Redefining a Universe: DC’s “Legends” Crossover, Part 4

It’s time for month #4 in the Legends story. Does the series get better? Are the tie-ins important? Will there be Watchmen

Justice League of America #259

Vibe is dead.

I know, that’s a blow to all of us, but we must soldier on.

In the wake of Vibe’s death, the Martian Manhunter disbands the Justice League. The president has already outlawed superheroes, so why become criminals AND watch friends die? J’onn also tells the rest of the League not to try to avenge Vibe’s death, as he will take care of it himself. He knows Professor Ivo is behind it.

Meanwhile, Gypsy is busy reuniting a girl with her family. She is somehow stranded on her way back and decides to hitch hike (I have no idea) and is picked up by…one of Ivo’s androids. She doesn’t know he’s an evil android, so they make pleasant conversation over the course of their drive.

All good things must come to an end, though, and the android has programming to follow. He attacks and kills Gypsy, much to the delight of Ivo, who’s started watching through the android’s eyes. Ivo is also horrified by Gypsy’s murder, as he continually fluctuates between thinking the Justice League are the cause of all of his problems and blaming himself. He swings back and forth from murderous rage to crushing depression; Ivo is easily the most interesting part of this story.

But the android didn’t kill Gypsy, it helped her fake her death because he knew Ivo was watching. He tells Gypsy as much as he can and takes her home, where she decides to stay. The issue ends with the android watching Gypsy through a window, only to be interrupted by Martian Manhunter.

Only one Leaguer died in this issue, but things would get worse before they got better.

Firestorm #56

John Ostrander loves pie.

This might sound ridiculous, but there was a great, running joke through Ostrander’s time on the Suicide Squad about a mysterious pie thrower who kept ambushing people with pies to the face. I won’t spoil the result for you, but judging by this issue of Firestorm, Ostrander is a big fan of that classic joke.

The crux of this issue is the tension between Ronnie and Dr. Stein. Last issue, Ronnie forced Stein to be Firestorm with him, even after Stein refused. Stein is not happy about and goes so far as to get himself a gun to protect himself from Ronnie. He also gets drunk.

But a riot on campus convinces Stein to at least let Ronnie merge with him, albeit without any input from Stein — Ronnie is on his own as Firestorm to stop the riot. And he does so by hitting everyone in the face with pies.

Stein is so impressed with Ronnie’s outside the box thinking, that he stops being angry with him, although he says he still has trust issues. He also says that Ronnie’s actions have made him realize that, no matter what, the world needs Firestorm. Crisis averted. By pie.

The Legends tie-in is that the riot is started by a follower of G. Gordon Godfrey. There’s also an appearance by Hawk, who is leading the police who are a moment away from laying the beat down on the rioters before Firestorm shows up.

He gets a pie to the face, too.

Blue Beetle #9

I love this comic.

No, seriously.

There’s an unabashed joy to Blue Beetle #9, an old school superhero feeling that you just don’t really see anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s full of way too many thought balloons and the dialogue is exactly the kind of thing that gives comics a bad name, but there are four or five stories going on, all of which seem kind of random, but are clearly building towards something. Remember subplots? Remember when any given issue of a comic would shift away from the main story a few times every issue to give us a glimpse of something that would be important down the line? That just doesn’t really happen any more, not to the extent we see it here.

The impact from Legends is that Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle in this version, is torn between fighting crime and following the president’s order. Ted always did play by the book. But the return of his arch enemy Chronos, who happens to be related to one of Ted’s employees, has forced his hand. Meanwhile, we check in on two different archeologists, one digging towards some kind of Iron Man style suit, the other buried in a sandstorm. What do either of them have to do with anything? I have no idea. Oh, and a Lt. for the Chicago police hates superheroes and Kord Industries is supposed to show off a fancy new alloy to the founder of Star Labs, but it’s not going well. Again, what do those things have to do with the Blue Beetle? Your guess is as good as mine.

Len Wein writes this and it feels like a 70s Spider-man story without the angst. It’s drawn by Paris Cullins and Dell Barras. Barras has a heavy inking style that makes anything he inks easy to pick out, but it works really well with Cullins pencils, to the point where the fact that their credited as “illustrators” makes me think that perhaps their division of labor wasn’t that cut and dry.

I enjoyed this so much that I’m going to track down the rest of the issues, which should be pretty cheap, given the series only lasted 24 issues.

Legends #4

You know, I actually have fond memories of this series. I remember hunting down the individual issues in back issue bins, since I wouldn’t really start reading DC books until a few years after this had come out. I was really excited to see the beginnings of two of my favorite titles, the Justice League and the Suicide Squad.

But this is not a good series.

This issue is perhaps the most padded of what has already been an extremely padded story. I have to think that DC decided on six issues before the story had even been put together, in part because they wanted to make sure that the rest of the DCU had finally switched over to the post-Crisis continuity, something which happened very gradually. And maybe they also wanted extra time to get issues of the comics that spun out of his in the can. Regardless, this series could have been three issues long and would have accomplished everything it needed to.

We basically get more of the same, more examples of the world (or, more specifically, just America) hating superheroes. There’s no real sense of dread, though. There’s no reason to believe that the new world order for DC is going to be all superheroes as outlaws…

…and holy shit, I just realized something.

The Dark Knight Returns was released a few months before Legends began. Superman appears to be the only superhero still allowed to operate, working closely with the president who is pretty clearly Ronald Reagan. This is more or less what happens in Legends.

Now I can’t help but think this was intentional. We see a LOT of Ronald Reagan in this series, more so than you generally see from a president in comics unless it’s president Luthor. And we see Superman talking to him like Kal-El is suddenly Captain America. It’s a strange dynamic, to be honest, because for all the “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” Superman has always felt like his own person, someone who operates out of a moral need, not a legal one.

I’m not sure how much it really matters if Ostrander and Wein were trying to set the table for the Dark Knight Returns or perhaps doing a little *nudge nudge wink wink* to the readers. It certainly doesn’t make this series any better, although I suppose it’s at least given me something to write about.

Warlord #114

In Legends #4, the Phantom Stranger pulls a “yeah, but” when Darkseid claims to have thrown the Earth into turmoil. “Yeah, but, what about UNDERGROUND, DS?” Because at this point in the DCU, there’s an entire civilization living inside the planet. Since Darkseid wants a clean sweep of the planet, he sends his main man DeSaad (not a Marquis) to wreck some havoc…even though there are no superheroes down there to mess with.

There is Travis “Warlord” Morgan, though, and DeSaad does DeSaad things. Honestly, this tie-in is a bit of a stretch, as the main purpose of Legends is to establish DC’s superheroes as, well, legends. I’m guessing Warlord needed the sales boost, but the book is irrelevant to the main series and wouldn’t be around much longer, anyway. So I suppose even the sales boost didn’t help.

There’s some nice art from Ron Randall, though.

Cosmic Boy #3

Cosmic Boy and Night Girl try to get back to the future.

That’s pretty much it.

The connection to Legends here is pretty slim, but that seems to be the case with a number of these tie-ins the further we get into the series. This issue is worth it for the last page, though, where we are reintroduced to the Time Trapper, with the suggestion that he is playing some part in why the time line is broken. The full story will come out in the pages of the Legion of Superheroes and it’s a doozy.

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