Omnicommentary #1: Y'All Want This Party Started, Right?

Legionnaires #1: Baptism by Fire!

Creative Team: Tom & Mary Bierbaum (writers); Chris Sprouse (penciller); Karl Story (inker); Pat Brosseau (letterer); Tom McCraw (colorist); April 1993.

Legion Roll Call: Apparition; Chameleon; Cosmic Boy; Computo; Ferro; Live Wire; Saturn Girl; Shrinking Violet; Triad; and Ultra Boy.

Miscellaneous Notes: There are two dedications in this issue.  The first is "Special thanks to all the Gaijin guys!"; this is for the sadly defunct Gaijin Studios, which boasted artists such as Sprouse, Adam Hughes, Brian Stelfreeze, Jason Pearson, and Cully Hamner among its members.  The second is the enigmatic "For Carl" - maybe this is a friend from the Interlac APA?

Summary: On New Earth, the Legionnaires find themselves trying to stop the destruction of the powergrid that keeps the cities linked.  A gang called the Hand (not the one from Daredevil) is responsible, but Mega, a girl forced to join the gang, volunteers to help them end the attacks.  With her help, they find the gag's base, but they're quickly overwhelmed.  Mega is killed by the gang's boss, Mano, who threatens to off an unconscious Ultra Boy with his glowing hand of doom.

Continuity Notes: Chameleon explains to the team - and thus the readers - the situation with New Earth and the team's mission to keep it safe & relatively free from misery.  It's expo-speak masked as a pep talk, but this is preferable to the options of leaving new readers in the dark entirely or disrupting the story flow with a flashback.
Consulted in this story is New Earth's president, former Legionnaire Troy "Tyroc" Stewart.  From Awkward Character Limbo to president of the space equivalent of the wild west - not bad for a character whose co-creator thought he was a joke.  Bits like this are one of the highlights of this era for Legion fans - the Bierbaums liked to find characters considered obscure and return them to respectability.
Mano, as you may or may not know, is one of the Fatal Five.  How evil is this guy?  He blew up his homeworld because people were teasing him.  Not the individuals doing the teasing - the whole freaking planet.  Is it any wonder the attempts in the reboot to cast him as a "sympathetic" baddie just didn't work?
Finally, this issue starts the founders' love triangle, my feelings about which will become absolutely apparent as it becomes more of a plot point.  It also starts the Bierbaums' characterization of Garth as a hot-headed jerk; y'see, this was his true self, while the noble young man who'd retire to raise his kids was really Proty I.  Look, it's complicated - just read Garth's Hero History for a much better explanation.

Gimmicks: Yes, it's 1993 - you can't have a first issue in 1993 without a gimmick!  This issue came in a plastic baggie labeled "FREE Sky Box trading card inside!"  The card's actually an ad for the Cosmic Teams line - it has a nice picture of Computo on the front, but the back is just telling you about the card line, not about her or the team.  Also, this issue starts listing little bios for the team members alphabetically in the back in lieu of letters pages.  We start with Alchemist through Dragonmage.

I Love the 90s: The inside back cover has an ad for Sega CD games.  Which games, you ask?  Why, the Make My Video series, of course!  Can't have them advertising something good, like the Lunar games!  This is why people like me who owned one are embarassed to admit it.

DC Commercial Break: House ads this issue include Milestone's Hardware (who has been reintroduced before Rocket in the new 52, which is criminal) and a truly, indescribably hideous ad for Darkstars.  It's only the size of a newspaper comic, but it's so scratchy and badly colored... I can't do it justice.  I really can't.

Comments: Now this is a first issue.  If this were done today, it'd be at least three issues, and the up-coming reveals would take at least a year.  Instead, we get a solid rescue/fight scene, some character pieces, and a good strong cliffhanger.  At the very least, you'll be bringing them back for one more issue.
I'll be honest - it wasn't just the story that made me follow this series.  I've always been a sucker for stuff like the Marvel Handbook and Who's Who, so I wanted to read the rest of the bios as much as the plot. I've written before at Livejournal about what a nice way to catch up new readers on the cast this was, so obviously it must have worked for this new reader. It's the rare 90s gimmick that actually worked.
The art by Sprouse is perfect.  It's not as clean in the linework as his newer pieces, which works; it fits the griminess of New Earth nicely.  It also has a bit of an anime-ish feel to me without veering into cartooniness.  It's worth noting that this costume template will stick around for a long time, both here and in the first reboot (heck, you can see traces of it in Kitson, Manapul, Frank, and others' newer designs).  It's a great look for the Legion - it lets each character have his own signature look & personality while still showing them as being on the same team.
All things considered, we're off to a great start.  Let's hope there aren't any, say, love triangles to break the pace.

Comments

  1. Carl is Tom Bierbaum's brother. He's the one who got Tom into the Legion in the first place. There's a great story about it here.

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