Retro Review: The Legion Of Super-Heroes (Vol. 3) #50-63 By Levitz, Giffen, Gordan & Others For DC Comics

The Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 3) #50-63, Annual #4 (September 1988 – August 1989)

Written by Paul Levitz (#50-63, Annual #4)

Co-plotted by Keith Giffen (#50-55, 57-58, 60-63)

Pencilled by Keith Giffen (#50-52, 54-55, 57-61), Ernie Colón (#55), Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (#55), Erik Larsen (#55), Eduardo Barreto (#56), Mark Bright (#59), Barry Kitson (Annual #4), Garry Leach (Annual #4)

Layouts by Keith Giffen (#53, 62-63)

Finishes by Mike DeCarlo (#53, 62-63)

Inked by Mike DeCarlo (#50-52, 54, 56), Al Gordon (#55-61), Carlos Garzon (#59), Bruce Patterson (Annual #4), Romeo Tanghal (Annual #4), Garry Leach (Annual #4)

Colour by Carl Gafford (#50-63, Annual #4)

Spoilers (from thirty to thirty-one years ago)

Paul Levitz had been on the Legion of Super-Heroes for about eight years when his former co-plotter and penciller Keith Giffen returned to the title and his former roles in 1988.  Levitz showed no sign, at least from this reader’s perspective, of slowing down or missing any steps with the title, but during his absence as the regular penciller (it had been about four years), Giffen became a huge star at DC, largely because of his redesign of the Justice League with JM DeMatteis and Keith Maguire.  That’s the main reason why my thirteen-year-old self was excited to see him return to the Legion, and that’s what caused me to become a regular reader of the title.

Of all the columns I’ve been writing about the Legion over the last few months, this is the first where I didn’t buy a single issue in a back-issue bin, but instead got them new on the stands (okay, I think I got #50 after I read #51 or 52), and it is during this time that I became obsessed with learning Legion history and who all these characters were.

Giffen’s return heralded a major tonal shift in the book, as it got both darker and funnier, and began building towards a huge finish that would change the title forever.  I am very excited to get back into this era, a time of matching jackets, weirdness (Brainy builds Computo to look like a tiny Validus for some reason), and magic. I remember that Giffen started to draw the characters as older and more weathered, as the team caught up to the darker feel that began to spread across much of the DC universe.  

Let’s track who turned up in the title:

The Legion of Super-Heroes

  • Ultra Boy (Jo Nah; #50-51, 54, 56, 58-59, 61-63)
  • Timber Wolf (Brin Londo; #50-51, 53-54, 57-58, 60-63)
  • Dream Girl (Nura Nal; #50-52, 55, 63, Annual #4)
  • Element Lad (Jan Arrah; #50-54, 56, 58, 60-63)
  • Sun Boy (Dirk Morgna; #50-51, 54, 60-63)
  • Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox; #50-51, 55, 62-63)
  • Mon-El (Lar Gand; #50, 52-54, 56, 59, 61)
  • Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen-Ranzz; #50-52, 59-63)
  • Bouncing Boy (Chuck Taine; #50-51, 54, 61-63)
  • Duo Damsel (Luornu Durgo; #50-51, 54, 62-63)
  • Tellus (Ganglios; #50-53, 57-58, 60-63)
  • Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby; #50-51, 54, 56, 60-63, Annual #4)
  • Shadow Lass (Tasmia Mallor; #50-54, 56, 61)
  • Polar Boy (Brekk Bannin; #50-63)
  • Quislet (#50-52, 57-58)
  • Sensor Girl (Projectra; #50-51, 54, 57-58, 60-63)
  • Blok (#50-52, 55-58, 60-63)
  • The White Witch (Mysa Nal; #50, 55, 63)
  • Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn; #51, 63)
  • Phantom Girl (Tinya Wazzo; #51, 54, 60-63, Annual #4)
  • Invisible Kid (Jacques Foccart; #51, 57-63, Annual #4)
  • Lightning Lass (Ayla Ranzz; #51-53, 56-58, 60-63)
  • Magnetic Kid (Pol Krinn; #51-53, 56-58, 61-62)
  • Dawnstar (#51, 54, 56-58, 62-63, Annual #4)
  • Wildfire (Drake Burroughs; #51, 54, 56-60, 62-63)
  • Colossal Boy (Gim Allon; #53, 58, 60-63), Annual #4)
  • Chameleon Boy (Reep Daggle; #54, 62-63, Annual #4)
  • Star Boy (Thom Kallor; #55, 63)
  • Invisible Kid I (Lyle Norg; #59, 61)
  • Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz; #59, 63)
  • Chemical King (Condo Arlik; #59)
  • Karate Kid (Val Armorr; #61)
  • Ferro Lad (#61)

Villains

  • The Time Trapper (#50)
  • Garak of the Glow (#51, 53-54)
  • Hywyndr (Gil’Dishpan; #52-53)
  • Warlord Jiwark (Khund; #53)
  • Lazon (#54)
  • Titania (#54)
  • Radiation Roy (#54)
  • Inquisitor (#55-57)
  • Emerald Empress (#57-58)
  • Quanto (#59)
  • The Archmage (#60-63)
  • Starfinger II (Char Burrane; Annual #4)
  • Starbright (Annual #4)
  • Starlight (Annual #4)

Guest Stars

  • The Infinite Man (Jaxon Rugarth; #50)
  • Atmos (#55, 63, Annual #4)
  • Fire Lad (#61)
  • Chlorophyll Kid (#61)
  • Duplicate Boy (Heroes of Lallor; #62)
  • Life Lass (Heroes of Lallor; #62)
  • Gas Girl (Heroes of Lallor; #62)
  • Evolvo Lad (Heroes of Lallor; #62)
  • Amethyst (Princess of Gemworld; #63)

