Saturday, 16 July 2011

Legends #6

Hey all, not much to say by the way of an introduction, save to point out that my podcast, 20 Minute Longbox, is out there, awaiting your ears. Go check it out after we wrap up our coverage of Legends!


Plotter: John Ostrander
Scripter: Len Wein
Penciller: John Byrne
Inkers: Karl Kesel, Dennis Janke
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Mike Gold
Cover Art: John Byrne
Cover Date: April 1987
Release Date: 29/01/1987

Darkseid relishes his imminent victory, listing to Phantom Stranger the various ways that he has destroyed humanity’s faith in their modern legends. The Stranger warns that Darkseid has overlooked one crucial factor that will lead to his downfall.

In Washington, Godfrey faces off against Doctor Fate’s heroes, using his PA system to maintain his control over the crowds. Martian Manhunter arrives, despite not being summoned, just as Godfrey orders the warhounds to attack.  The heroes use their various powers to remove the controllers from the warhounds, allowing the stronger heroes like Superman to unleash their full powers. As the final warhound hits the ground, Godfrey opens up a boom tube, summoning legions of parademons from Apokolips. Doctor Fate reveals that this is why he brought the various heroes together, charging them with the fate of humanity.  As the heroes head off to fight the invasion, Fate turns his attention to the crowds. Seeing his distraction, Godfrey sends in a parademon who wrenches the Helm of Nabu from Doctor Fate, carrying it off into the skies. Unmasked and having lost most of his powers, Kent Nelson flies away to safety.

Leaving the Lincoln Memorial, Godfrey moves on to where he has captured Captain Boomerang. As Boomerang prepares to tell Godfrey all about Task Force X, Deadshot takes aim with a sniper rifle. Rick Flag disrupts his aim, revealing an alternative plan. The Enchantress steps up, turning the warhounds into Jell-O, sending Godfrey running. Bronze Tiger confronts Godfrey, but falls foul of his mind-controlling powers, letting him go. Boomerang is reunited with Task Force X, and Flag tells him that his televised threats have resulted in him being permanently assigned to the Suicide Squad.

Batman patrols Washington, controlling the rioters and looters. Guy Gardner unleashes his power ring on the warhounds. One warhound terrorising innocent civilians suddenly finds confronted by Wonder Woman, who has decided that she cannot remain concealed from the world whilst innocents are in danger. Gardner is impressed with Wonder Woman’s powers, and the two continue to battle.

Several of Godfrey’s troops blast their way into the Oval Office, attacking President Reagan. The President is unharmed by their attack, quickly defeating them, before revealing himself as a disguised Martian Manhunter. As Manhunter moves on to continue the fight, Reagan officially rescinds his executive order, giving all of Earth’s heroes free reign to join the fight.

In the skies, Superman and Captain Marvel corral the parademons, whilst Flash, Changeling, Black Canary and Blue Beetle help control the crowds on the ground. They are quickly joined by Batman, Guy Gardner, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Doctor Fate and Superman, and the heroes face off against the controlled mobs. Godfrey arrives with Bronze Tiger, urging the crowds to attack and destroy the humans, watched from afar by a gloating Darkseid.

Suddenly, a gang of children, led by Lisa, burst through the crowds. The children line up in front of the heroes, confronting their parents in the crowds. Robin arrives, imploring the mob to see through Godfrey’s words and see sense. Lisa stands up to Godfrey, who tells her to be quiet and hits her. The act of violence dispels his control over the crowd, and they turn on him. In desperation, Godfrey reveals the Helm of Nabu, which he dons. When he tries to use the power within, the helm destroys his mind. Kent retrieves his helm, whilst Bronze Tiger slips away into the crowd to reunite with Task Force X.

The crowd asks for forgiveness, but Guy berates them for already distrusting heroes, which allowed Godfrey to take control. Captain Marvel suggests that the heroes themselves may have been responsible for this, necessarily having to stand apart from humanity to face the threats that only they can face. Wonder Woman agrees, and Doctor Fate suggests reforming the Justice League, to which all the present heroes agree to, save Flash and Superman, who offer themselves when needed, and Wonder Woman, who has slipped away.

