Tuesday, August 2, 2016

PART 9: L.E.G.I.O.N. '91 ANNUAL #2

Alan Grant
PENCILS:  Mike McKone
INKS:  Jan Harps
COLORS:  Lovern Kindzierski
LETTERS:  Gaspar

SYNOPSIS:   On an unnamed alien world, Lobo and Telepath sit before a group of aliens.
The aliens have been brought before L.E.G.I.O.N. to stand trial.  Lobo has been selected to judge the group.  After hearing their pleas and having Telepath scan their minds, Lobo decrees the entire group guilty and sentenced to death.  However, if any of them can kill Lobo then all survivors may go free.

Nobody gets to go free.

Before leaving, Lobo manage to sense the presence of Waverider who has been watching while invisible.  Waverider makes himself visible but still intangible.  He connects with Lobo, checking the Main Man's future a decade from now.  Lobo is stuck doing the same job with the same routine, but he seems to love it.  Despite having the savagery and amoral nature needed to become Monarch, Lobo is obviously not who Waverider seeks.  Waverider flies off, leaving Lobo to spew obscenities and insults at him.

While flying off Waverider reminds the reader of his mission--to find and stop Monarch before he takes over the world in 2001.  At L.E.G.I.O.N. headquarters Waverider floats past L.E.G.I.O.N. members discussing that Vril Dox has locked himself in his lab and they ponder what he might be doing.  Waverider attempts to secretly make contact with Dox. Just before he can touch Dox, Waverider's presence is detected by Dox, who proceeds to trap Waverider in some sort of time-cage.  Telepath has sent word ahead about Waverider and Dox is prepared. He has questions and he shall have answers.  Waverider explains who he is and why he has come. The prospect of seeing into his own future fascinates Dox.  He agrees to Waverider's request, but stipulates that any tricks will result in the time traveler's death.

A group of various alien races marched through the streets protesting the L.E.G.I.O.N.  Among them are former members Strata and Garv, who have since had a child together named Sylvester (but Garv insists on calling him Rocky).  The protest quickly turns violent as Cybo, the L.E.G.I.O.N. Field Marshall, tries to break up the protest.
While the L.E.G.I.O.N. officers are busy cracking skulls, Strata, Garv and Rocky make their escape, breaking open a massive hydrant along the way to cause a distraction to help others escape as well.

Back at home, Strata and Garv discuss how L.E.G.I.O.N. has become a warped version of what it once was.  They hope that one day Dox might be stopped, but they both agree that only one particular group of people would be capable of a feat like that (and it ain't the Justice League, folks).

At L.E.G.I.O.N. HQ, Phase receives a transmission from Cybo about how the protestors defied his authority and he was forced to bring back 30 prisoners, insisting that Dox will support his tactics despite his initial orders to only observe.  Phase also discusses the current state of affairs with Garryn.  She never left L.E.G.I.O.N. because she has never remembered her past.  Garryn, meanwhile, has stayed simply to mock Lobo who has been placed into stasis by Dox as an example of what could happen to those who defy his authority.  Dox and Lady Quark appear and tell Garryn to go make himself useful elsewhere.  Phase mentions Cybo's actions, but Dox quickly dismisses them, showing contempt that Phase would even question it.  He says that he and Lady Quark will be returning to their experiments and are not to be disturbed.

Far away in a forest, a green-skinned young male bounds through the trees chasing a stag of some sort. He lands on the animal, knocking it to the ground before ripping its neck open with his teeth.  Stealth comes up behind him and congratulates her son on the hunt.  They discuss when they will move along again, if she will see her friends from L.E.G.I.O.N. again soon, etc.  Meanwhile, Stealth's thoughts reveal what the readers may have already guessed--this young man is Vril Dox's son!  As they return home, Stealth receives a call from Strata.

Back at L.E.G.I.O.N. HQ, Cybo is getting rough with a mouthy prisoner.  This leads to an altercation between Cybo and Garryn.  Before Cybo can choke the life from Garryn, Phase pulls a gun on Cybo.  This, however, leads to Lady Quark blasting the gun from Phase's hand.  Dox quickly takes Cybo's side of things, telling Phase that he should lock her up but instead he fires both her and Garryn.  Meanwhile, Cybo  begins the re-education process on the prisoners, essentially brainwashing them.  Dox mentions that 80 worlds are under L.E.G.I.O.N. control with hundreds others allied.  However, if his experiment is a success, he will rule this galactic arm within the week.  A phantomized Phase has heard everything.

A disguised Captain Comet and Marij'n Bek make their way through the streets to meet up with Strata and Garv.  Along the way they stop a couple crooks before trying to avoid L.E.G.I.O.N. officers.  This causes them to run into Telepath who is also on his way to meet with Strata and Garv.

