Retro Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes Vol. 4 #40-50 By The Bierbaums, McCraw, Immonen & Others For DC Comics

The Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 4) #40-50, Annual #4 (February 1993 – November 1993)

Written by Tom Bierbaum (#40-41, 43-50, Annual #4), Mary Bierbaum (#40-41, 43-50, Annual #4), Tom McCraw (#50), Stuart Immonen (#50), Ron Boyd (#50)

Story by Tom McCraw (#42)

Dialogue by Tom Bierbaum (#42), Mary Bierbaum (#42)

Pencilled by Stuart Immonen (#40-50, Annual #4), Chris Sprouse (#41), Darryl Banks (#49-50, Annual #4), Joe Phillips (Annual #4), Christopher Taylor (Annual #4), Nick Napolitano (Annual #4)

Inked by Ron Boyd (#40-48, 50, Annual #4), Karl Story (#41), John Dell III (#42), Pam Eklund (#49), Rich Faber (#50), Terry Austin (Annual #4), Wade Grawbadger (Annual #4), Dan Davis (Annual #4)

Colour by Tom McCraw (#40-50, Annual #4)

Spoilers (from twenty-seven years ago)

When Keith Giffen and Jason Pearson left the Legion, the book was at its absolute height (in my opinion).  In more than thirty years of continuous publication, there had been many fine Legion stories and runs, but the work they did with Tom and Mary Bierbaum will always be my favourite Legion of all time.  It was steeped in continuity and history, although after Mon-El killed the Time Trapper, it was not the continuity and history we were completely familiar with. The title was the most adult and mature it had ever been (yet Kono kept sneaking into the men’s showers).  

The title was also incredibly complicated.  In the wake of the Earth’s war to liberate itself from the Dominion, the planet was destroyed.  Humanity was spread throughout the stars, and all that was left of its traditional home was a connected group of less than one hundred domes.  The Legion was managing this tragedy, and with the fact that some twenty younger versions of themselves crawled out of the Dominion chambers, and no one is sure which Legion is the original, and which is a group of clones.

The Bierbaums took on the full writing role (they often shared plotting with Giffen, and sometimes the pencillers, inkers, and colourist before).  Stuart Immonen, who would go on from this run to become a superstar artist, came on board. Expectations were high, but I remember a growing sense of disappointment as this run continued (but I remember kind of hating the book after the Bierbaums left, until Zero Hour erased my Legion forever).  This was the start of the decline, but there was still some good life left in the series. Let’s see how it reads today…

Let’s track who turned up in the title:

The Legion of Super-Heroes

  • Reep “Cham” Daggle, formerly Chameleon Boy (#40-42)
  • Rokk Krinn, formerly Cosmic Boy (#40-48, 50)
  • Devlin O’Ryan (#40, 43-48, 50)
  • Laurel Gand (#40, 42, 44-48, 50)
  • Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox; #40-48, 50)
  • Jacques Foccart, formerly Invisible Kid (#40-41, 43-45, 50, Annual #4)
  • Troy Stewart, formerly Tyroc (President of New Earth; #40-41, 50)
  • Kent Shakespeare, formerly Impulse (#40, 42, 44, 48)
  • Jan Arrah, formerly Element Lad (#40-41, 45-48, 50)
  • Nura Nal, formerly Dream Girl (#40, 45-48, 50)
  • Mysa Nal, formerly The White Witch (#40, 43-44, 47-48, 50)
  • Tenzil Kem, formerly Matter-Eater Lad (#40-41, 44-50)
  • Garth Ranzz, formerly Lightning Lad (#40, 44, 50)
  • Jo Nah, formerly Ultra Boy (#40, 42-48, 50)
  • Ayla Ranzz, formerly Lightning Lass (#40, 42, 44-47, 50)
  • Salu “Vi” Digby, formerly Shrinking Violet (#40, 42, 44-48, 50)
  • Celeste Rockfish, formerly Celeste McCauley (#40, 42, 44, 48)
  • Crystal Kid (#41)
  • Dawnstar (#41, 45, 50, Annual #4)
  • Luornu Taine, formerly Triplicate Girl and Duplicate Girl (#42)
  • Chuck Taine, formerly Bouncing Boy (#42)
  • Imra Ardeen-Ranzz, formerly Saturn Girl (#42, 48, 50)
  • Spider Girl (Sussa Paka; #43-48, 50)
  • Drura Sehpt, formerly Infectious Lass (#43-44, 50, Annual #4)
  • Kono (Brita An’Nan; #43-48, 50)
  • Andrew Nolan (aka Ferro Lad; #44)
  • Projectra, formerly Sensor Girl (#44-48)
  • Firefist (#44-48)
  • Veilmist (#44-48)
  • Blood Claw (#44-46)
  • Flederweb (#44-48)
  • Brekk Bannin, formerly Polar Boy (#49)
  • Timber Wolf (Brin Londo; #50, Annual #4)
  • Wildfire (Drake Burroughs; #50)
  • Valor (Lar Gand; Annual #4)
  • Tasmia Mallor, formerly Shadow Lass (Annual #4)

The Legionnaires (aka Batch SW6)

  • Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn; #40-41, Annual #4)
  • Sun Boy/Inferno (Dirk Morgna; #40-41)
  • Colossal Boy (Gim Allon; #40-41)
  • Ultra Boy (Jo Nah; #40-41)
  • Phantom Girl/Apparition (Tinya Wazzo; #40-41, Annual #4)
  • Duo Damsel/Triad (Luornu Durgo; #40-41)
  • Matter-Eater Lad (Tenzil Kem; #40-41, Annual #4)
  • Lightning Lad/Live Wire (Garth Ranzz; #40-41)
  • Laurel Gand/Andromeda (#40-41, Annual #4)
  • Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox; #40-41)
  • Light Lass (Ayla Ranzz; #40-41)
  • Ferro Lad (Andrew Nolan; #40-41)
  • Shrinking Violet (Salu Digby; #40-41)
  • Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen; #40-41)
  • Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg; #40-41)
  • Element Lad/Alchemist (Jan Arrah; #40-41, 50)
  • Computo (Danielle Foccart; #41)
  • Catspaw (April Dumaka; #41)
  • Dragonmage (Xao Jin; #41, Annual #4)

