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gnaw on fence

It's OK, I'm a Senator

Legion Recollections by Tom Bierbaum

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Recollections of Legionnaires #10
gnaw on fence
We pick up the story from where it left off last time, with Legionnaires Matter-Eater Lad, Shrinking Violet, Catspaw and Dragonmage crash-landed on a strange world where Catspaw and Dragonmage are finding people from their pasts mysteriously showing up in the present and M-E Lad is finding, to his delight, that Shrinking Violet is behaving amorously toward him.  But at the end of #9, Tenzil stumbles across a second Shrinking Violet out in the weeds, dazed and regaining consciousness.

The first Violet, the strangely amorous one, finally decides she has to admit the truth.  Her beautiful Violet visage begins to melt away and is replaced by the blobby form of a Protean, the strange protoplasmic shape-shifters that include among their number Chameleon Boy’s pet Proty II. Tenzil realizes the other mysterious figures from his teammates’ pasts (Madame Chu Hu’an, Dragonmage’s instructor in the mystical arts, and Ansis, the former boyfriend and betrayer of Catspaw) are also Proteans.  Now that the jig is up, these figures assume their natural Protean shape and make an honest appeal, pleading with the Legionnaires to help them get inside another ship that has crash-landed on their mysterious world.

Catspaw doesn’t take well to the news that her long lost lover is an imposter and she throws a fit that ends up dumping Tenz and Dragonmage into a stream.  But her Ansis admits he is indeed a Protean and implies he was kind of falling for Catspaw and didn’t want to give up the charade (which subtly echoes of our Garth-is-Proty storyline).

When the oddball team of Legionnaires and Proteans attempts to enter the mysterious ship, they find themselves under deadly fire from a group of Khunds (plus a Dominator lurking in the background).

From that confrontation we jump back to New Earth and the Acapulco Dome, where Live Wire has just inadvertently hit Cosmic Boy with a massive lightning blast, apparently killing him.  We focus on Garth’s reactions -- he’s protesting that it wasn’t his fault while an urgent Saturn Girl snaps at him to call for help. Garth is beside himself as he sees his girlfriend, Saturn Girl, administering mouth-to-mouth to his rival, Cosmic Boy.

Brainy shows up in time to shock Coz’s heart back to life.  Ultra Boy is also part of the reinforcements and he discreetly grills Garth about how this happened. When Garth again protests that it wasn’t his fault, Imra reams him out, but good, for almost killing a teammate and then not having the guts to admit his mistake.  With that, Saturn Girl and U-Boy take Coz off to the hospital, leaving a steaming Live Wire behind to absorb Saturn Girl’s rebuke.

Meanwhile, a bystander has also been hit by Garth’s blast and Brainy has to revive that boy as well.  But when Brainy administers the powerful shock, something very strange starts happening, with some kind of menacing electrical field crackling out of the kid’s body and a disturbing rainbow pattern forming in his vacant eyes.

At this point, it’s back to the Legionnaire HQ, where Alchemist (Element Lad) and Computo are rushing down a hallway discussing recent events.  Computo is trying to juggle a cup of coffee when she rounds a corner and slams into Chameleon, dumping the coffee all over Computo’s uniform.  When Cham scolds her for running around with a hot drink in her hands Adam Hughes provides a macabre little cartoon in the thought balloon where Computo imagines having rid herself of Cham permanently. I expected the darkly humorous cartoon to be erased and long gone when the page was inked and colored, but the editors decided to let it stay, which was nice since one or two other Adam cartoons through these issues were a little too risqué to remain on the page.

Carrying on despite the annoyance, Computo takes command and is in quick touch with Troy Stewart, president of New Earth. They agree the root of their troubles is a series food shortages in many of the domed cities, being exacerbated by Sklarian Raiders who keep pirating the desperately needed grain shipments.  With that, the Legionnaires are introduced to an agent who can help them deal with the troublesome pirates, the trouble-making teen Sklarian from our “Legion” run, Kono.  Cham, a veteran of the adult Legion, knows only too well the havoc that Kono is sure to wreak when unleashed within the kid team. 