Supporting Characters

  • Circadia Senius (Chronarch, Time Institute; #50)
  • Green Lantern Rond Vidar (#50-51)
  • Computo (#50-52, 54, 57, 60-61)
  • Marella Tao (reporter; #51)
  • Warden Tsaquin (Warden of Labyrinth; #53-54)
  • Kimball Zendak (Science Police Chief; #54, 56, 62)
  • Shvaughn Erin (Science Police Legion Liaison Officer; #54, 57, 62)
  • Lamprey (Tayla Skott, Legion Academy; #54)
  • Visi-Lad (Legion Academy/Legion of Substitute Heroes; #54)
  • Harlak (Khund child on Sorcerers’ World; #55, 63)
  • Sarvisa (student on Sorcerers’ World; #55, 57, 59-61)
  • Mojai Desai (President of Earth; #56)
  • Danielle Foccart (#57)
  • Gigi Cusimano (Science Police Chief; #57, 61-62, Annual #4)
  • Antonio Stefanacci (#57, 59-61)
  • Yera Allon (#58)
  • Night Girl (Lydda Jath, Legion of Substitute Heroes; #59, 63)
  • Officer Dvron (#60, 62)
  • Ambassador Relnic (#62)
  • Doctor Gym’ll (Medicus-One; #62)
  • Graym Ranzz (son of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl; #63)
  • Validus Ranzz (son of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl; #63)
  • Comet Queen (Grava, Legion of Substitute Heroes; #63)
  • Karate Kid II (Myg, Legion of Substitute Heroes; #63)