The “Subs” 

  • Staq Malvern, formerly Fire Lad (#40-42)
  • Monica Sade (#40)
  • Chlorophyll Kid (#40-41)
  • Ron-Karr (#40)
  • Dag Wentin, formerly Stone Boy (#40-42)
  • Pete Dursin, formerly Porcupine Pete (#40)
  • Ulu Vakk, formerly Colour Kid (#41)

Villains

  • Universo (#40, 50)
  • Squire Burroughs (#40)
  • Karate Kid II (Myg, #40)
  • Cocheta Drisden (#40)
  • Glorith (#42)
  • Mordru (#43-44, 46-48)
  • Roxxas (#44-48, 50)
  • Warlord Galmark (Khund; #44, 48)
  • Vrykos (Mordru’s assistant; #46-47)
  • Evillo (#49)
  • B.I.O.N (#50)
  • Angon (Annual #4)

Guest Stars

  • J’onn J’onzz (formerly Martian Manhunter; #43-48, 50)
  • Duplicate Boy (Heroes of Lallor; #48)
  • Life Lass (Heroes of Lallor; #48)
  • Evolvo Lad (Heroes of Lallor; #48)
  • Saturn Queen (#49-50)
  • Styx (#49)
  • Stiletta (#49)
  • Policy Pam (#49)
  • Sugyn (#49)
  • Spaceopoly Lad (#49)
  • Echo-Chamber Chet (#49)
  • Jamm (Annual #4)
  • Harlak (Khund sorcerer; Annual #4)

Supporting Characters

  • Danielle Foccart (#40)
  • Sean Erin (Chief, Science Police New Earth; #41, 50)
  • Marla Latham (#41)
  • Englenna (Lauren’s nanny; #42, Annual #4)
  • Lauren Vidar (Rond and Laurel’s daughter; #42, 50, Annual #4)
  • Rond Vidar (formerly the Green Lantern; #42, 45, 50, Annual #4)
  • Ivy (#44)
  • Garridan Ranzz (#44)
  • Lydda Jath, formerly Night Girl (#44-45, 50, Annual #4)
  • Pol Krinn (Rokk and Lydda’s son; #44, 50, Annual #4)
  • Loomis (#50, Annual #4)
  • Dacey Ardeen Ranzz (daughter of Garth and Imra; #50)
  • Doritt Ardeen Ranzz (daughter of Garth and Imra; #50)
  • King John/Jonn (Leader of UP Militia; #50)
  • Anton Relnic (UP Council Chairman; #50)

