Monday, December 5, 2016

The Puzzle of the Postponed Plotlines


Loose lips sink ships … and loose plot threads can annoy the sprock out of loyal Legion fans. Over the decades, while there's certainly been many a classic Legion adventure, there have been just as many frustrating unresolved storylines, as the Legion meandered from one reboot to another.

Whether they were intentional, caused by a change in writer, poor editing, or cancellation of the book, or perhaps they were simply a forgotten sub-plot, the unsatisfactory resolutions definitely reduce the overall enjoyment of the respective story arcs.

Let's have a look at some of the chapters in the Legion's history where gaps are waiting to be filled:


False Pretenses Lad
In Adventure Comics #327, we see a character being dragged off to prison for joining the Legion under false pretenses. He claims to have joined so that he could sabotage the Legion's emergency board to “further a crime plot”.

But who is he? Nothing is provided to the readers of his identity (except that he looks male), nor his powers (faked or real), which must have been impressive enough to pass the Legion's stringent admission try-outs.
There's a great story waiting to be told of this villain, dubbed False Pretenses Lad by Mark Waid … who he was, how long he was a member, what the crime plot involved, and how his deception was discovered.



In the adult Legion story of Adventure Comics #355, the Legionnaires are shown going through their files of renegade members to determine if any of them could be a mysterious masked attacker menacing the group. A data card shows a character named Jan Jor, who was never shown in any of the previous stories. Fans have speculated that Jan could in fact be False Pretenses Lad, a hypothesis so popular it has actually been treated as gospel on some websites. 


Certainly, it would be a nice fit if this were the case. But if not, then Jan's story is another waiting to be told.


Mordru the Giant

The tale of the Dark Lord's first attack on the Legion remains undisclosed. As explained in Adventure Comics #369, Mordru's initial strike was as a 100-foot giant clad in a yellow costume with armored accessories.
At the time of Mordru's invasion of Earth, he had managed to conquer the worlds of the outer perimeter of the galaxy in which his home planet Zerox was part of. But when his armies tried to take over Earth, the Legion, under Saturn Girl's leadership, defeated them after “a terrible battle”.

They then took on Mordru himself, and managed to contain him in an airless steel block, causing the magician to lapse into a coma. 

The details of Mordru's original offensive bears a recounting of its own, in particular how the Legionnaires managed to thwart off the might of Mordru's military forces. It is interesting to note that Mordru never used any form of infantry again in his future encounters with the Legion.


Black Dawn

The most heralded period of missing information occurred when the Legion's book advanced five years into the future, after the end of the Magic Wars (Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #63). During that time, the Legion had been forced to disband, but readers knew precious little of what happened, except that a crisis tagged Black Dawn had occurred, essentially a series of incidents that took place in the summer of 2991 during great upheaval on Earth.
Readers of the book had to piece together for themselves what had transpired, based on little tidbits that writers Keith Giffen and Tom and Mary Bierbaum dispatched in the stories as the series progressed … a storytelling device that infuriated and confused many fans.
It was up the LEGION 2995 SOURCEBOOK (published by Mayfair Games and scripted by the Bierbaums) to shed some clearer light on the muddled events. From a diary in the publication, we see that the Legion began to fall apart after Sensor Girl resigned as leader to return to Orando, successor Timber Wolf's mental state deteriorated, Phantom Girl got killed which made Ultra Boy to resign in grief, and Violet left to join the Imskian army against Braal, which would result in her being blinded in one eye. In this same battle, Cosmic Boy would lose his powers after fighting for his home planet. 




 Along the way, the Legion recruited Atmos, Crystal Kid, Echo, Karate Kid II, and Reflecto. Sun Boy was appointed unofficial temporary leader, but even he was unable to maintain morale as more Legionnaires quit under the actions and legislative commands of a hostile Earthgov.

Polar Boy eventually replaced Sun Boy and made the decision to dismantle the group. By this stage, the roster was almost unrecognizable, with the membership consisting of Calamity King, Colossal Boy, Nightwind, Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete, Visi-Lad, Storm Boy, Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid, and Color Kid.

A definitive series outlining Black Dawn would excite fans, and establish as canon the facts defined in the Sourcebook, which, while written by the Bierbaums and endorsed by DC Comics, were only hinted at within the Legion's title itself. For this fan in particular, it would also be cool to see how all those secondary characters actually became Legionnaires and how they functioned as a group.