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

  • At the end of time, the Time Trapper stands around.  In the 30th century, Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf head to the Time Institute to retrieve some equipment that Brainiac 5 needs.  They catch readers up on the fact that Brainy and Rond Vidar have been working steadily on a way to reach the end of time. The two Legionnaires retrieve a time cube from Circadia Senius.  As they fly it back to HQ, they spot Dream Girl, Element Lad, and Sun Boy, who are talking about all that’s going on. Brainy still wants to know how Rond survived his father’s attack, but Rond dodges the question.  Mon-El and Saturn Girl get more equipment from the storage tesseract, and talk about whether or not Rond can be trusted. With everything in place, a number of Legionnaires gather in Brainy’s lab. Polar Boy feels like he’s lost control of the team, and Sensor Girl is mysterious.  Dream Girl arrives with Jaxon Rugarth, formerly the Infinite Man, who has been brain dead since we last saw him. White Witch objects to Brainy’s plan to use Jaxon as a power source, and teleports away. With everything ready to go, Brainy sends Rugarth through a portal. Polar Boy figures it’s time for the team to load into the time cube, but Brainy hits a button, and the cube and the four original conspiracists – Brainy, Mon-El, Saturn Girl, and Duo Damsel are the only ones that teleport away, angering the others.  Dream Girl points out someone else is missing. As the cube moves through the time stream, we learn that Rond Vidar stowed away. He reveals himself to the others, and Brainy gives him a force shield belt. As Jaxon turns into the Infinite Man again, they arrive at the end of time. The Time Trapper sees them immediately, and attacks. Rond hides while the Trapper destroys the cube. Imra tries to enter the Trapper’s mind, but collapses. The Trapper captures Luornu in a bubble, and when she splits into two, one of her selves is killed instantly.  Mon-El tries to burn the Trapper, but can’t even get close to him. He sends a wave of entropy at Mon-El, and Rond Vidar runs in to save him. Everyone is surprised when Rond unleashes some green energy, revealing himself to be the Green Lantern of Earth. The Trapper attacks him, but Mon-El fights to save him. Soon, the only Legionnaire standing is Brainy, who laughs at the Trapper’s claim that the world must end. This angers the Trapper even more. They discuss the theory that when the universe ends, it will be reborn. At this, the Infinite Man appears and begins fighting the Trapper, who sees him as just another immortal.  Their fight gets cosmic and confusing, and everything around our heroes begins to disintegrate. Brainy gets Rond to gather the Legionnaires with his energy, and protect them. He uses his force belt to push the Trapper into the portal opened by the Infinite Man, and the Legionnaires get sucked in too. Surprisingly, they appear at their headquarters in their own time; Rond’s ring was able to return them using a device Brainy had given him. We confirm that half of Luornu is dead, but they are sure the Trapper is too. In truth, we see him standing at the end of time again.
  • With issue fifty-one, Keith Giffen starts to make big changes to the way the Legion is depicted.  Characters change costumes, and many start wearing everyday civilian clothes around the headquarters, something we’ve not seen often before.  Giffen also changes up peoples’ hair styles, and makes many of the characters a lot more visually distinct. Brainiac 5 is put on trial by the Legion for killing Jaxon Rugarth.  Polar Boy has brought the charge against Brainy, Saturn Girl (who now has short hair) is representing Brainy, and Cosmic Boy (in a new blue costume) presides. Many Legionnaires watch the proceedings and we get to see some of their thoughts.  Imra’s defense is based on the notion that Jaxon Rugrath was brain dead when Brainy decided to use him to help end the Time Trapper, and also reminds Brek that she was one of the people who wrote the Legion constitution, and its rules around the taking of innocent life.  Rokk reminds them that the constitution was always intended to be somewhat flexible. Brek maintains that no one could have known if Rugrath was okay with what happened. Phantom Girl watches the trial with Invisible Kid and Shrinking Violet, and they soon start arguing. Vi wants to know why Tinya invited her, since they’ve never been close, and Tinya points out that they are the remaining members of the Espionage Squad, and she has a job.  In the Galapagos Preserve, a Khund calling himself Garak of the Glow tries to steal a rare Bismollian puffer fish. When an SP officer responds, he kills her and busts out of the controlled environment. Lightning Lass and Magnetic Kid arrive and Ayla knocks the Khund out of the sky. More Legionnaires discuss the trial, and Marella Tao lets Timber Wolf know that the UP is not laying charges in the case. Brainy walks through the room, killing the vibe.  He heads to his multi-lab to check in on Mon-El. Mon-El was badly hurt by the Time Trapper (he’s in a closed medical coffin-like thing, and we don’t see him), and Brainy informs Shadow Lass that he can do nothing more for him. We see Shady depart for Daxam with Mon-El. Imra and Brainy talk before the trial resumes. He has waived his right to a defense, but takes a moment to make a statement that the trial is irrelevant, as are the opinions of the Legionnaires, as he made a moral choice.  Rond Vidar appears via a green energy hologram (he won’t return to UP space now that his status as a Green Lantern is known) to tell everyone that he believes that Rugrath would have been okay with what happened, and that he supports Brainy. With that, Rokk opens up voting. Brek chats with Dream Girl about the fact that they don’t know where the White Witch is, and how that means she’s abstained from voting. Tinya talks to Dawnstar to make sure she’s willing to help her find Chameleon Boy again.  Later, Tinya, in her new costume, prepares to leave. Ultra Boy comes to see her, and she tells him she’s heading out on Espionage Squad business. Shady, in her cruiser, thinks she should have been allowed to vote on Mon-El’s behalf, given that he went along with Brainy’s plan in the first place; it’s clear she’s very worried about him. Rokk regrets that Pol voted against Brainy, and he and Brek debate some more. Tinya’s cruiser leaves, and Jo watches, as more votes come in. Imra goes to tell Brainy that he was acquitted, which he’d already predicted, although he was off by one in his calculations.  He thanks Imra and they hug, which she finds very strange. Bouncing Boy is doing some work at the Academy when an image of Brainy walks past him to Luornu’s room. He’s working on a new imaging system, and has come to apologize to her for taking her on the mission, as it resulted in her losing her other self. He leaves her his force shield belt. Outside the multi-lab, the new Computo (he looks like a miniature Validus now) announces that Brainy has resigned from the Legion and left for Colu; he also tells them that they can do what they want with his multi-lab.
  • Element Lad, Polar Boy, Saturn Girl, and Dream Girl react to the news of Brainy’s departure, and the creepy new Computo.  Jan defends Brainy to Quislet, while Brek mostly feels sorry for himself. He suggests that Nura take control of the lab, as she’s the next-most scientific member of the team (which has always been odd to me), but she’s not looking for more responsibility.  Brek starts to think more about how he’s going to proceed, and finds some confidence in himself. Magnetic Kid, Tellus, and Lightning Lass are on Braal, where Pol is being feted by his people for his achievements. An earthquake strikes, which has been happening a lot lately, and the heroes jump into action to try to help save people.  In the aftermath, it looks like Ayla might be flirting with Pol. Shadow Lass is on Daxam, where even with the planet’s reputation for health care, no one is sure how Mon-El can be helped, given that his invulnerability makes treating his injuries very hard. After surgery and treatment, a doctor tells Shady that he is safe, but they don’t know if he’ll fully heal.  As Shady watches him sleep, Mon-El wakes up, and Shady demonstrates that her left pinky finger is half-gone, and tells him that she’s bonded herself to him. The Legionnaires on Braal go to the reservation, where the planets metallic dinosaurs still roam, trying to investigate the earthquakes that have been striking the planet. The beasts start to stampede, and another earthquake happens, which opens a hole deep into the crust.  Tellus telepathically communicates with one of the beasts, despite the speciesism of the other two. On Earth, Blok visits a massive museum’s rock exhibit, and talks to himself about how he is the only silicon-based life he can find, and how unsure of his body and life he is. A small man starts to talk to him, and takes him to the star exhibit. The little guy jumps into a black hole or portal or something, and Blok follows (this scene could be clearer).  Tellus leads Pol and Ayla to an old strip mining site, and as they descend, they find a Gil’Dishphan who is clearly behind the earthquakes. They approach, and the methane breather, who is never named, starts a cyclone. Tellus saves them, and Ayla blasts the Gil’Dishpan, who retreats, bringing the cavern down on everyone. Pol’s magnetism saves them, and Ayla more clearly flirts with him.
