John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane
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From Beyond the Unknown Giant Vol 1 #1

Time for another read of the current run of the Legion of Super-Heroes series. This time up, a welcome diversion with a tale set in the 1980s period of Legion greatness.







From Beyond the Unknown Giant Vol 1 #1
April, 2020
"Stealth Mode"
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Norm Rapmund
Letterer: Ryan Christy
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Cover: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez
Variant Cover: Kenneth Rocafort
Assistant Editor: Liz Erickson
Editor: Katie Kubert

Mission Monitor Board:
Dawnstar, Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Invisible Kid II, Chameleon Boy, Sun Boy, Wildfire

Opposition:
The Hustravans (sort of)


Synopsis:
Dawnstar flies through space, followed by a Legion cruiser. Several Legionnaires are in search of missing teammates Sun Boy and Wildfire, and hope that Dawnstar can find them with her extraordinary tracking abilities. She discovers that Wildfire and Sun Boy are on the next planet of the system they are in, Hustrava. Brainiac 5 tells his teammates that Hustrava is a distant, barren world unaffiliated with the United Planets, its people being war-like and dwelling on a world with a dying sun. Colossal Boy advocates going in with guns blazing, but Dawnstar says that ploy would just get the two missing Legionnaires killed. Brainiac 5 tells Dawnstar to come aboard, as he has a plan. Colossal Boy comments that when Brainy has a plan he gets worried. And now he's very worried.

Meanwhile on Hustrava, Lord Kr'aine is informed about the arrival of the Legion of Super-Heroes near their planet and Pl'ohn blames it on them kidnapping their two teammates. Kr'aine tells him to accompany him and states he should stop creating unease among the people since they did what was necessary for their race. Pl'ohn gets shown the chamber where Wildfire and Sun Boy are being kept in order to suck their energy for the survival of the Hustravans, before Kr'aine orders the destruction of the Legion Cruiser.

The Legion cruiser arrives at the planet, and comes under attack from the Hustravan base firing at it, as Brainiac 5 expected. Dawnstar uses the distraction provided by Brainiac 5 and Colossal Boy to approach the citadel where her teammates are being held captive. The Hustravans initially laugh off any threat that Dawnstar may pose, until she nimbly avoids their weapons fire and enters the citadel. She reveals to the Hustravans that she's not come alone. The unofficial "Espionage Squad" - Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet and Invisible Kid II - goes on the attack, and is about to free their companions when one of the Hustravans begs them to stop. Phantom Girl initially dismisses his pleas, but both Sun Boy and Wildfire also beg their teammates not to free them until they hear out the Hustravans.

The Legionnaires cease their attack long enough to learn that the Hustravan sun and all other power sources are too weak to provide adequate energy for their civilization. Some of them favoured reaching out to the Legion of Super-Heroes for help but were overruled as their peoples' pride got in the way. Thus the kidnapped Sun Boy and Wildfire. Despite being kidnapped, both Sun Boy and Wildfire use their powers to warm the city and Brainiac 5 tells Lord Kr'aine that a cruiser is on its way filled with solar collectors that will temporarily provide a solution until a more permanent one can be reached. Brainiac 5 suggest that the Hustravans join the United Planets.


Commentary:
What can I say? I loved this story! But first...

A few years ago, DC Comics began an initiative with Walmart to produce exclusive comics. Their format matched the 100-Page Super-Spectaculars of the 1970s. The general pattern was one new story with several reprints, and those reprints were generally from the Modern Age of comics, i.e., post-2000. In 2019, the deal was no longer exclusive and DC also produced them for the Direct Market. As I undestand it from various forums and the like, the issues would first be released at Walmart and then become available in the Direct Market with different covers. This issue is one of their recent releases and one of the original stories features the Legion of Super-Heroes.

To be honest, this is probably the most enjoyable Legion story I've read to this point since the new series under Brian Bendis began, but it's also a very odd story as well (which I'll get to momentarily). This tale was a superb, nostalgic trip back to the high point of the Paul Levitz era of the Legion title of the early 80s. The story, told in a mere 8 pages, has a team of Legionnaires searching for two of their missing comrades. Dan Jurgens's story, ably abetted by his artwork (along with Norm Rapmund's inks), tells the story quite beautifully. Several Legionnaires are showcased here, notably Brainiac 5 who serves in a leadership role here and with Dawnstar serving as the field leader for the Espionage Squad. Colossal Boy's personality shines through here, as he's eager to bash some heads to save the missing Legionnaires, but Dawnstar and Brainiac 5 serve as cooler heads to temper the issue somewhat. The use of the Espionage Squad (Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet and Invisible Kid II) was quite nice and well executed, and showed Jurgens has a good grasp of the Legionnaires (of that period).

While the story captures the energy and appeal of that era of the Legion of Super-Heroes' comics extremely well, its showcasing several members so beautifully highlights the problems with the Bendis run in so many ways despite its short length. In this mere 8-page story, featuring nine Legionnaires (see the Mission Monitor listing above), the Legionnaires were very much individual characters, brimming with personality, and with excellent dialogue that wasn't stunted and didn't dumb them down. Of course, the Legionnaires of that period were *never* dumbed down in the manner that Bendis has done with the new series. Compare this to the way the Legionnaires have been portrayed in the Bendis version of the comic, the manner in which there's no real chemistry between the characters, and how Bendis's wit and dialogue is somewhat childish. The plot of the story here is simple, straightforward, and resolved in eight pages, but offers up a twist or two related to the Hustravans kidnapping Sun Boy and Wildfire. While the story doesn't offer an explanation for how the two Legionnaires were taken captive, it doesn't need to as that isn't the focus of the story. The situation on Hustrava is not as clear-cut as it first appears to be, and the Legionnaires - led by Brainiac 5 - come up with a temporary solution. More importantly, the United Planets may be the solution the Hustravans need in this case. Meanwhile, in the Bendis current Legion title, the story seems dragged out, rambling, unfocused, almost as if the author is unsure what direction he's steering the reader in. And the characters are suffering from the plot's...inaneness. And then there's Dawnstar. Look at those wings in Jurgens's story! Those are Dawnstar's wings!, not the energy wings from the new series.

However, this does raise an interesting issue... While I was very pleasantly surprised by the appearance of this story, why would DC Comics present an original story of the Legion of yore in this (originally Walmart) comic that in no way resembles the newest, current version of the team that they just premiered? I'm not complaining, to be sure, but while I assume that the Walmart comics exist to introduce new readers to DC Comics, the current version of the Legion bears little resembles to this one. To conclude, all I can say is that I'm grateful for this story and for Dan Jurgens's lovely work on this tale as well.


Final Notes:
This comic was exclusively released for Walmart on February 19, 2020, before a mass-market release on March 25, 2020...

The initial cover for the Walmart edition is by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, and is presented above. It is modelled on the cover for DC Comics Presents Vol 1 #4, featuring a Superman/Adam Strange crossover. The second cover, for the Direct Market sales, is by Kenneth Rocafort...

In addition to the new Legion story by Dan Jurgens, there is also a new Green Lantern story drawn by Kenneth Rocafort, a new Kamandi story, and classic reprints of a Superman/Adam Strange team-up by David Michelinie and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, and a Batman/Metal Man team-up by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo.





Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #5
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion read, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review
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