Anticipating some hits with that title but this is actually the third post on 1982’s Great Darkness Saga starring the Legion of Super-Heroes!
I’ve written previously about reading the first installment on my first visit to London in the summer of 1982, along with the second part of the Brother Blood/New Teen Titans story.
In fact, I read the second and third parts first in Glasgow’s Virgin Megastore. Crazy comics scheduling in the early 80s.
I feel I have to add that I’d worked out who the Master was from his astro-harness -wearing servant and I’m sure many Kirby fans would have done the same.
And the Servant Shall Be a Sign : Superboy returns. I-Kid gets a uniform- coloured white in the original and swapped with yellow in the TPB. The LSH encounters the first of the Servants at the Tower of London. Cameos by Dr. Strange (oh, all right “Antonio Stefanacci” ) and a tour guide descended from Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen.
A Sign of Darkness Dawning: Legion archfoes Mordru and the Time Trapper are attacked by the master. After meeting the servants, I-Kid gets a skunk -stripe in his hair a la Pepe Le Pew and we meet the New White Witch. Formerly a slinky redhead, Dream Girl’s sister Mysa was formerly described as the Adult Legion’s “buddy”. She hasn’t been seen since the late 60s and returns here as a fairy-like figure.
Leaders and Lovers: originally a vignette by Howard Bender, this sequence was redrawn in Giffen’s “Munoz” style for the 1989 tpb. The three Legion founders fight the Servants and Lightning Lad recovers from his collapse. Dream Girl has been elected leader, which seems to be part of the general consciousness-raising among the female Legionnaires.
Darkness Transcendent: Cham is sent to jail after the secret Khund mission and the LSH battles the Servants on the Sorcerors World. Mysa’s Teachers are all highly- stylised elemental beings. A mysterious infant materialises during the conflict.
Within the Darkness : the master is revealed as Darkseid who was last seen the 1980 JlA/JSA/New Gods trilogy drawn by Perez. Having boosted his powers through magic in the last few issues, Darkseid transposes Apokolips and Daxam, a planet whose inhabitants have Kryptonian powers under Apokolips’ yellow sun. Reshaping their planet to resemble their master’s stony face, they go on the rampage. Bouncing Boy, Duo Damsel , Karate Kid (both in new Giffen costumes) and Projectra rally to the team’s side.
Darkseid: LSH allies Supergirl, the Subs, the Heroes of Lallor, the Wanderers and Dev-Em, the former Knave from Krypton ramp up the nostalgia factor. Quantum Queen , a doomed Adult Legionnaire not even glimpsed since the early 70s , is depicted as an abstract energy being.
A destructive Daxamite child called Ol-Vir wrecks the prison planet ; we’ll see more of this character in the future. White Witch demonstrates the extent of her magic but Darkseid plays on the deepest fears of the Legionnaires. Giffen includes a cheeky and amusing swipe from Michelangelo.
The mysterious infant is revealed as Highfather who restores Orion. Superboy and Supergirl add their might and Darkseid is defeated but he puts a curse on the Legion…
By enslaving an entire super-race, Darkseid really comes of age with this storyline as a premiere comics villain. He attains the status of the Joker, Luthor and Marvel’s Magneto, Dr. Doom and the Green Goblin . The story that probably cements that status is X-Men /New Teen Titans in September 1982.
From there, it’s Byrne’s Legends and Superman in the mid-80s that lead to Darkseid’s role in the Superman animated series and as the threat in the final series of Smallville. Such is his significance, he also became the prime threat for the New 52 Justice League.
The power of Kirby’s Fourth World which, of course, stuttered to a halt in the early 70s, is vindicated here. I think. Orion returns to his original design and the characters really have mythical proportions by dint of appearing 1,000 years in the future.
As for the Levitz/ Giffen collaboration, there are multiple sub-plots and the story resembles present-day decompressed scripts. However, the inventiveness of Giffen’s imagery disguises this with its blend of Kirby and Starlin influences, peppered with tiny, often humorous cameos. My only complaint would be that the brunette men- Ultra Boy, Karate Kid and Timber Wolf – all tend to look alike. What struck me most, re-reading the storyline in the new edition was how good it felt to see the cousins from Krypton back in the Legion- and how Byrne’s Man of Steel handicapped the team.
The next post will look at the aftermath of the storyline then we’ll return to the Batman Family. After that, look for the Legion of Super-Villains and (possibly) Wonder Woman…
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