DC Comics’ Legends #5

Issue #5 starts out with young William Batson wandering the streets of… I think it’s New York? To be honest, I forgot which city he’s in. I guess it doesn’t matter, because America is burning due to G. Gordon Godfrey’s massive hate speech twisting the hearts and minds of typical Americans everywhere. Billy’s still seriously traumatized, and I’m wondering who the hell is this kid’s guardian? I get that he’s supposed to be mature for his age, but he’s gotta be answerable to some adult, right?

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Well, maybe Billy’s not answerable to an adult, but he sure is to his new girlfriend/stalker Lisa, who we know has lousy parents, considering they let her go running out into the shitstorm that this city’s turned into. Lisa insists on sticking with Billy even though he tells her to back off. After all, she’s probably got cooties, and while Captain Marvel is (probably) immune, Billy knows he’ll catch ‘em if she keeps touching him. The pair spot a massive riot and Billy wants Lisa to stay back so she doesn’t get hurt, but no man is gonna tell Lisa what to do!

I know kidspeak is one of the toughest tasks a writer can tackle, but man, Lisa sounds like she’s about to run for Congress. Poor girl gets knocked out and Billy drags her to safety. His new girlfriend getting hurt snaps him out of his funk and he realizes he’s gotta man up, only in a way nobody else can. It’s time for a particular magic word.

Aw yeah, time to kill some rioters! That’s what you get for hurting Captain Marvel’s girl! Turning the page… aw damn, that pesky wisdom of Solomon kicks in before Billy can start stompin’ heads and he realizes he got himself tricked by somebody. But before he can tackle the who and the how of that, he’s gotta handle the mob. Peacefully. Dammit. The mob doesn’t take kindly to Cap telling them they’ve got to go home and chill, and they attack him. Awesome, Cap was assaulted first, now he can start ripping off heads and claim self defense. Justice for Lisa! But before Captain Marvel can dispense some street justice, the mob freezes in place, and a yellow gloved hand waves at our hero while a mysterious voice tells Billy he’s needed. Moments later, Captain Marvel is gone… leaving an unconscious girl with a head wound lying in an alleyway. Uh… oops?

In Star City, Black Canary is stalking the streets…

…in that eyesore of a costume. Look, overall it’s not bad. I mean yeah, those black shoulder things are ridiculous, but other than that, the outfit’s fine… on another character. Also, Dinah comes across some goons and they actually recognize her? Honestly, wouldn’t these guys be wondering who the new lady in the headband is? It’s 1987; it’s not like Dinah could post selfies on Instagram showing off her new look. Whatever. Canary delivers her patented sonic attack and tells a guy she just made deaf that this what she calls her “Canary Cry”. But before Canary can deliver more clunky dialogue, we catch a glimpse of a yellow cape and a mysterious voice. Canary vanishes, just like Captain Marvel.

Over in Los Angeles, we’ve got a new player on the field by the name of… Sunspot!

Hoo-boy, time for a little backstory here. I’m not going to claim I was ever an expert on the ins and outs of the comic industry, but even then I knew this was a parody of “Big” Jim Shooter, Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief. By this point, Shooter had had the job for almost a decade, and it can be argued he had been in charge during one of Marvel’s most successful eras. But the story goes that Jim could be a little overbearing and egotistical and a little hard to work for. Also, he made his fair share of creative mistakes.

Yeah, the New Universe was largely forgettable, if not outright terrible. Jim wrote the flagship title Starbrand, and it’s pretty obvious to anybody who bought that comic (i.e. me) what Byrne et al were mocking in this comic. Sunspot starts monologuing and he gets interrupted by the “one true Green Lantern”, Guy Gardner. What follows is what’s meant to be an amusing fight as Guy makes a fool of Sunspot, which is to say the Legends crew mercilessly mocking an industry peer. I get it if you don’t like a guy, and I know there have been times when people have used comics to take a jab at certain people in the industry, but usually it was done with a bit more, you know, subtlety. This just feels petty and mean spirited. The fight ends on a shocking footnote.

Guy warns Sunspot that he better not use his powers again, but before he can run the guy in, Mysterious Voice Guy shows up and Gardner is whisked away. And presumably, Sunspot dies of shock, since we never see him again. Thank God.

Elsewhere, we have Blue Beetle dashing across rooftops, ruminating on his choice in defying the President’s no-superheroing rule. He accidentally surprises a woman wearing just a towel and a shocked expression, who then screams for the police. Why is this woman showering with her bathroom window open, I gotta ask? Beetle scurries off before the cops bust him for a sex crime, and then, you guessed it, a mysterious voice calls to him and boom, Beetle’s gone.

In Gotham City, Batman is brooding as he looks down at the grim and gritty burg that he calls home. He notes that everybody’s afraid of him, which is kinda cool, but he realizes that there’s something wrong and he has to uncover it. Just as he swings into action, though, the mysterious voice snatches him from out of the air.

