The Legion read-along continues with a rare four-part story. Do Levitz and Giffen deliver another epic on the scale of “The Great Darkness Saga?” Read on to find out!
The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #2, #307-310
Written by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen
Illustrated by Keith Giffen, Larry Mahlstedt, George Tuska, Pat Broderick, and Mike Decarlo
Colored by Carl Gafford
Lettered by John Costanza, Adam Kubert, and Todd Klein
The “Omen” arc, as I’ve decided to call this batch of issues, is perhaps the strangest Legion story that I’ve come across so far. It’s a somewhat baffling story with fantastic art, frustrating pacing, bizarre leaps and an immensely frustrating ending.
The arc begins with two groups of Legionnaires on separate missions; one investigating a fatal accident on the planet of Trewsk, another aiding in a diplomatic mission on Khundia. The two storylines intersect when a being of immense cosmic power and his heralding prophet fly out from the sun of Trewsk, with the prophet leading the Legion to the planet of Corvan IV and later to Khundia.
The story of the Prophet and Omen is nonsensical, almost to the point of absurdity. To even attempt to describe the story as penned makes my smooth brain start to congeal. And yet, in spite of this, I found myself enjoying this arc thanks to Giffen’s pencils and Gafford’s colors. Giffen’s modern style begins to take shape in this arc and his strength as a storyteller improves significantly. He plays with several interesting layouts and panel progressions, particularly in the arc’s first chapter which features several memorable pages. There’s a page in which a sidebar of vertical panels depict a short gag between Chameleon Boy and Star Boy while Wildfire and Element Lad discuss the Legion election. There’s another page that also uses vertical panels to simultaneously depict the actions of four different legionnaires. There are pages, like the one featured below, that use asymmetrical and oddly shaped panels to draw the reader’s eye, even carrying the action off panel and into the page’s negative space.
Overall, this arc is a visual feast. As befuddling as the Prophet’s origins, portents, and actions may be, his fight with the Legion is stunning. Some of the Prophet’s visions are delightfully weird, even showing some of the dark and imaginative flair that would become so iconic in the “Berger books” of the mid to late 80’s.
I could continue to gush over this arc’s incredible artwork, but I digress. The arc is hamstrung by its middle chapters, which sees the page count cut in half in favor of pack ups. This essentially drags a three issue arc, which probably could have been done in two issues, out over four issues. One of my favorite aspects of this Legion run has been its short, punchy arcs that quickly resolve plots while planting new story threads. This arc, again, runs into the same pitfalls as previous long form arcs. The finale, as exciting and bombastic as it maybe, feels extremely abrupt and features a perplexing cliffhanger in the return of the original Invisible Kid. Meanwhile, Omen, the world ending threat that four issues have spent building up, gets Poochied (never to return, according to his DC Wikia entry).
The backup features are a bit of a mixed bag. The first, illustrated by guest artist George Tuska, features Colossal Boy introducing his new wife, Yera to his parents. Colossal Boy expects that his mother, president of Earth, may have some reservations regarding the race of his new wife, considering the tensions between the Durlans and the United Planets. The story unfolds in a somewhat awkward but well intentioned exploration of racial stereotyping, both socially and politically. The second backup features the honeymoon of Queen Projectra and Karate Kid, which is interrupted by Projectra’s vengeful cousin. It’s the definition of a throwaway plot, saved by the absolutely fantastic work of returning penciller Pat Broderick.
True to form, Levitz and Giffen continue to weave in additional plot threads as well. We see Brainiac continue to seek a cure for Jaqcues Foccart’s sister, still comatose after possession by Comupto. We also catch up with Dawnstar in her pilgrimage through the galaxy, again featuring some terrific work form the art team. Finally we see the burgeoning relationship between Element Lad and Schvaugn bear fruit, just as the former learns of his election as Legion leader.Continued below
Despite my very real misgivings with this messy arc, I appreciate just how hard the team goes for it. The characterization, though still frustrating for a few characters (Dream Girl and Star Boy especially, those two are made for each other), continues to shine. As I’ve beaten into the ground at this point, the artwork is better than ever. Even the arc’s bizarre ending opens the door to interesting new ideas and conflicts. And really, for most cape comics, that’s the best one can hope for.