Friday, May 1, 2015

5YL Legion of Super-Heroes #33

Recap: The Dominators are losing control of Earth and may be losing control of their home world, Elia. The UP and the rebels on Earth are gearing up for all out war. The Khunds are invading Dominator space. And while the older Legion seem to be sitting this war out, the young SW6 Legionnaires are in the thick of it, active in the rebellion and paying the price. Meanwhile, the older Chameleon Boy leaves to try to track down his father R.J. Brande.

I don't know how many people come here to read these 5YL reviews I write. But for those who do, I must sound like a broken record, bringing up the creative risks this book takes and admiring the creators for taking those risks. Legion of Super-Heroes #33 is another example.



We are in the middle of the universe altering "Terra Mosaic" storyline. All the major players are on the board: The United Planets, The Khunds, The Dominators, and the Dark Circle. There are two Legions, the rebellious Substitute Legion, Universo, the Emerald Eye of Ekron, and even rogue players like Spider Girl and Circe. And all these groups have been playing with brinkmanship, each prodding the other knowing that one false move, one major act of aggression, will lead to intergalactic war. With each issue, the lit fuse comes closer to the powder keg. And with each issue, I am left wanting. I want to see how this is going to play out. I want to see the big action sequences.

And yet, in this war story the creators continue to pull back on the reins, giving us character-driven issues not plot-driven issues. Sure, the war is in the background, but we get to see personal stories as well. It is maddening because I want more of the war story, but it is also fantastic because the joy of the Legion is the depth of the Legion mythos and the three-dimensional nature of the characters.

Legion of Super-Heroes #33 is even more maddening and fantastic, because this is Cham's story, but it also is the story of the Antarians. It has nothing to do with the Dominator War. It takes me away from that story that I want to read, but at the same time it shows that this is a universal book. While Earth and the Legion are at the center of the action, the entire universe doesn't revolve around Earth's axis.

Still, who would have the guts to show us a side mission when war is about to erupt? Writers Tom & Mary Bierbaum with artists Dave Williams, Chris Sprouse, and Karl Story take us away from the action, giving us a compelling story about freedom, planting some seeds for future revelations, and leaving me begging for more.
As I said above, this is Chameleon Boy's story. He has been searching for his father R.J. Brande and he finally has a lead. So off he goes to the far away planet of Yal to see if this information is true.

I like the middle panel here. You can see this near-anger on Reep's face as he talks about trying to tamp down any resentment he has for his father. After all, he has every reason to be angry. The universe isn't pretty anymore. What could be so important that has father has up and left? And let's not forget, it was years before Brande revealed he actually was Reep's father.

But Brande is a good man. He must have a reason for disappearing.

Meanwhile back on Winath, Lightning Lad meets up with the Antarian Proty. Garth wonders if he should have gone with "them" to help Kid Quantum. He and Proty talk about something Proty has done in the past to help Kid Quantum.

Who is Kid Quantum? This is his first appearance in the DCU and that means he is another of the new wrinkles that has been thrust into Legion lore because of the Glorith universal rewrite from way back in Legion of Super-Heroes #5!

What does this have to do with the current story? What are these past deeds? Obviously this is something to ruminate on and tuck away for the future.

Meanwhile, we do get a bit of the Dominator War story sprinkled into this side-story. The same alien we saw sell information to Cham is now selling information to the Dominators about the Soul of Antares.

What is "the soul of Antares"? And is it linked to R.J. Brande?

Long-time fans will know that Brande and the Antarians do have history. Back in the halcyon days of Levitz and Giffen, Brande was an ambassador for the Antarians (then called Proteans), fighting for their freedom and proving themselves sentient.

And on Yal, we meet Rouvin.

At first he seems like a civic leader, railing against the establishment and trying to talk about freedom and equal rights. He wants peace and prosperity for all. In this editorial, he talks about how the injustice done to Khunds most likely lead to Khundian injustices committed against others.

And then, on closer look, we see that Rouvin is actually Kid Quantum. We see his Legion flag and his Legionnaire costume in his hut.
We leave Rouvin momentarily as we see a disguised Cham finally meet up with his father. Indeed, Brande has also been looking for the Soul of Antares.

But Brande isn't being as stealthy as he believes he is. These conversations are being overheard by a Dominion lackey on the planet.
Thankfully, we get some exposition that is able to fill in the gaps.

The Antareans' (or Proteans') ability to mimic other life-forms made them a potentially powerful army for anyone powerful enough to control them. In fact, Glorith at one point made a play to control the race and use them as an unstoppable force in her war to control the universe.

The only way to stop that from happening was to remove all sentience from the Proteans, leaving them thoughtless blobs, unable to be manipulated by Glorith, but essentially robbed of their free will and soul.

