gnaw on fence

It's OK, I'm a Senator

Legion Recollections by Tom Bierbaum

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Recollections of Legionnaires #13
gnaw on fence
This issue starts with one of our most memorable covers of the run, Adam Hughes’ great shot of Tenzil discovering that he’s been turned into a girl, with a great set of reactions in the mirror behind the new Matter-Eater Lass. A super piece of artwork that very effectively presents a key twist of the issue. It certainly makes me wonder how glorious some of the scenes might have been if we’d been lucky enough to have Adam still doing a lot of the interior art. As it is, the issue was penciled by Frank Fosco, who had a very different touch, but one that was great for this issue.

The story opens where #12 left off, with a team of six Legionnaires getting zapped into nothingness by a strange Dominator girl who was being attacked by an anti-alien mob in Paris. The girl mistook the Legionnaires for more attackers and with a gesture, caused them to melt away into smoke.  This spooks the mob and they quickly disperse, and the little girl escapes.
We then find the Legionnaires “re-integrating” and figuring out they’ve been teleported by the little girl. The bad news is, she logically teleported them where she thought they belonged, a jail cell.

As one might imagine, the riffraff in that cell have no fondness for the Legionnaires and a brawl immediately erupts.  Fortunately, the trigger-happy guards pretty quickly start firing their blasters and blow a hole through the wall of the jail, creating an escape route for the heroes.

With that, we cut back to Legion HQs, where Kono and her mischievous Sklarian friends are fixing Matter-Eater Lad up with a disguise for their mission to infiltrate the Sklarian pirates. Tenzil, who was expecting to be pampered by the team of flirtatious girls, is instead getting roughly sprayed, dyed and injected and still doesn’t quite get where all this is headed.

Next we jump to the middle of a mental-energy vortex, where a team of Legionnaires is being bombarded by psychological torments. We’re seeing this from the perspective of Invisible Kid, who deduces that the panic he’s being gripped by is in his own mind and he tries to concentrate to overcome it.  Frank did a great job of illustrating this page, with hundreds of little sprite-like figures flying through the air around the panicking Legionnaires, and kudos to inker Wade Von Grawbadger, who painstakingly reproduced all of Frank's little sprites. Also, heroic colorist Tom McCraw somehow managed to show waves and patches of different colors behind the sea of little figures.  A very effective page visually.

Invisible Kid successfully wills himself back to the real world and finds himself safe and sound in the Acapulco dome. Ultra Boy and Andromeda show up and want to dive into the vortex to save the agonized Legionnaires (including their respective beaus), but I-Kid says if they’re going to avoid being overcome by the power of the vortex, as he’d just been, they’ve got to go in with a plan.

We then go to the nearby medi-center, where the critically injured Rokk / Cosmic Boy lies unconscious, with a pensive Saturn Girl holding his hand. Coz stirs to consciousness and immediately deduces that Saturn Girl and Live Wire are fighting. Rokk instantly sticks up for Live Wire and takes the blame for his own injuries. It’s driving Imra crazy that Coz is such a formidable, conscientious Legionnaire while the guy she loves keeps stumbling.

Next morning at Legion HQ, Matter-Eater Lad wakes up to his usual Bavarian Oompah-Band Alarm Clock and makes the stunning discovery that he is now a she.

Back in Paris, the Legionnaires team decides to try to reach the Archduke who’s running Paris.  They take to the underground tunnels below the city and stumble across the Dominator girl. She’s about send them off again when Inferno starts speaking to her in the Dominator language and calms her down.  The others are stunned that playboy Dirk fluently speaks Dominion and Chameleon pointedly informs them that the often-disrespected Inferno has literally done his Legion homework and mastered dozens of languages.

Inferno talks the Dominator girl into teleporting the Legionnaires to the Archduke’s palace, where they immediately find themselves facing armed guards. But the Archduke himself appears and says he’ll be happy to talk with the Legionnaires and see what they have to say.  So it’s crisis averted, until the security devices deduce that the “Archduke” is actually a Durlan -- Chameleon using his disguise power. 

The Legionnaires dispatch the guards easily enough, but they next face a band of chain-wielding ladies who, from atop the Archduke's palace, hurl their freakish chains at the Legion. Through some sort of special powers, the chains home in on each Legionnaire, wrap around them and shock them into unconsciousness. Long-time readers will not be surprised to find out that the man behind these mysterious chains that somehow overcome each individual Legionnaires’ powers would be none other than… Grimbor the Chainsman.

