Friday, March 17, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes (vol.4) #28 (1992)


Legion of Super-Heroes (vol.4) #28 (April, 1992)
"Terra Mosaic, Part Four"
Story - Tom & Mary Bierbaum
Breakdowns - Keith Giffen
Pencils - Jason Pearson
Inks - Al Gordon
Letters - John Workman
Colors - Tom McCraw
Assists - Bob Kahan
Edits - Michael Eury
Cover Price: $1.75

Today's discussion will be a special one... as it is the first (of I hope many) Reader-Requested-Review!  Good pal of the site and shows, Jeremy offered the suggestion of covering this book here today.  This piece was supposed to hit last Friday, however, due to my confusing this issue with another (thought it was #38, which I did have)... it wasn't to be!  Anyhoo... hit the shops this week and was able to snag the proper book!

Before we move into the spoilery-synopsis, I want to thank Jeremy for the suggestion and his readership (and his patience!).  He maintains his own blog, right here!  Definitely give him a look.  He also has a permanent home over on the right-hand side in the "Blogroll of Chris" (click a link, maaaaan).

If you dig the idea of me taking requests every Friday, lemme know... and send in your suggestions... here, via email or anyplace where the media is social.  Thanks!

--


We open in darkness, however there are voices.  There seems to have been an accident... a(n uncooked) human has been injured.  The voices of the bystanders conflate with those in a memory.  Suddenly, we can see... and what we see is a bullied young boy.  He is crying, and his father is none too pleased.  When the lad asks for advice, he is told that things aren't always fair... and sometimes you need to "make them" be fair.


We are back in darkness, with the commingling voices.  When we return to the light, we again see the boy.  Now, however he is barely a toddler.  His mother appears to be more interested in the upcoming fashion show than seeing to her son's cries.  His Durlan (I think she's Durlan) nanny is assigned the task.  We learn here that the boy's father might not be the most committed husband.  Then, again, darkness.


Next flashback is the boy... a bit older.  He is on the soccer (or whatever the far-flung future has instead) field disputing a bad call from an official.  He claims the other team cheated, but his father reasons that perhaps the other team just valued winning more.


We shift forward a few years, and the boy... now a young man, is brought into his father's business, in a seemingly management level role.  I'm just going to refer to him as Dirk or Sun Boy from this point on.  He is introduced to his team... one of whom (Dr. Regulus) greets him with a bit of disrespectful sass.  We learn that by this point, Dirk can give as good as he takes... and makes Regulus look rather foolish.  Perhaps this is a sign that his father's words have an effect?


Darkness... then light.  Dirk heads into his father's office, and finds him having "a time" with someone who isn't his mother.  This leads to a discussion where Dirk tries to wrap his head around why his father would act in such a way... to which, he is told that he is only acting the way women want him to.  Hmm, whatever you gotta tell yourself, pal.


To make things up to his son, Mr. Morgna decides to... send him to a cathouse.  Ay yai yai.  Anyhoo, inside the "Cherry Patch Ranch", young Dirk meets with his lady of the evening... however, when he looks at her, he can only see his mother's face!


We flash forward a bit to an accident at the office.  There was an explosion, and there are casualties.  Turns out Dr. Regulus was getting even for his ribbing... for ruining his career.  He decides an eye for an eye should suffice... Dirk killed his career, and so, he'll kill Dirk.  This doesn't work out so well...


Dirk's hands grow hot, and next we see him he is in full Sun Boy garb.  He approaches Regulus, and proceeds to beat him to death.  As he pummels, Regulus takes on the visage of Dirk himself!  Perhaps a sign that he is fighting what he has become... or, maybe he now sees Regulus as a weakling... like he used to be?  Either way, it's a fairly striking (pun!) sequence.  Love that the Sun on Sun Boy's uniform now shows a skull!  I should mention, that while the whaling occurs, the Legion oath is being read.  Neat juxtaposition.


Darkness... the light.  The scene becomes rather frenetic at this point... and we see Sun Boy at various stages of maturity.  I do not have the context for what follows, however what I am getting is that Sun Boy has been tasked with evacuating a planet... and just might have bitten off more than he can chew.  Taking the words of his father to heart, he may feel as though he has total control over the "fairness" of a given situation... however, he might just be about to learn that certain things will never be fair.


We continue... into a stream of Legionnaire cameos.  It's pretty clear that Sun Boy was, at one time, the leader of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and one-by-one his teammates enter his quarters... and resign.  The resignations begin relatively benign... but grow ever crueler as they persist.

