Friday, December 30, 2005

100 Days of Justice League Prelude: Legends #4-6

Three things:
1.) The week’s gotten away from me.
2.) It takes twice as much time and effort to spoof a comic than to criticize it.
3.) I’m going away for the weekend.

Therefore…
I’m abandoning the comedy for straight criticism of Legends #4-6 in order to wrap this up in time to launch into the Justice League titles next week. Not as much fun for me, but probably a relief to some of you out there. I can practically hear the cheering. ;)

Our story thus far: Darkseid dispatches Glorious Godfrey to use his powers of oratory to humiliate Earth’s heroes, turn humanity against them and supplant himself in their hearts. In the guise of G. Gordon Godfrey, Darkseid's agent convinces a growing number that superheroes are a menace and, in their outrage, the people begin to riot. Until cooler heads can prevail, President Ronald Reagan issues an executive order requiring all costumed heroes to cease their vigilante activities. Some heroes refuse to comply with this order.

Legends #4
Story: “Cry’Havoc’…!”
Plotter: John Ostrander
Scripter: Len Wein
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Karl Kesel
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Mike Gold



As with the previous issues, issue four is also a series of short vignettes each featuring a particular hero and none necessarily tied very strongly to the overriding plot. They are for the most part heroes performing some standard heroing and, in some cases, serving as jumping off points for stories in other titles. This was an “event” after all.

In this issue, at least, the first of these is probably the greatest exception to the above in that it connects loosely to the overall plot of Godfrey pulling the wool over the public’s eyes. The Black Canary attempts to apprehend Count Vertigo but finds herself on the wrong end of a police officer’s service revolver when the cop tries to enforce the executive order. His partner, disagreeing with the President and his own partner’s actions tries to relieve the officer of his sidearm. In the struggle, the dissenting officer is killed, the Black Canary escapes, and the surviving officer vows vengeance on any and all superheroes he may encounter in the future. Because the officer fails to appear again in this issue and, for that matter, in the rest of the series, we’re left wondering what the point of it all was. Furthermore, a person being killed while struggling with another for a gun, while possible, has been used so much in modern storytelling as to become cliché.

Darkseid and his moral counterpoint, the Phantom Stranger view the Black Canary scene from a nearby alley by. Why from an alley and not Apokolips as in previous scenes? Presumably, it’s a contrivance so that Darkseid can more easily order DeSaad to Skartaris, thus tying the Warlord title into the crossover . But I couldn’t help but ask myself why DeSaad couldn’t have gone straight to Skartaris from Apokolips. Was the alley really that necessary?

The following scenes seem completely unnecessary. Batman apprehends the Joker …yet again. How many times do we have to see this? That’s one of the things I like about The Dark Knight Returns. The Joker finally dies. Next, Guy Gardner apprehends some thieves -- a gang of bodybuilders known as Ms. Magnificent and Her Pretty Boys. I mean, what the hell?! Then, the Blue Beetle faces off against Chronos in a scene that apparently serves as a springboard for a story in Blue Beetle’s own book. Chronos has infiltrated Chicago’s First Annual Antique Clock Show with a female android in a bikini who proceeds to “bong” loudly and render the show’s attendees unconscious. Okaaaay. When Beetle confronts Chronos, Chronos distracts him by detonating the android and escapes out a window. As an aside, Chronos may have the most god-awful costume in superhero comics. I think a few of my rods and cones fizzle every time I look at it.

Moving on, we have two pages devoted to Kent Nelson and his wife, Inza. Nelson dons the helmet of Nabu, transforming into Dr. Fate who will rally the troops for the big showdown .at the end of the series. Then we look in again on the surviving members of Task Force X. Colonel Rick Flag dismisses all of the surviving members of the task force as promised and locks horns with Amanda Waller, who apparently had no intention of doing so. This was the high point of the issue for me. I wasn’t a regular reader of Suicide Squad like Greg was, but my impression is that Flag and Waller probably didn’t see eye-to-eye very often.

Captain Boomerang doesn’t waste any time getting himself in trouble again. This seems pretty weak to me. It’s been, what, mere hours since he had an explosive bracelet forcibly placed on his wrist and already he’s out robbing jewelry stores. Perhaps he’s been fleshed out since then, but he seems like an idiot plain and simple here. He immediately starts throwing his boomerangs around, and the Flash and the Changeling are about to pinch him when Darkseid’s Warhounds start bearing down on them. The issue ends with Darkseid’s continued gloating.

Legends #5
Story: “Let Slip the Dogs of War"
Plotter: John Ostrander
Scripter: Len Wein
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Karl Kesel
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Editor: Mike Gold



This issue features Captain Marvel’s “big” return. Billy Batson believes he killed Macro-Man with the lightening bolt when transforming in issue one. Macro-Man was actually Darkseid’s agent, Doctor Bedlam, in disguise and survived the strike. Batson doesn't know this though and, out of remorse, vows never to become Captain Marvel again. He spends the next three issues moping around. On the one hand, this really bugs me as I feel too much time and emphasis is devoted to Batson’s “Oh, woe is me” attitude. On the other hand, I suppose a young boy who believed he had killed someone would be pretty traumatized, so I guess it’s a wash. What really bugs me though is that Batson’s remorse was built up so much that it should’ve taken a significant event to make him change his mind, but in reality it’s his little friend Lisa sermonizing and then getting clocked in the head with a 2x4 that makes him say, “Okay, maybe I was a little hasty. Maybe I will become Captain Marvel again.” What would’ve taken most kids years of therapy, Batson achieves in mere moments in an alley.