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

  • Cham arrives at New Earth, as many of the refugees from the Earth’s destruction begin to be settled there.  He’s met by Rokk Krinn and Devlin O’Ryan, who is now officially joining the team. They see that many of the adult Legion and the SW6 kids are working to fix buildings that were damaged in the exodus from Earth.  The Legions are staying at Brande Industries’s Earth headquarters. The two Brainiac 5s come across the sleeping SW6 Laurel Gand. Young Brainy wakes her, and she asks after Valor, who has not returned from the timestream; Laurel is convinced she’ll never see him again.  The Subs, strangely including Sade, arrive at the spaceport, where they are greeted as heroes, at least until the crowd notices Universo arriving, and cheer for him. Close by, Jacques Foccart is looking for his sister Danielle, who he thought would be arriving. Troy Stewart, his vice-president, tries to get him to return to work, but then Jacques spots his sister and they hug.  A prison ship, being watched over by Kent Shakespeare and Jan Arrah, arrives with a load of people the Dominators had mindwiped, including Myg, the second Karate Kid, and Squire Burroughs, brother of still-missing Legionnaire Wildfire. They are there because the best hope for treating them is on New Earth. The crowd is angry to see them, and it gives one of them the opportunity to shut off the security field holding them.  The Dominator puppets, led by Myg and Squire, being to attack the crowd. One of the women is able to control peoples’ minds, adding to the chaos. Myg tosses Kent, but Jan is able to render Squire less dangerous. Jacques tries to stop Myg, but he flies off with a new power, and drops Jacques. Luckily the SW6 Colossal Boy arrives and catches him. The woman, Cocheta Drisden, has taken over part of the crowd, and they turn on young Gim.  It is Universo that is able to get her to give up her control, as he uses his hypnosis on her. Squire, feeling his mind being controlled, blows out of his containment suit and escapes. Universo calms everyone else down, and when the crowd starts chanting his name, Jacques and Kent agree they should be skeptical of him. On the planet Delan III, we learn that Nura Nal has been keeping tabs on her sister, Mysa, who is climbing a mountain on Sorcerers’ World.  Nura speaks to someone who is in shadows, and greenish, and gives off a bit of a Martian Manhunter vibe, about going to help her. Tenzil Kem answers calls to the Legion, and puts Garth Ranzz through to Rokk. Garth wants the Legion to know that Imra has gone missing, but doesn’t figure there’s anything for the Legion to do about it yet. Cham comes to get Rokk and Tenzil to take him to a “business meeting” with the SW6 kids. They see Jo on the way, but he declines to come with them.  We see that both Legions have gathered, and those that can are chatting with their other selves. The two Aylas praise each others beauty, while Sun Boy checks out adult Laurel, and Shrinking Violet feels nervous about Vi’s appearance. The two Jans talk about their journey, while some of the kids mistake Cham for their recently-deceased friend. Devlin wants Violet to come with him to Talus, but she is nervous. Vi comes to talk to her, and gives her some wisdom about setting her own course in life.  Young Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl are looking for Jo, but Tenzil won’t tell them where he is. Young Laurel talks to Laurel about why she and Brainy broke up. Young Jo finds Jo, who clearly doesn’t want to talk to him. As he flees the washroom where Jo found him, he runs right into young Tinya; only then do the kids realize why Jo didn’t want to see them. Violet tells Devlin that she won’t be going with him. Jo takes an unauthorized flight away from New Earth, and drifts in space, rereading the last note Tinya ever left him.
  • Cham, Jacques, and Rokk are playing racquetball or something, and both Cham and Jacques are complaining about their current positions.  Rokk suggests that they don’t need to do things they don’t want to, and Cham suggests that Jacques could have his spot on the Legion, while Jacques passes the Presidency of New Earth to Troy.  At the SP headquarters, Jan goes to see the new chief, Sean Erin. Jacques meets with Rokk and Tenzil to look at the Legion’s roster, and suggests it’s time to add more members, starting perhaps with his sister Danielle and the Subs.  SW6 Brainiac 5 and Invisible Kid are talking about which group of Legionnaires is the original when they are interrupted by Lyle’s parents. He’s shocked to see how old they’ve become. Jacques and Rokk visit the Subs, who are working to repair damage from the war.  He suggests that the Subs join the Legion; Staq tells them that Sade has taken off, and that the rest of them would have to think about it. Later, they go to see Danielle, who is being bothered by Crystal Kid. Jacques makes the same offer to her, but she also wants to think about it; they all ignore Crystal Kid.  Brainy is checking up on Dawnstar, who seems almost catatonic after her trauma with Bounty. She neither moves nor speaks. The younger Brainy takes his counterpart to meet with the rest of the SW6 kids. He proves that they are the clones after convincing Duo Damsel to try manifesting her third body, which she is able to do successfully.  Older Brainy also tells them that there is no clear moment in history for them to return to, meaning that they have to stay in the present. Cham appears, ready to make a suggestion (and at this point, Legionnaires artist Chris Sprouse takes over the rest of the issue). Later, Cham and Danielle work to get power restored in the original Legion clubhouse.  The place looks like a dump, but Cham is pleased with it. The gathered SW6 Legion, with a couple more additions, use their powers to position their old clubhouse in a new location. While most of the team works to fix it, Sun Boy and Catspaw make out, and she rakes his back with her claws. There is an adversarial dynamic being developed between Cham and Danielle, at least until Matter-Eater Lad annoys them both.  Jin helps Lyle to restore the clubhouse using his magic, although he has much to learn. In the expanded underground levels (which include the hangar somehow), Cham talks with some of the kids about getting new codenames and new uniforms to reflect the more modern time they are in, and some of the kids are more excited than others. Danielle and Cham try to prank Tenzil, but it ends up not working out, and Cham gets a bucket of slime on his head, but the incident convinces Danielle she wants to be with them.  Troy and Sean come to see them, and the team is made official in the eyes of the SP and New Earthgov. Element Lad recognizes Sean from that day during the war. Cham talks to Marla about how Brande’s Asteroid weathered the destruction of the Earth, and about ordering new costumes. The team gather in their new outfits, and we learn that some of them have new names (Element Lad is now Alchemist, and Luornu is Triad). Laurel is now going to be called Andromeda (I feel like this needed a little more explanation).  Cham introduces three new members – Computo, Dragonmage, and Catspaw. They are about to start their first meeting as a team (I don’t know if the Legionnaires name is official or not) when Erin calls to tell them about a problem with two colliding domes, and they leave on their first mission.
