Nov 5, 2012

Back Issue Ben: Legion Lost

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Legion Lost: Delete the Variants
Stranded on the Edge of Space with the Legion of Super-Heroes
by Ben Smith

I've only been a Legion of Super-Heroes fan for about four years or so. If you haven't been able to tell by now, I was always a Marvel kid, and the few DC books I did read were mostly Batman or the Flash. Over the years, I'd heard how intimidating the Legion could be to try and get into, but inspired by an episode of Justice League Unlimited, I decided to try them out. I started with Mark Waid's "threeboot" version, feeling like that would be one of the cleanest places to start. Well, I fell in love instantly. Such a wide assortment of outstanding characters, especially Brainiac 5, who immediately became one of my favorite characters in all of comics. Not satisfied, I scoured the Internet for recommendations of more Legion stories to read. One story that seemed to be on many lists, was a hard-to-find miniseries called LEGION LOST (not to be confused with the current title that started as part of the New 52). I promptly overpaid for the issues on the Internet, and was floored by how great the series was. Written by the team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (before they went on to revitalize Marvel's cosmic books) and penciled by future superstar Olivier Coipel (HOUSE OF M, THOR), LEGION LOST delivered on all levels, and is even one of the few superhero comics to make me feel feelings, and stuff.

Long story short, I'm a Legion fan for life now, and they aren't nearly as confusing as most fans might think they are. That being said, this does take place after the ZERO HOUR reboot, where many of the characters were given updated "modern" code names. For the purposes of this recap/review, I will be referring to them by their original (and correct) names. Let us get started, shall we?

#1. Writers: Abnett and Lanning; Pencils: Olivier Coipel; Inks: Andy Lanning: Editor: Mike McAvennie

We open on three winged alien creatures flying through space. One of them is shot from behind with an energy weapon.

The attack comes from the Progeny. One of the aliens, Shikari, is able to survive and evade the attack. She finds what appears to be an abandoned spacecraft and hides inside. Inside, she stumbles upon a holographic recording of Element Lad, member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

A cataclysmic event had sent a portion of the Legion Outpost through a rift in space-time to the edge of space. Element Lad was able to keep the remaining Legion members alive by encasing them in tromium crystal.

As the recordings go on, it becomes apparent that Element Lad was on his own for a very long time.
Inspired by Element Lad talking about the Legion, Shikari goes looking for the rest of them. She comes upon some bodies encased in crystal, but at that same moment the Progeny arrive. During the struggle, crystals are broken, and fists wearing some familiar rings come into focus. The Legion are freed, and commence to putting the beat-down on the Progeny.

Saturn Girl, Brainac 5 (Brainiac 5.1), Chameleon, Kid Quantum, Lightning Lad (Live Wire), Shadow Lass (Umbra), Ultra Boy, and Monstress are the Legion members accounted for.

As they assess the situation, Ultra Boy starts to freak out over the status of his wife, Phantom Girl (Apparition). She arrives just in time to calm him down, and for their piece of the Legion outpost to drift up to a very large spacecraft.

My brain thoughts: Setting up all the pieces in play here. The Progeny appear to be buglike creatures intent on warring with any other species in the area. This series picks up directly from the end of the previous Legion series, but that isn't important to know to enjoy the story here. Like I said, they used the new code names in this series (Live Wire, Apparition, Umbra), but I am going to go ahead and ignore them. Try not to get confused. Make a chart, if that will help.

#2. Writers: Abnett and Lanning; Pencils: Olivier Coipel; Inks: Andy Lanning: Editor: Mike McAvennie

Each issue from the point forward is narrated by one of the Legion characters. This issue is narrated by Monstress. The Progeny believe they are the one, true species, and are determined to find and exterminate any other life-forms they don't consider "pure." This does not sit well with Monstress, for obvious reasons.

Saturn Girl takes command of the team, and comes up with a battle plan for boarding the Progeny ship.
While infiltrating the ship, the team discovers that their Legion flight rings are no longer operational.

Shikari reveals herself to be a "path-finder" and leads the team through the halls of the ship.

They come upon Progeny soldiers, and have no problem putting them down. "It's one of the variants! Delete it!" (I don't know why the Progeny soldiers calling everything variants, and yelling for them to be deleted delights me so. It just does.)

The team makes its way to a large room, where they find that the Progeny are killing and recycling the corpses of their victims.