The Knights Tempus

In the threeboot version of the Legion, inaugural leader Cosmic Boy masterminded an act of subterfuge which helped the Legion defeat a siege by the Dominators. 
However, before he could explain the ploy to the public, he was accosted by three youths from the 41st Century, in a scene reminiscent of the original Legion’s visit to a young Clark Kent, in which Superboy is revealed to be the Legion’s inspiration.


The three teens, who are only shown in shadow form, claim to be part of a group named The Knights Tempus, whose genesis was motivated by Cosmic Boy's legacy of heroism. Cos accepts their invitation to join the group and departs with the trio, leaving behind his own team, who are understandably baffled by his disappearance. Before he vanished though, Supergirl had been elected to take his place.

Strangely, this event was followed by a five-issue story arc named “The Quest for Cosmic Boy”, which in fact revealed absolutely nothing about Cos’ whereabouts … and indeed, he was never seen again, as Jim Shooter took over the reins and pulled the team in a whole new direction in a series which ended abruptly due to the book’s cancellation.


Regal Revenge

Leading up to that finale to the Threeboot’s adventures, Shooter had introduced several sub-plots, many of which he tried to resolve by the time he was told to wrap things up prematurely.

One of the major twists he could not conclude involved Princess Projectra, who not only lost her regal standing when her homeworld of Orando got destroyed, but also her wealth, her privileges, and eventually her state of mind.

Blaming the Legion and the United Planets for Orando’s demise, Jeckie hatches a plot of vengeance with some Orandoan survivors. Along the way, supplemented by an unexplained surge in her mental and illusion-casting powers, she almost beats Phantom Girl to death, mind-wipes Saturn Girl, and manipulates Brainiac 5 in stripping Dream Girl of her powers.


Readers do not get the satisfaction of seeing how the conflict resolves. According to Shooter, his script entailed Jeckie somehow resurrecting the people of Orando, but then being castigated by her parents for her evil actions. She flees with her lover Timber Wolf, and discovers she bears his child.

Many would argue that such a consequence would have been an undeserving fate to befall such a popular and majestic character, ironically created by Shooter himself. Perhaps it was just as well the storyline did not pan out to its projected (pun intended) length.

Unfortunately, Shooter dug Jeckie into such a hole that it would be hard to see how she could possibly redeem herself. Still, if DC Comics ever decided to publish a story to tie up the loose ends from this saga, perhaps a more satisfactory outcome could involve the princess atoning for her actions … even if it meant the use of hackneyed explanations such as an imposter at work, a brainwash by a villain, or possibly a heroic sacrifice.


Traitorous Tinya

Along those lines of Legionnaires needing redemption, another member who was treated ingloriously was Phantom Girl, as depicted in the Legion's most recent series before cancellation.

After having been recently elected leader for the first time in the Legion's history, Tinya was shown cowering before the attack of the Fatal Five, in a display of cowardice that totally belies the strength of character and aptitude for authority that she possesses (remember, she once also led L.E.G.I.O.N., albeit in a different continuity). Prior to this, Phantom Girl – in every single version of the Legion - had never shown any signs of weakness or lack of confidence.
The heroine is depicted as abandoning her post to return to her native Bgtzl. What any follow-up story needs to reveal now is that Phantom Girl did not flee in terror, but in fact retreated so she could formulate a rescue plan for the team.


As it turned out, after all the deaths, destruction and decimation caused by the villains, all it took was Polar Boy to deep freeze Tharok to end the menace.

Indeed, that whole series is full of unexplained developments and events. Which Earth was this one? A casual remark by Bouncing Boy about Steppenwolf killing Superman implies it's Earth-2, but the storylines seem to continue seamlessly from Geoff John's reintroduction of the Legion into the DC Universe. Even given the shake-up of the New 52, the Legion's adventures were not affected, with plotlines carried over from the so-called retroboot (such as Saturn Queen's manipulation of Comet Queen).

And are Sun Boy and Star Boy really dead? And why or how did Karate Kid, presumably the same one killed by Nemesis Kid, appear out of nowhere?


The Eternal Champion

Indeed, it does seem as if DC doesn't really know what to to with Karate Kid. Despite starring in his own title in the '70s, the master of martial arts has been killed off at least three times in various interpretations of the Legion through the years.

