DC Comics’ Legends #6
The sixth and final chapter of this epic saga (I say this perhaps with only a touch of irony. A smidge. A scoch) begins with Darkseid ready to deliver an old school, classic monologue about how awesome he and his plan are.
But lo! The Phantom Stranger is tere to harsh Darkseid’s mellow, because that’s what heroes do. Even if the Stranger can’t intervene directly, the least he can do is rain on Darkseid’s Apokoliptic parade.
What follows is a page and a half of exposition for people who didn’t bother to pick up the previous five issues, or who have such short memories that they forgot what happened a bare month ago. The Stranger is unimpressed with Darkseid’s expository skills, however, and says his plan is boned. Because even now as we turn the page, we find Glorious Gordon Godfrey on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, facing off against Doctor Fate’s super posse. Godfrey starts to get the crowd good and fired up, but the heroes aren’t paying a lot of attention as a newcomer arrives on the scene.
Doctor Fate is surprised at the Martian Manhunter showing up, because he wasn’t invited. Hmph, racist much, Dr. F? But Batman doesn’t discriminate, and he says J’onn J’onzz is welcome. I expect no less from a guy who opens his house to orphans. Superman asks if the rest of the Justice League is coming, and the Manhunter lays down a bombshell: the League no longer exists. Judging by the quality of the Justice League of America title I was buying at the time, that statement is a couple of years late.
Godfrey gets tired of being ignored and sends in the Warhounds to attack. This is followed by a couple of pages of really epic fighting. Say what you will about Byrne’s real and/or imagined personal shortcomings; the man can craft some stellar action sequences. Fate uses his power to cause Warhound pilots to phase out of their metallic dogs, Supes scraps one with a single blow, and Batman jumps on board another, gets inside, and knocks out two pilots with one punch. Godfrey just now wakes up to the fact that the Warhounds kind of suck, and he summons a hoard of parademons. Now, I get the fact that the crowd is mind controlled, but you’d think maybe—juuust maybe—they might wake up to the fact that this propagandist is more than he seems when he can conjure up legions of winged demons. But nope, the crowd is still convinced somehow that superheroes are bad. While the heroes go to fight the new threat, Fate tries to talk some sense into the crowd, but Godfrey takes advantage of the situation.
There’s this thing called a “chin strap”. Maybe you’ve heard of it, Dr. Fate? It helps to prevent a helmet from coming off your head. Kent Nelson, now back in the control, realizes the crowd is about to… wait, one of these people has a torch. A goddamn torch! What is this, Bride of Frankenstein? Are these people going to storm a castle later on? Kent doesn’t stick around to ask and he exposits via thought balloons that he still has enough Fate Juice for flight and super-strength, which I actually think I remember from the old All-Star Squadron comics.
Kent flies off to get the helmet while a grinnin’ Godfrey heads off to check in on his prisoner. Poor Captain Boomerang is being guarded by some Warhounds, and Godfrey starts pumping the man for information. So Boomerang decides he’s got a lot to say, which could prove to be bad for his health, because somebody is watching.
But before Deadshot can give Digger’s skull a new orifice (or two, depending on the caliber of that rifle. Christ, that thing looks like it could take down aircraft!), Col. Flag stops the shot and says they’re not killing anybody unless absolutely necessary. He has Enchantress turn the Warhounds into what looks like silly putty, and sics Bronze Tiger on Godfrey. Tiger chases the Glorious One down an alleyway, but Godfrey whacks his pursuer with the mind control mojo.
Meanwhile, Flag collects Boomerang, but not before telling the man he’s on the Suicide Squad, perhaps permanently, and then laying him out with a punch. Elsewhere, the heroes not taking on the parademons are beating the crap out of Godfrey’s foot soldiers. Guy Gardner shows that he’s not all mouth and is crushing Warhounds left and right (and I’m sure the people inside are fine. Really). Then the gang gets a shocking assist.
Yeah! Cue ’70s theme music!
Guy is typically Guy, which means he’s about as smooth as sandpaper when he introduces himself to the newcomer… Wait, newcomer? Am I reading this right? Guy doesn’t know who Wonder Woman is? Are they implying Diana, Princess of Themyscira, has just recently entered into the DC Universe? Then who the hell helped found the Justice League? You know, that classic story where seven heroes fought seven aliens? I mean yeah, okay, I was buying Wonder Woman at the time, and the storyline there was that she just showed up in “Man’s World”, but I kind of figured it was just an extended origin story. Did nobody think this through? I’m not just talking about the Justice League problem. What about Wonder Girl?
It’s like Robin predating Batman, for God’s sake! Wonder Girl’s origin is directly tied in with Wonder Woman’s; there is no separation! This was the principal problem with the DC reboot, in that it was soft; some comics were affected, others not so much. Teen Titans was largely untouched, because it was still one of DC’s biggest sellers at the time, and they didn’t want to mess with it. This short-term decision would have long lasting repercussions and pretty much wreck Donna Troy as a character, who to this day still hasn’t recovered.