We then jump to an asteroid, Sigma Lockwood, named for late Apa-LSH member Robert Lockwood.  There we see Kono and “Tenzette” out on their mission. M-E Lass is having a hard time adjusting to her very busty figure and the discomfort of a bra.
They step into a bar where it only takes a few seconds for a well-lubricated patron to start hitting on Tenzette. Kono is only too quick to put him in his place, though our editors toned down her dialogue considerably. The letch had told the “pirates ladies” that they could “shiver his timbers” any time they like and Kono dumps the letch’s icy drink in his lap and says “That ought to make ’em shiver," but our editors decided it was safer to have her say “That ought to make you shiver.” And I guess since we were still a Comics Code book that was largely aimed at kid readers, that wasn’t such a bad edit (though not an especially good punch-line -- I'd have liked to've had the chance to re-write the punchline to something like " you go, matey, shiver away!").

Kono’s confidence and competence draw the attention of a couple Sklarians who are looking for recruits for their band of smugglers and Kono and Tenzi are quickly enlisted. They’re soon getting their assignments, and naturally, Kono gets a glamorous weapons position while Tenzi gets waste-disposal.

As she bemoans her unpleasant duties, Tenzi absent-mindedly says she’s from Bismoll and is then forced to try to cover for the slipup.  It doesn’t go well and Tenzi is quickly running for her life. The Sklarians corner her and are about to do to her what they do to all spies.  And it’s not what Tenzi guesses – “Let them go if they promise not to do it again?”  Readers then are left hanging, with the outcome of Tenzi’s dilemma pushed to next issue.

I enjoyed re-reading this issue, and for the first time in a few issues, it really reads better than I expected. I have the feeling we were able to write this more in order than other recent issues and it may have also helped to have a consistent penciller throughout the issue. I think our storylines meshed a little better this time, with the “Tenzi” plotline really fun, in my opinion, certainly light-hearted and very mean to poor Tenzil, but also poetic comeuppance given some of his recent antics.

And the Paris plotline, which had dragged a little for me in the prior issue moved along pretty briskly this time. I liked the Dominator girl and only wish we’d been able to hang around and do what we’d intended with her, which was to have her join the Legionnaires. I’d have relished the chance to explore a real minority situation, especially someone from a race that had just subjected Earth to so much trauma. I’d have been tempted to show her thinking the Dominators really weren’t that bad and were to a degree scapegoats in the war for Earth and having to go through the painful process of learning that her fellow Dominators were guilty of some truly heinous acts (allowing us to explore [and dismiss] the notion of group guilt). I think I’d also planned to have her develop a crush on Inferno, he treated her so gently and skillfully in this issue and that felt to me like a real chance to explore Dirk’s conflicting urges to be both an outstanding Legionnaire and a macho frat boy.

This issue also had more effective scenes from Acapulco than we’d seen for a while, both in the mental vortex and at the hospital. For whatever reason, the pacing and drama of those scenes works better for me.

I very much like Frank Fosco’s art in this issue. He put a huge amount of effort into the scenes, including some great use of lighting. The scenes outside the Paris Palace are lit by ground-level security lights that cast upward shadows that are very effective.  The bar scene with Kono and Tenzi is also lit from below by lights in the tables that give it a great night-spot feel. A lot of Frank’s work has a real Ditko feel, but is also beautifully rendered, giving us a look at how cool those actual Ditko Legion stories from the 1970s might have been, especially if a really superior inker might have finished those Ditko issues as nicley as Fosco and Von Grawbadger rendered this issue.

In any case, I have to really thank Frank for pouring his heart and soul into some very complicated, challenging scenes, and I think his exceptional commitment to the pencils of this issue really helped elevate the story.

One thing I like about this issue is that it once again presents many Legionnaires. By my quick count, no fewer than 19 members of the team appear in this issue (plus non-member Kono), which leads to an interesting question, which two Legionnaires are not seen.  I believe the missing members are Catspaw and Shrinking Violet. Pretty amazing – I wonder if new readers were over by all of those characters, several of whom were never specifically identified in the issue.


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