute, he finds the Legionnaires waiting for him. They start to explain things to him. At the same time, Ayla keeps calling her brother, but there is no answer (I guess by the 30th century, people will return to landlines?). The Legionnaires basically lie to Rond, claiming that they are going on a mission requiring great discretion to wrap up some old Legion business, and he refuses to give them access to a Time Bubble.  Imra gets mad and knocks him out, and Rokk uses a distorter to pose as him. They pretend to be going on a tour, and stop to check out the first Time Cube. An SP tries to stop them from going inside it, so Cos blasts him, while the others turn it on and they all slip into the timestream. The barrier that is usually around the Time Trapper’s era has a hole in it, so they go through, finding themselves in a ruined future version of Weisinger Plaza. They are attacked, and give chase to one of their assailants.  They manage to take out some more hidden attackers, but when they try to interrogate one, he explodes, releasing a nerve gas that knocks them all out. The Trapper, along with his soldiers, takes them prisoner, placing them in Mothran cocoons to keep them unconscious while they return to his base. We see the Trapper standing over the sleeping Graym, watching his hourglass.
  • Rokk and Imra are being kept in a cell together, and for three days, they’ve sat there.  Imra is becoming somewhat catatonic with worry (they don’t know where either Graym or Garth are), so Rokk decides it is time to act.  The Time Trapper and Otok check on Graym, and when the Trapper sees that the nurse Otok acquired isn’t good enough, he kills her. Rokk manages to magnetically pull a giant rock through the floor of their cell.  When the guard enters their cell, Imra knocks him out, and they escape. They find that the Trapper’s base is a pretty confusing place, and they are pursued by guards, who they manage to evade. Imra’s Aunt Imra has gone to Legion headquarters, and is talking a mile a minute at Ayla, who continues to worry about her family.  Rokk and Imra blend in with some guards, telepathically, and find Otok. The Trapper interrogates the guard that let the Legionnaires escape, and has him executed. Imra interrogates Otok, and he switches allegiances to them, agreeing to lead them to the baby. As they walk, they are watched, so Cos uses scrap metal to make a magnetically-controlled insect thing that scares the guards away.  The Trapper talks to himself some more, and goes to see Garth, whose powers he has negated (I’m not sure why he didn’t do that with the others). Rokk and Imra approach the space where Graym is being held, and take out the guards. They are surprised to find Graym well-cared for, and Imra finally realizes that this whole thing was about Garth all along. The Trapper folds space around Garth, or something, and then says that he’s going after Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy next (really, is there a plan here?).
  • Garth finds himself in some kind of void, and then cycles through a number of hallucinations that are often based on his recent past.  He applies for a job, gets let go from that job, gets annoyed with Imra, and then find that she’s left him and taken the baby with her.  The Time Trapper is watching all of this, and his entire plan is to break Garth’s mind before his hourglass runs out. Garth finds himself swallowed by a space whale, and then back home on Winath, where his siblings, Ayla and Mekt, badmouth him while playing a video game.  Ayla and Mekt decide to be twins to one another, and cut Garth out of the family. He’s aware of what’s going on, and is trying to get them to help him. Next he finds himself in pure whiteness. At the same time, Imra and Rokk have established that Graym was simply used as bait in the Trapper’s game, and is completely fine.  The Trapper shows himself to Garth. To free Garth, and give him paradise, he wants information about the Legion (I mean, if he can do all this, can’t he find that info on his own?). Garth refuses, but then the Trapper threatens to erase Graym from everyones’ memories except for Garth’s. Still Garth refuses to help him, so the Trapper grabs him by the neck.  Next, many members of the Legion appear in front of him, and they act as if he is making up his problems with the Trapper. Only Brainiac 5 believes him, but even he ends up walking away from Garth. Garth starts yelling at the Time Trapper, denying him still. The Trapper worries that he’s almost out of time, so he takes Garth into space, and has him watch his parents die in a collision with an asteroid.  This backfires for the Trapper, as it helps Garth find his inner strength. As he blasts the Trapper with his lightning, he suddenly finds himself back in his apartment on Earth with Imra, Rokk, and Graym. The three heroes are happy their ordeal is over, and we see the Trapper vowing he will have other games to play with the Legion.

I don’t know, this series started out quite well, but the last issue really fizzled out for me.  It seems like the Time Trapper, who has a pretty impressive, if vague, powerset, wouldn’t need to go to so much trouble to kidnap Garth just to mess with his head, nor would he need to capture Imra and Rokk to do it.  What information was he after, or was he just trying to see if he could break Lightning Lad for the sake of doing it?

Most importantly, what happened to his Major Domo Otok?  And likewise, what about the fact that Lightning Lass was worried about her brother?  These were the only sub-plots in the series, and they both just disappeared at the end.

The beginning of this title was exciting, but Giffen and Newell just couldn’t keep the momentum going, which was unfortunate.  These Legionnaires, despite being the founding members of the team, had not been receiving much story space, so it was nice to see them get some screen time, but not much was done to build their characters.  I’ve always liked Cosmic Boy, but he’s definitely second fiddle in here, and Saturn Girl comes off as a weaker character.

I’d expected that somewhere along the way, Giffen would have had the Trapper bring up the other Ranzz child, who we saw back at the time of their birth was spirited away by Darkseid, but that’s not mentioned at all.

I like how Giffen establishes the Time Trapper as a greater threat to the Legion, having him kill his less effective body double at the very beginning.  Truly, the Time Trapper is the Legion’s Kang, and as such, could have been used at any point in the DC Universe’s history. I know he becomes a bigger part of the Legion’s story later on in the main title, and I’m looking forward to getting there.

It’s interesting to see the artistic collaboration between Giffen, Colón, and Kesel, but like the writing, by the fourth issue, this appears to be rushed and poorly considered.  At the beginning, I quite liked the look of Colón’s pencils over Giffen’s layouts. It gave the book a clean and forward-facing atmosphere. The last issue is more scratchy and poorly rendered.

As I’m writing this, I’m also reading the deluxe edition series, which I will be sharing my thoughts on soon, but it’s more likely that my next column will be examining the Cosmic Boy miniseries that came out during the Legends event, which was used to help clarify the post-Crisis DC situation.

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

This series has never been collected, so you’ll have to do some digging if you want to read it.

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