John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #265

Time for the start of this week's re-reads of classic Legion of Super-Heroes stories. This time out, the final tale of Tyroc as a Legionnaire, and his origin story. Enjoy! :)

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #265
July, 1980
"The Brigadoon Syndrome!"
Plot: Gerry Conway
Script: J.M. De Matteis
Penciller: Jim Janes
Inker: Dave Hunt
Letterer: Milt Snapinn
Colourist: Gene D'Angelo
Cover: Dick Giordano (initialled)
Editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:
Tyroc (resigns from the LSH), Shadow Lass, Dawnstar; Lighting Lad, Saturn Girl, Wildfire (final five panels only)

Prejudice, slavery, extra-dimensional universes

The story continues from the previous issue. On Marzal, the city-state island that is home to Legionnaire Tyroc, Dawnstar and Shadow Lass have arrived to ask Tyroc to come back to Metropolis with them to help find Dagon when "the process" begins. Marzal then disappears from the universe, the three Legionnaires along with it, the sky above the island now a horrific series of psychedelic and hallucinatory whorls and imagery. When Dawnstar and Shadow Lass fly up into what was once the sky in an effort to figure out what is going on, they realize they are on another dimensional plane likely very far from Earth's dimension. Dawnstar is struck by some form of comet-like stellar energy, that Shadow Lass calls a "sunspot" and is rendered temporarily unconscious, and floats off into the dimensional void. Shadow Lass attempts to catch her, but is struck my Dawnstar, and the two women free-fall and careen through the eerie dimension. Tyroc, who was lost in his own thoughts, finally takes action, solidifying a cloud to catch the two female Legionnaires softly. He then teleports them back to his own home back on Marzal.

In his home, Tyroc doesn't really know how to explain his country's predicament. He tells Dawnstar and Shadow Lass that they are trapped on Marzal for the rest of their lives. Sick and tired of Tyroc's cryptic comments and sorrowful glances, Dawnstar demands answers to what's going on.

Tyroc explains that in 1579, on a slave-ship heading from Africa to Europe, Tyroc's ancestor, a tribal chieftain named St'Balla, was imprisoned on the slave ship but planned an escape attempt. During an intense storm at sea, St'Balla pretended to be dead so that the crew would unlock his chains and throw him overboard. Once free, however, he fought back, managed to free others, eventually killing all of the crew. Days later, the tempest washed the ship up on the shores of a beautiful, lush island and St'Balla, his woman N'Hura, and the rest of the former African slaves named the island Marzal ("New Hope") and built a civilization there. Surprisingly, the island then disappeared into another, eerie dimension. The people coped with the situation, as everything they needed was on the island. Two hundred years later, however, the sparkling, scintillant other-dimensional sky of Marzal shifted to soft billowing clouds against a pale blue as the island returned to Earth. Eventually, the Marzal islanders came to understood that Marzal disappeared for 200 years, then re-appearing on Earth for 30 years before disappearing again. Tyroc explain that this is similar to the Scottish legend of the town of Brigadoon, the village that was "lost" in time.

This was the environment into which Tyroc was born. He tells his fellow Legionnaires that he exibited sonic powers as a youngster when a demonic-looking creature from the extra-dimensional skies attacked, and he used his abilities to defeat it. Tyroc learned how to use his powers and became Marzal's super-hero, a responsibility that he took seriously. When Marzal returned to Earth during the latest cycle, it was then that he met the Legion.

Dawnstar says that it surely hasn't been 30 years yet since Marzal reappeared on Earth, and wonders why the island has returned to its extra-dimensional home. Tyroc says he has a theory, that he's to blame. He believes his sonic powers draw energy from the extra-dimensional space/time barrier that separates the dimension from Earth. By using his powers since they arrived back on Earth, the barrier has been weakened, thus drawing Marzal back to it extra-dimensional home earlier than planned. He says he doesn't think that he can ever return to Earth now, as it may doom his people to a life in this dimension forever. However, Shadow Lass says that perhaps his sonic screams can open a rift between the dimensions through which everyone can escape to Earth, but Tyroc says that his people would never leave Marzal; it's their home, everything they hold dear, and it gives their lives meaning. However, perhaps he can open a rift to allow Shadow Lass and Dawnstar to return to Earth, since Dawny's tracking abilities should allow them to get home.

With a sonic scream and a lot of determination, Tyroc opens a hole and takes the three of them to the edge of the Marzal universe barrier. Tyroc hesitates, but with Shadow Lass reasserting her belief that he can do it, he opens a small portal between this dimension and that of Earth. As Shadow Lass and Dawnstar go through it, they turn back to see the sadness and pride on Tyroc's face. Shadow Lass tells him to remember there is always hope, always a way, but then the portal closes. Telling Shadow Lass that she senses the way home, Dawnstar leads her into the void.

Back on Earth, Wildfire tells Saturn Girl and Lightning Lass that he's worried about Shadow Lass and Dawnstar, as they've been gone for some time. Lightning Lad reassures him that they are two Legionnaires who can take care of themselves. Moments later, Dawnstar and Shadow Lass reappear, and the latter tells the former that she was terrific, getting them home so quickly and safely. When he asks, Dawnstar tells Lightning Lad that Tyroc "is lost in a land of many wonders" and may be lost to the Legion forever, though she feels somehow, someday they will see him again.

