Retro Reviews: Legion Of Super-Heroes #122-125 & Legionnaires #78-81 By Abnett, Lanning, Coipel & Others For DC Comics!

Legionnaires #78-81, The Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 4) #122-125 (December 1999 to March 2000)

Written by Dan Abnett (LNR #78-81, LSH #122-125), Andy Lanning (LNR #78-81, LSH #122-125

Pencilled by Jeffrey Moy (LNR #78), Olivier Coipel (LNR #78-, LSH #122-123) Angel Unzueta (LSH #124-125), Adam DeKraker (LNR #81)

Inked by WC Carani (LNR #78), Andy Lanning (LNR #78-81, LSH #122-123), Jaime Mendoza (LSH #124-125)

Colour by Tom McCraw (LNR #78-81, LSH #122-125)

Spoilers (from twenty to twenty-one years ago)

When I started to reread all my consecutive Legion comics over a year ago, there were a few storylines I was most excited to revisit.  In this order, they were the 5 Year Gap Legion of Keith Giffen, the Bierbaums, and Jason Pearson, the Great Darkness Saga by Levitz and Giffen, and the Blight storyline by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Olivier Coipel.  

We are finally here, at the last of the three.  

I’ve always liked stories that rip things apart.  When Abnett and Lanning took over writing Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires, the books were getting pretty tired.  Writers Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer, and Roger Stern seemed to be going through the motions, and story events didn’t have a lot of lasting consequences.  The storied collaborators known as D’n’A came in, and wrecked the United Planets in an attack from the aliens known as the Blight.  In no time, the tone and feel of these books changed completely, and I remember it being thrilling.

A big part of the appeal to this came with artist Olivier Coipel, who made his debut on these titles.  His scratchy and dark art were a stunning contrast to the artists he replaced (Jeff Moy and Scott Kolins).  

I hope these comics stand up to my memories of them, because I feel like I’ve been wading through a lot of mediocrity lately to get here.  Let’s see…

One piece of housekeeping first.  Legion of Super-Heroes flowed into the next issue of Legionnaires, and so on.  Basically, they were one comic, kind of like how the four Superman titles read as one weekly story in the same era.  They even put little boxes with numbers in them to help keep track of how the story flowed.  Because of that, I’m going to write about both titles in one column, and will use the abbreviations LSH and LNR to denote which title I’m talking about.  

Let’s track who turned up in the title:

The Legion of Super-Heroes

  • Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn; LNR #78-81, LSH #122-125)
  • Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen; LNR #78-81, LSH #123-125)
  • Live Wire (Garth Ranzz; LNR #78, 80-81, LSH #122, 124-125)
  • XS (Jenni Ognats; LNR #78-81, LSH #122-123, 125)
  • Monstress (Candi Pyponte-LeParc III; LNR #78-81, LSH #122-123, 125)
  • Brainiac 5/Brainiac 5.1 (Querl Dox; LNR #78-81, LSH #122-125)
  • Apparition (Tinya Wazzo; LNR #78-81, LSH #122-123, 125)
  • Ultra Boy (Jo Nah; LNR #78, 81, LSH #125)
  • Chameleon (Reep Daggle; LSH #122-123, 125, LNR #79-81)
  • Ferro (Andrew Nolan; LNR #79-81, LSH #125)
  • M’onel (Lar Gand; LNR #79-81, LSH #123-125)
  • Triad (Luornu Durgo; LNR #79-81, LSH #124-125)
  • Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg; LNR #80-81, LSH #124-125)
  • Gates (LNR #80-81, LSH #125)
  • Element Lad (Jan Arrah; LNR #80-81, LSH #124-125)
  • Thunder (CeCe Beck; LNR #80-81, LSH #124)
  • Spark (Ayla Ranzz; LNR #80-81, LSH #125)
  • Star Boy (Thom Kallor; LNR #80-81, LSH #124)
  • Karate Kid (Val Armorr; LNR #80-81, LSH #125)
  • Kid Quantum (Jazmin Cullin; LNR #80-81, LSH #125)
  • Kinetix (Zoe Saugin; LNR #80-81, LSH #125)
  • Umbra (Tasmia Mallor; LNR #80-81, LSH #124-125)
  • Sensor (Jeka Wynzorr; LNR #80-81, LSH #125)
  • Leviathan (Salu “Violet” Digby; LNR #80-81, LSH #124-125)