  • The fourth Annual fits between issues fifty-two and fifty-three, and addresses the Starfinger storyline.  Dawnstar, who is experiencing a bit of an existential crisis, realizes that Chameleon Boy is not where she last found him, and turns the Espionage Squad around, back towards Earth’s system, which annoys Shrinking Violet.  Cham is trapped in a crystal device that he is able to escape by becoming a crystal himself (it’s weird how he is able to “turn” his shape into a dust mote at times, which makes me wonder how heavy he is). He does not recognize the facility where Starfinger has trapped him, and begins to explore.  Phantom Girl phases into the asteroid where Dawny thinks Cham is, and she does discover him there. When she turns solid, a drone detects her ring, and Cham yells at her to fade just as the asteroid explodes. Tinya is fine but a little stunned, and passes out after being found by Dawnstar and the others.  Dawnstar searches for Cham, and finds him, leading him back to the cruiser. On Mars, Starfinger has Colossal Boy strapped to a wall, with underlings examining his leg. Starfinger blasts Gim’s leg where he hurt it before, and then orders the underlings out. Starfinger explains that he was once Char Burrane, the crook that Gim and Gigi Cusimano captured back in their academy days (this story was discussed in my last column).  After being captured, Char escaped again, although his wrist monitor didn’t let him get too far before it caused him great pain. Char discovered, in a Martian crater, a ring that, when he put it on, brought forth Starlight and Starbright. He explains to the unconscious Gim that he used his new abilities to take over organized crime. Invisible Kid sneaks into Starfinger’s base, and finds Gim. When he turns visible, he is discovered by Starfinger, who attacks him.  What he doesn’t know is that Shrinking Violet was hiding on Jacques, and she knocks Starfinger out. Vi frees Gim, and they try to escape. They get seen, but Gim is able to send a signal out over Starfinger’s equipment before passing out from his pain. Starfinger, Starlight, Starbright, and a ton of goons show up, and some fighting begins. Dawnstar shows up, and bashing Starfinger through a wall, manages to take out the two women as well (I guess he needs to be conscious for them to be around).  A detachment of SPs also arrive, led by Gigi, who Gim also signalled. Starfinger recovers and knocks out many of the Legionnaires. Vi jumps on him, but he just blasts her. He calls the two women from his ring, but an SP with a bazooka-thing blasts them, and then him. He retreats into the ring, which Vi is able to find. At the end of it all, Starfinger’s ring is put under SP guard (three seems like too many), and Starfinger endeavours to just hang out in the ring with the women until the time to strike comes around again.
  • The back-up to Annual #4 is part of the “Private Lives” theme that ran through DC’s annuals that year, and features Dream Girl and Atmos, who have gone out for a night on a swanky starcraft.  Nura can’t decide what to do about Atmos, who she is not really all that interested in. When she tells him that he’s not going to be joining the Legion, he decides to return to Xanthu. Surprisingly, she decides to go with him.
  • The three Legionnaires on Braal, Magnetic Kid, Lightning Lass, and Tellus, continue their pursuit of Hywyndr, the Gil’Dishpan who now has a name.  Upon finding him, he attacks with his elemental powers again, and manages to get the upper hand. On Earth, Polar Boy and Element Lad oversee the installation of new medical equipment that they can operate without Brainiac 5 or their other two qualified med-techs, Dream Girl and Mon-El.  Colossal Boy is with them, and we learn that his legs should be fine provided he stays off of them. Brek worries about how understaffed the team is, and when Timber Wolf arrives with a power unit, he complains that he can’t find Blok anywhere. Shadow Lass prepares to leave Daxam with Mon-El.  Since his own people couldn’t cure him, she’s decided to seek help elsewhere, against the doctor’s advice. The Legionnaires on Braal continue to fight Hywyndr (I just realized that is probably pronounced High-Winder), who fights them with the winds, and then with lava. Ayla gets angry and turns into her lightning form, giving the Gil’Disphan a run for his money, until he vanishes.  Shady talks to Mon-El, who is feeling pretty down because of his injuries. Their cruiser is attacked by a Khund battlecruiser (this is the first that we’ve seen Giffen’s classic Khundian design), and Shady hopes to outrun them. The trio on Braal relax by a pool (Braal has exactly one nice hotel), and while Ayla flirts with Pol again, he figures out a way to track down Hywyndr, frustrating her efforts.  Shady turns the cruiser towards the Khunds, and uses her powers to put their vessel in absolute darkness. She has the cruiser ram into the Khund ship, and then gets Mon-El to use his heat vision to wreck their ship, firing it right through their own cruiser’s hull. The effort exhausts him, but it gets the Khunds off their backs. Pol has his squad in orbit around Braal. He’s able to use the weather monitoring network to figure out where Hywyndr is.  Tellus uses his telekinesis to guide the Gil’Dishpan into the cruiser, and once it’s in orbit, he loses touch with the planet’s biosphere, negating his elemental powers. Ayla zaps him, saying they’re going to take him to the prison planet Labyrinth. On Labyrinth, we see Warden Tsaquin address his newest inmate, Garak of the Glow, who smirks as he’s locked away. In orbit around the planet, we see the Emerald Eye watching things.
  • Polar Boy talks to the Validus Computo robot about how many Legionnaires have gone missing or are on leave, and talks about the new uniforms that he’s been passing out, which he figures no one will like.  From this point, we see the new uniforms, which are more standardized, and based around more blocky, workwear designs. Brek sees that there is a jailbreak happening on Labyrinth, and despairs. We see that it is Garak of the Glow who has used his implants to free himself.  He is surrounded by floating computers, and we learn that when he walks past any cells, they open. He kills an armored guard, and starts yelling as he frees more prisoners and wrecks stuff. Warden Tsaquen watches, and speaks to Polar Boy and Chief Zendak over holo-screen. At the Legion Academy, Bouncing Boy (who now has a moustache) and Shvaughn Erin run tests on Brainiac 5’s force shield belt while Luornu wears it.  It’s stronger than any of them expected. Some of the freed prisoners on Labyrinth, led by Lazon and Titania, break into an armory. Tsaquin notices that Garak hasn’t gone to free the highest security prisoners; instead, we see he’s gone to free his “beloved.” Ultra Boy shows up with Wildfire to stop him, but they lose him. Brek walks through headquarters, convincing himself that he was right to send his three fastest Legionnaires (Ultra Boy, Wildfire, and Dawnstar) to Labyrinth ahead of a larger force.  Sensor Girl tells him she agrees with his decision. Shadow Lass and Mon-El talk about how they don’t know where to go next to help Mon-El recover. Wildfire blinds a number of escapees, while Dawnstar catches some in a net. Ultra Boy finds Garak, who says that his beloved is free. Jo takes him down, and realizes who he freed. At the same time, the Emerald Eye starts blasting at Labyrinth from outside. Chuck talks to Visi-Lad about Luornu’s future, and then goes to talk to her. She says she’s going to give the belt back.  Some prisoners begin to escape on some shuttles, but the lead one is suddenly turned into gas; Element Lad has arrived and uses his powers to capture Radiation Roy and the others inside. Sun Boy takes out another cruiser, while Phantom Girl enters the third, and gets the prisoners to surrender. A big Dominator prisoner has Shrinking Violet in his hand, but Chameleon Boy beats him, while Timber Wolf catches another. Things are stable on Labyrinth now, and everyone starts to congratulate themselves when Jo shows up to tell them that the Emerald Empress has escaped.  Sensor Girl, on Earth, senses that the Empress is free, and says that their next meeting will be their last.
