copyright DC Comics
We’d come up with some pretty striking cover ideas for this multi-part story, but the #46 cover didn’t quite come together. In fact, I barely remembered it when I dug out the issue.
A big chunk of this issue is devoted to the Living Legion-vs.-Dead Legion melee because we felt for once there was some real weight to a Legion slugfest, as we see the Legionnaires forced to battle the remains of some beloved comrades.
We start with poor Rokk (Cosmic Boy) confronting what’s left of his deceased younger brother Pol (Magnetic Kid). Traumatic as that meeting is, things quickly get a lot worse when Magnetic Kid starts using his powers to force Bloodclaw to kill himself with his own razor-sharp claws. The good guys are practically blasting Magnetic Kid into pieces, but as a “zombie” warrior, that doesn’t stop him from completing Bloodclaw’s destruction. And just to wrap up this horrific experience with a chilling twist, Bloodclaw immediately springs up as a corpse-warrior newly converted Mordru’s side.
As the grim battle wears on, the Legion finds that the supposed 99-hour deadline of Mordru’s spell has come and gone and the corpse army fights on. Projectra accesses her eerie guides to the mystic realms, and they tell her there’s a “distant fire” that’s keeping the spell alive beyond its deadline, but Projectra initially can’t make sense of their warnings.
(c) DC Comics
We jump to a brief interlude on Tharn, the Sorcerer’s World, where we get a little recap about how the sudden hyper-boost to Mordru’s powers occurred when he sparked enough hatred in Mysa (White Witch) to “dissolve her soul” and allow Mordru to absorb her being and her powers. We also confirm that the agent of Mordru who convinced Roxxas to resurrect the dead of Trom in the prior issues was indeed Vrykos, the vampire-like agent we saw back in #6-7 of Keith’s Legion run.
Next we plunge into a dream of Nura (Dream Girl) Nal, where she and the other Legionnaires are being strangled by Mordru, dangling on the end of nooses extending from his fingers. Mysa awakens with a start and nervously realized that her dreams foretell the future, so they’re in for some sort of life-threatening peril at the hands of the very despot they’re rushing to confront, Mordru. The oddly mystic version of Kono that’s been wandering through this storyline makes the poetic observation that “We mortals live lives that are but the dream of Naltorians.”
We jump to Trom, where the Trommite zombies have left Jan (Element Lad) Arrah entombed in inertron. Jan hangs on long enough to rally his powers and dissolve the inertron back into air to save himself from suffocation inside the inertron shell. He has to fight off the urge to kill Roxxas on the spot for having resurrected the Trommite corpses and set their element-changing powers loose in Mordru’s service. Instead, Jan takes Roxxas with him and travels to the world where the Trommites are attacking on Mordru’s behalf. It’s Pasnic, the half-day/half-night world from “The War Between the Nights and the Days” back in Superboy #193. In one huge thrust of his power, Jan transmutes every one of the Trommite corpse-warriors into statues of tsarin crystal. After this enormous effort, Jan collapses, evidently at death’s door.
Back on Sklar, Brainy and Projectra figure out from their readings that Mordru’s corpses are gradually getting stronger and re-generating into whole, living warriors who will be virtually invulnerable.
Luckily for them, Laurel Gand has been battling the Blok zombie high up in the sky, where she’s noticed a big fire burning in the nearby hills. Projectra and Brainy realize this must be the “distant fire” the mystic guides have been warning about. Seven of the LSHers are teleported to the site of the fire by Veilmist and there they find Mordru’s coven of White Witch look-alikes tending to the mystical blaze.
Laurel finds just the right spot in the snowy cliffs above and uses her flash vision to trigger an avalanche that cascades down the mountainside and extinguishes the mystic fire below.
Back on the field of battle, the corpses go from near immortality to instant disintegration with the extinguishing of that mystic fire, but the story ends there, and we have to wait a month to see the sight that greets the Legionnaires when the zombie army is stopped.
Overall, it feels to me like there are a lot of excellent concepts working together in a strong story here. It’s probably not exactly an ideal plot to have thrown at Stuart Immonen just as he was breaking out as a top-level artist. Very challenging for any artist to illustrate the hordes of characters and to focus on the kind of visual hooks that would have sorted things out more efficiently for the readers. I guess I’m really thinking of how much more impactful the cover could have been if, for example, they’d have divided it up into separate panels with captions like “Laurel Gand vs. Blok,” “Rokk vs. Pol,” “Projectra vs. Karate Kid,” etc., with artwork that really made the dead Legionnaires identifiable both as important characters from the Legion’s past and unstoppable corpse-warriors. Still lots of amazing artwork through this issue and we were very lucky to have someone as skilled as Stuart illustrate it.