Villains

  • Emissary One One Two One Two (Robotica; LNR #78)
  • The Blight (LSH #122-123), LNR #79-80)
  • Blighted Karate Kid (LSH #122)
  • Blighted Umbra (LSH #122-123, LNR #79)
  • Blighted Ultra Boy (LSH #122-123, LNR #79-80)
  • Blighted Star Boy (LSH #122-123, LNR #79-80)
  • Blighted Kinetix (LSH #122-123, LNR #79)
  • Blighted Spider-Girl (LNR #79)
  • Blighted Element Lad (LNR #79, LSH #123)
  • Blighted Evolvo (LNR #79)
  • Blighted Leviathan (LNR #79)
  • Blighted Lori Morning (LNR #79)
  • Blighted Ferro (LSH #123)
  • Blighted Atmos (LSH #123)
  • Blighted Spark (LSH #123)
  • Blighted Kid Quantum (LSH #123, LNR #80)
  • Blighted Thunder (LSH #123)
  • Lord Atrophos (Blight; LSH #123, LNR #80)
  • Blighted Radion (LSH #123)
  • Blighted Particon (LSH #123)
  • Blighted Triad (LNR #80)

Guest Stars

  • Leland McCauley (LSH #124, LNR #81)
  • Amilia Crugg (Workforce; LSH #124)
  • Lori Morning/Helios (Workforce; LSH #124-125, LNR #81)
  • Repulse (Workforce; LNR #81, LSH #125)
  • Amber (Workforce; LNR #81, LSH #125)
  • Dune (Workforce; LNR #81, LSH #125)
  • Meta (Workforce; LNR #81)
  • ERG-1 (Drake Burroughs; LNR #81, LSH #125)

Supporting Characters

  • Shvaughn Erin (Liaison to Science Police; LSH #122)
  • Dryk Magz (LNR #80-81, LSH #125)
  • Dreamer (Nura Nal; LSH #124, LNR #81)
  • RJ Brande (LSH #124, LNR #81)
  • Vice-President Winema Wazzo (LSH #124, LNR #81)
  • Marla Latham (LSH #124, LNR #81)
  • Chuck Taine (LSH #124-125, LNR #81)