  • Luornu dreams of when one of her bodies was killed by Computo, and wakes up, feeling that someone has called her name.  She is surprised to see someone in her and Chuck’s bedroom. On Talus, the Legion members are playing cards with their guests, Cham, Dag, and Staq, with Ayla cleaning everyone out.  Rokk brings Chuck into the room, to tell them that Luornu has gone missing. Brainy is testing Laurel’s recovery from her injuries. They discuss the fact that he’s kept the BION unit, and are interrupted by a call from Englenna, the nanny to Laurel’s daughter.  Englenna tells her that Rond is fighting an attacker, and Laurel rushes off, leaving Brainy to look for a connection between the fact that Rond is under attack, and that Luornu and Imra are missing (I wondered when they’d get back to that). Laurel heads to Zirr, angry at herself for not having had her family move to Talus sooner.  She finds her baby okay, and sees Englenna lying on the floor. An armored figure approaches, and Laurel begins to fight it. It seems that the being doesn’t want to fight her, but is anyway, knocking her through a wall. Brainy and Cham discuss what’s happened, and Brainy reveals that he’s figured things out, without telling the reader anything.  Cham has a suggestion. The armored being defeats Laurel, and calls its boss to teleport them away. Brainy speaks to Englenna, who updates him on what’s happened. The being appears in Brainy’s lab, and isn’t stopped by the trap that Brainy set. It teleports away with Brainy, although we see that someone was watching. Brainy turns up in Gorith’s throne room, and we see that Laurel, Rond, Luornu, and Imra are all captured there – it’s the old conspiracy group back together again.  Glorith is weakened from making her way back from the end of time, but intends to destroy her enemies. She has the armored being reveal that it is actually Luornu – the body that was believed killed in the fight against Glorith. Glorith restored it after the Legion left, and has been controlling her ever since. Brainy reaches for a hidden weapon, but it turns out Glorith already knew he had Vi hidden in his pocket, and she has her captured in a small cage. What Glorith didn’t know is that Brainy is actually Cham, who changes shape and tosses a teleportation disk, which brings the real Brainy (although not his clothes) into the throneroom.  Cham frees Laurel (I’m not sure why they didn’t teleport the rest of the team, or at least Jo in with Brainy). There is some fighting against her royal goons, and Imra figures out that Glorith is building her power to kill them all in one blast. Luornu fights her other self, and Cham lays a punch on Glorith that angers her a lot. She prepares to destroy them all, but Brainy commands Luornu to create a force field. She is able to do this, and it is strong enough to withstand Glorith’s power. Glorith realizes that she can still reach the Legion through the floor, but then Luornu’s other self suggests that they put the bubble around Glorith, which is very effective.  The team apparently just leaves at that point, and somehow leaves her trapped in the bubble. Later, on Talus, Brainy explains that when he gave Luornu his force belt years before, he’d rigged it to put that power into her DNA, but never mentioned it (which makes no sense on a few levels – why didn’t he give himself that power too?). Luornu splits, showing that she has successfully reabsorbed her other self, which makes Chuck pretty happy. Everyone has a good laugh at the fact that Brainy had to fight that fight in the nude. This issue ends with the first Omnicom page we’ve seen in a while – an excerpt from Luornu’s journal from when her second body was killed.
  • Mysa is on the remains of Sorcerers’ World, trying to dig through rock to get to a voice she keeps hearing, but as she uses her magic to move rocks, they replace themselves.  She’s frustrated, and is offered help by someone looking very much like an old Martian Manhunter. Spider Girl breaks into Legion HQ on Talus, but as she gets through an airlock, she runs into Jo and Brainy.  They can’t stop her, but Jacques sneaks up and grabs her. She tosses him too, but Drura (fka Infectious Lass) stops her by threatening to make her sick. Sussa flirts with Jo, and explains that she’s come because of the canister she stole for Starfinger, that has tons of people hunting her.  Rokk is in the monitor room, bored, and we learn that Jan, Tenzil, Kent, and Celeste have all left on leave or on missions. Jacques and Drura join him, and Jacques talks about his plans to get the team new uniforms and codenames; he doesn’t hear Rokk’s points of disagreement. J’onn helps Mysa, who thinks that Amethyst, or her spirit, is waiting for her.  J’onn disagrees, but Mysa is insistent that she needs Amethyst’s powers so she can seek revenge. We see that Mordru is listening in to this conversation through one of his probes (where have all the probes gone?). As Drura moves her and Jacques’s stuff into their room, he continues to go over his plans, and ignore her. As Devlin moves into his room, Kono trips him, and she is surprised when he apologizes to her.  Brainy tells Sussa that he can’t open her canister; neither can Jo. Jo is not happy to learn that Sussa is moving into his room. Mysa finds a crystal statue of Amethyst, and while J’onn tries to pull her away, it explodes, and we see a spirit, presumably of Amethyst, bond with Mysa, turning her skin white again, and covering her with armor. Mysa speaks with a different voice, and yells about vengeance. When J’onn tries to stop her, she knocks him away and flies off.  We see some purple mist surround J’onn’s head, urging him to stop her. Mysa arrives on Tharn, and attacks Mordru’s castle and guards. He approaches and starts yelling at her, which scares her. He strikes her, and she loses her earlier bravado, until her anger takes over, and she blasts at him. An Omnicom page (the design has changed) shows us some of Jacques’s journal, including his thoughts on returning to the Legion, the team’s roster, and his thoughts on some of their possible codenames (most of which are, frankly, dumb – even the ones that weren’t submitted by the team as jokes).
  • Mordru and Mysa continue to fight, and as one of his tactics, Mordru keeps reminding Mysa of the tortures that he subjected her to when she lived with him as his wife.  We see that Mordru’s “coven” are chanting a spell of unity, as Mordru continues to work to awaken both rage and hatred in Mysa. As she gives in to her hate, the spell starts to work, and Mordru absorbs Mysa and her power.  He reveals that the statue of Amethyst that she found was placed there by him, as part of his plan to become more powerful. Mordru grows, and a white light shines across the universe. On Talus, Rokk and Jacques notice the light, and are joined by the Andrew Nolan we last saw in Mordru’s timeline (Legion #5?).  He tells them that they must focus on Mysa, and show her love, as this is her strength. They are able to disrupt Mordru’s absorption of her, and the light fades. Mordru is angered that his full plan has failed, but we see that his coven has transformed into various aspects of Mysa. He moves to a backup plan, and awakens the “seven great saints of Tharn”; we see some bodies start to burn.  On Shanghalla, Projectra is visiting Karate Kid’s grave, when she sees his hands start to emerge from the dirt. She is surprised to see Chemical King approaching her, in full lurching zombie mode. She also sees the bodies of Sun Boy, Magnetic Kid, Blok, Reflecto, and others fly off from Shanghalla. Across the galaxy, the dead are awakening in the same way. On Quarantine, Ivy is frightened by bodies emerging from the morgue, and rushes to Kent and Celeste for protection.  On Winath, Garridan runs to Garth as he is chased by Garth’s dead parents. On Takron-Galtos II, a servant of Mordru’s goes to collect Roxxas, saying that Mordru needs his help to revive the dead of Trom; Roxxas sees this as a chance for redemption. On Talus, Ayla, Kono, and Devlin field a number of strange calls about the dead. Projectra shows up to tell them what’s happened, but Devlin interrupts to explain that he’s got Warlord Galmark from Khund on the line. Galmark requests help from the Legion, as the dead are conquering the UP worlds under Khund control.  