Cut to New York City, where things are… not going well…

The crowd wants costumed super-guy blood, and they aren’t really picky as to whether or not the person wearing the tights is a face or a heel. Gar gets smart and takes the high ground, because really, the only other alternative is to turn into an elephant and start trampling people or something. Wally does a quick snatch-and-grab of rioter weapons, while Captain Boomerang is probably the most effective he’s ever been as he whips literally a half dozen “bomberangs” at one of Darkseid’s war hounds. And it works, blowing it apart. Wow, either the bomberangs are like, Davey Crockett nukes, or Darkseid’s production line is churning out really crappy product. It turns out inside the war hound is a pair of people piloting the thing, which now makes more sense, as I really thought Godfrey was going to scoop out people’s brains and put them in the dogs. Boomerang is on a roll as he attacks another war hound.

The mob does not approve, and Boomerang is dragged into the mosh pit of death. Flash and Gar go to save him, but as you might have guessed, they’re abducted by the mysterious person in yellow. Is that three deaths this mysterious guy is responsible for now?

Cut to the White House, where Ronald Reagan is grilling Superman over the current crisis. Reagan has heard that superheroes are starting to disappear, even though it should take weeks to wade through law enforcement agency reports for somebody to spot a pattern. I’m willing to believe a boy can become a TV talk show host, but fast and reliable military/government intelligence? Pfft! Yeah, right! Supes actually believes this, because Darkseid kidnapped him earlier, and he figures maybe it’s the Lord of Apokolips who’s behind this, but someone shows up to refute the theory.

Supes looks freaked, which is understandable, since one of his vulnerabilities is magic, and Fate came out of nowhere. I’m surprised Superman didn’t superflinch and accidentally put a fist through Fate’s chest. Reagan points out Fate is breaking the law, but Fate blows him off because he’s just the President. Moments later, the lord of order adds Supes to his collection.

Back in New York, Godfrey is stirring up another crowd, and this time he’s got a special treat for ’em. He has Captain Boomerang dragged out, who’s more pissed off than scared. Man, Digger really is an idiot.

Godfrey asks the crowd what he should do with the moron, and with all their cries of hanging and burning and feeding him to the war hounds, I’m getting a serious Monty Python vibe here; I’m half-expecting Godfrey to put Digger on a set of scales against a duck to determine his fate. And if you don’t understand that reference, then I’m sorry, but your nerd cred may be in question.

Digger says if anything bad happens to him, they’ll be sorry because he’s got friends. One person who is most definitely not Digger’s friend is Amanda Waller, who watches the drama unfolding on TV. She turns to Colonel Flag and points out that Digger’s statements were meant for them, and they’ve got to do one of two things: rescue the little weasel, or kill him. Flag is definitely not happy, but he realizes the project has to be protected at all costs. As an aside, I like how Flag and Waller are written. Rick was forced to let Digger go because he was honoring the arrangement. Now Flag is going to possibly kill Digger because Rick signed on to do a job, and in the interest of national security the guy might have to die. Flag is ruled by patriotism and principle, while Waller is also a patriot but ruled by ruthless pragmatism. It was one of the elements of the Suicide Squad series that made it work so well, with its moral conflict between these characters.

Cut to Washington DC and… wait, how much time has passed? Godfrey was in New York, and now he’s in DC? Is this the same mob from before? Did he hire a bunch of buses to drive them to the Lincoln Memorial? Did he use a “star gate” to pop ‘em down the coast this fast? First, Reagan gets an instant report about superhero disappearances and now this. And now that I’m thinking about it, how long has Billy Batson been wandering around? Honestly, that whole subplot felt like it took place in an afternoon. Just how much time has passed throughout this whole series? I think if I examine it too closely, it’ll just give me a migraine.

Godfrey is on a roll, and is about to say how everybody is going to be equal under one authority. But then Fate steps in, and Godfrey freaks out because at the end of the day he’s just a mouth people want to punch really hard and he ain’t got any backup. He tries to bluff his way out of it, saying Fate is all alone. But then…

I think the only thing that’ll be glorious about Godfrey next issue will be the epic beatdown he’s gonna suffer.

Elsewhere, Darkseid looks on and says the final act is about to start. The Phantom Stranger says he has faith in the heroes, but Darkseid points out that the whole nation is against them. Either the heroes have to let themselves lose, or fight hoards of innocent people. Either way, Darkseid wins.

We close out with Jason Todd in the hospital watching things go straight to hell. No longer content to stay on the sidelines, he changes into his Robin costume and checks himself out.

Wait, he had his Robin costume there at the hospital? And nobody noticed it? Was he checked in wearing it? Was he checked in as John Doe? If so, wouldn’t people have commented on his only visitor being Bruce Wayne, who has a teenage ward, Jason Todd? I get the feeling Darkseid at the bottom of the page is laughing at me for trying to make sense of this increasingly messy series.

