Retro Review: Legion Science Police By Michelinie, Ryan & Rubinstein In Legion Of Super-Heroes Corner Of DC Comics!

Legion Science Police #1-4 (August 1998 – November 1998)

Written by David Michelinie 

Pencilled by Paul Ryan 

Inked by Joe Rubinstein (#1-4), Prentis Rollins (#2)

Colour by Tom McCraw 

Spoilers (from twenty-two years ago)

Continuing in their new series of Legion of Super-Heroes adjacent miniseries came this Science Police four issue title.  I thought it was odd that they made an Inferno mini, but this is herpes the oddest choice of all.  The Science Police didn’t get a lot of screen time or play in the reboot era.  Where the classic Legion had Officer Shvaughn Erin in a relationship with Element Lad (which was famously turned on its ear in the 5YL era), Gigi Cusimano, with her ties to Colossal Boy and Sun Boy, Chief Zendak, and bumbling Officer Dvron, among others, in the reboot, we only got Shvaughn, and while she was around a lot, she never really did anything.

It would make sense that this series might have been used to further flesh out the Science Police, perhaps explaining why a regular old police force needed the word ‘science’ tacked on the front of it.  Did they actually police science (as we saw when President Chu tried to shut down the Time Institute)?  Do they use science in their policing to a greater degree than say, CSI?  Is it just the case that when the Legion was first created in the optimistic Silver Age, someone at DC thought it sounded futuristic and cool?  Would this miniseries explore that?

I own this series (okay, I somehow missed getting the first issue), and while I remember the John Paul Leon covers, I remember nothing else about this comic.  There’s probably a reason for that, but I guess we’ll find out.

Let’s track who turned up in the title:

Science Police

  • Officer Jarik Shadder (#1-4)
  • Captain Hagbeard (#1, 3-4)
  • Officer Omar Magz (#1-3)
  • Officer Imra Ardeen (aka Saturn Girl; #1-4)
  • Lieutenant Shvaughn Erin (#1)
  • Officer Belker (#3)

The Ringers

  • Shallee (#1-2, 4)
  • Drianna Allon (#1-2, 4)
  • Vincel (#1-2, 4)
  • Klen Rokkart (#1-2)

Villains

  • Raiders (#1)
  • Purification Cult (#1)
  • Dahtri (#3)

Supporting Characters

  • Lohn (Driana’s boyfriend; #1-2, 4)
  • Collen Hasteen (journalist; #1-3)
  • Mr. Vyke (Director, Global Grace Foundation; #2, 4)
  • Shaar T’Gari (Global Grace Foundation; #2, 4)