This enrages Monstress, who demands to go down and stop them. Chameleon agrees to let Monstress and Shikari go, which Shadow Lass is in disagreement with.

Monstress explains to Shikari about how something called the Blight did bad things to Shadow Lass, and she is having a hard time dealing with it.

Monstress recounts her origin to Shikari, of how she was the daughter of a rich man, that prospered off the toil of poverty-line workers. One day she was hit by a gene-bomb, which changed and disfigured her. Having seen prejudice from both sides, Monstress is a even more affected by it than the others.

While Monstress and Shikari attack the recycling plant, Kid Quantum and the rest successfully destroy the ship's main power core. Saturn Girl and the rest of the team storm the bridge, and take control.

Monstress discovers that the Progeny gassed and killed their remaining hostages upon being attacked.

The Legion leave, having stripped the ship of all usable parts and supplies. While the ship-master prepares to have himself deleted for his failure, Brainy reveals that they might be too far out into unknown space for even his twelfth-level intellect to comprehend.

My brain thoughts: The Progeny are ruthless creatures bent on genocide. Like I said before, all the "variants" and "delete thems" being thrown around, I can't get enough. This issue continues to establish just how hopeless their situation appears to be. Lost in unknown space, surrounded by hostile alien bugs determined to exterminate everything. This issue tried to make me care about Monstress, and at first glance, I thought it failed. But if you're anything like me, you'll be proven wrong later. I was. (and if you are anything like me, then hopefully someone is praying for you.)

#3. Writers: Abnett and Lanning; Pencils: Olivier Coipel; Inks: Andy Lanning: Editor: Mike McAvennie

This issue is narrated by Kid Quantum, who listens to, and talks to, the recordings left behind by Element Lad. Shikari interrupts, and Kid Quantum recounts the events that led to them being blown across the universe.

They join the rest of the team, who have decided to meet up with Shikari's people, the Kwai. Ultra Boy and Kid Quantum join Shikari as they leave to make first contact with the Kwai. Shikari recounts how her people were drawn to their current location by what they call a feral star, a luck star.

The Legion meet the Kwai, and their leader Enkenet. Enkenet has given the order to resupply and make ready to leave. Shikari believes they should stay and fight, but the rest of her people don't share her warrior spirit. The Legion assist with preparations for the Kwai to leave. Shikari and a few Kwai enlist the help of Ultra Boy and Kid Quantum in chasing down passing comets of frozen water, which they melt and use as a water source. After they are finished, Shikari points out the feral star which led them to that location.

Kid Quantum freaks out, and summons Brainiac and the rest of the team.

Turns out, it's not a star after all, but lost Legion member Wildfire (Erg-1). They reform him into an energy containment suit, just in time for the Progeny to attack again.

The Legion holds off the Progeny long enough for the Kwai to escape, leaving Shikari behind. She offers to help them find a path home.

The issue ends with Kid Quantum again talking to the recordings of Element Lad.

My brain thoughts: Wildfire is probably my second favorite Legion character. It was exciting having him get added to the roster of the book.

#4. Writers: Abnett and Lanning; Pencils: Pascal Alixe; Inks: Andy Lanning: Editor: Mike McAvennie

This issue is narrated by Phantom Girl, and opens with her, Chameleon, and Shadow Lass conducting a combat workout. It all ends with Shadow Lass getting a little bit too angry, leaving the rest of the team to continue to wonder just how well she is coping after her experience with the Blight.

Saturn Girl is distracted, and not giving her husband Lightning Lad enough attention.

While she and Lightning Lad struggle, Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy are tighter than ever.

Brainiac 5 and Kid Quantum continue to try and make an operable jump drive, leading Brainy to offhandly explain how her own powers work to her.

Phantom Girl checks in on Shadow Lass, and is rudely shooed away. Phantom Girl talks to Kid Quantum next, who was also Blighted.

During another combat training session, Shikari accidentally refers to Erg-1 as Wildfire, which he kind of likes the sound of.

Brainiac 5 gathers everyone together for his first test of the makeshift drive. They manage to make it six light years, only to run into a swarm of alien creatures. Brainy surmises they must be some kind of quantum parasites, drawn to the makeshift drive, and draining any source of available energy, including the Legion.

Phantom Girl phases out and hits the lever to drop the makeshift drive out into space, drawing the parasites after it. Back to square one, the team is more discouraged than ever, but resolve to continue to rely on each other for strength.

