DC Comics’ Legends #3
When we last left the DC Universe, Billy Batson was traumatized, Robin was brutalized, Cosmic Boy was cast aside, and Blue Beetle almost died. Oh, and President Ronald Reagan told Superman he was suspending all super heroic activity in the You Esss of Ay. And the hits just keep on comin’ in issue three, as we open up on a demonstration going on outside Titans Tower. Inside, Flash and Changeling are confronting a mysterious stranger in a trench coat… which is making me wonder where the rest of the Titans are. I wasn’t buying The New Teen Titans at the time (I was an X-Men man), but I’m pretty sure all of this was post-Judas Contract, and the team line-up would have been Nightwing, Jericho, Raven, Wonder Girl, Starfire…
Hmm, now that I think of it, one thing this series has been sorely missing are super heroines; the only ones we’ve seen are Gypsy and Vixen, and they barely rated cameos. But I’m sure issue #3 will correct that.
Back to said issue, and we discover the mysterious stranger is… Sarge Steel.
Yeah, never heard of him. Sarge Steel was one of those Charlton Comics characters DC purchased, along with the likes of Captain Atom and Blue Beetle. Hey, if you’ve shelled out cash for a property, you might as well get your money’s worth, right? Steel tells the Titans… all two of them… that they’re under house arrest until the crisis has passed. But Gar and Wally take a walk anyway, leaving Steel with the option of letting them go or shooting them. Considering the fact his only powers are a pistol and a prosthetic hand, he wisely lets the Titans exit.
Elsewhere in a hidden bunker that “America’s military refuses to admit even exists”, C-list villain Captain Boomerang name-drops fellow supervillains Enchantress and Blockbuster (man, it was a good thing DC started publishing Who’s Who more than a year before, because otherwise I would have had no idea who these people are) to Amanda Waller, and complains about the lack of his signature accouterments.
He asks Amanda to get in touch with the man in charge, and Waller explains (with the aid of attempted strangulation) that she is the Man. Fortunately, Colonel Flag shows up before Task Force X needs another new member. Behind Flag trails Deadshot and Bronze Tiger, now sporting a bad-ass titular mask and tiger-themed karate gi. Flag asks if everybody is aware of the deal, and Waller exposits that any super-crook who goes on this particular suicide mission and survives gets a full pardon.
Boomerang starts to bitch and complain, and it earns him a new piece of jewelry slapped on his wrist: an explosive bracelet. Deadshot reveals he’s got one too, but Enchantress and Blockbuster don’t, because they joined “for different reasons”. Judging by Blockbuster’s Hulk-like dimness, I’m thinking they promised him an after-mission trip to the nearest Ben and Jerry’s. As for Enchantress, maybe they threatened to write her out of existence to avoid a lawsuit from Marvel.
Deadshot is tired of the expositin’ and wants to hear the mission, and Waller tells them: they’re going after… Brimstone.
Meanwhile, young Billy Batson wanders the streets, avoiding the riots, thinking of how he could possibly turn things around if he became Captain Marvel. But he’s still totally freaked out by how he turned a giant man into a giant roasted marshmallow. He’s curled up into a despondent ball of misery in an alleyway, when he’s discovered.
Why, it’s that girl from issue two, the one whose parents totally bought into Godfrey’s anti-super hate speech. Turns out the girl, whose name is Lisa, got separated from her parents in all the craziness and she’s scared. Billy introduces himself and admits he’s just as frightened, and…
…Oh, we cut to Mount Rushmore. Look, I’m all for getting back to the action, but that scene ended pretty damn abruptly. It’s as if the panels that could have been used for a smoother transition (like maybe Lisa and Billy holding hands and leaving the alley to search for her parents) were sacrificed for some sort of gimmick. And lo and behold, such a gimmick exists in the form of the bottom quarter of every page being dedicated to an ongoing scene taking place on Apokolips, where we’re given a ton of recap-ery in regards to what happened in the past two issues. Okay, yeah, it’s good to let people who missed issues one and two know what’s up, but so far every single character we’ve been introduced to has done plenty of that.
Where were we? Oh, yeah; South Dakota, where Brimstone is attempting to wipe the U. S. of A.’s coolest landmark off the map. Rick Flag is the man with a plan: big-headed scientist types have figured out Brimstone is just a lot of super-hot gas held together by magnetic fields, so Deadshot has been given a special gun to punch a hole through Brimstone’s magnetic heart. Gee, too bad there isn’t a magnetic-themed superhero handy to help with that. What was that guy’s name, the one who appeared in the last two issues?
Eh, it’ll come to me. As for the rest of Task Force X, the rest of the team is just here for backup so that Deadshot can get his, um, shot.
Task Force X takes the fight to Brimstone, but even with Captain Boomerang’s heroic use of his vaunted “baffle-rangs”, it’s an uphill battle. Cut to Gotham City, where Bruce Wayne is at the hospital visiting a banged-up Jason Todd. Todd feels bad for letting Bruce down, and he thinks he sucks at being Robin. I’m sure he too is feeling pretty conflicted, the way sometimes love and pain become one and the same, in the eyes of a wounded child.