Arguably, the most unnecessary murder occurred in the much-maligned Countdown series, where Val Armorr died after being infected with the Morticoccus virus , in a plot so confusing and error-ridden that it would surely be an enormous task for any writer to adequately explain the inconsistencies. 


Staying behind in the present after helping a team of Legionnaires retrieve a lightning rod, Val was mysteriously joined by one of Duo Damsel's bodies (calling herself Una) as they began searching for a cure for the virus. They both ending up dying gruesome deaths. This is the version of Val from the Legion's first series, complete with Cockrum-designed high collar, but at the same time, readers were being treated to a different Karate Kid in the Legion threeboot title. You had to feel sorry for any Legion reader, old or new, trying to make sense of it all.

The pre-threeboot Lightning Lad eventually came back into the past to discover KK 's and Una's bodies, but we do not see their deaths mourned by their teammates, let alone how this had an effect on Duo Damsel. Later on, we discover that their bodies had really been planted by the Time Trapper. Um, what???


In Legion of Super-Heroes (v6) #6, Sensor Girl is shown dreaming or thinking of another Karate Kid, one who is discernibly younger and standing outside the Legion Academy. Is this the same Val we knew, or a younger character being trained to fill his shoes? Is this an illusion or wishful thinking? If it's just the latter, then why bother showing this sequence at all? It goes down as a loose thread that Paul Levitz was obviously hoping to expand upon at some stage.

Paul repeated the same trick in the last series of the Legion. Once again, we see Jeckie with Val, but nothing more is disclosed. Is it a sign of the princess growing more mentally unstable as she comes to grips with the death of her consort? It's difficult to understand Paul's thinking here, but he has gone on record as viewing Karate Kid as the Legion's eternal champion, always present and fighting for justice but never ultimately succeeding.

The Lost Sibling

All children born to natives of planet Winath are twins, the most famous of whom were of course Garth and Ayla Ranzz.
For many years, it had been assumed that their older brother Mekt, the villainous Lightning Lord, was one of the few exceptions born without a twin. But in Adventure Comics #5, Mekt tells Garth he does have a twin and asks the Legionnaire to help find him.


Is this a ruse? Is this a lie? Is Mekt telling the truth or is he deluded? Could there in fact be two Lightning Lords? If there was a twin, is it male or female?

The plot is further touched on in Legion of Super-Heroes (v5) #2, but that's where it ends.
It seems that Levitz had plans to expand this twist on a grander scale, but it's odd that he never got around to it.


The Lost Legionnaires

Truly a disappointing series, Legion Lost spotlighted a group of Legionnaires sent to the past to track down a villain, only to find that they have no way of returning to their time.

The series was one of the first New 52 titles to be launched, but in its 24 issues, nothing was revealed to elaborate on the many secrets the various members appeared to harbor.

For example, it was revealed that Chameleon Girl, recently estranged off-panel from Colossal Boy, had been recruited by the Science Police to flush out a rogue Legionnaire. Likewise, Tyroc was apparently destined to perish in the present, his fate foreshadowed by a tombstone he found which bore his name.


Despite being frustrated at their failed attempts to return to their original time period, the Legion Lost team is miraculously summoned by Brainiac 5 to help a team of Legionnaires who had traveled back in time from the 31st century to battle Infinitus in Justice League United #6-10.

The lost Legionnaires show no surprise at being successfully called in to rejoin their teammates, nor do their colleagues demonstrate any sort of emotion at seeing the return of members who had been given up for lost for months. It also makes a mockery of a previous revelation that the Legion had built memorial statues to the lost members, considering them dead and gone.

The JLU Infinitus saga was riddled with mistakes, even though author Jeff Lemire has acknowledged that he was a Legion fan.

Poor editing and fact-checking also meant artist Neil Edwards was given style sheets that did not reconcile, which resulted in him drawing two different Tyrocs and two different Chameleon Girls, for example, as well as characters which only existed in certain versions, such as Radion. In fact, the version of the Legion shown was a mishmash of all known incarnations, with Dragonmage fighting alongside Monstress, and Kinetix with Gates, for instance, pairings that had never occurred before. 

An electic mix of Legionnaires: Andromeda, Element Lad, Magno, ME Lad, Dragonmage, Computo, Kid Quantum, Radion, Dream Girl, Ferro, Kinetix and Monstress.
This was part of DC Comics' Convergence comic book event, but reeks more of a divergence than anything else. That being said though ............ if the Legion were to be brought back, this would be the version I'd want to see, consisting of members from every variant of the group that has existed.