  • Issue fifty-five features guest artists Ernie Colón, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopéz, and Erik Larsen, as they and Giffen each draw a chapter featuring a different inactive or missing Legionnaire.  The book is bookended by a sequence in which Polar Boy worries about how many Legionnaires are off the team currently. The White Witch is on Sorcerers’ World, walking around with a young Khund named Harlak.  Mysa wonders if she has made choices in her life, or has always just followed a path. Another student, Sarvisa, approaches asking her to travel to Earth to deliver a message, but she refuses, preferring to stay.  Instead, Sarvisa sets out on the journey himself, and Mysa learns that Harlak has chosen her to be his guide. On Colu, Brainiac 5 settles into his new lab, but quickly learns that he will not be allowed to study time travel, as it is forbidden.  He’s not sure if he should stay, but he resolves to get to know some of his neighbours. Dream Girl is on Xanthu, spending time with Atmos, which makes Star Boy jealous. When Thom and Atmos both arrive at a disaster at the same time, they end up fighting, which in turn leads to Star Boy leaving the planet.  Nura knows she shouldn’t be with Atmos, but can’t stop herself, and doesn’t understand why. Blok is in a living spacecraft, still being guided by the small man he met at the museum. Blok is frustrated that he has no new answers about his kind, and begins to think he’s been trapped by the nameless guide. The little guy disappears into some shadows, and we learn he is working for a being called the Inquisitor, who is hoping that Blok will lead him to more silicon-based life.  Polar Boy begins to learn how to work the new mission monitor board, which was designed by Computo, and tries to get ahold of Shadow Lass, but fails. He continues to worry that the team is falling apart.
  • Blok is undergoing some new transformations (he has little volcanoes on his shoulders that release Kirby crackle) as he rages against his imprisonment.  The Inquisitor and his aid watch on the view screen, and the Inquisitor worries that he can’t find the secrets of immortality from Blok. A squad of Legionnaires (Dawnstar, Element Lad, Ultra Boy, and Wildfire) search for the Emerald Empress.  The trail takes them to an uninhabited world, where they find a large green floating castle. The clouds condense into green attacking homunculi, which the Legion fight off. Dawnstar realizes that the Empress has left this world. Element Lad reports in to Lightning Lass, who is manning the mission monitor board.  Ayla is visited by Magnetic Kid, and she once again begins flirting with him; he gets nervous and leaves. Angry, Ayla storms off, and runs into Shrinking Violet, who gets her to go hang out with her. Shadow Lass has brought Mon-El to Verzwei, a planet between UP, Khund, and Dominator space, known for performing medical miracles.  The doctor she talks to offers little hope, and then sends Mon-El through a small black hole. Realizing they’ve been tricked, Shady jumps in with him. It turns out that this leads them to the Inquisitor’s ship, where his little assistant has thought that Mon-El might hold the secret to immortality. The Inquisitor doesn’t agree, and we learn that he’s working for someone else, who would find it ironic if the Legionnaires help him or her become immortal.  On Earth, Chief Zendak goes to visit President Desai, who tells him he’s being reassigned to the rim; obviously, Zendak is not happy about this. The Inquisitor sends glowing lights to probe Mon-El, and Shady fights them off. Blok has been beating on the walls of his prison all this time, and manages to break through to where Shady and Mon-El are, which makes the Inquisitor unhappy. Blok figures that he can fight through the pain he’s feeling, and starts beating on the walls again, while Shady tries to fight off more glowing lights.  Mon-El uses his flash vision to help, and they make their way into the Inquisitor’s lab. He quickly teleports away, leaving his little assistant behind. Blok gets the little guy to open two black holes for them, one leading back to Verzwei, because she still hopes she can find a cure there. Blok tosses the little guy through the other portal, which leads to Earth, to make sure it works, and we see him appearing in front of Polar Boy (who is back in his old costume), before Blok joins him.
  • The Emerald Empress is the person behind the Inquisitor’s immortality project, and she kills him for failing her.  It seems she’s worried about getting older, and is on the hunt for a way to stay young. I don’t think I mentioned it, but Dawnstar was hurt fighting the cloud creatures last issue.  Wildfire sits with her, and Dawnstar apologizes for the way she’s been treating him, and kisses him, which amuses Computo. Sensor Girl sits with Polar Boy as he learns that Chameleon Boy’s team has had no luck finding the Empress.  Brek feels that Projectra is not helping, but she figures that the Empress will come for her. Invisible Kid has returned home to Agni, in Africa, to visit his sister for the first in a long time. They talk about how he is less shy than before, and then he receives an alert over his flight ring.  The Empress has attacked the Pan-African University, looking for the secret of immortality (she figures that this place collects stories of immortals, so…). She kills some people, and is about to destroy the university’s computers when Invisible Kid, invisibly blocks the Emerald Eye’s blast. The Eye can see him though, so Jacques runs, figuring he can draw the Eye away from everyone else.  He lures it into a stasis-preserver, thinking that can slow it down. The Empress grabs him, and when the Eye bursts free, it blasts Jacques in the face, burning him badly. Some Legionnaires (Timber Wolf, Tellus, Blok, Magnetic Kid, and Lightning Lass) arrive. At SP headquarters, we see that the SP also have new uniforms, with rank denoted by the size of their shoulder pads, it would seem. We also learn that Gigi Cusimano is the new chief of police on Earth.  Shvaughn Erin comes to see her, annoyed that she wasn’t informed of the Legion’s mission to Africa. The Empress leaves the university, and the Legionnaires catch up to her over Cairo, but aren’t able to stop her. She heads to Rome, where she destroys some SP fighters. Ayla, Pol, and Tellus attempt to use their powers on the Eye at once, but it blasts them away. She leaves again, followed by Jacques. Sarvisa arrives on Earth, visiting Antonio Stefanacci to tell him that he has a message from Sorcerers’ World, but he doesn’t know who it is intended for.  The Empress arrives in Metropolis, where she finds a squadron of SP fighters, and the same Legionnaires, reinforced by Polar Boy and Quislet, waiting for her. Brek encases her in ice, which only angers her. She grabs Brek, and landing on the fusion powersphere, threatens to blow it up if they don’t all leave her alone.  