On Apokolips, Darkseid vows that Earth will one day fall to him. The Phantom Stranger states his pride in standing with the legends of Earth.

I’ve not been kind to various part of this crossover. Read issue by issue, there was a lot of monologuing from Darkseid, and way too much repetition by constantly touching base with the same heroes, operating outside of Reagan’s edict. Here, this weakness turns into a strength, as Ostrander unleashes the new Justice League onto the forces of Apokolips. Every hero gets a part to play in the battle, and the use of such a wide variety of heroes allows for a very unexpected moment, where the first hero to encounter Wonder Woman is Guy Gardner!

Wonder Woman’s appearance here, although brief, is superb. A shadowy female figure observes Guy Gardner facing off against the Warhounds, resolving that to stay hidden would be a disservice to her Amazonian heritage. We then see her move, quite literally in a blur, before John Byrne unleashes one of the best pieces of artwork we’ve seen from him, a full page spread of Wonder Woman lifting a Warhound

It should be noted that Guy Gardner isn’t the only one taken with Wonder Woman. Superman here notices Wonder Woman, becoming gently obsessed with her over the next few months, before agreeing to a meetup/gentle date in Action Comics #600. It’s interesting that John Byrne teased this 25 years ago, with the rumours that one major element of the relaunched DC Universe in September will be a relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman. With the knowledge that both Action Comics and Justice League will initially be telling stories set in ‘the past’, my hope is that this fledgeling relationship will be given more room to grow, but with Superman ending up with Lois Lane, as per the last 20 years or so.

I like the way this story ends. It’s a very circular ending. Darkseid’s actions against Captain Marvel led Billy Batson to meet Lisa, strengthening her belief in heroes, leading her to be at the front and centre of the revolt against Godfrey. I would have liked to have seen more made of the fact that a child achieved what the heroes were unable to, breaking Godfrey’s spell, although the message that all you need to save the Earth from Darkseid’s machinations is a little child abuse is probably not one DC were wanting to play up! On a side-note, the last time Superman met Captain Marvel there was a definite air of unintentional paedophilia around. Here, Superman meets Marvel and a child gets beaten up. Maybe the two should stop having meetups! (I mention this, as one of the most popular posts on this site is my coverage of Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder #4, and I’m wondering if my audience are a bunch of strange, dark people who enjoy Superman endangering children. We’ll see what the hits are like for this page in a few weeks!).

Although Superman again declines membership in the Justice League, it is clear that his presence is a powerful and inspiring one. He takes the lead against the parademons when they appear, and his words are a big part of the reformation of the Justice League. It would be several years before Superman would become the leader of heroes that we are used to, but seeing him stand up and be counted amongst the heroes of the DCU is a rarity at this stage, and a pleasure to see.

I’m going to wrap up by simply stating that I have really enjoyed the appearances of Task Force X in Legends. I love the way Ostrander wraps up their story whilst setting the scene for further adventures, and it’s a pretty safe bet that if I had been reading comics at this time, I would have definitely been out there picking up the first issue of Suicide Squad when it hit the shelves.

The Geeky Bits

The new Justice League would be written by Keith Giffen and JM Dematteis. The series would become notable for the way the writers worked around the restrictions of not being able to use many of the A-List superheroes. Characters like Booster Gold, Blue Beetle and Guy Gardner would find their feet in Justice League International, and the title would become renowned for the use of humour, becoming colloquially known as the ‘Bwa-ha-ha’ League. This incarnation of the Justice League is well worth seeking out, as are the ‘sequels’ from the mid-2000s, Formerly Known As The Justice League, and JLA: Classified #4-9.

Wonder Woman would return to her own title, having been completely rebooted in the wake of the Crisis, in 1987. George Perez initially handled the character - the various trade paperbacks that reprint his issues were recently plugged in the letter columns of DC comics - with successive runs from creators such as John Byrne, William Messner-Loebs, Phil Jiminez and Greg Rucka.

Next on World of Superman: Probably another 3 week break. Either that, or Superman facing off against a gun-toting ex-marine called Bloodsport.

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