Redefining a Universe: DC’s “Legends” Crossover, Part 3

Welcome to another week of Legends! Time to close out the first half of DC’s big event.

JLA #258

The Justice League Detroit, as they are affectionately called, is a fascinating group. There are no A-list members of this team. The new characters appear to be attempts at diversifying the Justice League, but they are painful to read. The relationships among the characters range from non-existent to melodramatic, save for the dynamic between Gypsy and the Martian Manhunter. It’s such a weird, unappealing group that you have to wonder how it ever got formed, let alone came together and then set up shop in Detroit.

This issue marks the beginning of the end for this team. They officially disband because of the presidents order for all superheroes to cease their activities, but that doesn’t stop Professor Ivo from seeking revenge.

Secret Origins #10

I mentioned before that Legends is worth it if only for the greatness of some of the tie-ins, and this is another example.

This issue features the origin(s) of the Phantom Stranger. It’s four different stories, all giving different possible versions of the Stranger’s past. This is the Phantom Stranger, after all, and he’s shrouded in mystery, so any secret origin should be hearsay. While that makes this unique in the history of Secret Origins, it’s the creative teams that set this apart.

The first story written by Mike W. Barr with typically fantastic art by Jim Aparo tells us that the Phantom Stranger as the Wandering Jew, who not only tells a priest his story, but is freed from his position by God. He tells God he wants to keep doing what he’s been doing because there’s so much darkness in the world, but now he’s doing it of his own accord.

The second story by Paul Levitz and the always incredible Jose Luis Garcia Lopez suggests that the Stranger is the sole survivor of Sodom and Gomorrah, who tried to kill himself so he would die with his family and his community, but whom an angel sent back into his body, making him immortal. This is my favorite of the four stories, in part because it works so perfectly as a Biblical tale. Levitz clearly knows his Scripture and the art by Garcia Lopez is, of course, fantastic.

The third story, by Dan Mishkin, Ernie Colon, and Pablo Marcos, takes place in the future, as the universe is coming to an end, as the Stranger passes along his fate to a new character. I suppose this could be considered the introduction of a legacy character to follow in the Stranger’s footsteps. More interesting, however, is the lengths a group of scientists will go to in an effort to stave off the end of the universe. In that regard, it’s a nice little tale.

The fourth and final story is the one that gets talked about the most, as it’s written by Alan Moore with, not to beat a dead horse, some wonderful art by Joe Orlando. It features two parallel narratives, one of a street gang that rules in the tunnels below the city, the other the possible origin of the Stranger, an angel who fell from grace because he refused to choose sides when Satan rebelled. The former story is well done, but the latter is a bit murky, as there’s no explanation as to why the fallen angels are able to pull the Phantom Stranger down with them.

All and all, this is a fantastic comic, and whoever decided to offer such a talented group of creators to come up with their own takes on what the Phantom Stranger’s origin might be is a genius. This is how the Stranger should forever be portrayed, with a past that is shrouded in mystery and hearsay. It’s part of what makes him such an intriguing character.

Firestorm #55

Firestorm runs pretty closely to the main story in Legends, which isn’t surprising since Ostrander is the writer. We see both of the main plot points at work: Firestorm fights Brimstone as well as a student named Jack Sawyer, who has made himself an acolyte of G. Gordon Godfrey. Neither battle goes well. Brimstone leaves Firestorm for dead and heads off to cause more destruction. After that battle, Professor Stein decides that Firestorm must end and refuses to merge with Ronnie again. This puts Ronnie in a difficult position when Jack Sawyer starts causing problems on campus. Ronnie eventually forces Stein to merge with him, a story which will be picked up on in the next issue.

This is a perfectly fine issue, but it’s the art by Joe Brozowski that deserves mentioning. It’s solid work from Brozowski, but more importantly is that you can already see his style starting to evolve into what we would see from J.J. Birch, the pseudonym he would use later in his career on such books like Catwoman and Xombi. His work on Xombi, in particular, is really great, featuring the more grounded, angular style you can begin to see in Firestorm, but with some clear influence from Denys Cowan (one of the Milestone founders, the imprint that published Xombi). I’m a big fan of his work as J.J. Birch, so it was interesting to see that new style start to emerge here.

Legends #3

The is a momentous issue that also happens to be not very good. It’s the first time we see the new Suicide Squad in action, attempting to stop Brimstone, who has been wrecking havoc for three months now. The first mission of the Suicide Squad is, in and of itself, perfectly fine, although lacking in any of the elements that will make their series so unbelievable. This issue also touches base with the Flash and Beast Boy in Titans Tower, Bill Batson still afraid to use him powers, and Jason Todd recovering from the injuries he received last issue when Batman abandoned him to an angry mob.

What’s strange about this issue is that every page features a final, horizontal panel that runs across the bottom, and features an image from DeSaad’s “retro-screen.” The image changes from page to page and recaps the story so far. That would be the story that’s only gone on for two issues. It’s totally unnecessary and a waste of real estate for the main story.

Then again, the main story is so thin, perhaps that was the point.

Cosmic Boy #2

Cos (as we call him) and Lyda (Night Girl) are in the past aka our present and they know something is wrong. History has changed, but they don’t know why (hint: it was Crisis). So they set about trying to correct a situation they know to be important, the launch of a new satellite. But it appears that the uproar G. Gordon Godfrey is causing towards superheroes has spilled over into all areas of life, so Cos and Lyda are tasked with protecting the scientists who built the satellite from an angry mob.

Not a particularly thrilling book, but the art from Keith Giffen, Ernie Colon, and Bob Smith (credited as one, although I would guess it’s layouts, pencils, and inks) is very nice. As I mentioned with issue #1, this series is really just important because it pulls the Legion of Superheroes into the story line and sets up what will be a classic Legion story.

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