We're sure there are many other unresolved plot lines you may think of which we've not covered. Let us know which ones have frustrated you!

Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.




13 comments:

  1. Cool overview! Yeah, I got the Justice League United book and wow, that was just poor all around. Not just continuity issues, but totally neglecting the emotional impact of reuniting the Legion Lost team. And Legion Lost... on paper it should have been so good but in reality... Ah well. We can always hope inevitable Six Boot is good.

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  2. The one major plotline that I'd add here would be "So, what exactly was the deal with Pulsar Stargrave and his relation to Brainiac and Brainiac 5?". (Threads groping towards an answer appeared in L.E.G.I.O.N., but with Pulsar's only appearance post-1980 or so being the Substitute Legion special, we never got a chance to actually tie them together.)

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  3. Oh the 5-year gap. T&M Bierbau: the original Superboy-prime. Even though it started with the best of intentions with some great moments it just ended a mess.

    What Shooter did to the threeboot Jeckie was nothing compared to what TMB did to the original-continuity Dream Girl, Tellus, Wildfire, Dawnstar, Timber Wolf. I loathed that you had to get the sourcebook to "fill in the gaps."

    What happened to Tinya (and Dirk) at the end of the latest series was a shame. So easily fixable in-story.


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  4. You left out most, if not all of the zero-hour team.

    What was the deal with Cub? Who was Lyle's "C", what was up with Brainy kissing lyle during the Darksied arc. Lots of good ideas just tossed aside for the threeboot which was quickly made irrelevant by Countdown and infinite crisis.

    On the other hand, I was fine with the odd continuity issues in the Infinitus arc. I'd also be fine with seeing a similar team again with a mix of the originals and zero-hour teams. I thought JLU was well before convergence (which also had it's own mish-mash on continuities)?

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  5. Question: Wouldn't Mordru using the Khunds and Dark Circle to crush Earth count as him using Infantry again (even if from behind the scenes)?

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  6. What a fabulous post.

    I'd like to add one (unless it has been answered before). There is a mission that calls most of the Legion away when the Sun-Eater attacks the first time. I'd love to know that story!

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  7. Didn't some other Legionnaires go through portals to the future during Shooter's threeboot run? Though he still didn't explain anything about what was going on.

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    1. I remember that too. Trip and KK went through shortly after Shooter's stint on the Threeboot started, and they were never heard from again. I wish that got resolved.

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  8. That list in the Sourcebook about the Legion's activities during "5 Years Later" shows when Impulse (the Kent Shakespeare one, not the Bart Allen one) resigned, but not when he signed on.

    Speaking of forgotten LOSH members, it was never explained why Dream Boy stopped showing up in the book once Mark Waid's run was over.

    Also, wasn't there a bunch of shifty looking guys that showed up in the 'Quest for Cosmic Boy" prologue that were spying on Violet, Shady, and Timber Wolf and swearing that the "Legion would burn"?

    Finally, the demons in Brainy's mind that blinded Dreamy's ghost escaped to the real world, and then were never seen or heard from again.

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  10. Laurel Kent to me represents one of these unfinished plotlines. Laurel was clearly a biological entity while she was at the Legion Academy evidenced by her being shot and wounded with a Kryptonite bullet. She was tended to in the Academy infirmary where her identity as a Manhunter robot would surely be uncovered. It seems more likely that she was abducted and replaced by a Manhunter than actually being one from the start.

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    1. Yes! She made a cameo appearance after Infinite Crisis, fighting alongside her cousin, Kent Shakespeare, and it was mentioned that she had been rescued after the Manhunter kidnapped and impersonated her.

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  11. One thing about "Traitorous Tinya" - she did not go back to Bgztl. That's the one dimension we know for sure she didn't go to. She said as she was doing it that she was phasing away to someplace from which she could never return, and Tharok echoed that in the following issue, saying she'd gone somewhere past her ability to ever return. So, clearly not Bgztl, since she can shift back and forth between Earth and her home dimension at will. Where she went and why she'd never be able to get back are mysteries. I hold out some hope that she'll end up in the main DC universe's 21st century and become the new Phase in L.E.G.I.O.N.

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