 

After some guilt-tripping in the form of his father, and Alisia (one who died at the lab), Sun Boy is visited by... Polar Boy, who appears to be our man's #1 fan.  He is completely upbeat, and appears to be telling Dirk everything he'd ever want to hear... which, in this instance, is the last thing Dirk wants to listen to.  He lashes out at Polar Boy, and then resigns from the Legion himself!


Darkness again.  When we come back into focus, Dirk is standing in a charity line... at one time he had it all, now... nothing.  He is approached by his fellow hard-luckers, and is called out for being an Earthgov traitor and a Khund conspirator, as they pelt him with garbage.  He is rescued by an armored officer... who is revealed to be Science Police member Shvaughn Erin.  He is taken in and given a hot meal.  He expresses interest in joining something... maybe the Earthgov... but she tells him it's not worth it.


From here, he goes off to drown his sorrows, at which time he is approached by a young lady who promises to show him that he deserves better.  Then another young lady... and another... and another.  What I'm trying to say is our Sun Boy might have an addiction... or that this woman is a shape-shifter that I oughta recognize.


He is told that the world can be his... so long as he joins the Earthgov team.  I thought he was already interested from his chat with Shvaughn?  Maybe I'm missing something.  Anyhoo... he signs on the dotted line.  At this point we meet our old friends the Dominators... and in a horrifying panel, Dirk takes on some of their more prominent features!  The art here is truly amazing... but we'll talk about that later.


Sun Boy then prepares to give a speech regarding a recent Earthgov event.  He starts off strong... however, the longer it goes... the more uncomfortable he appears.  He knows the words he speaks are nothing more than lies.  He stops... refusing to continue... at which time he is informed that he has a job to do.


We shift to Dirk's vehicle surrounded by citizens... and they ain't at all happy.  They riot, and beat on his rig, until an armored officer blasts the bystanders with a disintegrate ray!  Dirk has a front-row seat... and is a captive audience to the gore.


While listening to a report about oncoming tsunamis, meteors, and Dominator ships, Dirk cuts himself out of his vehicle.  We shift to a young man pointing skyward... and we see, atop a building... Sun Boy!


He's smiling... and it's really quite eerie.  Now, it would appear that he was expecting the crowd below to give him a hero's welcome... that, however, is not the case.  Instead they boo him for being a traitor.  He looks out over the horizon, and a wave of radiation approaches...


... and just wrecks Sun Boy.


We wrap up learning that Dirk Morgna is in a pod... inside a lab... and he is screaming.  Damn.


--

Well... I'm not sure what I just read, but I gotta say... I loved it!

This definitely has that Giffen feeling of insanity and discomfort... that I never would have guessed would appear in a Legion comic.  I always expected them to be more straight-up sci-fi space opera.  This more, I dunno... twisted (?) look at one of their members was amazing to experience.  Now, I do gotta say, I read this with zero context.  That is to say... I don't know any of these characters... who they are, where they've been, what they've done.  Nada.  I'm currently kicking myself for doing so, as I'm sure my reactions are quite a bit different from those of a seasoned Legion vet.

I am going to assume (emphasis on "assume") that Sun Boy was a somewhat less than savory individual prior to this.  This issue shows that he was raised by one aloof parent in his mother, and one less than moral Type-A parent in his father.  During his childhood and into his adolescence he sort of walked a line between privileged and abused.  We hear his father compare his whining to that of "a loser", however, he's also given positions of authority over skilled engineers and technicians simply because of who he is.

In his mocking of Regulus, Dirk shows that he sort of embraces his father's words.  He goes against type... and instead of being the bullied child who cries to his parents, he becomes the bully.  We also see the way in which his father treats women... and the way he justifies his behavior.  In telling Dirk that women really want to be used and/or treated as objects, ya gotta wonder how much of that might've stuck.

During the scene in which Sun Boy fights Regulus... the latter appears to the former... as the former.  It is as though Sun Boy is trouncing... Sun Boy!  Is this an indication that Dirk hates what he's become?  Does he see Regulus as weak... sort of like he sees himself?  I dunno... it's really deep if you think about it, and sadly... though I find myself engaged and intrigued, I still have no context for any of this!  I definitely need to "get in" on the Legion...