Tag: DC Legends

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  • GreenLuthor

    I dunno, it’s kind of hard to believe John Byrne would do something as petty and petulant as that Sunspot thing. Must’ve been Ostrander and Wein, and Byrne was just forced to go along with it. Yeah, I’m sure that must be it.

    (Or, in other words: Byrne is well known for being an extraordinarily pissy person who can really (and I mean REALLY carry a grudge. Like, as far as I can tell, he’s still angry at Peter David for “spoiling” an issue of Alpha Flight (the story is complicated, but it appears that Byrne laying the blame on David is very much misplaced). An issue that came out in 1984.)

    (Also, John Ostrander and Len Wein, as far as I can tell are (or were in Wein’s case) perfectly nice people. And Wein hadn’t really done any work for Marvel in years when Legends came out, while Ostrander hadn’t done any work for Marvel at all back then. Byrne, meanwhile, had only recently stopped doing work for Marvel in 1987, though he would go back pretty soon. Including taking over Shooter’s New Universe title, Star Brand, and promptly blowing up Shooter’s home city of Pittsburgh. Yeah. I know some in the industry have wildly different feelings about Jim Shooter, particularly as editor-in-chief at Marvel, but… as far as I can tell, he ain’t no John Byrne…)

    • Thomas Stockel

      The whole Sun Spot issue does shine a light on how some writers and artists are more equal than others, with Byrne apparently able to dictate to the writers and editors of this comic what should be added. And then there was the way issue three was arranged with the Apokolips panels at the bottom of each page in a manner I feel was more reminiscent of Byrne’s tendency to sometimes experiment with the medium. I don’t object to experimentation, just not when it comes at the expense of the story.

    • Michael Weyer

      To be fair to Byrne if we’re talking people who love to mock Shooter, that’s a loooooong list.

  • Greenhornet

    =Aw yeah, time to kill some rioters! That’s what you get for hurting Captain Marvel’s girl!=
    Please reference the Captain Marvel serial where Cap turns a HEAVY MACHINEGUN on some violent natives.
    Waller naturally considers killing Boomerang or rescuing him; at no time does she or Flag consider killing GODFREY. At this point, the situation is far past “demonstrations against superheroes” and has become “full blown revolution”!

    • Thomas Stockel

      Oh yes, I’ve seen those clips from the original serials (see below):

      It’s a fair point regarding Godfrey but someone would have to order Waller to do the deed; I feel at least early on Waller did respect the chain of command and didn’t really go off on her own. In this case killing or rescuing Digger fell within the purview of protecting a black ops project and preventing The President from being embarrassed by its existence. But also you have the problem of what happens if the assassination attempt fails? That only causes Godfrey’s stock to rise and possibly exposes Task Force X.

      https://youtu.be/VK9m8SHpCLk

  • I understand Fate follows a higher power and feels no qualms ignoring an executive order, but I’m not clear on why Superman suddenly agreed to go rogue.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I think it had to do with the fact that Fate was giving Supes direction, a clear enemy to confront in order to resolve the crisis. Also with Darkseid kidnapping him earlier I think maybe he realized the Presidential order was, well, ill advised in the face of the growing crisis. Supes is patriotic but not dumb.

  • Xander

    “Flag is ruled by patriotism and principle, while Waller is also a
    patriot but ruled by ruthless pragmatism. It was one of the elements of
    the series that made it work so well, with its moral conflict between these characters.”

    And this lack of characterization is one of the reasons the movie sucked so hard.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Oh abo-god damn-lutely. Flag watched Waller gun down a room full of people whose only crime was they “knew too much” and he didn’t bat an eye.

      But on the other hand the comics’ Amanda Waller wouldn’t have killed off patriotic Americans so casually. It was terrible mis-characterization on both counts.

      • Michael Weyer

        She could push the idea she would but never go through with it.

        There’s a tellling bit in “The Judas Contract” where the Squad figures “Waller is going to nuke this space station, the lives of the hostages aren’t worth a damn to her.” Yet when someone else fires a nuke, Waller chews them out for it.

        And when Tolliver talks about how it’s no big deal if the Squad dies on a job as “they’re expendable, you made them that way.” Waller punches him and snaps “they’re expendable when I say they are on missions that mean a damn.”

        • GreenLuthor

          Minor nitpick: that was “The Janus Directive”. “Judas Contract” was the New Teen Titans story with Deathstroke and Terra. (Similar enough names that the confusion is understandable.)

  • Michael Weyer

    Again, the original issues had readers writing about how Robin could be in a public hospital and the editors just hand-waving it off.

    • Chefe O’Hara

      Was he still at the hospital? I thought Batman got Jason out of there and put him at Wayne Manor. Then again, it’s been some years since last time I read this story, so…