We jump to the Essen dome, where a food line is being manned by popular Legionnaire Inferno, who’s brought along his paramour of the moment, redheaded Sadi, who got dragged to this bleak scene in place of her planned date with the dashing Legionnaire.  Sadi is delighted, though, when Dirk says that, once their volunteer stint is done, he’ll take her to dinner at the ritzy Paris restaurant DuGarm’s (named for legendary Interlacker Keating DuGarm).

And then it’s back to the shipwrecked Legionnaires on the world of the Protys, who are discovering that the Khunds’ weapons are calibrated to incinerate the Proteans while leaving the humans barely singed.  M-E Lad, showing some pretty strong leadership abilities, directs Dragonmage to use his dragon sorcery to create a distraction that allows the tiny Violet to zip past the Khunds and get inside their ship, where she knows enough about the craft’s design to set off some knock-out gas that takes care of the Khunds and Dominator inside the ship.  Violet then discovers the precious cargo the Khunds were fighting so hard to protect and the Proteans were so desperate to reach, the long, lost (presumed dead) former Legionnaire Kid Quantum.

And with that, another lively issue wraps up.  At this point, things felt to us a little disjointed, with multiple artists and situations where we were sometimes plotting and dialoguing pages and scenes out of order, sometimes even doing pages from a future issue ahead of pages from a prior issue. So I’m pleased to see how relatively well this issues held together, due in no small part to the gorgeous art and great storytelling of Christ Sprouse and Adam Hughes, who were beautifully inked by Karl Story and Mark Farmer, with Adam’s pages, interestingly enough, “finished” by regular Legion artist Stuart Immonen (I don’t think we ever head any info on how this odd fill-in came about, and it was especially interesting since we were off the “Mother Book” by then, with Stuart continuing over there as the regular penciller).  And a shout out is due, as always, to letterer Pat Brosseau and colorist Tom McCraw for doing great work on our very complicated story, which posed challenges far beyond what a normal comic assignment would generally bring.

Not surprisingly, we were doing the kind of Legion stories I really like. For one thing, a large cast – this issue included 15 of the 20 Legionnaires, plus Kono, President Stewart, the Protys, Ansis, Madam Chu Hua, Khunds, a Dominator and Kid Quantum.  I also always like multiple storylines with some intersecting elements and meaty characterization that’s about real personalities and conflicts, not flashy conflict for the sake of conflict.  At a time when “loose cannon” characters were generally being portrayed as more interesting and successful than their more by-the-book counterparts (the overall message was often that these loose cannons understood better than the by-the-book characters what it took to beat the bad guys), I was pleased to write a story where Live Wire’s temper led to serious consequences and the reactions of his teammates weren’t thin-skinned squabbling but real frustration about how to deal with a troubled teammate like Garth.  People often say “if I were in that situation I’d just lay down the law and yadda-yadda-yadda…” but I want to hear “When I was in that situation, here’s what I did… (and here are the results)” because it’s damn hard to be the one who has to figure out what to do about a troubled friend or loved one and whatever very daunting, very difficult course of action you work up the courage to pursue is usually going to have a low-percentage chance of significantly improving things.

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Maybe it's "rose-coloured lenses" time in my brain, but looking back at the Legion as I knew it, that series was often a place where loose-cannon characters got a proper comeuppance from the facts that would inevitably roll out later on.

Sidebar about the New Earth habitat network: I keep coming back to this. Culturally, I wonder what it was like for the surviving people of the former neighbourhoods of Europolis to be broken up and reassembled like that. At least the ones who weren't resettled elsewhere across the UP...

That New Earth collection of surviving domed cities would be a pretty amazing setting for an accomplished writer / world builder to explore. We only scratched the surface in "Legionnaires," in part because our goal was to keep things somewhat light and accessible for young readers and / or new readers, but I think we were ultimately going to have Universo win election to the Presidency of New Earth and touch off various conflicts with the Legionnaires that might have explored in a little more depth the nature and culture of the domed cities.

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