Later, we see that the team is heading off to help the Legion in a new cruiser. We see Rokk, Ayla, Vi, Laurel, Brainy, and Jo boarding. Jo finds that Spider Girl has also snuck aboard. On the station Sybbarus, the team meets with Galmark and his people. The Legion is pushing for return of the occupied worlds, and the Khunds push back against that. Galmark agrees to joint occupation, with details to be worked out after Mordru is defeated. Galmark insists that four Khunds join the Legion, and Rokk agrees pretty easily, eager to get to the real reason for being there.  Galmark introduces Firefist (stating he is to be the team’s co-leader), Veilmist, Blood Claw, and Flederweb. On Talus, Kono is annoyed at being left behind (she doesn’t get along with the Khunds, who have conquered her world). Tenzil shows up with J’onn J’onzz, who is speaking gibberish. He touches Kono, claiming she’d be a compatible spirit, and a purple light shines from him. Kono is transformed, wearing purple and having a purple streak in her hair. It seems that J’onn was carrying Amethyst’s spirit, which is now in Kono. She insists that they head to Tharn, and Tenzil agrees.  As they leave, Kono worries that Jacques and Drura won’t be safe all alone. We see some reanimated bodies emerging from the various wrecked spaceships that make up the surface of Tharn.
  • The Legion orbit Sklar, and have Veilmist (who keeps flirting with Jo) teleport them to the surface, where they find themselves in the middle of a battle between the Sklarians and Khunds and Mordru’s army of the dead (many of whom are DC Universe characters like Robin, Vigilante, or Mister Terrific, with no explanation of how their uniforms, let alone their bodies, might be preserved after a thousand years, or why they’d all have been buried in them).  The fight is difficult from the beginning, but Rokk is able to set up a bit of a command post so Brainy and Projectra can start figuring out what to do to defeat the dead. Jo tries to keep from hurting the dead, which Veilmist teleports away en masse. Her flirting with Jo earns him a kick in the head from Firefist. Projectra, aware that her mystical abilities aren’t the strongest, summons two “guides”, a child in a loin cloth and a rat dressed like a samurai, to help her understand what’s happening.  Laurel also wants to avoid destroying the dead, but gets attacked by the Son of Vulcan. When Devlin tries to help a fallen Khund, he revives as one of Mordrus’ forces, and attacks him. Rokk orders Veilmist to take the team back to their ship, which infuriates Firefist. The guides confirm for Projectra that the bodies are lifeless shells. Firefist goes after Jo again when he sees Veilmist talking to him; this confrontation ends with Laurel knocking the Khund down, and Rokk reasserting control over the team.  On Talus, Jacques, Drura, and Rond fight off reanimated corpses. They realize that Dawnstar is alone, and Jacques rushes to help her. On Naltor, Tenzil, Kono, and J’onn pick up Nura (fka Dream Girl) to take her to Tharn with them. Jan is on Trom, meditating on his lost race, when he sees Roxxas land and reanimate the Tromite dead. This brings Roxxas peace, and he greets Jan happily, feeling absolved of having killed them all. The reanimated Tromites turn Jan into inertron, and it looks like he might be dead.  The Legion find themselves having to avoid Mordru’s army even in space (apparently they can travel through hyperspace, which seems suspect to me). Projectra tells the others that Mordru’s spell will only last for ninety-nine hours, meaning there’s only about an hour left in his army. Some of the Tromites attack the Legion’s ship, turning the hull into hydrogen. Just as they are about to be expelled into space, Laurel grabs Brainy and kisses him. Veilmist teleports them all to the planet at the last second, and they find themselves back in battle with Mordru’s army.  Laurel tells Brainy to forget what happened, and Vi saves Ayla from getting killed. Now that they don’t have to hold back, and knowing that they only have to hold them off for an hour, Laurel and Jo do well against them. Projectra yells out, and we see that the bodies of the dead Legionnaires from Shanghalla – Sun Boy, Chemical King, Ferro Lad, Magnetic Kid, Reflecto, Karate Kid, Invisible Kid, Blok, and one of Triplicate Girl – have arrived. 
  • The Legion fights the reanimated corpses of their deceased teammates, which freaks them all out a bit.  Rokk orders another retreat, but then the body of his brother, Pol, attacks him. Blood Claw moves to destroy Pol’s body, but the Braalian takes control of Blood Claw’s metal claws, and has him kill himself, despite Firefist’s efforts to protect him.  Firefist keeps shooting at Pol’s destroyed body, angering Rokk. Blood Claw reanimates and attacks Devlin. The body of Karate Kid attacks Projectra, his former wife, and she retreats into the mystical land of the dead, or wherever she was before with loincloth boy and samurai rat.  They tell her that Mordru’s deadline doesn’t apply so long as a “distant fire” keeps burning. The rest of the Legion figures out that the dead won’t be de-animating. Mordru listens in and revels in his apparent victory. He talks to Vrykos, who we haven’t seen in years, and learns that the Trommite dead have joined his fight.  Nura, who is still en route to Tharn with J’onn, Tenzil, and Kono, dreams of Mordru winning. On Trom, Jan is able to save his own life by transmuting the inertron that encased him. Roxxas is happy to see him alive, and asks Jan to kill him, and it seems like Jan considers it. The Trommite dead have gone to the planet Pasnic, to attack Khund forces.  They are barely holding on, but then Jan and Roxxas arrive, and Jan uses his powers to turn all the Trommites into tsarin crystal. The effort seems to burn him out, as he collapses, leaving Roxxas calling for help. As the Legion continue to fight their dead on Sklar, they recognize that their bodies are getting stronger. Jo dumps Chemical King in a lake, and Projectra confirms once again that she needs to extinguish a distant fire.  Laurel stops Blok from hurting Brainy and Rokk, and then points out a large fire in the distance. Mordru, still listening in, worries that they’ve figured out the method he’s using to extend his spell, and orders his coven to get ready for the “final limb” of his spell, which worries them. Rokk has Veilmist get the team as close as possible to the fire – a big bonfire surrounded by more of Mordru’s coven. Firefist and Ayla attack it, while Devlin protects them from the coven’s mystic attack.  Laurel uses her flash vision to dump an avalanche of snow on the fire, putting out the flames. Just as Karate Kid is about to kill Projectra, his body falls apart.