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

  • LNR 78 – A very old freighter is passing through UP space when it loses power and is attacked.  The captain manages to send an unconventional databurst, since usual communication is disabled.  Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Live Wire are walking through Legion HQ on Earth discussing the message they received.  Rokk volunteers to lead the mission so Imra and Garth can spend time together.  XS and Monstress discuss the fact that Monstress is leaving on this mission even though her former team, the Amazers, are on Earth for a visit.  They talk about how it’s strange that Brainiac 5.1 volunteered for this mission, and assume it has something to do with him missing his monkey Koko.  Apparition also volunteers for this mission.  Ultra Boy asks to come too, but Tinya tells him she wants some time apart. They start making out.  Garth and Imra watch them and discuss their relationship; Garth says they should follow that couple’s lead.  Imra asks if he’s proposing, and they start making out.  Rokk’s team leaves.  When they find the freighter, they board it and find it abandoned.  They eventually find the crew, which is frozen solid (but still alive).  They also discover a hole in the inner hull.  Brainy explains that this freighter is a couple of hundred years old, and that ships in that era used a double-hull system filled with scrap metal as ballast and meteor shielding.  A five hundred year old Ares series Battle Robot attacks them; Brainy figures it came out of the ballast.  Rokk’s powers are useless, as it’s actually made of ceramics and plastics.  Monstress is able to take it out, but a half dozen more turn up.  Brainy shares the history of these devices, while the rest of the team goes on the offensive.  When Tinya tries to disrupt the tech in one, she gets caught in an explosion and almost shot, but Monstress saves her.  When the Battle Robots hear Brainy called Brainiac, they all react and target him alone, referring to him as “hated of Colu”.  Just as they are about to shoot them, Brainy is able to restore their Asimov circuits, making it impossible for them to hurt anyone.  The team congratulates one another, but then are attacked by another robotic being, calling itself Emissary One One Two One Two.  It explains that it’s from Robotica, the robotic paradise.  It says it is going to “expunge” the Legionnaires, at which point, the Battle Robots, following their Asimov laws, attack and destroy the Asimov.  The team turns the freighter back towards home, now that it’s working again.  Tinya wonders how the robots could have known Brainy (I mean, he’s the fifth in a line of well-known Brainiacs, so there’s that…).  Monstress discovers that the stargate network is shut down.  The last two pages of this issue are drawn by Olivier Coipel, and show an energy cascade running through the stargate system, burning out each gate as it approaches Earth.
  • LSH 122 – It’s the first part of the Legion of the Damned arc, and it opens by showing us how much things have changed on Earth since the Blight ‘entwined’ Metropolis, and presumably, everywhere.  Things look rotten and dirty.  Live Wire, XS, Chameleon, and Shvaughn Erin lead a small group of beings out of the place they’ve been hiding.  Shvaughn’s scanning device isn’t picking up any Blight activity, so they bring the people out, leading them to President Brande’s underground.  We learn that Brande is collecting survivors, and is then going to open the last stargate still working, and remove everyone from danger.  As they head into the open, Shvaughn detects some Blight.  The Blight teleport in behind the group, forcing them forward.  They run into a couple of Blight (big guys that wear breathing apparatus, and three Legionnaires – Karate Kid, Umbra, and Ultra Boy – who have been entwined, meaning they work for the Blight now.  They attack.  Reep tries to hold one of the Blight off from gathering the people, but is badly hurt.  Umbra gets Shvaughn, while Jenni is grabbed by the two Blight.  Garth keeps fighting Ultra Boy, and calls in to tell Brande what happened, also telling him to not send any backup.  Ultra Boy uses something called a chokeweed blaster on Garth, which appears to kill him.  They all teleport away with their prisoners.  Reep is left behind, disguised as a mouse.  He takes a moment to mourn for Garth, letting us know that Lyle was killed the same way.  Reep feels sorry for not doing more.  The Blight arrive in their internment camp, where a leader orders that everyone be taken to The Stem, a large structure that no one ever returns from, for interrogation.  Reep is in hiding (we see that some Legionnaires (presumably Ultra Boy or M’onel, but they are only in silhouette) are flying around looking for him.  