Legion of Super-Heroes #20 review

The new Fatal Five's attack on the United Planets continues, with members vying to see who can kill the most Legionnaires. On the world where Sun Boy died, FF leader Tharok, controlling a Promethean Giant, bids to stomp out his Legion opposite Phantom Girl's life, prompting her to fade away ... Meanwhile, two Legionnaires are revealed to have likewise faded away rather than been killed by the giant, as Polar Boy and Invisible Kid emerge in an afterlife dimension. It seems the latter's old teleportation powers kicked in, bringing them to an eerie realm.

There's more teleporting as Glorith takes Ultra Boy and Lightning Lad to the Sorcerers' World, home to her old teacher Mysa, the Black Witch, and her consort Blok. But the place is no safe haven, as Fatal Fiver Validus appears, determined to snatch a gem that lies deep within the planet. And if he can murder a Legionnaire along the way, so much the better.

At the site of the destroyed Weber's World, a small band of Legionnaires lick their wounds after facing the Emerald Empress, with the maimed Mon-El confined to a medical stasis tube. And having worked out that Validus, Tharok and the axe-wielding Persuader are also in play, Brainiac 5 wonders who the final member will prove to be.

The story closes with two Legionnaires transported back to Legion HQ on Earth, where they find one of the Five standing over a friend - is she dead?

Yes, writer Paul Levitz plays the 'has a Legionnaire been killed?' card yet again, but this issue confirms that where he's presenting an apparent death, 'apparent' is very much the operative word. I wondered if Jacques' old shifting power would return, and it did. And Phantom Girl has obviously phased back to her homeworld of Bgztl.

Finally, four issues into the Fatal Five storyline, the Legion fights back. The Validus smackdown is excellent, showcasing Blok for the first time in years, and Mysa gets to strut her stuff too, combining her elemental powers with Glorith's time magic to do something really rather amazing.

And while I'd rather see new Legion leader Tinya beat the Promethean Giant than flee, what's she supposed to do? Her powers are more subtle than offensive, and with Polar Boy and Invisible Kid missing and Sun Boy (apparently!) dead, she doesn't actually have anyone to lead. Last month she was so full of uncharacteristic despair that she was ready to die - I'll take an evasive Tinya over a suicidal one any day. At least if she gets away she can find some Legionnaires to rally.

Black Witch and Blok are seriously impressive; they're no longer active members but they retain the Legion spirit in spades, never hesitating in their efforts to save lives and fight back. Plus, Mysa's scrying game provides the first overview of the situation any Legionnaires have had since the universe-wide crisis began with the failure of 31st-century technology.

We learn more of the nature of Tharok's new powers, as he wrangles the basically brainless Validus to search the Sorcerers' World for the gem that will spell 'the doom of the most powerful Legionnaire'. He could mean the Black Witch, but a narration box is ambiguous - my money is on Glorith, paving the way for her to go bad and become the fifth Fatal Five member. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Legion's old foe Mordru, here referred to as Mysa's 'captive demon', comes into play too - he loses his power when buried alive, and there's an awful lot of dirt thrown up this issue.

One of my favourite things this time is the Black Witch's dialogue, which simply drips doom, even as she leads her fellows to a victory. This is Levitz at his very best, bringing the various elements of the story together while showing off the Legion's ability to work as a team, channel their individual power to a greater purpose. I really didn't want this chapter to end, we're at a dramatic crescendo and I'm excited by the prospect of a shocking climax. And with the current run of this book just announced as ending at #23, I don't doubt we'll get one - but I trust Levitz not to murder most of the team to make way for some JLA knock-off.
Anyway, that's a worry for another day. For now, just look at Francis Portela's work - does DC have an artist better at mixing sheer beauty with the ability to tell a story? There's not a panel that doesn't bear staring at, but the storytelling ensures you'll do that after getting to the end, rather than stopping mid-tale. Every beat of Levitz's script is beautifully hit - it's such a shame Portela hasn't been around to draw all of this storyline - it'd make for a stunning-looking trade.

Regular colourist Javier Mena lights up the pages in ways 21st-century-set books don't allow, making Portela's illustrations look even more gorgeous without falling into the land of Pretty Pretty. And Dezi Sienty's letters are exemplary, with the choice of font for Mysa particularly good from a visual and 'sound' perspective.

