The new Fatal Five’s attack on the United Planets continues, with members vying to see who can kill the most Legionnaires. On the world where Sun Boy died, FF leader Tharok, controlling a Promethean Giant, bids to stomp out his Legion opposite Phantom Girl’s life, prompting her to fade away … Meanwhile, two Legionnaires are revealed to have likewise faded away rather than been killed by the giant, as Polar Boy and Invisible Kid emerge in an afterlife dimension. It seems the latter’s old teleportation powers kicked in, bringing them to an eerie realm.
There’s more teleporting as Glorith takes Ultra Boy and Lightning Lad to the Sorcerers’ World, home to her old teacher Mysa, the Black Witch, and her consort Blok. But the place is no safe haven, as Fatal Fiver Validus appears, determined to snatch a gem that lies deep within the planet. And if he can murder a Legionnaire along the way, so much the better.
At the site of the destroyed Weber’s World, a small band of Legionnaires lick their wounds after facing the Emerald Empress, with the maimed Mon-El confined to a medical stasis tube. And having worked out that Validus, Tharok and the axe-wielding Persuader are also in play, Brainiac 5 wonders who the final member will prove to be.
The story closes with two Legionnaires transported back to Legion HQ on Earth, where they find one of the Five standing over a friend – is she dead?
Yes, writer Paul Levitz plays the ‘has a Legionnaire been killed?’ card yet again, but this issue confirms that where he’s presenting an apparent death, ‘apparent’ is very much the operative word. I wondered if Jacques’ old shifting power would return, and it did. And Phantom Girl has obviously phased back to her homeworld of Bgztl.
Finally, four issues into the Fatal Five storyline, the Legion fights back. The Validus smackdown is excellent, showcasing Blok for the first time in years, and Mysa gets to strut her stuff too, combining her elemental powers with Glorith’s time magic to do something really rather amazing.
And while I’d rather see new Legion leader Tinya beat the Promethean Giant than flee, what’s she supposed to do? Her powers are more subtle than offensive, and with Polar Boy and Invisible Kid missing and Sun Boy (apparently!) dead, she doesn’t actually have anyone to lead. Last month she was so full of uncharacteristic despair that she was ready to die – I’ll take an evasive Tinya over a suicidal one any day. At least if she gets away she can find some Legionnaires to rally.
Black Witch and Blok are seriously impressive; they’re no longer active members but they retain the Legion spirit in spades, never hesitating in their efforts to save lives and fight back. Plus, Mysa’s scrying game provides the first overview of the situation any Legionnaires have had since the universe-wide crisis began with the failure of 31st-century technology.
We learn more of the nature of Tharok’s new powers, as he wrangles the basically brainless Validus to search the Sorcerers’ World for the gem that will spell ‘the doom of the most powerful Legionnaire’. He could mean the Black Witch, but a narration box is ambiguous – my money is on Glorith, paving the way for her to go bad and become the fifth Fatal Five member. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Legion’s old foe Mordru, here referred to as Mysa’s ‘captive demon’, comes into play too – he loses his power when buried alive, and there’s an awful lot of dirt thrown up this issue.
One of my favourite things this time is the Black Witch’s dialogue, which simply drips doom, even as she leads her fellows to a victory. This is Levitz at his very best, bringing the various elements of the story together while showing off the Legion’s ability to work as a team, channel their individual power to a greater purpose. I really didn’t want this chapter to end, we’re at a dramatic crescendo and I’m excited by the prospect of a shocking climax. And with the current run of this book just announced as ending at #23, I don’t doubt we’ll get one – but I trust Levitz not to murder most of the team to make way for some JLA knock-off.
Anyway, that’s a worry for another day. For now, just look at Francis Portela’s work – does DC have an artist better at mixing sheer beauty with the ability to tell a story? There’s not a panel that doesn’t bear staring at, but the storytelling ensures you’ll do that after getting to the end, rather than stopping mid-tale. Every beat of Levitz’s script is beautifully hit – it’s such a shame Portela hasn’t been around to draw all of this storyline – it’d make for a stunning-looking trade.
Regular colourist Javier Mena lights up the pages in ways 21st-century-set books don’t allow, making Portela’s illustrations look even more gorgeous without falling into the land of Pretty Pretty. And Dezi Sienty’s letters are exemplary, with the choice of font for Mysa particularly good from a visual and ‘sound’ perspective.
Mena is credited as colouring the cover, with Francis Portela drawing. Actually, it’s George Perez pencilling and inking, but you’d barely know it, with Perez’s trademark delicacy mown down by unsympathetic colouring by Persons Unknown. Validus is one of the Legion’s best-known foes, but you’d be hard-pressed to recognise him from this image. The brute manages to dominate the composition, while simultaneously being lost. Someone’s placement of cover copy doesn’t help.
I don’t know what happened, because an earlier, differently toned version of the illo, gets it just right – Validus’ colours are on display, and his trademark mental lightning is blasting outwards. Whoever changed the colours deserves a date with the Emerald Empress.
But that’s the one blight on an excellent issue – more instalments like this, and the Legion might not be damned. As it is, it looks as if the latest run by Levitz and Portela is going out on a high.