Legion of Super-Heroes – the Great Darkness Saga, deluxe edition



Legion of Super-Heroes – the Great Darkness Saga, deluxe edition – I always sort of liked the Legion Of Super-Heroes; set in the 30th century, it was full of silly heroes with goofy names, like Light Girl, Duo Damsel, Lightning Lad (and, of course, Lightning Lass), Bouncing Boy (he bounced), Matter-Eater Lad (he eats anything, as long as it’s matter), Nemesis Kid, Karate Kid, etc. Of course, the creators don’t take themselves entirely seriously, and they also have the Legion of Reserve Super-Heroes for the truly silly ones. Of course, no Legion story is complete without the domineering presence of Dream Girl, who’s… dreamy. She also becomes Legion leader during this “story arc” (I hate that term, but it’s useful to describe things like this).

The series tended to have not so great story lines, too many characters running around, weird politics (in this case, the politicking for the leadership of the Legion), and lots of kissy romances (naturally 98% of the women are hot babes, 98% of the men are studly and impossibly handsome (and nearly all with preppy left-parted haircuts – except for curlycube Element Lad, Blok, and that shapeless energy blob Wildfire). Everyone’s got cool costumes (that often change) and great hair too! They’re also all young, moody, childless, and hopelessly adorable!

This edition is probably also hopelessly deluxe, with a few issues of needless backstory (with poor artwork), and then also a few superfluous aftermath stories. I actually owned several of these issues back in 1982 and 1983 (although I was mostly a Marvel guy), and it’s very nice to reminisce on these lovely stories of the 30th-century rebirth of Darkseid. It starts off with a nifty introduction by author Paul Levitz, written in June 2010. The tale starts with The Legion Of Super-Heroes issue 284, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel are in the opening pages of… “The Soul-Thief From The Stars”, with Bouncing Boy questioning retiring from the Legion as he ponders his marriage, his mortality, and his future as a Legionnaire – yes, all this as he gazes on memorials of Legionnaires who died in the call of duty. Nice. Deep. There’s a scene from a Legion conference (politics) that gets rowdy with Wildfire’s posturing (“Don’t we have better things to do?”), and some weirdly-drawn Legionnaires (Pat Broderick and Bruce Patterson can’t seem to get Legion leader Lightning Lad quite right), and then there’s a strange drawn out battle on a science cruiser that Light Lass and Timberwolf totally own. Chameleon Boy goes through an identity crisis when he finds out that the godfather of the Legion is his father! Timberwolf takes surgery to regain his human looks, confronted by a dogmatic Lightning Lad (never a dull moment in the Legion). The Legionnaires are attacked by a nutty absorbing man that steals their powers. Creepy and weird… but none of it has anything to do with the Great Darkness!!

Other stories take us to Nullport, where the shipyards run by weird horse-like businessmen are attacked by the enemy lords of Khund, and the world of Orando where Karate Kid and Princess Projectra get married and deal with a rebellion, possible execution, imminent rescue, all sorts of other fun stuff!! Shrinking Violet, despite her lame powers, is still pretty sexy! Great dialogue, though: “By the cells of confrontation! No! No!” Funny how nobody likes Star Boy or Wildfire, especially grumpy ole Phantom Girl (who hardly does anything interesting). In “Old Friends, New Realtives and Other Corpses”, the Legionnaires start off playing superpowered volleyball (wow!!), then a new battle with Doctor Zaxton Regulus as he seeks revenge against RJ Brande, Chameleon Boy’s father. Lightning Lad resigns, feeling himself a failure (he spends a great deal of time throughout the following issues whining about this – so does Chameleon Boy… get a grip, guys!!!); Element Lad becomes acting leader and then campaigns against the clairvoyant Dream Girl for the full endorsement (would Dream Girl have even run unless she knew she’d win?). Gladiator battles dominate Issue 287, when Chameleon Boy leads a suicide mission to Khund, gets challenged to a gladiatorial battle with champion Kharlak, his team gets rescued by another team, all of them become stranded on a desolate asteriod as they try to make good their escape (despite its powers, the Earth Allegiance cant always do that…). Issue 288, the first by the celebrated art team of Keith Giffen and Bruce Patterson, covers Princess Projectra’s and Karate Kid’s misadventures on Orando, as they’re rescued by a bunch of other Legionnaires (Dream Girl shows a lot of brains in this one – nice one, Dreamy). Then there’s a weird adventure when Blok and Sun Boy think they’re being attacked by hideous creatures, when really those are the creatures from the crash-landed honeymoon barge that they have been sent to rescue. Weird! Dawnstar and Light Lass save our stranded fivesome from their satellite grave, but not before Light Lass comes upon her boyfriend with Saturn Girl in a near-moment (!!!!!), which becomes a bit of soap opera for the rest of the series. Timberwolf is in the dog house!! The giant 1982 Annual shows the accidental rebirth of Brainiac Five’s creation/nemesis Computo, which has infected the body of a young Danielle Foccart who Brainiac Five’s trying to save (and when all hell breaks loose, he joins Lightning Lad and Cameleon Boy in moping about his many near-fatal mistakes. It’s kind of cool seeing one creature nearly destroy the Legion, and this story has plenty of destruction. Unfortunately, the defeat hinges on a new character being created – Jacques Foccart as the new Invisible Kid, probably the lamest Legionnaire ever (he’s always mumbling in partial English with lots of French words thrown in, like Marvel’s Colossus would do with his native Russian, or Nightcrawler with his German – yuck!!). This episode also sees the introduction of Science Police liaison officer Shvaughn Erin (cool name), a hot redhead! Cosmic Boy is a hopeless narcissist, “Not bad, not bad at all. It’s almost sharp,” he says to the mirror (nice pink and black tights, Cosmic Boy). Saturn Girl’s feathered locks are nearly as awesome, by the way! Star Boy (nice beard) and Sun Boy play Dungeons And Dragons – geeks?!?! Cool how the opening scene shows Legion headquarters, then later with its face punched open. Duo Damsel’s agony at losing one of her itentities (when she was Triplicate Girl) to Computo. At least this issue has a few panels that allude to the rise of Darkseid – four, to be exact…