Mena is credited as colouring the cover, with Francis Portela drawing. Actually, it's George Perez pencilling and inking, but you'd barely know it, with Perez's trademark delicacy mown down by unsympathetic colouring by Persons Unknown. Validus is one of the Legion's best-known foes, but you'd be hard-pressed to recognise him from this image. The brute manages to dominate the composition, while simultaneously being lost. Someone's placement of cover copy doesn't help.
I don't know what happened, because an earlier, differently toned version of the illo, gets it just right - Validus' colours are on display, and his trademark mental lightning is blasting outwards. Whoever changed the colours deserves a date with the Emerald Empress.

But that's the one blight on an excellent issue - more instalments like this, and the Legion might not be damned. As it is, it looks as if the latest run by Levitz and Portela is going out on a high.


  1. I was really taken with this issue, too, Mart -- and am now VERY curious as to how Tharok sees Phantom Girl disrupting his plans.

    And yeah, it was great to see Blok throwing himself into the fray again. I miss the big lug!

    1. Oh blimey, of COURSE it's Tinya, it's there on the page - clever Rob!

  2. I'm not sure if "the one I feared" (Tinya) is necessarily the same person that Tharok is considering the "most powerful Legionnaire," though. I don't see how the gem with Mordru in it dooms Tinya, particularly... I see that as more of a threat to Mysa and Glorith, as you said.

    It might be worth digging back a few issues to the 0 issue (I think) where Tharok's origin was re-imagined. There's probably a clue or two in there.

    1. Blimey Rob, you're on fire! (Guest review sometime?). Weirdly, I can't bring that origin issue to mind at all!

    2. Oh, I'd love to do a guest review -- thanks! Let me think a while on something I can draw some attention to that you're not already covering.

    3. Brill, just whenever, as they say.

  3. I also thought that "the one I feared" (interesting - wonder why Tharok feared Phantom Girl?) was a different person from "the most dangerous Legionnaire" - who I read to be Mysa. It didn't even occur to me it could be Glorith, but maybe Tharok (and Rob S) know something that we don't!

    I didn't like the implication that Phantom Girl was disappearing back to Bgtzl for good. Why did she say goodbye to Jo and "even if it means never coming back"? She couldn't just do a normal phase??

    I was sad to read that the Legion has been cancelled from issue 23. I actually felt sad about it for a few hours the other evening! Legion vol 6 (the relaunch back in 2010 was it?) was the first comic I had bought in over a decade.

    I will miss the Legion comic despite DC's promise (or is it a threat?) that the 31st century is not over yet. I can just see the 31st century Justice League being populated by Superman's descendants, a Batman, a Green Lantern, etc... Ugh.

    Oh well. We still have three issues left to savour and cherish!

    1. Aw Rob, I'm sorry the announcement had such an effect on you. It is a rotten shame that the book's been getting better ... er, that never came out right. Try again - it's sad that now the book is consistently good, with great character work amid a story that's racing ahead, the axe falls.

      While I dread a JLA spin on the Legion, I think I'd prefer that to yet another reboot.

  4. A delicious, delightful comic, my highlight of each month.
    Lovin' the new look bad-ass Fatal Five.
    It must be Mysa or Glorith that Tharok is bricking it about...somehow I cant see the lovely Tinya being so feared. And would we be equally as supportive of a male Legionnaire if hed run away, instead of a female one?
    The colours are gorgeous, simply sumptuous. I really rate how this book looks.
    Cannot bear that its coming to an untimely end...yes, the pace has been glacially slow and has gone off at tangents [the members were more preoccupied with preventing environmental disasters than fighting actual villains] but it was finally getting somewhere. Now we have to await this damnnable Justice Legion [a shortened version of the LSH for the 31st cen] to come out. I wish it wasn't happening, not at all.
    I just hope there isn't another reboot, but a natural continuation of this run.

    1. And so says all of me! I'm going to miss seeing Portela and Mena on the Legion hugely, they didn't get the praise they deserved.

  5. Great review Mart and as usual, we see things similarly.

    I thought it was Tinya that Tharok was talking about.

    I love Portela's art.

    And it was great to see Mysa and Blok actually doing something other than brooding in a throne room.

  6. Ive just spent four hours writing a lengthy review of this story for our next Legion APA, Martin, so watch out for it!

    1. I can't wait! Which reminds me, I'd better organise my contribution for the next edition of Apa 247, the UK's only LSH amateur press alliance, this week!


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