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

  • A large number of Science Police are massed around a force field that surrounds the Metropolis Jewelry Exchange while raiders inside it hold hostages.  Captain Hagbeard is annoyed that Officer Shadder is just standing around waiting for orders, although he also admits there’s nothing they can do about the force field.  Four flying heroes – The Ringers – arrive to handle things.  Shallee uses her nannite pulse tac-beam ring to shut off the force field, while Brianna uses her molecular delay tac-beam ring to dissolve the doors to the exchange.  Once inside, Klen uses his ring, which makes teleportation disc “drop holes” to get rid of the criminals’ cover.  Vincel, the largest of the Ringers, uses the “remote pounders”, basically Green Lantern-like constructs, to knock the raiders out.  Outside, Hagbeard is with Imra Ardeen, aka Saturn Girl, who is in an SP uniform.  She telepathically detects a couple of raiders who are escaping through a service hatch.  Officer Shadder sees them escaping, but decides to wait for orders before doing anything.  Once Hagbeard calls him after seeing drone footage of the escapees, he goes after them and takes them down.  After everything is wrapped up, Hagbeard is suspicious of The Ringers, who we learn work for something called the Global Grace Foundation.  That afternoon, at SP Headquarters, Officer Omar Magz (brother to the former Legionnaire Magno) gives Shadder a hard time, but Shadder won’t rise to a fight.  Shvaughn Erin (the Legion’s liaison) sees Imra, and they talk about how Imra has left the Legion (which is not how that is portrayed in the issue of Legionnaires that is mentioned – my guess is that there was some editorial miscommunication, or something changed after this issue was already written.  Imra tells Shvaughn that she always wanted to be a cop, although she’s surprised that Shadder is not the legend she learned about when she was a cadet.  Driana goes home to see Lohn, her boyfriend.  They talk about how she lived under the shadow of her big brother, Gim Allon, the Legion’s Leviathan, and that’s why she took up Global Grace’s offer to be a Ringer.  At a bar where all the lighting is blue, Shadder drinks alone, and doesn’t even get involved in a bar fight that happens right next to him.  He’s joined by Collen Hasteeen, a journalist, who wants his help.  He’s investigating the Ringers, but needs someone who can get close to the team in action to plant some scanalytic sensors for him.  Shadder refuses, and makes reference to something that happened to him, that Hasteeen was present for.  The next day, at Roundrock, a holding facility for felons, some group of people flying something like a Klingon Bird of Prey attack.  The Science Police respond, and Hagbeard explains that the attackers are members of a purification cult – they want to kill all the prisoners.  Also, their ship is a giant bomb.  Hagbeard sends Shadder and two other cops through some vent tubes to go scout out what’s happening.  Shadder leads the other two to a vantage point and reports, just as the Ringers arrive.  Shalee makes some of the cult’s flying platforms crash, while Driana, the leader, disintegrates another, and Vincel knocks some out with a rolling pin.  One of the cultists is about to blow up their ship when Klen teleports it away, and then starts messing with the cultist, creating drop holes all around him.  He opens one beneath the guy, but Vincel pushes him to safety.  Driana is angry, as they all know they aren’t supposed to use their powers on living beings (except, I guess, for Vincel who has been doing that all issue).  Klen feels no kind of way, and Driana orders them all to leave so she can speak to the press.  Shadder watches and seems a bit wistful.  At home, Driana talks to Lohn about what happened, and when he puts his hand on her shoulder, she almost uses her ring on him before realizing that she overreacted.  Hasteen goes to see Shadder at home, and tells him that he managed to plant his scanners at the Roundrock.  He starts talking about Gates, the Legionnaire from Vyrga who can teleport, and how there was another Vyrgan with the same ability, who was killed by government troops.  Hasteeen says that Klen’s ring uses the same energy, and that the other Ringers’ rings mimic power signatures of other dead super-criminals.  He worries that other traits might emerge along with the powers, and as he says that, we see that Driana looks worried while hugging Lohn.
  • The Ringers practice, fighting against flying robotic drone tanks, while Driana continues to worry about what their tac rings would do to living beings.  Shallee is almost hit by one of the hover-drones, but Klen saves her by teleporting it away.  After the session ends, Driana is summoned to the Director’s office.  Director Vyke introduces her to his associate Shaar T’Gari, and they talk about the way in which Klen lost control in the fight the day before.  Driana passes it off as enthusiasm and stress.  Vyke tells Driana that he has another “sensitive” mission for the team.  Driana worries that these secretive missions are more like industrial sabotage, but Vyke explains that his company need to raise more capital in order to continue to fund the team’s good works.  He also hints that he might move Driana off the team, and she quickly gets with the program.  At SP headquarters, Omar Magz is annoyed to realize he’s being partnered with Shadder, while Imra accesses files on Durlans.  Hasteen shows up (and now his name is spelled with only two e’s) and pulls Shadder aside.  Imra asks Magz why he’s so hard on Shadder, and Omar explains that Shadder’s burnt out.  We see Shadder agreeing to do something for Hasteen.  Imra asks to speak to Hasteen.  Driana is walking around with Lohn, and signing autographs for some kids.  She talks about being a Ringer helps her to finally feel special.  She admits that she needs more than Lohn’s love to feel good about herself.  That night, the Ringers fly in a stealth craft to an oceanic mining rig.  The others aren’t too excited about this mission, but Driana convinces them to get it done.  Shallee is able to use her ring to disrupt the security system, and they make their way to the fully automated control room.  Shallee is going to disrupt the magnetic mining works, but instead, Klen decides to teleport away some of the equipment, setting off alarms.  Guards come running, and the team tries to slip away, but finds themselves trapped behind blocker bars.  Klen, in a rage, teleports away three of the guards, likely killing them (apparently no one knows where he teleports things to).  Driana also gets a little unhinged, but Vincel snaps her out of it.  When Driana tries to stop Klen, he strikes her.  As he runs at more guards, his ring cuts out, and they shoot him.  Driana blasts a hole in the ceiling, and they make their escape, bringing Klen with them.  Back on their ship, Klen dies.  Vincel asks what’s going on, and Driana vows to find out.  Once they are back in Metropolis, she confronts Vyke and T’Gari.  Vyke claims that Klem caused a malfunction in his ring, and offers to shut down the Ringer program while they investigate, although he makes it clear that the team might not be reactivated.  Driana decides to back down.  After Driana leaves, T’Gari suggests that she is becoming as unstable as Klem did.  Vyke wants the replacement training accelerated, suggesting he needs two replacements, not one.