Things start to heat up in Issue 290, when the first of Darkseid’s servants makes an entrance – an anti-matter Superboy, to fight right away with Superboy, Cosmic Boy and Wildfire. Nice battle,with lots of fire, fury and destruction! It’s a mystery – who is sending superpowered servants to gather power from evil-doers and by collecting powerful objects (Excalibur, etc) via boom tubes (yes, who?!?!). Anyone who comes in contact with a servant is overcome with the darkness and the cold. It’s pretty cool, actually, and builds up suspense! Weird how Darkseid’s servants never have names, though (I guess this is deliberate – usually super-villains boast their names within their first lines of dialogue).

At this point we also see Dream Girl’s sister, the sexy White Witch. Wow – nice! Another visit to Sorcerer’s World yields interesting results as well. Cool. Four servants attack Sorcerer’s World, and Mon-El goes into the boom tube and is granted a glimpse of Darkseid. Nice.

There’s a cool scene when a child is born who will be a savior to the human race (we see this all the time, of course – they grow up within 48 hours, then save the world). The rest of the story becomes about saving the child, fighting the allies of Darksied, and then ultimately overwhelming him. A great, wild unfolding story, with many surprising moments. Astounding stuff, really. And then, at the end of 293, Darkseid reveals himself – as he unleashes three billion super powered slave warriors on the unierse. Awesome! With big old Captain Jack pirate boots! Oh Lord, yeah!!

for Darkseid

for Darkseid

Dream Girl calls in the Substitute Heroes, reservists like Supergirl, the Heroes of Lallor (Evolvo Lad, Gas Girl, Lfe Lass, Duplicate Boy, Dev-Em), and as Darkseid gets more and more powerful, the battle turns and out comes Orion (YES!!!), and Izaya, and more amazing fighting. The Legionnaires figure out their path, they turn the battle around, and in the end it’s really just one big, bad, powerful guy against thousands or resourceful figures. Nice. Darkseid gets the snot beaten out of him, his plan goes awry, and… that’s it!

The book is full of great art, not the least of which is the cool Michelangelo-ish-ness of the image below, as well as all sorts of colour-splashed pages, with coo, encounters, great goofs, and all sorts of splendid creativity. You can’t write about this sort of thing, you just need to see it for yourself.

Darkseid the Hand of God

Darkseid the Hand of God

A few of the issues have at the end solo adventures of various Legionnaires, like the mystery Dream Girl solves on her home planet of Naltor of why everybody (including herself) has lost their power of clairvoyance (it’s IT-related); Princess Projectra and Karate Kid engage in gladiator warfare in a strange Orando gladiator battle. Brainiac Five and Element Lad try to cure Matter Eater Lad’s insanity, when they interrupt a break-in by the eight-armed Doctor R’Xalim (holy smokes!!), that’s pretty weird: “This flower is all I require to set us free.” Then there’s a nice tale of Shadow Girl and Mon-El interrupting their vacation together to investigate “an uncharted planet that drifted intot he middle o major interstellar trade routes.” Sounds like The Phantom Menace. But it turns out that they’ve discovered Apocalips, and after a battle with some guardian robots and a strategic retreat it’s the rebirth-of-Darkseid time!! This sets the stage for the series, although the real start of the tale (apart from a few teaser panels included between issue 288 and issue 292 are really few and far between – still it’s less to have comprehensiveness). Later on there’s also Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl’s battle with the female servant of Darkseid.

Sadly, the conclusion of the story is less than satisfying… but what a ride!

The closing pages are even more anti-climactic – in Issue 295 Timberwolf and Blok go over some old data files of Legion history and they uncover some weird experiment that uncovers the dawn of time, with some interference from the Green Lantern Corps, that ends in the exposure of a Green Lantern traitor (the first in a millennia!!!), and other nutty hijinx. It’s supposed to teach Timberwolf something about his mission in life but, yawn, I’m not sure it accomplishes that exactly… But at least the flashback scenes are very cleverly drawn by a more “retro-looking” artist, which is interesting. The final story is about nuclear explosions, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with Darkseid.

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