  • The Legionnaires have no choice but to back off so the Emerald Empress doesn’t blow up Metropolis and its fusion powersphere.  She drops Polar Boy, and decides to blow things up anyway. Colossal Boy, freshly back on active duty, grabs her, but she blasts him and departs Earth, moving too fast for anyone to track.  Wildfire is annoyed with Dawnstar because when they touched, he burned her. She thinks it’s not really a problem, and declares her love for him, but he walks away. Dawny is unhappy and confused, and decides the best thing she can do is lead the Legion after the Emerald Empress.  Yera, Colossal Boy’s wife, is angry with him for rushing into battle so soon after recovering from his injuries. The Empress is on Trom, still looking for the secrets of immortality. She’s annoyed with the Emerald Eye, and has it start to destroy the Tsarins that commemorate the dead of the planet.  This brings Element Lad and Ultra Boy, who attack her and the Eye. It blasts Jo away, while Jan’s attempts to encase the Empress meet with failure, until he turns the air around it into hydrogen, blasting it back. This hurts the Empress, who looks like she might have lost an eye. The other Legionnaires arrive to join the fight.  Somewhere else, Timber Wolf (who is starting to change – he has Spock ears now), Invisible Kid (who is still badly burned) and Sensor Girl sit in a cruiser waiting, because Projectra knows that the Empress will be coming to her. On Trom, the Empress powers up, absorbing more energy from the Eye than she ever has, and takes down most of the Legionnaires.  More Legionnaires join the fight. Wildfire tries to attack the Empress physically, and that ends with everyone except Quislet knocked out. That hero tries to possess the Eye the way he does inanimate objects, but is unsuccessful. Instead, he punches the Eye away by inhabiting a Tsarin before returning to his vessel and flying towards the Empress. She has the Eye blast his ship apart from space, and then teleports away.  As the others recover, Quislet tells Jan that without his ship, he must leave, and opens a black hole to fly through, back to his home dimension. Wildfire is worried about him, while Brek sees another Legionnaire gone on his watch. The Empress stands in space, talking to the Eye. She feels like she is changing and fading away, and doubles over in pain. Sensor Girl stands on her cruiser, and the Empress arrives. The two women talk to one another, and the Empress asks that Projectra help her get free of the Eye’s power.  Jacques and Brin are surprised by how civil this conversation is. When the Empress begs, Sensor Girl uses her powers to blind the Eye, which frees the Empress from it. The Empress thanks her as she turns to dust in front of her, shocking Projectra, who just unwittingly broke the Legion prohibition against killing.
  • Most of issue 59 is a flashback drawn by Mark Bright.  Invisible Kid is left in a pensive state by all that’s been going on lately, and goes to visit the statue of the first Invisible Kid, Lyle Norg, again.  He is looking for a sign from Lyle, and that’s where the flashback begins. Lyle searched the team’s new headquarters because he’s sure there’s a ghost or intruder.  He made sure he had the place to himself – this is before the team moved in, and after hearing noises from the armory, ends up trapped under collapsed equipment. He woke up in his bed, being looked after by Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, but didn’t tell them what’s going on.  He left to go to his lab, where he’d arranged to meet Condo Arlik, a young man whose mutations caused the chemical reactions in his body to run amok. Lyle had helped Condo, and talked to him about viewing his mutation as a power that he could use to join the Legion. Later, Lyle hid in the headquarters, waiting for the visitor to come back.  Something tripped the alarm, so he rushed over, and found Condo trying to help him. Another alarm sounded in the armory, so Lyle rushed there, to find an intruder who looked like a poor man’s Iron Man. The guy attacked him, and Condo tried to help, but made things worse. The intruder escaped. In the present, Night Girl has come to Legion HQ to hang out with Polar Boy, as the team gets ready to vote.  He is sure that he’s going to be voted out, and suspects that Sensor Girl will become leader, since the team is being sympathetic to her for what happened with the Emerald Empress. Lydda does her best to make him feel better. In the flashback, we see that Lyle figured out what the intruder was after. Later, when the intruder returned, he went for the inertron box that held the Controllers’ Miracle Machine.  When he opened it, a trap was sprung, although he busted out of it. Condo used his power on him, but the guy blasted him. When the guy held Condo hostage, Lyle made himself visible to surrender, and the guy blasted him too. He was about to kill them both when he heard a loud sound in another room, and turned, giving Lyle the chance to tackle him. They disabled his tech, and Lyle called for reinforcements with his ring.  The guy, an alien, wouldn’t say who he was or how he got the SP devices that let him enter the headquarters. A glowing light sped into the room, which the guy called Quanto; it teleported the thief and then flew away, just as Mon-El and Ultra Boy arrived. Lyle introduced Condo, which is what led to him becoming the Legionnaire Chemical King. Lyle walked the headquarters some more, and found Ferro Lad’s statue had toppled over; he suspected that Ferro Lad’s ghost had stepped in to help him.  In the present, Jacques decides to follow Lyle’s example, and also to give himself some credit. Sarvisa and Antonio Stefanacci continue their talk about the message Sarvisa is supposed to deliver to someone. Stefanacci suggests that he let his pet bird decide, and the creature flies towards Legion HQ. We overheard dialogue telling us that Sensor Girl is the team’s new leader, and that Timber Wolf is the deputy.
  • Issue sixty began The Magic Wars, the four part arc that ended this run.  Sensor Girl is not sure she agrees with the confidence the Legion showed her by electing her leader, and Polar Boy reads it as an indictment of his leadership, and all the losses the team accrued in that time.  Timber Wolf, the new deputy leader, talks some sense into Projectra about duty and doing their jobs. In the Aegean, a mythical hydra appears and starts trashing the paradisiacal resorts there. Brin, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, and Tellus respond.  It is Tellus that is able to calm the beast telepathically, and Brin takes it to a remote island. Somewhere, a man or god who has been in bondage for ages begins to pull at his chains, feeling them give a little. Computo bothers Shrinking Violet, who finds it difficult to get into her new costume.  She’s needed for a mission. Computo also tries to get Wildfire, but now that Quislet is gone, Wildfire can no longer hold together his body, and has reverted into a ball of anti-energy. On the largest weather control satellite in Earth orbit, chaos reigns. The satellite is losing control of the Earth’s weather, but is also experiencing fires and floods itself.  Large disembodied grins are on the station, and are behind the mess. Element Lad arrives with a team, but Blok can’t get through the station’s corridors, now that he’s grown so big. Polar Boy and Element Lad capture one of the fire elemental things, while Vi is able to catch another in a spare transuit. The people in control of the satellite admit that they’ve lost all control over the weather, for the first time in centuries.  In the cavern, the big guy we saw before continues to pull on his chains, and with every bit of movement, there is an effect on the world. At the Museum of Mystic Arts, artifacts that previously held no magic begin to work, puzzling Antonio Stefanacci. A child begins to play with a wand, creating more chaos. Officer Dvron and some Legionnaires (Sun Boy, Lightning Lass, Colossal Boy, and Invisible Kid) are there as well. Dirk and Ayla’s powers run amok, and the kid stops Gim from grabbing the wand.  Jacques, invisible, is successful, returning the wand to Stefanacci. He admits that he can’t use the magic, but then is somehow able to restore the Museum to its proper condition. Sarvisa meets the Legionnaires, and tells them he has a message, but still doesn’t know who to give it to. The big guy frees himself from his bondage, and that has consequences. Sensor Girl is checking out the mission monitor board, which she doesn’t think she’ll need, but then she notices that Sarvisa’s bird has been on the roof of the headquarters for days.  She goes there to speak to it, and it warns her that magic is returning, and that science may fail.