This issue of the current run of the Legion of Super-Heroes comic features a story that sees the final appearance of the Black super-hero Tyroc. In terms of the story itself, Gerry Conway and J.M. De Matteis gave the reader a story that gave us the origin of Marzal and how Tyroc gained his abilities, but served to wrap up Tyroc's time as a Legionnaire. To be honest, since the creation of Tyroc by Cary Bates and Mike Grell way back in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #216, no creative team on the Legion ever really figured out how to handle Tyroc and his sonic powers, and the character was treated very much as a token Black super-hero. Tyroc appeared in only five (yeah, that's right, five!) Legion of Super-Heroes stories in his career: his debut, his initiation, one memorable adventure, and his final appearance. (See the Final Note on these appearances, below). In all of his other "appearances," he was simply the "Third Man on the Left" in group shots.

With this story, we learn why Marzal was embracing self-imposed isolation for so many years, and what Tyroc has been doing all those issues where he was not being an active Legionnaire. Actually, what was he doing? If Tyroc was trying to set up trade commissions or travel bureaus or ambassadorships to and from Marzal, then all of those people are now trapped, either on Marzal or away from it. It would have been an interesting touch to have a Marzallian ambassador stranded in Metropolis after his home country disappeared or some such. And speaking of home, although the reader spends the entire story on Marzal and learns its convoluted history, we do not meet any other locals, including Tyroc's family. Under the circumstances, surely it would have been nice if his parents or siblings were involved in the drama somehow, not to mention some sort of figure of authority for the island. Tyroc seemed awfully sure of himself when he doomed all of Marzal to life in that extra-dimensional universe. What if the mayor or city council or somebody had ordered Tyroc to go back to Earth? Heck, what if Dagon the Avenger from the previous issue in his plot to kidnap the parents of the Legionnaires had kidnapped Tyroc's parents, too? That would have made this situation doubly dramatic!

But there are some questions about Marzal that do come to mind. If Marzal was only on Earth for thirty years out of every two hundred or so, then how come they were able to progress so dramatically and along the same lines as the rest of the world? Furthermore, how did Earth react each time Marzal reappeared? It seems to me that the rest of the world would view with suspicion and distrust this culture and that they would be the target of wars and conquest. I was also somewhat disappointed in that the reader learned when Tyroc's power first manifest, but didn't learn the actual origin of the powers.

For all of that, the story does have some good moments. Tyroc comes across as a level-headed, likeable character here who is faced with a terrible predicament. He knows he cannot save his beloved home, but he is willing to sacrifice his Legion membership in order to protect it. In a last heroic act, he sends his friends Shadow Lass and Dawnstar back to their universe. Tyroc is/was a good man. I do have to question Tyroc's assumption that the use of his sonic powers are weakening the link between dimensions. Let's be honest, he hasn't used his powers all that much in nearly 40 comics' worth of reading! But that's another matter...

I don't remember how I felt about this story when I first read it, but with this re-read I was somewhat...embarrassed...for the story. Yes, the reader got a story with a history lesson about slavery (that's bad!), then a portrait of an isolated and segregated society (not bad, but more mixed message), and lost a Legionnaire. The plot itself seemed a bit divisive and contrived in some ways, almost like editor Jack C. Harris gave Conway and De Matteis a mandate to shuffle Tyroc off the comics stage and mortal coil, so to speak, and did so in the worst way possible. Personally, I would have preferred to see Tyroc killed saving the Legion, as his powers really are/were suitable for epic combat scenes. That said, the ending leaves the fate of Tyroc open, and I remember hoping against hope that Tyroc would in fact return at some point. Sadly, this never happened in the Bronze Age of the Legion.

The artwork by Jimmy Janes and Dave Hunt this issue was pretty decent, more than sufficient for the needs of the story. The sequence of Marzal's history and origins were drawn very nicely, and given a somewhat old-fashioned feel compared to the rest of the story set in the present day. Janes and Hunt did a good job of balancing out the more realistic scenes with the other-dimensional craziness and the futuristic Legion world, and this worked for me in a weird way. To be honest, the artwork this issue was perhaps the best part of the story this time out.

That said, the story made me sad at the time I read it because of the departure of Tyroc at the conclusion of the tale.

Final Notes:
The cover of the issue features Shadow Lass and Dawnstar following Tyroc into a greenish "space-time warp" with Lightning Lad warning them that if they do so, they'll be lost forever. The scene doesn't happen in the story, but is representative of the overall situation...

Once more, Shadow Lass is drawn on the cover without her cape again... Come on Dick Giordano, get it right!...

In the story, Shadow Lass is drawn with black gloves throughout...

Tyroc tells Shadow Lass and Dawnstar that the word "Marzal" means "New World"...

"Brigadoon" refers to the Broadway musical by Frederick Lowe and Alan Jay Lerner that opened on Broadway in 1947. The 1954 film version starred Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. In the show, the country town of Brigadoon reappears in "our" universe only once every one hundred years. It seems odd that time-displaced Tyroc would know of this legend or the Broadway show!...

This story marks the final appearance of Tyroc in Bronze Age stories of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Tyroc first appeared in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #216 when the Legion went to the isolated locale of Marzal to track down a satellite of riches before the Beta Gang got to them. He next appeared in Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #218, in which he arrives at Legion HQ to become an official member of the LSH, and faces a final initiation test in the threat of the villain Zoraz, who later becomes Absorbancy Boy. His next appearance is in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #222, in which he uses his sonic powers to help the Legionnaires find a bomb in Metropolis, but has to seem villainous himself in so doing, as he uses his sonic powers to create bizarre effects that seem to threaten the city.
His final two appearances are in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #263, in which he helps the Legionnaires deal with the menace of Dagon the Avenger, a minor appearance in issue #264, and this issue which offers up an origin story for Tyroc and the island city-state of Marzal, as well as bringing his Legion career to an end.

Next Issue: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #266
Tags: comics hut, legion of super-heroes, legion reread, lll, long live the legion!, lsh, review

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