  • Their dead comrades finally de-animated, Rokk gets very angry at Mordru, while Projectra collapses in sorrow.  Mordru is listening in, and he orders his coven to “release the final limb”. The Legion gathers, with Veilmist bringing back the ones who took out the fire, but their rest doesn’t last long, as the dead rise again.  Rokk feels that the team has no choice but to take the fight directly to Mordru, no matter how powerful he is now. Mordru gets angry when one of his probes suggests that one of the Legion has the power to defeat him.  Veilmist teleports the team directly to Tharn (what is the limit of her power, anyway?). Vrykos greets them, with a few more dead soldiers – Nemesis Kid, Zaryan, and a few others who are unidentified. The Nemesis Kid corpse is an equal match for Laurel’s strength.  Ayla saves Flederweb from being killed by Zaryan, but the force of her blast knocks Firefist and Devlin into Mordru’s harem, where the women begin to come on to them. On Pasnic, Roxxas takes Jan to a Khund hospital, hoping to save his life (Jan is unconscious). On Tharn, Jo fights Vrykos until Veilmist teleports the vampire to a snowy mountaintop, and then tries to make out with Jo.  Laurel is almost defeated by the Nemesis Kid corpse, but Projectra tosses it into some flames, while Spider Girl takes out another zombie. Mordru, seeing that the Legion is winning, casts a spell that pulls mythical creatures out of his tapestries to fight them. In the harem, Firefist gets angry at the women trying to get him to stay there, and opens fire on them. Devlin calls him a fool, and Firefist shoots at him; Devlin’s powers return the blast on him, killing him.  The fight outside is interrupted by the arrival of Kono, Nura, J’onn, and Tenzil. Mordru emerges, recognizing that Amethyst is inhabiting Kono’s body, and brags that he has absorbed Mysa and her powers. Brainy and Projectra hatch a plot to work together to magically separate Mysa from Mordru, and it begins to work. The problem is that Mysa almost immediately gives in to her rage and tries to kill Mordru, which makes it possible for him to absorb her again. Now as powerful as before, Mordru turns on the Legion, blasting them, and then burying them alive.  As the rocks and soil close around them, Jo tells Veilmist to teleport them away, but it’s not clear if she succeeds. Mordru stands over the rubble, gloating and magically engraving their names into the rocks as tombstones.
  • Annual #4 was part of the Bloodlines crossover, which featured new heroes fighting against ridiculous looking aliens.  It is also the indisputable low point of this entire run of the Legion. It opens on Talus, where the few Legion members remaining in the headquarters are under siege by Mordru’s army of the undead.  Jacques is trying to protect Dawnstar, who doesn’t do much more than sit in bed and scream, while elsewhere, Loomis, Drura, Lydda, and Rond all try to hold the corpses off. Jacques smashes things in Brainiac 5’s lab, turning on a time cube that is preset to monitor Brin and the SW6 Valor.  In the 20th century, a Saved By The Bell reject named Jamm skateboards around San Francisco. He offers an odd-looking woman help in fixing her car, and we see that she has a body in the trunk. A cop comes by, just as the woman is about to turn into an alien, and lets them know that there is a skid-row killer on the loose.  The kid leaves, skates too quickly down a freeway, and confoundingly ends up in a dumpster. Later, we see that Timber Wolf is hunting for this killer, and worries that people think it’s him. This Jamm guy wakes up and sees the alien try to kill a homeless guy. He jumps in to help, and the alien turns on him, and licks the back of his neck (?) as Brin shows up.  On Talus, the time cube turns on, and delivers Timber Wolf, Jamm, and the alien, into Brainy’s lab. They fight, and some of Mordru’s corpses join in. Jacques calls the others to come help, while Brin realizes that he’s back home. We learn that the alien is named Angon, and it is about to defeat Brin. Jacques, Drura, Loomis, and Rond start shooting it, and then Loomis turns out the lights so Lydda can be at full strength.  She smashes Angon, it fights back, and Rond sets the time cube to get rid of it. Jamm yells at the alien, and it seems to do what he says. The creature is forced into the time cube, and sent back to the 20th century. Brin is hurt. Later, we see Dawnstar, Jamm, and Brin recovering. Jamm is given a translator so he can speak to everyone, and when he tells Drura what to do, she does it. He also gets Jacques to agree with his request to see the future.  Brin, floating in a tank, remembers that he’s left his friends, including Aria. Jamm orders Lydda to leave her baby behind and take him somewhere in a cruiser (at this point, it’s clear that he has the power to control people, Purple Man style, but there’s no explanation of where these powers came from – presumably from the alien lick?). After the leave, he orders Lydda to strip, and that is not portrayed as a violation, but as 90s kid hijinks. They go to a world with a nice beach, but Jamm decides he wants a “tough dude” to hang out with, so Lydda suggests Valor.  Valor is rounding up the risen Daxamite dead and destroying them en masse, assisted by Tasmia and Harlak, who we last saw as a Khundian child hanging out with Mysa on Sorcerers’ World. Jamm and Lydda arrive, and Jamm orders Valor to hang out with him. They leave, and Jamm gets Tasmia to strip as well (not cool). They go to a planet of robots, and then a planet of Amazonian women. Valor tries to get Jamm to behave more responsibly, but he’s an idiot. Tasmia tries her power on him, and it scares him, so he orders her to never do that again. Next they all head to New Earth, where they visit the Legionnaires.  Cosmic Boy is boring, but Jamm is interested in Andromeda and Apparition. He hangs out with them for a bit, making them 90s clothes to wear, and making himself an anti-grav skateboard in a fabricator. He plays with it, and literally runs into Matter Eater Lad and Dragonmage, then gets them all to join his group and head back into space. Valor tries to get through to him again, but it backfires, in that Jamm decides he should be ruling the galaxy. They start to head to Weber’s World, but along the way, the cruiser is attacked by the remaining undead Daxamites that Valor didn’t destroy. Valor and Andromeda leave the ship to fight them, while Jamm pilots it too close to a sun.  The cruiser gets caught in its gravity, and is going to be burned up, until Tasmia gets Jamm to lift his rule about her powers. She and Lydda work together to save the ship, but they crash onto some planet. Later, once everyone is together again, Tasmia says they are going to leave Jamm there. Instead, they take him back to Talus, and send him through the time cube back to the 20th century. This comic was dumb, and I think it’s a shame that this is the most we’ve seen of adult Lar and Tasmia in over a year’s worth of comics, and this is how they are portrayed and used.
  • Mordru is feeling pretty good about having killed the Legion, and he broadcasts this news across Tharn.  Devlin hears it, and assumes that his powers will be effective against Mordru. He baits the old man by calling him a cuckold and telling him that he had his way with his harem.  When Mordru blasts him, the blast is reflected, and sends Mordru flying through a garden wall. Devlin quickly digs up Veilmist, and gets her to teleport the others back to the surface.  Kono, still under Amethyst’s control, heads to Mordru, followed by J’onn, and takes his hand. Amethyst’s spirit enters Mordru, snapping Kono back to normal. Projectra and Brainy start to separate Mysa from Mordru again, and it looks like they are more successful this time.  On Quarantine, Kent and Celeste continue to fight the dead, when the corpse they are wrestling crumbles. The same happens on Winath, where Imra is surrounded by zombies, and on Lallor, where we see Duplicate Boy, Life Girl, and Evolvo Lad in the aftermath of their battle. On Tharn, Mordru is furious to see his spell canceled, and he attacks Mysa.  Projectra keeps everyone from intervening, as Mordru turns into a flaming lion, and Mysa, with Amethyst in her head now, runs through a number of emotions. Mysa declares her love for Mordru (which must have a lot to do with that short-live Mordruverse when the timeline changed), and by declaring her continued love, she defeats him. It looks like she is either shooting purple flames at him, or is absorbing his life energy, but Projectra stops her.  