Bruce tries to cheer Jason up, but the kid is pretty pessimistic. I guess a broken leg and arm and likely concussion would get any Boy Wonder down. Well, maybe not Dick. You know, the best Robin. But I’d think if there was any way to let Jason know he didn’t screw up, Bruce, it would be to admit you got blinded by a bystander with a perfume bottle. Jason thinks maybe deep down people hate them more than the criminals, because the heroes are everything normal people aren’t and can never be. I dunno, that sounds pretty deep for a thirteen year old, but I guess Jason’s had a lot of time to think about it while sitting here thinking about all those citizens who kicked the crap out of him. Or maybe that’s just the Dilaudid talking; I hear among the side effects are profound insights. Bruce leaves the hospital, convinced Jason and Pres. Reagan are wrong… and he’s gonna prove it!
Over at Mount Rushmore, Deadshot is moving into position. Floyd’s gun has only one round, so he’s got to make it count. But no worries: Blockbuster’s on the job, keeping Brimstone off bal—
Oh, well, guess we can cancel that trip to Ben and Jerry’s, then. Deadshot takes advantage of the distraction and shoots Brimstone in the chest. The magnetic bubble keeping him together pops, and great news, the ‘Stoner comes apart. Bad news, that means thousands of tons of super heated plasma are coming down on the gang. But no worries: Enchantress is on the case.
It occurs to me that Enchantress is sort of the opposite of DC’s Captain Marvel. Cap is a boy who turns into a man with a magic word, while Enchantress is a good woman who turns into a wicked one. Cap’s magic is mainly physical, while Enchantress’ is metaphysical, Cap’s costume is primarily red ,and Enchantress’ is green, etc. These two would have made an interesting couple. Just sayin’, it was a wasted opportunity to give Cap an interesting antagonist/love interest. But back to the story. Enchantress’ show of force puts her over the edge and she starts ranting that she’s about to “deal” with everyone.
But there’s a reason Colonel Flag brought a bad-ass like Bronze Tiger along; he’s here to take down any baddie who steps outta line, and Task Force X is a non-monologue zone.
Boomerang’s shocked that everybody’s alive (except for Blockbuster), but he’s sure that that wasn’t supposed to happen, and Brimstone was supposed to fry them all. Flagg shuts down that noise quickly by explaining that everybody on the team is expendable, including Bronze Tiger and Rick himself. This causes “Digger” Harkness to suffer from a rare case of speechlessness.
Cut to the White House, where the Gipper is having a conversation with Superman regarding his pretty darn hasty decision to put all superheroes on hiatus.
Reagan asks Superman if he thinks he made the right call, and the Man of Steel says he’s sure Ronnie’s doing his best and things will work out in the long run. Supes flies away, promising that he’ll obey the no superheroing rule. And… that’s it? The top half of the page only serves to reflect the exposition going on at the bottom part, with Desaad explaining his… I mean… Darkseid’s Master Plan. This whole page could have been better used catching up with Blue Beetle, or maybe Reagan making a public address and us seeing various superheroes reacting to it.
Moving on, we cut to middle America, where Billy Batson is having dinner with Lisa’s family
Lisa’s dad gives a toast to “better days”, when all men will be seen as created equal. That’s some weird dinner table talk; in my day, my dad would talk Formula 1, pro golf, NHL hockey, or college basketball, depending on the season. Behind them, Lisa’s kid sister turns on the TV, and it’s Godfrey on the idiot box again.
Triple G is giving his normal anti-superhero pitch, and Lisa calls him a “dufus”. Lisa’s dad don’t cotton to that kind of talk, and says his boy Gordon’s tryin’ to make American great again! He walks over to Lisa’s kid sister, who’s playing with a Superman action figure, and pitches it into the fire. Seeing this freaks out Billy, and he dashes out of the house. Lisa yells at her father: “That was swift, Dad– really swift!” Was “swift” ever a thing? I never heard it growing up. It sounds more like something writers who don’t have kids think kids say. Still, props to Wein using “dufus”; that never gets old.
Outside, Lisa finds Billy and he talks about the fight with Macro Man and how it was all Captain Marvel’s fault. Lisa says Billy’s wrong and she believes in heroes. She asks Billy if he does too. But Billy… doesn’t know.
The comic closes out with an end to the exposition-heavy conversation going on between Darkseid, Desaad, and the Phantom Stranger. The Stranger says that as long as the children believe in heroes, Darkseid’s plan will fail. But Darkseid is about to let the world go to the dogs.
All in all, issue #3 underwhelms. It’s nice to see creators play around with the traditional format, but in this case, all of Darkseid’s scenes could have been summed up in two pages at the end of the comic. And the Reagan/Supes page felt like filler. Much of the comic could have been devoted to other things, such as the aforementioned Billy and Lisa encounter, or seeing heroes respond to Reagan’s announcement that superheroes were now persona non grata.
And while it was nice to see the Enchantress portrayed as a bad-ass, and Amanda Waller as always is awesome, the series does suffer from a lack of female representation, superhero-wise. Still, it was awesome to see Task Force X in action, and little did I know at the time what greatness was spawned here. Will next issue be another mixed bag, or will issue #4 bounce back? Come back next week and find out.