Monday, March 19, 2018

LEGENDS #5 & #6

Plotter: John Ostrander | Scripter: Len Wein
Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Karl Kesel w/Dennis Janke (issue 6 assist)
Letterer: Steve Haynie | Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Editor: Mike Gold

The Plot: (Issue 5) Billy Batson sees a girl he had befriended hit by debris from a riot and finally changes back into Captain Marvel. Moments later, he’s spirited away by Doctor Fate. In Star City, Fate grabs Black Canary. He plucks Guy Gardner from Los Angeles, then the Blue Beetle from Chicago. In Gotham City, Fate grabs Batman. In New York, Captain Boomerang is captured by a gang of Gordon Godfrey’s rabid followers, and Fate takes Flash and Changeling before they can pursue. Finally, Doctor Fate appears in the White House as Superman confers with President Reagan and Vice President Bush. He grabs the Man of Steel as well, and they depart.

Elsewhere, G. Gordon Godfrey stirs up his mob in Metropolis and shows off the captive Captain Boomerang on TV. Amanda Waller orders Task Force X to either rescue or kill Boomerang before he blows the cover off their team. In Washington, D.C., Godfrey continues to speak to his followers, until Doctor Fate arrives with his team. On Apokolips, Darkseid prepares for the final act of his plan, while in Gotham City, a determined Robin leaves his hospital room.

(Issue 5) On Apokolips, Darkseid and the Phantom Stranger continue their chat, while on Earth the heroes battle Godfrey’s war dogs, soon augmented by a troop of parademons from Apokolips. Godfrey snags Doctor Fate’s helmet and makes a run for it, while not far away, the Suicide Squad rescues Captain Boomerang. Meanwhile Wonder Woman appears to help Guy Gardner against a war dog, while human agents of Godfrey storm the White House and attempt to assassinate the president — but J’onn J’onzz impersonates the commander-in-chief to thwart the intruders.

Eventually all the otherworldly threats are eliminated and the heroes are left to face Godfrey’s foaming mob. But the arrival of a number of children, spared from Godfrey’s power of suggestion, causes the adults’ frenzy to waver and wear off. Desperate, Godfrey dons Doctor Fate’s helmet, hoping to use its power to save himself, but it instead overwhelms him, reducing him to a gibbering mess.

In the aftermath, the gathered heroes decide to re-form the Justice League, while on Apokolips, Darkseid vows that his war against Earth’s legends is not over.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: I’ve never read a single Captain Marvel comic, so I have no idea if this is a normal occurrence, but I thought it was kind of cool: after Billy changes back into Cap, he once more possesses the wisdom of Solomon and immediately realizes he was tricked by Macro Man in issue 1.

This issue features the infamous skewering of Jim Shooter, as Wein and Byrne (and presumably plotter Ostrander, though I’ve never heard of him having an axe to grind with Shooter) depict the Marvel editor-in-chief in the guise of a villain called Sunspot, who babbles about creating a “new universe” and speaks of the atrocities he committed to gain his power. When he comes into conflict with Guy Gardner, Sunspot accidently atomizes his own foot. The scene is funny, but it’s honestly kind of mean spirited, too.

Superman states that he was captured by Darkseid “earlier today,” which feels off. The SUPERMAN, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, and ACTION COMICS issues we covered last week, while not explicitly calling out any passage of time, sure felt like they took place over more than a single day!

To further complicate the timeline, and as I also discussed last week, how are all these characters moving around so fast? Godfrey travels from Metropolis to Washington within the span of a couple pages that indicate no passage of time. Sure, he could be using a boom tube, but is he bringing his followers with him through it? Or does he just find a new flock waiting for him when he gets there? And Robin somehow gets from Gotham City to Washington while the heroes are fighting the war dogs. Mind you, I don’t know where Metropolis and Gotham are supposed to be in relation to D.C., but I doubt they’re all just a mile or two apart.

In issue 6, Darkseid recaps his plan to date:

Soon after, J’onn J’onzz arrives in D.C. to assist Doctor Fate’s team, and informs the gathered heroes that the Justice League is no more.

Wonder Woman declares that she’s revealing herself in man’s world for the first time, which according to the publication schedule is correct — LEGENDS was over and done with before the seven issues of WONDER WOMAN we just looked at had even begun to hit the stands — but as those issues showed, the Amazon princess had already made some very public appearances prior to the events of LEGENDS (the next issue of WONDER WOMAN we'll examine in a few more weeks is explicitly set after LEGENDS and fills in the blanks between Wonder Woman’s first story arc and the end of the mini-series).