All that sentience was placed within one being... the Soul of Antares. However, seven Proteans were kept sentient to hopefully one day bring the Soul back to the planet and re-invigorate the race.

Of course, this means that if you capture the Soul of Antares, you could perhaps complete Glorith's plan of enslaving the planet.

Given the potential of having the Proteans fighting for them, and maybe helping them keep control of their empire (which is slipping away), the Dominators try to capture the Soul. They send old Legion villain Orion the Hunter to Yal. And there, after vowing to kill Chameleon Boy, the Soul of Antares reveals himself.

It's Kid Quantum!

One part of the problem with this reveal is that we don't know Kid Quantum. We just learned about the Soul of Antares. We just know the Protean planet's dilemma. This is all a bit too fast.

At least we get a bit of flashback to help explain things.

If the Soul of Antares was so sought after by villains, why not hide it in plain sight by becoming a Legionnaire?

Even as a Legionnaire, Glorith discovered who Kid Quantum was. The only way to escape her capturing him was to fake his death and once again go into hiding. But now, the Dominators can use their mindwipes and brainwashing to make the Soul enslave all of Antares.

It is unclear if Rouvin still has his shape-shifting power. You would think that if he wanted to go into hiding, he could become anyone and really disappear. Why draw attention to yourself as a rabble-rouser??

Incredibly, before Quantum can be captured, some of the local fauna reveal themselves as the other sentient Proteans. And they quickly overwhelm Orion and his goons to protect Quantum.

And so, the Soul of Antares and the seven sentient Proteans get on board a ship with the plan to make the race sentient and whole again!

But the Bierbaums throw in a great wrinkle. The pilot is a hypnotized dupe of whoever controls the Emerald Eye. Whoever this is, they will suddenly have the future of the Proteans under their control.

Now that was one whirlwind of an issue. It feels a bit rushed. And I don't know if you necessarily needed to tell this story right now in this series.

But things get even more interesting because there is a coda in the book bringing us back to Earth and the SW6 Legionnaires.

In it, we see Lightning Lad completely lose his cool, enthusiastically electrocuting a Dominator infantryman. It seems pretty hot-tempered for the usually controlled Garth, and Imra notices. Garth sounds like how he used to.

I can't help but think that this scene, with this particular Lightning Lad, is here for a reason, bringing me back to the odd scene in the earlier part of the issue: That Garth owed Kid Quantum, and was involved with the Proteans. And he seems like the calm Garth we know.

Hmmmmm....
The Legionnaires run into other young heroes who had been captured in a Dominator lab. One of them is Danielle Foccart. Old time Legion fans know at one point she had been possessed by Computo. Here we learn that she retained some of those tech powers, linking to computers and stopping the self-destruct mechanism. She is alive with others like the cat girl Catspaw, the martial artist Xao Jin, and Crystal Kid. The young Legion's ranks just grew.

So overall, I thought this was an okay issue of this title. The Antares plot seemed too compressed for one issue. I don't know why it needed to be told at this point in the unfolding story of the 5YL universe, and it took me away from the "Terra Mosaic" war story. Unlike the other rest issues, I didn't feel this one enriched the overall arc. It felt disconnected. And as a reader, I did too.

2 comments:

  1. This is the only issue of this run I really have problems with, many, as you point out, coming from the fact that this is very compressed, and even rushed, storytelling.
    My main problem, though, is with the introduction of Kid Quantumm. For me it read and it still reads like the creators trying to retroactively fix the racial disparity of the book through the retcon, as if apologising for 35 year old stories.
    Still, this issues sets the Annual 3 in full, something that wasn´t immediately obvious back then. I hope that you or someone on the site gets to review that much maligned issues, which I personally love for many aspects and revelations.

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  2. The art is great. Kid Quantum is a retroactive fix for the racial disparity, that's not necessarily a bad thing (don't ask me about 3boot Star Boy). Laurel Gand worked and the idea of a black Legionnaire long thought lost was interesting. He had a great power and along with Danielle and the new-comers looked to give depth to the young Legion.

    But then we find out he's not actually a black human but a shape-shifting Protean on the run. Stupid

    Then we find all expect seven of the Proteans stopped being sentient so they couldn't be used as an army by Glorith. Stupid.

    Then we learn that everyone is after KQ because by brainwashing him they get to... I don't really care. It's JUST STUPID.

    The idea of Proteans fighting to prove they're sentient by human standards and opposed by vested interest stacked against them is a great scifi idea that was butchered here. It would have been infinitely better if they'd just added Proty 2 to the Legionnaires roster and kept KQ as presented.
    This is why Jazmin eventually worked so well.

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