My brain thoughts: Pascal Alixe fills in for Coipel on pencils for this issue, and… Alixe is no Coipel. This seems like a bit of a transitory issue, designed to focus more on characterization and team interaction. It didn't exactly work for me altogether, but that could be because of the lack of Coipel on art.

#5. Writers: Abnett and Lanning; Pencils: Olivier Coipel; Inks: Andy Lanning: Editor: Mike McAvennie

This issue is narrated by my favorite character (and one of the greatest comic book characters ever invented), Brainiac 5, who continues to try and solve the myriad of problems plaguing the group.

Saturn Girl summons Brainy to take a look at the giant object out in space that Shikari has led the team to. Brainy is initially upset at Saturn Girl for relying on Shikari to lead them out of their situation, but eventually relents. Shikari reveals that her instinct told her to find a way of getting them home, leading her to this structure.

Saturn Girl orders Brainy to select a boarding team to investigate, so Brainy, Wildfire, Shadow Lass, Chameleon, and Shikari examine the outside surface of the construct.

Shikari leads them to a door, and inside. Brainy postulates that the structure is made out of folded, articulated hard-light, not rock.

The team is attacked by a Progeny weapon, followed by the Progeny himself. He saw their motion and lights and thought they were something called the Omniphagos, which appears to fill him with much fear. Omniphagos roughly translates to "all-eater", which doesn't sound too great.

Brainy decides to continue further exploration, leading them to the heart of the structure.

The interdimensional doorway they find does present them with the possibility of transporting them home, but Brainy ascertains that it's more likely purpose is as a prison.


At that moment, the Omniphagos attacks.

Nothing the team does has even the slightest effect on the creature.

Finally, Shadow Lass, who is clearly losing control, is able to contain the creature in her darkfield, as she begs for Brainiac 5 to make the monsters go away.

Such an emotional moment. This might have
been a direct hit on my heart if I had one.

Brainy and Wildfire are able to push the creature back into the doorway, re-trapping it. Back on their ship, Brainy contemplates the horror of the Omniphagos should it ever get loose. Shikari enters to apologize for leading the team into such danger. leaving Brainiac 5 re-focused on science being the only option left for their escape, if only he had an idea what to do.

My brain thoughts: I really enjoyed the device the creative team used to showcase Brainy's brain at work. It can be difficult trying to depict a character that is supposed to be far beyond any of the others in levels of intelligence, but I thought they succeeded capably. (Not to call myself a genius, but I've always been the type of person to get lost in thought, lost in my own head. That's probably what I liked so much about this issue, and why I love the character of Brainiac 5 so much in general. I also like how Mark Waid later added the dimension of him being constantly annoyed by creatures of vastly inferior intellect. I feel that way at work all the time.) Shadow Lass's tearful breakdown against the Omniphagos was very effective for me as a reader. I really felt the emotion in her at that moment.

My final brain thoughts: What is the fate of Element Lad? Will the team ever return home? Why are the Progeny such jerks?

You can see why Coipel, Abnett, and Lanning continued on to bigger and better things. Coipel wasn't quite hitting his peak yet, but he was developing that signature style that would take him on to superstardom at Marvel. Abnett and Lanning would use this series, and the Legion series following this, to hone the skills that helped them to later revolutionize the cosmic books at Marvel. Their reimagination of the Guardians of the Galaxy concept was so successful, that their version of the team is set to star in their own major Marvel movie in the coming years.

I've often wondered why a Marvel guy like me would be so passionate about the Legion of Super-Heroes. It could be because the Legion were using parts of the Marvel formula before that formula was ever even "invented". It was one of the earlier books to use continuity. They had characters die, age, and get married. It has a large cast of diverse characters, and strong female leads. And there are worlds upon worlds to establish and learn about. It's no mystery to see why most fans of the Legion, are diehard fans. If you haven't thought about trying them before, or were intimidated by the reboots and refreshes, don't be. You're missing out.

That's it for this time, friends. I'm probably going to break tradition and end my examination of this series here. The rest of it is just too good, and too heart-breaking, for me to spoil. It really is that great, I encourage you to seek it out and get it for yourself. If not, and you really want me to continue it, just flood Duy with emails. Hundreds upon hundreds of emails per day. Since there are only four of you that read my stuff, that's going to require lots of dedication on your part.

Until next time, delete the variants!

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments on The Comics Cube need approval (mostly because of spam) and no anonymous comments are allowed. Please leave your name if you wish to leave a comment. Thanks!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.