Also, Wonder Woman implies that she came up with her own codename, another tidbit which will be proved false by her ongoing series.

By the story’s finale, the Justice League’s demise has been greatly exaggerated, and the team re-forms consisting of Doctor Fate, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, and Blue Beetle, with Guy Gardner saying that he’ll “think on it.” By the first issue of their new ongoing series, Guy will have officially joined and (based on a quick look at the cover) it appears Mister Miracle and the female Doctor Light will be members as well.

My Thoughts: And thus ends LEGENDS. Overall, I liked it. I’ve never read CRISIS ON INFINTE EARTHS, though I know what it’s about. It basically brings about the end of the original DC Universe and sets things up for a new universe to take its place. I suppose in that way, LEGENDS is a sequel to CRISIS—where the prior series blew everything up, LEGENDS puts it back together in some respects, with the reaffirmation of the Earth’s heroes and the renewal of the Justice League.

That said, the group chosen here to represent the League is pretty underwhelming. Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash all bow out, and the group’s Green Lantern is wannabe Guy Gardner rather than the “real thing”, Hal Jordan. Sure, Batman and mainstay J’onn J’onzz stick around, but aside from them, this group, on paper, is about as underwhelming as the “Justice League Detroit” team they’re replacing.

(Of course this group would go on to star in one of the most critically praised comics of the eighties, JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire — but you’d never suspect that based on the lineup presented here!)

As far as why this is the group we wound up with… I seem to recall reading someplace that in the aftermath of CRISIS, the writers, artists, and editors of the “Big Guns” all wanted to keep their characters to themselves for a while to develop their new status quos without having to coordinate anything with the JUSTICE LEAGUE office. The way I read it, when Batman editor Denny O’Neil found out that Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Green Lantern Hal had all been withheld from membership, he took pity on the Justice League creative team and offered them Batman.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. To wrap up, LEGENDS is fun and it serves its purposes of providing an uplifting crossover on the heels of the downer that was CRISIS, plus introducing new characters and revived concepts like Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, and the Suicide Squad into the new continuity. The artwork is stellar and the script is good — my only real issue, as I’ve noted once or twice already, is with the timeline. I don’t know if it was miscommunication between Ostrander and Wein or what, but it’s pretty clear that the story as plotted must have been meant to encompass more time than the single day or two in which the script implies it takes place — especially when you factor in all the long-distance travel characters make between panels!

Next Week: SUPERMAN #4 introduces Bloodsport!


  1. I don't sympathize much with Shooter for Legends deciding to lampoon him.
    Considering that Shooter (who was editor-in-chief) had an axe to grind with certain writers in the comic field, and decided to use his Secret Wars II series in this personal way, Shooter doesn't have that proverbial leg to stand on here.

    1. Using your Secret Wars II to get at anyone sounds like the definition of shooting your own leg alright.

    2. I don't know if it was intentional, Anonymous, but the idea of Shooter not having "a leg to stand on" as a result of him shooting his own foot off in this story is funny!

  2. I liked Legends, and that finale was a fun action-packed issue. Issue #5 was less exciting, but another good glimpse at different characters in little mini-adventures.

    I had no idea there was meta-context to the Guy/Sunspot fight, but reading it at face value, it felt like a big primer on Guy Gardner's character, and I didn't really care for him. He came off as a needlessly cruel, bullying jerk, and I found myself feeling sorry for Sunspot.

    Knowing the backstory, now it feels like Byrne and Wein are being needlessly mean, and I feel sorry for Shooter. I guess I'm biased. Shooter's reign as ed-in-chief remains my golden era for collecting Marvel. I'm glad I was blissfully unaware of the behind-the-scenes sausage-making.

    -david p.

    1. I agree, David -- some great Marvel comics were produced under Shooter, especially early Shooter -- but it's also known that he tended to micromanage certain creators and he was difficult to deal with. I can't blame Byrne and Wein for wanting to vent about it, and the parody is kind of funny, but it also feels a little cheap to air your grievances semi-publicly this way.

      I've gathered that Guy is fleshed out considerably by DeMatteis and Giffen in JUSTICE LEAGUE. I've never read those stories, but I think he retains his jerkiness while also becoming more nuanced and sympathetic.

  3. I'll also quickly mention that I'm currently reading your reviews of the New Teen Titans Wolfman/Perez run, and enjoying them a lot. While I was buying Byrne Superman and Legends in real time, I was getting various DC back issues, including some of that Teen Titans run, which had a great reputation. I thought it was a lot of fun, particularly the Brotherhood issues and the Judas Contract.