  • Tellus and Ultra Boy survey the damage as power goes out across the Earth.  They are surprised to see Science Police use water cannons to disperse people from the spaceport, although Bouncing Boy intervenes, keeping Jo from confronting the police.  Timber Wolf mans the mission monitor board when it, and Computo, fails. Sensor Girl sends out a general alert. Shrinking Violet is unhappy at having been sent into the main water pipe supplying water for Metropolis, but she manages to get it unstuck.  A crowd has formed around the Museum of Mystic Arts. More Legionnaires arrive, and Saturn Girl is able to disperse the crowd. Sensor Girl talks with Antonio Stefanacci and Sarvisa, and shows him that she has his bird, and that it delivered its warning.  She hopes that Stefanacci’s new magic powers might be enough to help save Earth when mixed with hers. The other Legionnaires watch as she and the two mages try to reverse whatever is happening, but their spell fails. The being we saw escape his bondage last issue is still trapped under rocks, although now he looks to be made of flame.  Projectra figures that she needs to add Sun Boy to her spell, due to his vast scientific knowledge, and that Saturn Girl can help channel that information to Stefanacci. They try again, and this time, the spell appears to work. Across Earth, power starts to be restored, as we see when the narrative checks in with Gigi Cusimano, and Fire Lad and Chlorophyll Kid, of all people.  The creature in bondage figures out that Earth, where he was born, is no longer in his sway, which makes him angry, and he begins to dig his way out from his prison. Shadow Lass is flying away from Verzwei, having had no luck in finding a treatment for Mon-El. She is surprised when their cruiser loses all power. She rushes to Mon-El, whose life support medical bed fails, and we see his vitals flatline.  Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, and Tellus patrol, and help people who have been trapped. Tinya compliments Jo on being the strongest Legionnaire now. Timber Wolf leads them into the Museum, where Projectra and the others are working a spell where they call upon friendly spirits. We see quick images of Karate Kid, the first Invisible Kid, Ferro Lad, and someone else (maybe Chemical King?), but none of them can stay.  Another presence makes itself known – the Emerald Eye, which blasts them. Projectra’s lost her orakill’s abilities, and despairs. Sarvisa suggests they go to Sorcerers’ World, but Projectra fears that the galaxy is getting cold. We see the entity has escaped from bondage, but all we see of it is shadow, save for its big blue grin.
  • A few Legionnaires, Sun Boy, Timber Wolf, and Invisible Kid, are on Weber’s World, helping the UP evacuate the artificial world.  Timber Wolf sees Ambassador Relnic defying the orders to leave everything behind, as he tries to take important data with him. On Lallor, the Heroes of Lallor face a gigantic serpent.  When Duplicate Boy tries to duplicate White Witch’s powers, he disappears along with the creature. Three Legion cruisers make their way to Sorcerers’ World (it’s weird that it looks like they left Sarvisa behind), hoping they can find a solution to the galaxy’s problems there.  Dawnstar and Wildfire lead them, but they are suddenly all caught in a gigantic web, complete with gigantic space spiders. Wildfire, who is back in a classic containment suit, gets trapped in his suit by their webbing. Finally, Element Lad changes the whole thing to gas, allowing them to continue on their way.  On Colu, Brainiac 5 recognizes that he has to humble himself, as his entire planet is plunged into darkness. He decides to call on the Legion for assistance. As Dawnstar continues to lead the way, her path is blocked by a wall of some substance, which Wildfire weirdly calls ‘gook’. The cruisers blast at it, blowing it all away, and revealing Sorcerers’ World, which appears to be behind a giant iron curtain.  On Earth, Doctor Gym’ll grumpily attempts to help the injured and sick using the medi-facilities at Legion HQ. Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel (Uno-Girl?) are with him, and Chuck is worried. Phantom Girl is unable to get through the barrier around Sorcerers’ World. Sensor Girl spies a lock, and has everyone blast at it, to no effect. She uses her powers to “see” the lock, and collapses. Tellus tells everyone that she saw a message:  “As this world jailed me, I imprison it. If you would share its doom, let that wish be dearer to you than life itself.” In Metropolis, three SP officers – Chief Gigi, Shvaughn, and Dvron stand against a massive crowd hoping to break into the spaceport. They are joined by Kendel Zendak, who has returned to lend his help. The Legion debates what to do about the lock, and Jan volunteers to sacrifice himself. Suddenly, Magnetic Kid makes a break for the lock.  The Legionnaires fly after him, trying to stop him (really, Dawnstar should have no problem catching him). Polar Boy, his closest friend on the team, tries to stop him, but Pol insists that he do this, and walks into the lock. We see him die, and then the barrier around the world fades away, and the entity we’ve seen before rises from the planet, appearing its equal in size.
  • The final issue opens with most of the active Legionnaires facing off against the Archmage, the entity we’ve seen grow in stature and power for the last few issues, in space above Sorcerers’ World.  Their initial attacks do nothing, and the Archmage sends out tendrils to capture them. As he seals them into a sphere, Dawnstar, Ultra Boy, and Wildfire, in his energy form, manage to escape. They find Sensor Girl also free, and she sends them to find help (mentioning there’s a new containment suit for Wildfire on one of the cruisers.  On Xanthu, Dream Girl wonders why she’s lying in bed with Atmos while the rest of the planet burns. She finally figures out that Atmos must have some kind of power over the wills of others, because she still doesn’t understand why she’s with him. She uses the signal in her ring, and is surprised when Dawnstar and Star Boy show up. Dawny was there to collect Thom when she got Dream Girl’s signal.  As Atmos begins to wake up, Nura punches him. Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, and Chameleon Boy all manage to escape their new prison, just as Colossal Boy punches his way through it, freeing the rest. The Archmage grows in size again, enveloping the heroes in his darkness. Just then another Legion cruiser arrives, carrying Invisible Kid, Timber Wolf, and Sun Boy. Dirk’s light hurts the Archmage, giving the rest of the team the chance to rally.  Wildfire appears with Brainiac 5, who has altered Wildfire’s containment suit to allow him to project different wavelengths of energy. Brainy apologizes to Projectra for being away, and deduces that they have a better chance of defeating the Archmage on Sorcerers’ World, since he’s working so hard to keep them away from it. On Earth, Cosmic Boy has gathered the new Substitute Legion, and they are preparing to head out to help. Lightning Lad is staying behind to guard Earth and his children.  Ultra Boy arrives, having come to collect them, and has to tell Rokk that Pol is dead. The Legion approaches Sorcerers’ World, but the Archmage keeps trying to stop them. Sun Boy and Wildfire are able to hold him off for a while, and the team spots the sorcerers of Sorcerers’ World leaving through a portal. They find the White Witch there, and she and one of the teachers explain that the planet had served as a prison for dark magic, and that the gems of the planet had kept magic balanced and centred there.  They figure that when White Witch left to join the Legion, it weakened the balance so that the Archmage was able to escape. The mages are all leaving their powers behind as they flee, and Mysa intends to go with them. It is young Harlack, the Khund novitiate that shames her, and Mysa senses that the planet doesn’t want her to go. The Archmage arrives and shatters the portal. Mysa begins to fight him, showing a level of power no one thought she had. Dream Girl arrives and tells her that she saw that the planet won’t survive, but she rejects that vision.  The Archmage is about to smash Mysa when another cruiser arrives, and Cosmic Boy, wearing his brother’s costume, attacks, futilely. Mysa wants the heroes to join hands with her, but Saturn Girl and Tellus both hear a voice in their mind. Blok hears it too, and explains that it’s coming from the planet itself. A mountain starts to speak, and we see a vision of Amethyst, the teenage girl that lived on Gemworld in the 1980s series. She says that it’s time to let her go, and so Mysa teleports the Legion away. The Archmage grows, and crushes Sorcerers’ World in his fist, destroying it.  This destroys all magic in the universe, including him, and so he fades to nothingness. Later, the team all stand on a rock, talking. Mysa gives Blok credit for helping her to see, and Projectra gives a speech about how the Legion will help put the galaxy back together.