  • Some older guy named Dahtri has grabbed an officer’s gun, and is waving it around in the middle of the SP’s main Metropolis station.  He’s yelling about how people are out to get him.  The only officer that doesn’t appear to be paying attention is Shadder, who is getting himself a latte from a soda machine.  Shadder asks Dahtri what’s wrong, and he starts to complain that his business has been sabotaged.  Once Captain Hagbeard orders Shadder to stop the guy, he grabs the gun and takes him down.  After, he explains to Hagbeard that he was waiting for the order to do something.  Next, we see the same scene from last issue, where Omar complains about being partnered with Shadder, and then Hasteen interrupts, asking to speak to Shadder.  They go into a private room, and Hasteen explains that he’s been investigating the Ringers, and how their powers mimic those of dead supervillains.  He’s learned that the rings were made in a facility called Tomorrow Light, and he wants Shadder to investigate using his police resources.  Hasteen reminds Shadder that he helped him out of a big jam one day, and calls in the marker.  Shadder agrees, but says that will make them even.  Imra picks up on some emotions, and asks Hasteen to talk.  They go to a bar (she’s what, seventeen by now), and Hasteen tells her Shadder’s story.  A while back, a terrorist group took over the Metropolis Spaceport.  Shadder was there, and chased the leader of the group.  The guy took a shuttle full of people hostage, and flew it towards the Spaceport’s main terminal.  Shadder fired on the shuttle, knowing that he would kill everyone on it, but save the hundreds of people in the terminal (I guess SP weapons are very powerful, as one shot managed to utterly destroy the shuttle).  After that, Shadder was shunned by people, but he was exonerated by the review board.  From that point, he doesn’t make any real decisions (note that this story doesn’t exactly explain why he owes Hasteen anything).  Later, Shadder arrives outside Tomorrow Light, and posing as an undercover officer, scans a worker’s identity card so he can get inside.  Once inside, he uses some device to get through an energy sheet around an interior window.  After that, he uses a ‘float rod’ to work his way up to the labs without being seen.  He uses a ‘breaker box’ to hack the computer and download its information.  He’s surprised to see Dahtri walking around.  When he returns to the window he cut open, he finds his float rod gone, and figures out that’s how Dahtri got in (does that make any sense – he would have left the float rod on the level he was on, not the ground level; also, it’s small – why wouldn’t he have carried it?).  Shadder finds Dahtri doing something to a big device in another lab – it’s a bomb.  It blows up, but only a little.  Dahtri is disappointed, but then it explodes again, with more force.  He figures out that the device is a rebounder, and now each subsequent explosion is going to be more powerful.  The third blast knocks Dahtri out.  Shadder runs to the equipment panel, wanting to turn the device off before the next blast, but is wracked with indecision (he thinks about how he’s ‘no scientist’, but he is the Science Police!).  Some other guy comes and turns it off. He’s accompanied by a pair of SP officers; Shadder tells them that he was following Dahtri and that’s why he’s there.  He takes the data he stole to Hasteen, who feels that it confirms his theories.  Shadder thanks Hasteen for standing by him, and leaves happy.  The next morning, Habeard calls him into his office, and lets him know that he was ID’ed posing as an undercover cop, and that he’s suspended until the investigation is finished.  Shadder returns to Hasteen’s apartment, and finds him dead, with the data gone.  He vows to avenge his friend.
  • An SP cruiser approaches a Global Grace satellite, which warns it off, and then (apparently legally) destroys it.  A small stealth pod moves through the wreckage and attaches to the satellite.  It holds Officer Shadder, who manages to use Science Police tech to get onto the station.  On Earth, Ms. T’Gari lets Mr. Vyke know that they’ve lost contact with the station, which she refers to as a data vault.  Vyke is suspicious that this might not be from a meteor strike, as it looks, and decides to take action.  The three surviving Ringers are practicing, and discuss Klen’s death.  Driana is about to explain her suspicions around why his ring shut down, but they are interrupted by the call to head to space.  Shadder continues to dig through the station’s computers, thinking about how he shut down the self-destruct circuits first.  He’s surprised to see the Ringers on the station; Shallee gets the surveillance cameras working again with her ring, so Vyke is able to order his team to neutralize the Ringers.  Their rings don’t work though, and when they attack anyway, Shadder uses a shackler net to catch Vincel, and then manages to pull the same trick on Shallee.  Driana kicks the device out of his hands and is about to use it on him when he starts talking, explaining that Hasteen was murdered and that he thinks there is a connection between his death and Klen’s.  Driana points to the device he used to shut down their rings, and Shadder shows her that it was built by Global Grace.  Shadder continues to explain what he’s learned on the station – that Global Grace managed to capture the energy signatures of recently deceased powered villains, and channel it into the rings they gave the Ringers.  The problem is that they also started to channel the personalities of the people who once wielded those powers, causing Ken to lose control first.  Shadder explains that if Driana uses her ring one more time, she will also lose out to the psychotic personality in her ring.  Realizing he’s been discovered, Vyke sends the station into the atmosphere, planning to destroy it and kill all onboard (which is just the four people, as the station is automated).  Vyke further hopes to blame the station’s destruction on saboteurs, which is the closest this issue has come to acknowledging the criminal deeds he had his team performing.  Shadder and Driana run to the engine (I’m not sure why they don’t get the others out of their nets so they can help), but the only thing they can think to do to keep the station from falling on Melbourne is to use Driana’s ring.  She is afraid to use it, because she’s likely to lose control of herself.  Shadder explains that he’s still haunted by a decision he made, but once Driana starts thinking about all the people who will die if she doesn’t act, she asks him to restore her ring (I’m not sure why he can’t use it).  Driana uses her powers to destroy the engines, slowing their descent and changing their target to the Tasman Sea.  The problem is, Driana’s lost it, and attacks Shadder.  He finds the shut-down device doesn’t work anymore, probably because the new personality can still access its own abilities (which makes no sense).  Driana is about to kill her teammates, who are still caught in those nets, and while Shadder has an idea, he’s afraid to put it into action.  Finally, he decides he needs to act to save lives, and turns the power level of Driana’s ring up to maximum, causing it to burn out.  The station crashes into the water, and shortly the two other Ringers pilot their ship away, with Shadder and Driana, who is back in her rightful mind, aboard.  Shadder admits that he didn’t know that burning out the ring wouldn’t kill Driana, and that he had to make a choice.  The next day, while Vyke and T’Gari give a press conference about how they lost their data vault, and how no one should believe the word of disgruntled former employees and a suspended cop, Shadder and Hagbeard arrive.  Shadder tells him that he kept a copy of all of the data he saw, and arrests Vyke.  Driana tells her boyfriend that she doesn’t want to go back to being a nobody, and is happy to see that lots of people are contacting her to arrange speaking engagements, and that gives her a sense of worth again.  At SP HQ, Imra talks to Shadder, telling him there are rumors he might be offered a promotion.  She then says that since he’s always turned them down in the past, she doesn’t expect him to take it, but he smiles and says that things change.

