Friday, April 17, 2009

Legion of Superheroes: the Polar Boy Years

Pause for a moment to pity poor, poor Polar Boy. Brek Bannin left his home planet of Tharr with dreams of joining the Legion of Superheroes only to be rejected by the snotty future teens. After decades of toiling in the Legion of Substitute Heroes, he finally got called up to the big team in 1985's Legion of Superheroes #17. He soon ran for and won leadership of the team in issue #36, a meteoric rise for this former joke of a character.

Little did Polar Boy know he was to preside over the END of the Legion of Superheroes. Well, one of many ends, anyway. In this case, longtime Legion scribe Paul Levitz was leaving the book, and the Legion series was winding down, ending with the Magic Wars, and beginning a grim deterioration of the team that preceded Keith Giffen's notorious "Five Years Later" Legion reboot.

So Brekk ended up leading a depleted Legion into unavoidable catastrophe with no hope of success. At least Giffen was there to draw the hell out of it. He was experimenting with his style at the time, and I was really digging the sleek, Kevin Maguire-inspired work. I especially liked the crazy new matching uniforms that everyone else, including the characters, seemed to hate. Well, I thought they were kind of cool, anyway.

The in-story reason for the costumes was great, too. Everyone was mad at Polar Boy about the uniforms, but they had been designed and produced by the weird little Validus-Computo homunculus that Braniac 5 had left running the lab at the time. Even when they "win", some guys just can't win.

Not-really-related, but hilarious: And what, you ask, was Bouncing Boy doing during all of this? Running the Legion Academy and Rocking a Paul Blart-esque mustache, of course!


Matthew E said...

Actually I think Sensor Girl was leader by the time the Magic Wars came around. But Polar Boy was back in charge as acting leader during the Five Year Gap when government pressure forced him to disband the Legion.

The costumes of that era were among the very worst. Wildfire and Dawnstar in particular.

Kid Kyoto said...

"nd beginning a grim deterioration of the team that preceded Keith Giffen's notorious "Five Years Later" Legion reboot."

I think you mean "Giffen's MIND-BLOWINGLY AWESOME five years later reboot".

And mark me down for liking the costumes.

coco67 said...

I think that in retrospect a half dozen or so reboots down the line, this stands as the best of them by a mile. All of them since have been in the service of being "new reader friendly" with the unintended effect of dumbing down the book and being a jumping off point for long time readers. This one was unapologetically dense and rewarding to those of us who refer to the characters by their ..unusual names without batting an eye. Technically not a reboot, as it didn't change the past, I agree whole heartedly that it was mind-blowingly awesome, and think that the uniforms were among the best ever. The variations on a theme, like second generation X-Men uniforms were, well, uniform. This variations theme continued in the next iteration of the Legion as well. And the pockets and pouches! I can buy that Superman can compress his suit down to fit in a pocket in his cape, but what the heck does he do with his shoes, glasses, wallet and keys!?

Brian Hughes said...

Matthew was correct in that Projectra presided over the last four issues of this particular series, but then Polar boy came back as leader in time to see the
Legion fall into disfavor with Earthgov and to disband the Legion during the Five-year gap.

All of this inspired me to pull out and re-read the excellent-but controversial "Five-Years -Later" LSH series, which is never a waste of time. I may have to blog about those, soon.

Remember "Tenzil for the Defense"?

Mego Thor said...

Another vote for the "Five Years Later" Legion. Probably THE best era of fantastic comic. I eagerly await future blogs on this subject. Long Live the Legion!

googum said...

Oh, hell yeah. What's kind of sad, in the Five Years Later run, most of the Subs became competant, effective heroes...except for Polar Boy.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I liked the 5YL LSH - but I LOVED the whole era just beforehand that killed Karate Kid and ushered in Sensor Girls.

*Sigh* - those were the days!