Mysa then stops one of Mordru’s guards from killing him as he lays withered and helpless on the ground. Amethyst admits that her attempts to fix Mordru’s evil made him worse. Mysa apologizes to J’onn for not listening to him before, and he lets her know that it was Nura that sent him to her. Mysa embraces her sister and then teleports away. Rokk declares that the Council of Teachers be reinstated on Tharn, and Devlin lets Veilmist know that Firefist was killed.  A couple of days later, the Legion prepares to leave the planet. Spider Girl has a broken leg, and Veilmist is concerned that under Khund law, she’s now the property of a zombie. Devlin tells her that it was actually him that killed Firefist, and that makes her happy, as she is now his property (although on the same page, she tells Jo to kill Devlin so she can be his). Once the Legion returns to the Khund space station, the surviving Khundish members of the team are taken away, against their will, and when Rokk stands up for them, Galmark threatens war.  Somewhere else, it looks like Firefist might not actually be dead. Vi and Devlin go to Pasnic to check on Jan; he’s in a coma, and the doctor believes that it is Roxxas’s support that is keeping him alive. Mysa stands on the wreckage of the first Sorcerer’s World, and thinks about hatred and love and stuff.
  • Issue forty-nine is too dumb to recap fully.  On Tartarus, where Saturn Queen has been ruling, she retrieves Universo’s hypno-stone, but Evillo takes it.  Tenzil gets some dreams that make him think he needs to go to Tartarus. Once there, he gets hypnotized by a statue that is used to amplify Evillo’s powers, which are also amplified by the hypno-stone.  Styx and Stiletta, Evillo’s daughters, rescue him and take him to Brek Bannin (fka Polar Boy), who has put together a small resistance made up of the two sisters, Policy Pam (she can sell anyone insurance), Sugyn, Spaceopoly Lad (he finishes any game he starts) and Echo-Chamber Chet.  They need to stop Evillo now, as he’s building a giant robot, so while the girls and Spaceopoly Lad distract Evillo, Tenzil and the others approach the palace. They get captured, and Tenzil is put in a machine designed to siphon any remaining power from the Miracle Machine he ate years ago, and use it to animate the giant robot.  Somehow, Tenzil ends up turning it into a giant Eyeful Ethel, some stuff happens, and Evillo gets defeated. Saturn Queen was in the statue, so now she’s free. Later, she leaves with Tenzil, and Brek and them are made into the planet’s defense force. There is an Omnicom page (been a while since we’ve seen one of those) about the hypno-stone.  The letters page reveals that next issue will be the Bierbaums’ last on this title.
  • Issue fifty is double-sized, and split between the Bierbaum’s last story (drawn by Darryl Banks) and Tom McCraw’s first as regular writer, drawn by Stuart Immonen.  Rokk, Laurel, Jo, and J’onn bury the remains of the revived Legionnaires on Shanghalla. J’onn bids farewell to the heroes, and we see some kind of entity, a flaming silhouette, writhe about and approach one of the tombs; it asks forgiveness as it does something.  On Titan, Saturn Queen arrives with Tenzil, and we learn that to keep her crown, she needs to be married; she offers her hand to Tenzil. On Pasnic, Devlin, Vi, and Roxxas attend to Jan, who is in a coma. Some SPs come to retrieve Roxxas, and as they do, Jan starts to slip away.  We follow his consciousness as it leaves his body, and journeys around the galaxy to say his goodbyes. He checks on Alchemist, his SW6 self on New Earth, and then looks in on Sean Erin and President Stewart. Sean feels his presence, and rushes to see Jan. On Talus, Jan sees the Legion starting to gather as Laurel and Rokk return.  As Laurel and Rond walk off together, we see Brainy watching them, and Jan feels sympathy for him. Some Sklarian pirates turn up and start raiding things. Jo tries to open Sussa’s canister, but can’t do it, even with his flash vision. Kono is happy to see that her mother is among the Sklarians. She wants Kono to come with her, and Kono agrees, which makes Jan’s spirit happy.  Jan next checks in on Dawnstar, who is still trapped in her own mind. Jan watches as Ayla goes to see Brin, who is working out to offset the fact that he keeps getting weaker. Ayla apologizes to him for the way she broke up with him years before, and Brin admits that he was never the mature one in their relationship. Jan watches as Nura and Mysa spend time together, and then goes to check in on Tenzil, who decides he does want to marry Saturn Queen, especially since it means they have to conceive of an heir.  Jan checks in on Imra and Garth just as Imra hears their babies’ thoughts for the first time, proof that they are telepathic like her. Jan meditates on the statues of dead Legionnaires in Garth’s garden, and decides he’s ready to move on to death. The spirits of the Trommite people appear to him, urging him to keep living as a way to preserve their memory. At the same time, Sean arrives at Jan’s side, begging him to keep fighting. Jan wakes up, and the doctor believes he can be cared for on New Earth, since Sean wants to stay with him.  Tenzil sends the team a holo to let them know about his wedding. A few weeks later, things are settled down, and McCraw has taken over. Brainy is still trying to get BION working, while Brin, noticeably less hairy and wild-looking, works out. Laurel and Sussa talk to Brin about his weakening condition, while Brainy goes to talk to some people from Starhaven who have come to collect Dawnstar. Brainy walks through the headquarters, watching Rond and Loomis argue and try to fix something. Jo, Vi, Ayla, and Devlin play cards, and Mysa joins them.  Rokk, Jacques, and Drura talk about how the team is shrinking, and not accomplishing much. There is the sound of an explosion, and BION busts through the wall in the games room, knocking Jo out. The rest start to fight the robot, which has the powers of all of the SW6, but with little success. Brainy and Laurel rush to the fight, telling Sussa and Brin to stay in the lab. BION takes out Drura and Jacques easily, but suggests that Rokk is a bigger threat to it. An entity approaches the headquarters, preparing to help the team. BION confronts Laurel and Brainy, destroying Brainy’s shut-down device.  Brin and Sussa decide to join in, and Brin returns to his wilder state. Lydda stays in the nursery, protecting Pol and Lauren, when she is surprised to see someone she knows head towards the fight. Brin manages to crush BION’s head, but is then knocked out by another BION. That one is in turn blasted by Wildfire, who has returned to the team. We see that there are three BIONs (which makes sense, if it can duplicate Triplicate Girl’s powers, although when BION was created, Triplicate Girl thought she was Duo Damsel). Wildfire fights this third BION (the one Brainy was working on is still shut down), but gets distracted when it throws Brin at him.  BION moves to absorb one of the shut down units, but is attacked by Wildfire and Laurel, and then by Ayla and Jo. It still manages to retrieve its other two units, and takes off, turning invisible as it leaves. On Weber’s World, Universo shows Chairman Relnic and King Jonn what he claims is absolute proof that the Legion is working with the Khunds to help them take over UP planets. Jonn and Relnic immediately agree that this evidence is damning, which made no sense to me until I remembered that Universo hypnotizes people (I’m not sure why they didn’t remember that). On Talus, the team recovers from their fight. Brainy notices something interesting about Rokk, while we learn that Sussa has broken her leg again, Brin feels useless, and Laurel chats with Wildfire.  Another entity, with purple text balloons (the Time Trapper perhaps?) talks about an approaching event horizon, while showing a panel from Legionnaires #1.