So I have no idea why this series was made.  These Legion miniseries were odd from the beginning, but this one baffles me, not in terms of its story, which is kind of straightforward, but in terms of why it exists.  It’s not exactly a police procedural set in the world of the Legion, which would have been cool.  It doesn’t use any established characters in any meaningful way, but also doesn’t give us characters that would have enriched the Legion mythos.  It doesn’t tap into the rich history of the pre-reboot Legion (how much cooler would it have been had the Ringers been members of the old Legion Academy, like Power Boy or Comet Queen, or to see the classic SP characters like Gigi, Zendak, or even Dvron?).  It doesn’t fit with the current continuity at all (I’ll come back to Imra shortly), and most strangely, it’s as much about The Ringers as it is about the SP, but only one of the Ringers (the white human one, I might add) gets any real character development.

Did David Michelinie owe someone a favor or a contractual obligation?  This reminds me of the kind of thing that recording artists bang out in a weekend when they are almost free and clear of a record deal they regret ever signing.  We can further contextualize this as being released at the same time that Grant Morrison was absolutely killing things on JLA, and as oddball books like Chase and Chronos were pushing the boundaries of DC Comics.  In comparison to much of the line, this felt like a real old school release (the art team of Paul Ryan and Joe Rubinstein, while kind of classic, did not give this a very futuristic feel).

I guess the story is okay, although it’s weird that for one whole issue, the focus is almost entirely on the Ringers, and then they don’t appear for the next one at all, giving the story a choppy feel.  Shadder and Hasteen never really evolve past the basic descriptions of their characters.  Driana is a piece of work, being portrayed as more shallow and self-absorbed than her brother, Gim (aka Leviathan), was when he was alive.  

And then there’s this weird thing going on with Imra, aka Saturn Girl.  As this series began, she was the leader of the Legion of Super-Heroes in their books, but also an officer in the SP here?  The coordination between the three titles is poor.  In an issue of Legionnaires (that I believe came out before this series started), Invisible Kid made reference to Imra choosing to strengthen her ties with the SP, and that giving the team the not-really-needed opportunity to borrow some SP gear to get onto Durla in time for the Dark Circle’s invasion.  Here though, there is reference to Imra having left the Legion entirely, although her reasoning is never explained.  The thing is, Imra plays almost no role in this story, and wasn’t exactly necessary to it.  

Anyway, I suspect I might be the only person in twenty-two years to even devote this much thinking to this series.  This was the last of the Legion adjacent miniseries of the late 90s, so from here on, I’m going to continue focusing on the main two Legion comics.  It’s now been a year since I started reading all my Legion back issues from 1978 onwards.  That’s nuts.

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

If you’d like to read these comics, you’re going to have to do some digging.

 

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