Monday, 11 July 2011

Legends #5

Hurrah, I've managed to recover the missing bits of this post! Apologies for no images other than the cover, I'm just desperate to get this post out, and I really don't want to re-grab all the panels I'd previously chosen.

Just a fast note to say that the second and third episodes of the 20 Minute Longbox have been released, covering Daredevil #502 and Countdown #48 respectively. Go and check them out, and let me know what you think at

“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
Cover Date: March 1987

Billy Batson stumbled through the deserted streets of Central City, haunted by the death of Macro Man. He is found by his new friend Lisa, who is concerned for his welfare. Angered by the rioting masses, Lisa runs off to try and intervene, but some stray rubble from the riot strikes her, knocking her out. Realising the danger of the anti-hero propaganda, Billy decides to put his own fears aside, and becomes Captain Marvel. Accessing the wisdom of Solomon, Marvel realises that Macro Man’s death was not his fault. He attempts to break up the riot, but Doctor Fate appears and teleports him away.

Fate is recruiting heroes who are defying the President’s order. Black Canary is next to join, followed by Guy Gardner, who has defeated the villain Sunspot. Blue Beetle and Batman are the next to join.
Meanwhile, Flash and Changeling are forced into an uneasy alliance with Captain Boomerang when the crowd manipulated by G. Gordon Godfrey erupts into a riot. Boomerang destroys a warhound, and the heroes discover that inside each one is a member of the public, piloting it. The mob goes for Boomerang, dragging him into the crowd. Before they can help, Flash and Changeling are recruited by Doctor Fate and taken away.

At the White House, Superman is discussing Darkseid’s recent actions with President Reagan when he too is recruited.

In Metropolis, Godfrey presents the captured Captain Boomerang  to the baying crowd. In front of the crowd and the cameras, Boomerang sends a subtle message to the command of Task Force X, telling them to take action to save him or he’ll make trouble. Dismissing his captive, Godfrey declares that the government has lost its authority and commands that the crowd marches on Washington. Watching, Amanda Waller orders Rick Flagg to either rescue Captain Boomerang or eliminate him.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Godfrey is about to announce who his followers should obey as the ultimate authority when he is interrupted by the appearance of Doctor Fate and the heroes he has recruited. Watching from Apokolips, Darkseid tells the Phantom Stranger that either the heroes will be forced to battle the people they have sworn to protect or they will be destroyed, guaranteeing him victory no matter what the outcome. Meanwhile, in hospital, Jason Todd decides that he must fight against Godfrey’s manipulation and the insanity of his followers, no matter how serious his injuries. Despite having a broken arm and leg, he struggles into his Robin costume and heads off to fight.

If the first two issues of Legends were about dismantling the heroes of the world, and the second two primarily concerned themselves with maintaining a hero-banning status quo whilst at the same time developing the threat posed by G. Gordon Godfrey into a more outright form, this issue is about the final move of the pieces around the board ahead of the climax. We’ve had plenty of vignettes featuring heroes defying the presidential order; here we see this develop into a recruitment drive for a new Justice League. The Suicide Squad’s story, which seemed to be over with the defeat of Brimstone in issue #3, places itself at the centre of the climax with the threats made by Captain Boomerang.

Sadly, one plot that receives a more perfunctory wrap-up is the guilt of Billy Batson, which is dispelled the moment he becomes Captain Marvel and the wisdom of Solomon reveals the deceit. One has to wonder why Billy never chose to quickly change to Marvel, use the wisdom to ascertain the true extent of his culpability, then pop back if it turns out it really was his fault. Later writers would work with the conceit that the wisdom of Solomon would have a presence in his mortal form (although the only example that springs to mind at the moment is at the start of the I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League miniseries). Perhaps this moment would have held more weight within the issue if the reappearance of Marvel then led to the forming of the Justice League, with Marvel in the Doctor Fate role, but all that Marvel’s reappearance seems to achieve is getting his ass nearly kicked by a rioting mob.

The recruitment drive as well seems a bit overdrawn in this issue. Most encounters are limited to just one page, but did we really need to have four pages of Guy Gardner fighting Sunspot? I know that Guy Gardner as a Green Lantern was still a relatively new concern, but the fight seems to be fairly irrelevant and appears to serve no purpose other than to fill up space. I do like that most heroes are involved in keeping the peace or defeating a villain, but Blue Beetle is busy being mistaken for a peeping tom!

This is a Superman blog, and Superman's role here is minor but pivotal, if a little out-of-synch with his other adventures this month. Having just survived combat with Darkseid and discovered his role in the deaths of hundreds of innocents whose only desire was a better life, Superman's first response on returning to Earth is to pop round to the White House for a chat with President Reagan. I've said it before, shouldn't he be off somewhere soul searching and attempting to atone for his (admittedly forced) actions, rather than taking tea with a man who has prevented him from acting publicly? Still without Superman being with Reagan when he is recruited by Doctor Fate, the President would have been less likely to rescind his edict in the next issue.

The Geeky Bits: There's a rumour that the original ending for this issue saw a mutant with the power to control American History animate the Lincoln Memorial and use it to defeat the warhounds, resulting in the next issue being devoted entirely to Wonder Woman's debut. Before the idea made it past the scripting stage, it was realised that animating a statue and getting it to single-handedly defend Washington DC was completely shite idea, and the plans were shelved.*

Next on World of Superman: The finale of Legends. 'Nuff said.

*No, I didn't like Secret Avengers #13. Why do you ask?

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