He knows he can’t return to Brande’s hideout, so he goes to the Science Police Headquarters.  We learn that all of these changes have happened in just a month, and that Sensor’s team discovered that the Blight can track Legion flight rings.  Reep hears a teleportation tendril and prepares to fight.  Four Blighted (only Star Boy and maybe Kinetix are identifiable) appear, and Star Boy goes after Reep right away.  Reep runs and hides, but using his gravity powers, Star Boy is able to detect him.  Reep is able to shoot him with his blaster, and decides that he has to turn his weapons to lethal levels if he’s going to survive.  He hears the others, and is about to attack him when he discovers the totally normal Apparition, Cosmic Boy, Monstress, and Brainiac 5.1, who have no idea what’s going on.
  • LNR 79 – Reep fills in the newcomers on what happened over the last month, and us as well.  We learn that tendrils of Blight energy came through the stargate closest to Earth, and hitting the planet in little time.  Within five hours, the planet was “entwined”, and then the Blight came.  Sensor knew they were the same beings that destroyed the Lycidan moon (in LSH Secret Files 2), and that they quickly transformed members of the Legion, Work Force, and the Amazers (who were on Earth) into Blighted hunter-killers.  We see that Ulta Boy, Spider-Girl, Element Lad, Evolvo, Leviathan, Star Boy, Lori Morning, and Kinetix were all lost.  Reep tells them that Brande is collecting and hiding civilians until he can get them off-planet.  Monstress asks about the others, and we learn that Gates is missing, that Saturn Girl was taken recently, and that Garth was killed.  Tinya is upset to learn that Jo was taken.  Brainy explains that his group had to fly back under conventional speeds, which is why they weren’t able to help.  Reep explains the Stem, and their theory that it sends Blight energy to other worlds.  He said that Lyle took a team in, but none of them ever came back.  In the Stem, Blighted Umbra delivers XS and the regular people they took to her ‘masters’.  She is told to take Jenni for power-sapping.  They are surprised to see that Jenni is still conscious and sedate her.  In a flashback, we join Tinya, Monstress, Rokk, and Brainy on the ship they spent a month returning in.  They found the Outpost near the Earth, but it appeared abandoned.  When they entered, they found some vegetative growth.  Brainy was able to locate Reep’s flight ring (although I thought they said they stopped using them).  There was an energy spike, and Rokk realised they triggered an alarm.  As they flew away, the Outpost exploded, and sent them crashing to Earth.  Tinya wakes from a bad dream, and she and Reep talk about their situation.  As Jenni is being transported through the Stem, she wakes up and hears a faint telepathic voice.  Jenni sees some Legionnaires (Ferro, M’onel, Triad, and a couple more that are hard to identify) hanging from a ceiling with Blight tendrils in their mouths.  Jenni realizes she is talking to Saturn Girl, and when she sees her in a pod, she breaks out of her own, grabs Imra, and runs.  Outside a root of the Stem, Brainy figures they can travel through the plant’s vessels, after conjecturing that Earth is being used as a staging area to take over the entire galaxy.  They spot some hunter-killers and hide.  The Blight search the inside of the Stem, but Jenni is able to vibrate to hide.  Imra wants Jenni to leave her, and to escape with the knowledge she puts in her head, which Jenni finds stunning.  Outside the Stem, the hunter-killers, which include Ultra Boy, Star Boy, and Umbra (I don’t recognize the rest) search for someone – presumably Rokk’s group.
  • LSH 123 – Jenni is processing the information Imra dumped in her head, and through that, we see that the Blight were once a highly advanced race until they got involved with entropy.  Jenni and the unconscious Imra are almost captured by Blighted hunter killers Element Lad, Ferro, Atmos, and Spark, but Jenni escapes the trance she’s in, and starts running faster than ever before, carrying Imra past Blighted Kid Quantum and Thunder (I thought she’d stayed in her own time).  As she runs, the images take over again, and we learn how the Blight were bored as a race, having conquered disease.  Atrophos, one of their leaders, decided to conquer death, and by doing so, somehow communicated with the notion of entropy.  Jenni snaps out of it again, and finds that she’s surrounded by more Blighted, including Star Boy, Umbra, and Ultra Boy.  Imra wakes up and mindblasts everyone around them.  Jenni tells her she’s too tired to run, but that’s when Cosmic Boy’s squad shows up.  We learn that the deal the Blight made with entropy left them needing to drain the life force of others to keep themselves alive.  Over time, they Atrophos and the others went insane.  