But that’s not all.

Upon transforming into Captain Marvel, he says, “Holy Moley! Now that I have the wisdom of Solomon again, I realize that I’ve been had! My mystic lightning was not responsible for Macro-Man’s death! It was all an elaborate hoax!” I’m not making this up. That’s an actual quote. Apparently, we’re to believe that the wisdom of Solomon includes a healthy dose of clairvoyance. So, so bad.

Meanwhile, the heroes are out violating the executive order while Doctor Fate makes the rounds, plucking them out of one situation or another. Captain Boomerang isn’t so lucky and gets carried off by one of Godfrey’s mobs. Why don’t they kill him? I mean, they were burning superheroes in effigy earlier on. When Godfrey proceeds to parade him around on live TV, the only purpose seems to be a contrived opportunity for Boomerang to make a veiled threat to blow the lid off of Task Force X. Of course, Waller, wanting to keep the task force a secret, tells Flag to rescue or kill Boomerang – whatever it takes to keep him quiet. Oo, she’s so machiavellian.

Finally, Dr. Fate and the heroes show up to confront Godfrey and set the stage for the inevitable battle in issue six while Robin, who’s been in the hospital after Batman abandoned him to a mob when he had perfume thrown in his face (really), suits up and hobbles out on a crutch. Such a brave little soldier. So plucky. Yes, that’s sarcasm.

Legends #6
Story: “Finale!” (How original.)
Plotter: John Ostrander
Scripter: Len Wein
Penciller: John Byrne
Inkers: Karl Kesel, Dennis Janke
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Mike Gold



We’re in the gun lap now, folks.

The heroes, a group comprised of Superman, Batman, Doctor Fate, Captain Marvel, Flash, Changeling, Guy Gardner, Black Canary, and Blue Beetle, are joined by the Martian Manhunter who announces that “the Justice League of America no longer exists!” Uh, okay. I never read the JLA prior to the Giffen and DeMatteis issues, so I’m not really familiar with the events leading to their disbanding and we don’t get an explanation here either. Everybody starts fighting (of course), and a bunch of parademons show up while Godfrey slips away to try to get Boomerang to spill the beans on Task Force X. I dunno. If I were Godfrey, I’d be more interested in making a clean getaway. But whatever. I guess that little piece of info could be useful. Fortunately for them, Task Force X has already deployed to the rooftop above and they succeed in saving Captain Boomerang and setting Godfrey to flight once again.

Wonder Woman finally shows up and there’s more fighting. Editor Mike Gold mentions in an earlier text piece that they had some scheduling challenges with certain characters, primarily Superman and Wonder Woman, that led to them being used only in limited fashion in Legends. During the course of battle, some smart-ass parademon rips Doctor Fate’s helmet off and Kent Nelson runs away, er, tries to “track down the parademon.”

After all the hordes of Apokolips have been dealt with and the heroes face only a bunch of angry Americans, a bunch of kids run out led by Robin (well, he kind of hobbles out) and say “You’re all wrong. Heroes are good.” Godfrey gets all pissed off and slaps a little kid around and then the people are suddenly, like, what the hell? He slapped a kid. Somehow he has Doctor Fate’s helmet and when he puts it on it fries his brain. Then most of the heroes decide to form a new Justice League. The end.

I’ve been pretty hard on this series. I guess that’s the difference sometimes between reading something at 16 and reading it at 35. We don’t always enjoy the same things. One thing I kept reminding myself was that this was a comic that was written in a time when most comics were written for kids – young children on up through teenagers. Really, there weren’t a lot of comics geared towards mature audiences until the late 80s when DC published Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. So in one respect, it seems unfair of me to so harshly spoof and criticize a series that wasn’t really written for a person of my present age group. On the other hand, sometimes bad is bad no matter how you slice it.

Next issue: Justice League #1 – “Born Again”

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2 Comments:

Blogger MarkAndrew said...

"One thing I kept reminding myself was that this was a comic that was written in a time when most comics were written for kids – young children on up through teenagers. Really, there weren’t a lot of comics geared towards mature audiences until the late 80s when DC published Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns."

I like all sorts of comics written for kids. My absolute Favorite JLA era is the Fox/Sekowsky issues, where they're aiming at an even younger audience than Legends.

But Legends still blew. Interesting idea, but the plot just didn't congeal. It felt like a bunch of unrelated scenes with no real connecting story.

So, yeah, *YAY!* No more legends! Bring on the Giffen/Maguire issues, which I really like.

12/31/2005 07:54:00 PM  
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7/22/2016 05:33:00 AM  

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