This run, the first without Keith Giffen as showrunner, is flawed, but largely alright.  As a reader, I could tell that things were in decline, as the series became much less complicated and more straight-forward in its plotting and character development, but it felt like a natural continuation of the work that Giffen began.

The Bierbaums are fine writers, and I feel like they did their best with these comics, while probably unable to withstand editorial dictate the way a superstar like Giffen could, which likely led to the diluting of the shared vision that launched the title in the first place.  The Bierbaums’ Legion was tacking more towards the traditional Legion of earlier years, but it felt like it was the characters themselves who resisted that happening.

After the SW6 characters were put into their own title, this series was left with the role of re-establishing itself.  The team had to find its place in the universe now that the Dominion war had ended, and their colourfully-dressed teenage counterparts were looking after New Earth.  I feel that the decision to not incorporate the Subs was a mistake, as they had undergone a great deal of character development and growth, and had evolved into a pretty fascinating set of characters.

Instead of breathing new life into the book, it felt like the Bierbaums were instead looking to wrap up long-running plotlines.  Mordru got probably more attention than he deserved, as Mysa, joined by J’onn J’onzz, confronted him, powered him, confronted him, and eventually defeated him with the help of the team and Amethyst.  I had a few issues with that storyline though, from the unlikely inclusion of a ton of dead superheroes from the 20th century whose costumes had somehow not decayed in a millennium, to the fact that Mysa’s triumph didn’t really feel like a moment of growth for her.  It seemed kind of anti-climactic to me. I’m also not sure why J’onn was added to this story at all. He didn’t do anything that required him specifically, and it stretches credibility that he’d still be alive a thousand years hence, and just around for Nura to hire or ask for help from.  I imagine any number of characters from the Legion archives could have achieved that role.

While the larger plotlines during this run left a little to be desired, I did like the way the Bierbaums continued to develop and explore the main characters.  Jan’s journey was great, and I love that the Bierbaums used him to say their own goodbyes to the cast of the book. I was also happy to see them address Laurel’s simmering feelings for Brainy, if only briefly, and to see Jo get hooked up with Spider Girl, who was a great addition to the cast.  I also like the way Jacques worked to fill in for Cham, although that was a character thread that needed more space.

There are a few things that the Bierbaums left unaddressed that I wish there’d been time or space for.  I still don’t know who was attacking the Dominion, causing them to withdraw from Earth. The affair between Luornu and Gim was never discussed, although it could have gotten very interesting.  I wanted to know more about Dawnstar and her experience under Bounty’s control. I wanted to know more about Sade. I wanted to learn the story behind Celeste Rockfish’s powers, and her connection to Leland McCauley.  I wanted to see more of Kent Shakespeare, who got effectively written out of the book. I wanted to know more about the two new surviving Khund members of the team, Veilmist and Flederweb (who got absolutely no character development).  Even characters that were kind of annoying, like Kono and Devlin needed more space in these issues.

I think a big part of the problem was that as the writers moved away from Giffen’s nine-panel grid, there was just not enough space to properly check in with the large cast of this book.  

That said, I did enjoy reading these issues, and liked the way the Bierbaums continued to build on what they’d done with Giffen.  Especially in comparison to what came next, which I will return to shortly.

One thing that really makes these issues stand out is the fantastic artwork by then-new artist Stuart Immonen, and his usual inker, Ron Boyd.  They moved the visuals of the book away from the more cartoonish work of Jason Pearson, and while being much slicker than Keith Giffen’s, they helped maintain the lived-in and adult feel of the book.  Their Legion looked older and a little weathered, and each character’s unique personality came through in their faces. I especially love the way they drew Laurel Gand, and I was glad that this team stayed on the book when the writing changed.  It’s not hard to see why Immonen went on to become a top-level artist.

In many ways, this was the end of the Legion for me.  After this, new writer Tom McCraw (who really started off promisingly, bringing back one of my favourite characters, Wildfire) reversed much of what Giffen and the Bierbaums had built, forcing the team to take on ridiculous secret identities.  The writing was on the wall though, as the march towards Zero Hour was already happening, and the Legion that I loved would be erased for ever. More on that next time though…

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

These issues have never been collected in a trade paperback.

 

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