At some point they came across something called the Doda, a type of energy growth that they were able to bend to their will, using it to teleport and channel energy.  When they came across the Legion in LSH Secret Files #2, it led them to Earth and a vibrancy they hadn’t seen before.  Monstress carries Jenni while the Legionnaires flee, using the flight rings that I’d thought had been compromised.  Reep leads them to a resistance spot that is shielded from Blight sensors.  He apologizes to Jenni for not saving her before, and they embrace.  In the Stem, M’onel, who the Blight have been draining of energy, notices that he has fewer guards than usual and makes a move, ripping out of his bonds.  He attacks the Blight nearest him, but is blasted by Lord Atrophos, who says something about how Lar is the secret to helping the Blight escape their curse (which he refuses to do).  Reep’s group lay a trap for the hunter-killers hunting them (they include Radion, Particon, and Kinetix).  He poses as an injured Blight, and the team attacks them, trying to capture the Blight with them.  Tinya finds it hard to fight Zoe, but is able to use her powers to have Zoe and Particon take each other out.  Imra cloaks them telepathically, and Brainy pulls some kind of device off the Blight.  He thinks it will broadcast a code that will let them enter the Stem without setting off alarms.  Rokk wants to destroy the Doda, and as the issue ends, we see that something is going on with Imra, who wants to tell them something but can’t, even if that means betraying them.
  • LNR 80 – The end of The Legion of the Damned arc opens with Lord Atrophos explaining to M’onel that the Blight can free themselves of their entropic curse by draining his life energy and using it to cause the Doda to implode.  Afterwards, there wouldn’t be any life, but Atrophos is okay with that; M’onel is not, although that doesn’t matter much.  Chameleon, disguised as a Blight, leads the “captured” Legionnaires towards the Stem, using the device Brainy stole to go right past the guards.  Once inside, Imra struggles to filter out the Doda’s telepathic signal.  She is hit with M’onel’s pain, which draws attention from another Blight.  Rokk gives the order for the team to fight, alerting the Blighted Triad and Kid Quantum.  Atrophos figures out what’s happening, but isn’t all that concerned.  Monstress gets into a fight with the Blighted Ultra Boy, but when Tinya shows up, her touching Jo helps him break off the Blight’s mind control.  Imra leads them to M’onel, and while he uses his force field to keep anyone from following, Rokk attacks Atrophos.  Imra stops Rokk from freeing Lar, not wanting to take the time to explain her plan.  Atrophos assumes that Imra is still under the Blight’s influence, as are the others, except for XS.  Jenni feels that since she mindlinked with Imra, she’d know if there was deceit in her.  Imra and Lar work to free the Doda from the Blight’s control, and in doing so, the purple energy tendrils that make up the Doda turn yellow.  Basically, it’s a type of metaphysical plant, and without the Blight’s influence, it is able to progress as nature intended.  Jo stops Atrophos, tossing him into the vortex that is the Doda.  The Stem blows apart, and the yellow energy runs through the entire Doda network, touching everything the Blight ever entwined.  Later, everyone is standing outside the wreckage, with the various Legionnaires (although, strangely, none of the other superhumans we saw Blighted before) standing around.  Everyone is happy to see Garth, Lyle, and Gates approach, and Garth and Imra embrace, as do Monstress and Jan, and Jenni and Dyrk.  Tinya notices Lar standing apart, and she and Jo go to him.  As the Legion gathers, Rokk tells them they have a lot of work to do.
  • LSH 124 – The Widening Rift arc starts, with art by Angel Unzueta.  We see what happened to Garth after he was hit with the chokeweed in issue 122; it took him under the Stem, where it was expected that he’d be composed and turned into nutrients for the Blight.  When the threat of the Blight ended, he was able to free himself, and found Lyle.  Garth wakes up yelling in his hospital bed, where he’s been fitted with a new prosthetic arm.  He sees some medics working to sedate Dreamer, who keeps having bad dreams.  Star Boy is there, and he explains to Garth that the two of them are going to return to Xanthu with the Amazers, even though with the stargates closed, that will take them a long time.  Garth goes for a walk, and finds Umbra sitting by herself looking upset.  When he tries to talk to her, she blows up at thim, and we learn that she is still upset at being one of the Blighted, and that she enjoyed the freedom that came with it.  Next, Garth finds an operations room where UP President (and Legion founder) RJ Brande is arguing with his vice-president, Winema Wazzo.  