And that doesn’t just end this series, but also ends a very lengthy run (just over 100 issues, counting Annuals and miniseries and stuff) by Paul Levitz.  I want to come back to what Levitz contributed to the Legion, but first I want to discuss this run on its own merits.

When Giffen returned to the book, it was clearly with the express purpose of dismantling the team, and putting it up against some of its biggest challenges.  The members of the “conspiracy” almost pulled the team apart, and then in their fight with the Time Trapper, one of Luornu’s selves was killed, and Mon-El was put out of commission for the rest of the series.  After that, other Legionnaires left the team (Brainiac 5, White Witch, Quislet, Dream Girl, and effectively, Shadow Lass), went through massive changes (Blok), and nearly everyone took on a darker, more complicated look with the new uniforms.  It felt like this title was making a serious break with its past, which coincided with a more troubled time in the universe.

The fight with the Emerald Empress was more difficult than we were used to seeing, and that presage the difficulty the team would have with the Archmage, which ultimately led to the death of Magnetic Kid, and massive destruction across the galaxy.

It was very cool, in the last issue, to see the various members of the team come back together to help fight, and on the last page, Sensor Girl’s speech left readers hopeful for a better version of the future.  Of course, we weren’t ever going to get to see that future, as when the title relaunched, things were drastically different, and a lot darker.

When this title ended, it did a good job of checking in on many minor characters, giving us a last look at some of the former Substitute Legionnaires, as well as the Heroes of Lallor, and our favourite Science Police officers.  What we didn’t get to see is what happened to Shadow Lass and Mon-El though, which is a little odd.  

I found that this run contained more character development than the previous one, with a few characters getting a lot of the spotlight.  Levitz and Giffen made Polar Boy a very interesting, but also kind of tragic character. Giffen’s portrayal of him grew more chaotic as he started to lose his grip on the team – instead of being the earnest cleancut hero of Larocque’s term as artist, his hair became a jagged tangle of icicles, and his uniform looked ill fitting and as disorganized as his approach to leadership.

By contrast, Sensor Girl’s new costume had a completely blank face, making her even more inscrutable than before, while also embracing some of the more baroque trappings of her royal upbringing.

I loved the new costume designs, with a few notable exceptions.  I don’t understand why Tellus, who was always portrayed as naked save for the atmosphere-containing helmet he wore, would suddenly need shoulder pads.  I also hated the design for Chameleon Boy, which has him wearing a purple hood, but at the same time, he was barely in these comics, so it doesn’t really matter.

A number of the most central Legionnaires disappeared during most of this run, especially Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy.  It was cool that it gave Giffen and Levitz space to focus on characters that don’t usually get so much of the spotlight, but it was kind of strange to realize that they’d been absent for months.  

It’s interesting to think about this run in the context of the rest of the DC Universe.  The post-Crisis era had solidified, and things were getting progressively darker and stranger in many corners of the DC universe, but this was also the time when Giffen’s work on the Justice League was widely applauded for being light-hearted and fun.  It was also during this time that Giffen was involved in the launching of LEGION ‘89, the terrific precursor series that featured ancestors of the current team as leaders of an intergalactic police force (I’ve already written about that series, starting here). Given how things were getting darker in the present day, it only made sense that DC’s vision of the future would be a little less Utopian.

Giffen’s art had changed a lot leading to this era, when compared against his work during the Great Darkness Saga, for example.  His characters and environments had become blockier, and more dense, and clothing got a lot more complicated. His eye for layouts was always a little odd, and that stayed consistent through this run.  Another thing he did was make the characters, especially Saturn Girl and Dream Girl, start to look older. The Legionnaires were definitely not kids anymore, and it was time that their look started to reflect the fact that they were, unlike present-day DC comics, aging in real time. 

I don’t want to make it sound like I think Giffen is behind everything new and exciting in this title during this run.  Paul Levitz’s influence is everywhere, especially in the way that so many characters are juggled around the plotlines, and in how stories are planted months earlier like seeds.  There is a clear synergy between Levitz and Giffen that really helped to enhance these comics.  

Levitz has written other things since his time on the Legion, but I feel like it is what he will always be best remembered for.  There has never been a time since this run where writers became as connected to a certain title, and given the chance to stay there for about a decade (Wolfman on Teen Titans, and Claremont on X-Men are the only other two runs that rival this one for length and influence), with the possible exception of Bendis and Ultimate Spider-Man.

When Levitz left, so did colourist Carl Gafford, who had been with the title for like seven years.  That’s pretty notable.

After this title ended, and a three month break in publication, the Legion returned with one of the most challenging and exciting comics of the late 80s and early 90s.  This is when Giffen jumped ahead five years in the story, and in the process, broke the team and most of its members. I largely started this entire Legion project because I wanted to reread the Giffen/Bierbaum Legion, often referred to as the 5YG Legion (for the five year gap) that attempted to bring continuity into line, and replaced characters like Superboy and Supergirl with new ones who were retroactively always part of the team.  I’m going to have a lot to say about this series, and can’t wait to get into it.

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

These comics have never been collected in trade paperbacks.

 

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