We see Dirk as a one-time leader of the Legion, and from all indications, he wasn't all that great in the role.  I'm not sure when that Black Dawn event was... and I'm not entirely clear on the particulars.  If it had anything to do with that planetary evacuation, I'd really like to check it out.

The idea that poor Dirk is in a pod, reliving all of these horrible events in his life... well, just like the fellas at the end said, "he's supposed to be dead... and right around now, he wishes he were".  Living through that waking nightmare is most certainly a fate worse than death... and the pain... think about the pain.  The dude was wrecked by an entire sky-full of radiation.  Dang.

Now... the art.  Let's first talk about the panel placement... this issue is almost entirely nine-panel grids.  It feels claustrophobic... and we can almost immediately tell that Keith Giffen had a hand in the layouts.  The only page without a nine-panel is the full-page spread, with Sun Boy in all his glory.  Without even realizing it... I gotta say, there was a brief (ever so brief) moment of relief having broken out of the grid.  I'm not sure if that was the creators' intention... to give the reader that scant moment of hope... room to breathe.  That's how I received it... however, I will concede that I may be thinking too hard.

The art proper... amazing.  I mean, panels that are supposed to be ugly... are ugly.  Panels that are supposed to not be ugly... are beautiful in ugly, broken ways.  It's really hard to explain... there's this feeling of distress and hopelessness.  I loved the use of cartoony mouths throughout.  These smiles are just gigantic... bigger than the faces, and work perfectly to convey the creepiness and Dirk's perception of these personalities and events.

This is most definitely not a book I would have checked out on my own... and, I gotta say... I am so glad I did.  This is precisely why I decided to take requests... to broaden my horizons into unfamiliar DC waters.  It's only fitting that our first stop is in the 31st Century.  This issue is certainly recommended to check out.  For your convenience it is available digitally.

Before we wrap up... another big thanks to Jeremy for the suggestion!  I hope you enjoyed my (highly uneducated) take on this powerful and intense issue.  Remember to give him a look here.  If anyone else is interested in getting my "hot take" on a particular issue, please let me know.  Thanks!

--

Letters Page:


--

Interesting Ads:


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reviewing this, Chris. It’s been a while since I’ve read it but I’m really glad you found it as compelling and interesting as I do. My knowledge of the Legion is by no means complete, but this issue had a profound impact on me, mostly because in Sun Boy it takes a character who, in the bigger milieu of the LSH, was something of a cliché (somewhat hot-headed, happy-go-lucky fire-powered superhero) and turns him into a genuinely tragic figure. In the post-Watchmen ‘dark and gritty’ comics of the late 80s/early 90s, the Five Years Later Legion is, in my view, one of the most successful, imaginative and powerful reimaginings/revisitings of all.

    At this point, Giffen was king of the nine-panel grid and you’re right. He uses it here to incredibly powerful effect. There’s almost a stream of consciousness fluidity to the transitions (the seemingly never-ending stream of women; the way the referee appears to change into Dirk’s father etc) and those smiles are something else: a simple but extraordinarily disturbing signifier of how easily and consistently he is deceived. That full page, though, is heart-breaking – Sun Boy in his old ill-fitting uniform, dirty and soiled, standing in the rain expecting the adulation of his adoring public. Here he really is lost; his attempt to retreat to his storied past is simply an indication of how completely out of touch with the horrible present he now is.

    It’s a great issue, but probably not even in the top three issues in the run. I can heartily recommend checking out the rest of the series, although at least some of its power does rely on being at least partly conversant with earlier incarnations of the comic book – not because you need to know what happened to figure out what’s going on, but just because, as with this issue, knowing what the characters used to be like only reinforces the impact of the changes Giffen’s wrought upon them. Of course, Zero Hour resets everything again, which annoyed the hell out of me at the time, but the Five Years Later thing had probably gone as far as it could at that point. Still, it was awesome while it lasted.

    Some random things you might like to know: Dirk is indeed working as official spokesman for the Dominators who, at this point in the series, have occupied the Earth; the triptych of women the shape-shifter shifts into are all approximations of legionnaires (Shadow Lass, the White Witch and Phantom Girl) which is just… creepy (particularly the Witch whose innocence and earnestness are key aspects of her character); the Polar Boy who Dirk says has been “justly imprisoned” is, of course, the same Polar Boy who, alone of all the legionnaires, is seen standing by Sun Boy at the end of his disastrous stint as team leader. The man has no loyalty, no morals and ultimately no future. As I said, poignant and powerful stuff.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...