Rokk explains to Garth that the UP have decided to quarantine Earth and the other planets that were entwined by the Blight, and Wazzo doesn’t want the stargates opened again, as that is what allowed the Blight to come to their part of space.  Wazzo is not happy that so many of the Legion were taken over by the Blight.  When Imra tries to talk to her, she gets angry that a child is lecturing her.  Wazzo informs Brande that his presidential veto is suspended, and that the UP council wants him to come the next day to discuss their concerns.  He mentions that he’s sent some Legionnaires to make sure the stargates haven’t been tampered with by the Blight.  We see that Brainy, Lyle, and Jan are on the new Legion Outpost (a decommissioned SP platform) that Chuck (who used to just be an architect) is very unimpressed with.  Lyle explains that they are there to check the Earth stargate.  On the moon, Leland McCauley prepares to attend the UP council meeting.  He speaks to an aide, giving over some instructions.  The aide is surprised that McCauley is firing everyone on Workforce except for Amilia Crugg and Lori Morning (really, that’s only two people, I think).  He makes a comment about removing anyone who is under age (although Lori is like twelve).  On the new Outpost, Jan and Brainy both feel that something is wrong with the stargate.  Brande begins his appearance in front of the UP council, many of whom are trapped on Earth in the quarantine they imposed.  They have Brande explain that the Blight did use the stargate to reach Earth, and Brande finds himself having to defend easy travel across space.  Elsewhere, Garth, Imra, M’onel, Thunder, Triad, and Leviathan help distribute food aid to an area of Earth that has been ravaged by the Blight.  A woman can’t find her daughter, and Thunder freezes in indecision (but Vi finds the girl and it’s all good).  As Triad starts to hand out boxes of food, a man tries to take more, and the crowd quickly turns on the Legionnaires.  Lar almost threatens people, but Imra has the sense to hush him before he makes things worse.  Brainy tries to figure out why the stargate is unstable, but Lyle says he needs Brande’s permission before opening the gate.  They interrupt the council meeting to get it, and Wazzo immediately starts to talk about how he’s putting children in harm’s way.  McCauley enters the room, proposing a solution.  Imra is upset by how people responded to them, and she tells Garth that once the emergency is over, she’s going to stop down as Legion leader.  McCauley explains that he’s reformed his Workforce with only adult operatives, and that they are about to dock with the new Legion Outpost.  Brande tells Lyle to stand down, and that the Workforce are coming to them.  Chuck runs to the airlock, and appears surprised by who he sees there.  As Lyle tries to talk to Brande, Jan interrupts to tell him something that Lyle then has to tell Brande.  Brainy has put on a big spacesuit, and is on his way to the stargate, which he claims is about to implode.
  • LNR 81 – McCauley makes his pitch to the UP, helpfully recapping the fact that the stargate network allowed the Blight to come to Earth.  We see that numerous freighters are waiting for the stargates to reopen, and shows that Brainy is defying orders to investigate the gate.  On the Outpost, the new Workforce, a group of pretty generic costumed adults, including Repulse, Amber, Helios, Dune, and Meta, confront Lyle, Jan, and Chuck.  Things are momentarily violent, as Repulse smacks Lyle into a wall, and then orders Helios and Meta to go get Brainy.  At Legion HQ, Thom says goodbye to Jazmin, while Monstress (who is called Candi for the first time) says goodbye to Nura.  Everyone except Thom gets the feelings that they might not see each other again.  As Brainy inspects the stargate, he sees that it’s not stable. Meta and Helios confront him, and he tries to explain that there is Blight biotech around the stargate’s emitter.  Meta wants to burn it off, and Brainy tries to stop him, fearing that the gate might implode and open a rift in space.  Lyle has Jan and Chuck attack Workforce with him, and they take them down in one page.  At Legion HQ, Tinya finds Drake (the two beings, Atom’x and Blast-Off merged into Drake Burroughs, the energy being modeled on the original Wildfire) in the medical bay.  He talks about how it was frustrating to not be able to help with the fight against the Blight.  Tinya sees that Jo is sleeping; he has a bad dream about being Blighted, and the fact that he enjoyed it.  When he wakes up, she comforts him.  Brainy continues to argue with Meta, who uses his flashvision to burn off the Blight tech.  The stargate explodes (Brainy is able to catch Helios in his forcefield).  