But back to Legends. Bad guys attack the White House and blow a hole in the side of the Oval Office. I guess the presidential residence is made from the same stuff as the X-Men Mansion, because that wall went down easy. The terrorists storm the Oval Office, but Ronald Reagan, veteran of numerous war films and co-star to a chimpanzee, is not afraid.
Yeah, Reagan’s tough like gristle. He must have coated his body in the same stuff he uses in his hair. But lo an behold, another Ronald Reagan enters the room! It turns out the Ronnie that got shot was the Martian Manhunter. Reagan shakes the illegal immigrant’s hand (although he was probably granted amnesty due to the 1986 Immigration Reform Act), and as J’onn flies off, Reagan finally pulls his pruney skull out of his wrinkled butt and rescinds the no-heroes executive order.
Elsewhere, Superman and Captain Marvel are cleaning house overhead, knockin’ parademons around, while dirtside, other heroes are smacking around rioters.
Blue Beetle asks how Black Canary’s doing, and she pretty much bites his head off, telling him she’s an “old hand” at this. Hey, for all he knows, you’re a new Black Canary; if I was him, I couldn’t imagine the original wearing that costume. I mean, seriously, the only person who could rock a headband in the ’80s was Bruce Springsteen. The heroes regroup and circle the wagons, and Godfrey orders a final assault that he’s sure will probably cause at least a few civilian casualties and make the heroes look even worse. Darkseid and the Phantom Stranger look on as things are about to get ugly, when suddenly…
“No! Stop!! You mustn’t do this!”? Man, I really think writers Ostrander and Wein needed to get some of this dialogue proofread by some kids, because as well-spoken as I was when I was ten, at no time would I have ever used the word “mustn’t”. It turns out Robin got these kids here… somehow… and hey, it turns out Lisa didn’t die in that alley! Good for her! She tries to talk sense into her dad, but Godfrey ain’t having it. He uses a play I’m sure he borrowed from Granny Goodness’ book on how to raise kids.
And just like that, the crowd turns on Godfrey. Using giant robot dog tanks? That’s okay. Calling for the overthrow of the United States government? Great! Summoning demons, it’s all good. Slapping a kid? Now you’ve gone too far. Godfrey realizes he screwed up big time, and he reaches into his overcoat to pull out Fate’s helmet.
Apparently, when it comes to Nabu helmets, one size does not fit all. The helmet cooks Godfrey’s brains, which allows Bronze Tiger to break free of his control and slip away before people start asking who the hell the guy in the tiger mask is. The Joe Normals ask the heroes for forgiveness, and Supes is all about letting bygones be bygones, but Guy is super pissed and says the people must have always feared them deep down. But Captain Marvel—my favorite one—channels some Solomon wisdom and points out it’s their job to stand apart from the crowd, and that’ll always cause a little mistrust. If Guy wants hero worship, then he’s in the wrong place.
Wonder Woman backs up Marvel, and Doctor Fate points out that hey, as long as the gang’s all here, maybe they might want to reform the Justice League? Bats, J’onn, Marvel, Black Canary and Blue Beetle are all on board, while Guy says he’ll think about it. The Flash says his life’s too much of a mess right now, and Changeling’s already a Teen Titan, and Superman says “no” and Wonder Woman exits, leaving us with the new line-up.
Which I gotta say is a helluva lot better than Justice League Detroit. But y’know, in retrospect, it would’ve been nice if Vixen had been included. Of all the new Justice League Detroit characters, she was the only one with any staying power. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t see her again until a brief guest appearance in Animal Man, followed by a sustained run in Suicide Squad.
Elsewhere, Darkseid says it was a good plan, and it would have worked if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids! We close out with the Phantom Stranger talking about what constitutes a legend, while our heroes strike a pose.
So, overall, was Legends any good? Yes and no. The plot was solid and the art top-notch, and it gave us Amanda Waller and what would later be known as the Suicide Squad. Any story that plants an enduring, positive mark like that cannot in any way, shape, or form be called bad.
But… it could have been better. Legends was meant to accomplish some goals, among them to introduce Waller and Task Force X, as well as lay the groundwork for the new Justice League. It was also meant to give readers a glimpse at the DC Universe’s new status quo, showing how alternate Earth characters like Doctor Fate and Captain Marvel now co-existed in the same world as other established heroes, with everyone acting like it had always been that way. But I think the execution was a little, well, sloppy. How much time passes in the comic, exactly? Sometimes it feels like weeks, other times it feels like a weekend. It’s possible that the editors at Marvel might have taken a look at this series when the concept for Civil War was being worked out, because months before that comic’s release, there had been hints of its coming in various storylines throughout the Marvel Universe. Legends could have done with a few months’ delay, with DC writers hinting at Glorious Godfrey’s rising popularity in different titles, culminating in his explosive surge in prominence. And okay, let’s be fair here; while I ragged on the Wonder Girl/Wonder Woman issue, that wasn’t the fault of this series.
I give the series overall a strong B, where we had some bad outweighed by the good, and I’m not at all ashamed to have it residing in my collection.