    At the time I was becoming disenchanted with Marvel, and in a way it feels like collecting Byrne Superman and old-school clean, dynamic team books like Teen Titans, and a bit of Levitz/Giffen Legion, were filling the void and giving me the Bronze Age Marvel vibe I was missing (while at the same time a lot of the DC Mature readers stuff, and especially the Alan Moore and Frank Miller comics of that era, were offering an exciting glimpse at where comics were headed...)
    -david p.

    1. Glad you're enjoying the looks at TEEN TITANS, too! For the most part I really liked those issues.

      Kind of makes sense you'd be getting the "Bronze Age vibe" from DC in the early-mid-eighties, considering so many of those creators -- Wolfman, Wein, Perez, Byrne -- had worked at Marvel in the seventies before jumping ship.

  4. Hilariously, after the publication of Legends, a role playing game supplement said that Metropolis is somewhere in Delaware, which means that Godfrey wasn't that far from Washington at all! It's generally held these days that Metropolis is somewhere in Delaware these days, but I've always thought it was meant to be New York, even if DC also HAD a New York City. Which always puzzled me, but kid me just figured it was NYC and Gotham was Chicago and left it at that.

    Ostrander likely had nothing to do with the Sunspot thing: I'm pretty sure Legends was his first DC job, and his first Marvel job came in 1994. That kind of shot at Shooter feels right in the wheelhouse of John Byrne, since I'm not sure Wein had heat with Shooter. Admittedly, by 1986 pretty much the entire industry hated Shooter and wanted to take a shot at him, but of the three people most involved with the creation of the story, I'd bet on Byrne.

    DC was so lucky the Giffen/DeMatteis JLA caught fire, given how many of the originals were kept out of it. It took almost a decade for DC to finally reunite the founders, which was in no small part to how hot the book was in the late 80s and early 90s. Personally, I didn't really like their take on it, but it certainly worked for a long time. The Flash and Superman's panels saying they'd be around if needed always amused me. "Oh, well, the editors say we can't be in your book, but if you need us, well, we might show up..."

    I continue to think this series reads better if it's a reboot of everything, the origin of a new JLA, and the first attack of Darkseid on Earth, though.

    1. Delaware! I never would've suspected. I guess in the DCU, there's just another giant city on the East Coast.

      I noted in the ACTION COMICS issue with the Teen Titans that Byrne went out of his way not to name the city in which the action took place, and the way he described it made it sound like it could be either New York or Metropolis. I think I've seen the comparison between Metropolis and New York before, though I've also seen Gotham identified as a New York analogue -- which in some ways it does seem to be, especially the seedy seventies/eighties New York -- and I've also seen both cities identified as Chicago stand-ins now and then, too!

      I love DC's fictional cities, but they work best if you don't try too hard to figure out where they're supposed to be. I'm okay with just "East Coast/West Coast/Midwest/whatever" as descriptors.

      I also noted when I looked at NEW TEEN TITANS that I actually don't like the use of real cities in DC comics. I feel like the universe is so tied to places like Metropolis, Gotham, Coast City, etc., that to have the Titans in New York or Green Arrow in Seattle just doesn't feel right. The creators should've just come up with more fictional stand-ins.

    2. Somewhere someone compared Metropolis to New York in the daylight and Gotham to New York at night. It sounds apt.

    3. That was Frank Miller who said that about Metropolis and Gotham. Back when he was far more lucid.

  5. About Doctor Fate. In the 40s, the character went from a full-helmet wizard fighting magic to a half-helmet superhero fighting baddies. The 70s established that whenever Kent Nelson puts on the full helmet, he becomes possessed by Lord of Order Nabu. When Roy Thomas retro-sized the character in his ALL-STAR SQUADRON, he put together the continuities and established that Kent's training had granted him super-strength, invulnerability, and flight, so his adventures in the half-helmet had those abilities, but the magic and energy blasts belonged solely to the full-helmet.

    1. Thanks! I've seen the half-helmet Fate before, but never knew much about him. I don't know why they ever changed it; the full helmet looks so much cooler.

      I don't know that I'd ever really read a comic with Dr. Fate until now. I knew of the character -- I had his SUPER POWERS COLLECTION figure and I thought he was really cool (and I guess I probably would've read the mini-comic that came packaged with him), but my only exposure to him outside of that would've been his appearances on SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and JUSTICE LEAGUE.

  6. The final two issues intrigued me. The battle between humans and superheroes was a pretty inspiring idea, even if it did take some cues from the Marvel Universe. ^-^