The Outpost is able to get its shields up in time, but the freighters around the gate are torn apart by the shockwave.  Brainy shows Helios that a rift is opening, and at the speed with which it is growing, will consume the solar system in a couple of days.  At the UP congress, Brande is furious that McCauley is being given the chance to address the group.  McCauley in turn questions the need for a stargate network, and plays a message from a delegate from Lycidas, who confirms that the Blight discovered the Legion on their moon, and that’s what led them to Earth.  VP Wazzo moves to suspend the Legion’s charter, and therefore the team, and the vote passes with 86%.  Most of the Legion are watching from their HQ, and are stunned.  Next, the council votes to impeach President Brande,, which passes at 79%.  The team is shocked.  Thunder walks into another room, and leaving a note and her flight ring on a datapad, says “Shazam” and returns to her own time.  While the team tries to figure out what to do, Dyrk gets their attention to show them what’s happening with the stargate.  Imra looks at his datapad, and says that Lyle has a plan, but he needs the team’s help.  There is a delay while they decide what they should do.  Brande arrives with Triad, and reminds them that they always make him proud.  Suspended or not, the entire team (including Drake) head off to help.
  • LSH 125 – Brainy and Helios are still in his forefield, in the middle of the collapsing stargate, when Helio comments that her “hour is almost up.”  It turns out Helios is actually Lori Morning, having gained that persona from her dial.    Things don’t look good for them, as Brainy’s field is not going to last forever, and his suit has been compromised.  On the Outpost, Repulse wants the Legionnaires to fly it away, but Lyle wants to stay and see if they can do something about the situation.  Chuck figures out that there are only about thirty-six hours in which to save the solar system, but he also notices a Legion cruiser flying at an incredibly fast speed towards them (it’s being pushed by M’onel and Drake).  Lori decides to give the dial to Brainy, thinking he might make better use of it.  When he tries it, it transforms his forceshield bubble in some way, and sends it flying out of the rift.  The Legion assembles on the Outpost, and Brainy and Lori join them.  Brainy’s shorted out the dial, which doesn’t look like it will work again.  Most of the team works on shoring up the Outpost, which is starting to be torn apart by the stress on its hull, aided by the members of Workforce.  Sensor, M’onel, and Drake are welding outside of the station (I’m not sure what use Jeka is there), and Jeka suggests the superhero name ERG-1 to Drake (why not just call him Wildfire?).  Jenni comforts Lori.  Some Legionnaires confer, and Brainy shares that things are getting worse quicker; Imra’s homeworld is starting to suffer severe weather due to the gravitational effects of the rift.  The plan is for Element Lad, Kid Quantum, and ERG-1 to fly into the rift.  Jan will turn any matter he finds into tarnium, the element that regulates the stargates, while Jazmin will use her powers to mend the rift, and Drake will absorb and channel energy coming towards them.  While Drake is not officially part of the team, Imra makes him feel like he is (should I be using they pronouns for Drake, seeing as he’s actually two merged people?).  Imra tells Garth that if they survive, she will marry him.  Dyrk points out to the command crew that the station is losing its integrity.  Chameleon and Triad work to process data, while the heroes in the rift start working.  Drake absorbs too much power and bursts through his containment suit; his energy is sucked into the rift (which is a little odd, as all other energy is coming out of it).  Brainy figures there are only two minutes remaining before the station is destroyed, so Imra orders everyone to evacuate.  The team rushes to the evac-pods (which, to be fair, probably shouldn’t be able to withstand the pressure any better than the Outpost).  Monstress holds up a collapsing wall so the others can escape, and gets caught under it when it collapses.  Umbra is knocked out by some debris.  Ultra Boy stops to get her, and gets cut off from Apparition and Leviathan.  M’onel and Jeka are still outside, and see some of the pods making it clear.  Lar grabs her and follows.  The crew on the command deck get cut off, and start to crawl out through some vents.  Imra and Garth are cut off from the others.  Jan and Jazmin refuse to listen to Imra’s orders to abort.  Instead, the two keep working to close the rift as everything goes white around them.  We see some news footage of the Outpost being swallowed by the rift, and then everything goes black, as a newscaster says that the Legion has sacrificed themselves.