Phase and Garryn take a small ship to leave L.E.G.I.O.N. HQ as ordered.  However, with the information Phase has gathered, they decide to go meet up with the others, as Garryn got a message from them earlier.

Dox and Quark request two prisoners brought to them.  It is time for their experiment to be tested.  A machine fuses the two prisoners together into a monstrous creation.  The creature has retained its mental faculties and survived the process.  Dox and Quark declare the experiment a success.  Dox says it will take a day for the energies to restore themselves, but soon "we three will be one." Dox has the creature sent to dissection.  He and Lady Quark enter a small room and we see that Waverider has been a prisoner in the time-cage for a decade.  They hope to tap into Waverider's powers through the fusion process.

At Strata's and Grav's home, the former L.E.G.I.O.N. members discuss Dox's plans and how to go about fighting him.  They decide to have Telepath enter Dox's mind.  There, Telepath discovers that the experiment is set for tomorrow. But that is not all. Dox is no longer in control of his own mind.  Instead, it is ruled by the Computer Tyrants of Colu.

At that moment, Cybo and his soldiers invade.  They open fire, killing Rocky, Marij'n and Telepath in the process.  A battle erupts and in the melee Cybo kills Garv himself.  Stealth, Darkstar and Phase attempt to take on Cybo, but in the end it is Captain Comet who kills the L.E.G.I.O.N. Field Marshall.  Mourning their dead, the remaining freedom fighters have decided that there is no other solution than to kill Dox.

Back on Cairn, Dox and Quark begin the experiment.  Our heroes fight their way through security into the headquarters.  Garryn decides that there is only one way they will manage to win--free Lobo.  He does do, but Lobo informs Garryn that he saw everything while he was in limbo, including all the mocking faces. He proceeds to pound some revenge into Garryn.  Garryn agrees that Lobo can get his revenge (even killing him) but only after dealing with Dox.  An explanation the it is the Computer Tyrants in Dox's mind is all Lobo needs. Lobo aims to spread his payback to all those who have it coming.

Lobo charges in just in time for the monstrous Tyrant to take out him, Captain Comet and the rest in a matter of moments.
The Tyrant monstrosity then turns are thanks Waverider, describing for the reader all that transpired in the time between Waverider's capture and now that has caused all of this.  The creature then absorbs Waverider (or at least his powers) and flies off to conquer all of known space.

Back in 1991, Dox and Waverider discuss the vision as it unfolded. Dox believes he might possibly avoid the future having been exposed, but Waverider argues that it might just lead to Dox becoming an even worse dictator.  Dox agrees to let Waverider go, saying his experiments with time are over and the two part as friends.

MY THOUGHTS:  First off, this is probably the closest we have gotten to a dark future where a character might become Monarch since the Superman annual.  It's a bloody dark dystopian nightmare scenario and it fits soooooo freaking perfectly into this storyline that it makes me forget that I know next to nothing about the characters in this book.

OK, now that I have that out of the way, I have to reiterate that I know next to nothing about the character in this book.  L.E.G.I.O.N. spun out of the Invasion crossover event from a couple years earlier than this story.  I know that Vril Dox is some relation to Brainiac, Lobo is Lobo, Captain Comet is the same guy from the Silver Age (more or less) and Lady Quark is a remnant leftover from Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Oh, and Phase is really Phantom Girl from the "5 Years Later" Legion of Superheroes, but that gets way more complicated than anything else we need to discuss here.

The art honestly took me a little bit to get adjusted to.  Something about it seems a little different from the other DC books from around this time.  Maybe it's like that to make the book feel more alien than the typical superhero books going on at this time?  I'm not sure.  The character designs look good. Lobo isn't quite his 90's self that he will become in such a short time from now, but believe me he's getting there.  Waverider looks pretty good, if lacking in overall color.  Those monstrous forms of the characters post-experiment look like something not dreamed of in H.P. Lovecraft's and Robert E. Howard's most eldritch nightmares.  Whoever thought those up deserves praise (and psychological evaluation).

The story is probably a little more mature readers than the rest have been to this point.  Innocent kids get killed in this thing, people!  The only saving grace there is that we didn't really see Sylvester (Rocky) enough to get too attached to him.

Dox's son got used as a plot idea again many years later in the second R.E.B.E.L.S. series.  It's nice to see that several of these probably histories (Flash, Superman, etc.) got revisited in one form or another more or less ten years after the Armageddon story was finished.

It was nice to see a return to the dystopia concept and a dark ruler possibly becoming Monarch instead of just "Where are they now?" stories.  Next month we get to look at what is possibly the story most unlike the others.

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