This short run was a serious injection of adrenaline into the flagging Legion franchise.  Like I said at the beginning of this column, I love when things get torn up in comics, especially when those changes are lasting, and not Elseworlds or imaginary stories (or the increasingly common trope of showing us a potential future that then gets fixed).  The worlds of the Legion are bright, happy places, where superheroes handle threats like powered robbery and the occasional alien invasion, but also find time for beach vacations.

Once the Blight come to Earth, most of the Legion are turned into puppets of the Blight, others are missing, and the few remaining are part of a failing resistance movement.  It’s bleak and frightening, and it’s great.  After the Blight threat is dealt with, the team has to deal with a public backlash that gets them shutdown, and that inadvertently puts the entire solar system in danger again.

I love stuff like this, where each issue feels like it really counts.  The sacrifices of the resistance and the team at the rift have consequences.  The Blighted Legionnaires suffer from poor mental health as a result of what happened to them.  The Earth and other planets find their recovery blocked for political reasons.  The people no longer trust their heroes.  It’s all pretty heavy.

The Widening Rifts arc made me think of the 5 Year Gap Legion, who after defeating the Dominion and liberating Earth from their secret rule learn that the planet they’ve spent so long fighting for is about to explode.  Where those issues of LSH were more emotional, these ones were still very exciting, especially since the issue ended with no clear indication that any of the Legionnaires survived.

Reading the text pages in LSH 125, we learn that a new title, Legion Lost is going to pick up after this issue, but that it’s only going to feature some of the Legionnaires.  I remember being excited to see who lived and who died, and being annoyed that there was a bit of a wait before that title launched.  This comes after a couple of years of buying the Legion books out of a sense of loyalty and habit.

One of the most exciting things about this arc was the debut of artist Olivier Coipel.  Since Keith Giffen left the team, there hadn’t been as dark and foreboding an artist on this book.  His Blight designs were creepy, and he gave the team a real post-Apocalyptic look.  I’d actually forgotten that there were two other artists on the Widening Rifts arc, because his work made such a strong impression on me (and because he returned for Legion Lost).  Coipel went on to become a superstar artist who only now does a few comics a year, mostly at Marvel, and I still enjoy his work.

I should take a moment to talk about Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who sadly no longer work together.  I think this is the first time that they really came to my attention, but I remained a big fan of their collaborative (and now solo) work.  Among their best stuff is their long Guardians of the Galaxy run at Marvel, which revitalized the team and included many of my favourite characters.  That book has a lot of similarities to this one (even though their Guardians weren’t the future version).

I like how, amidst the grand sweep of these two Legion arcs, they found plenty of space to demonstrate a good understanding of these characters, and managed to give many of them powerful moments.  I also like that they completed Vice President Wazzo’s original arc, which was that she was anti-Legion.

One thing that had me most excited was the inclusion of ERG-1 (who I still want to call Wildfire) on the team.  I never understood why the rebooted Legion never brought back some of my favourite characters – Wildfire, Dawnstar, Blok and Timber Wolf being the big four, but also characters like Polar Boy or Tellus would have been welcome additions.  Getting just one of them back was a treat.

Anyway, I remember being fond of Legion Lost, but also being unhappy with one decision the writers made.  Let’s see how that series holds up next time.

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

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The Legion by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Vol. 1

 

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