L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #7 – Reviews Of Old Comics

blogheaderTRIGGER WARNING: This comic features content that may be distressing to people sensitive to the subject of sexual assault.

It’s amazing what a difference time makes with comic book stories. As a Legion fan, I picked up L.E.G.I.O.N. for it’s links to the 30th century. It had to fight against the perception of being the ancestors of some key Legionnaires conveniently teaming up a thousand years before their descendants would find themselves on the same team. In that first year, efforts were made to fight this, with the inclusion of characters unrelated to the Legion. Among those characters was Stealth.

Stealth was a mystery. Her powers were an ability to cancel out sound around her and baffle any attempts to detect her. She was hard to analyze with technology, which eventually came from the nature of her race’s reproduction, which was very genetically regressive. She was physically formidable, but on a team with a giant rock creature and the Shadow Champion of Lallor, she was easy to dismiss. However, this issue came about which put her into a new light.

This is where it gets a little troublesome. Stealth’s mystery takes a drastic turn in this issue resulting in multiple murders and sexual assault, all committed by Stealth. In 1989, this could be perceived as flipping the script on women being assaulted by men, but in today’s climate, it doesn’t sit as well. If this were another web site, this issue might make the list of “times DC Comics went too far” or “things DC Comics doesn’t want you to remember.” Since it’s me, it gets a listing in Reviews of Old Comics.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #7

August 1989
DC Comics

Plot/Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Script: Alan Grant
Penciller: Barry Kitson
Inker: Mark McKenna
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Gaspar (Saladino)

Synopsis:

Vril Dox and Lyrissa Mallor are arguing about the takeover of the Cairn police force. Dox also has killed a major Cairn druglord, Kanis-Biz. Dox defends his actions as being for a greater good. Mallor leaves, warning him that one day he’ll go too far and answer to her for his deeds.
 
The Durlan and Garyn Bek discuss that Dox’s murder of Kanis-Biz has brought the wrath of his fellow druglords. They have banded together and have circled the Cairn police headquarters, set to destroy Vril Dox and any that support him. Dox meets will several of his staff and assures them he has a plan.
 
Stealth is jogging when two men catcall her. She decides to give them a tumble. Meanwhile, Lyrissa and Strata discuss the situation and why they’ve stuck with Dox.
 
Dox meets with Lobo, and shares a toast before beginning to enact his plan, involving cutting Lobo. Stealth returns to headquarters covered in blood. The Durlan is shocked. His senses indicate that Stealth might be in heat.
 
Dox communicates with a representative of the assembled drug lords. He gives them a chance to leave. They demand that Dox step down as police chief before they bring all their firepower down on his head. Dox mentions Czarnian physiology, but the drug lord dismisses it, as all Czarnians are dead. Of course, Lobo is the last Czarnian. Immediately after the drug lord disconnects the communication, the Durlan cautions Dox against alienating the others that have formed the core of their group.
 
The computer tyrants of Colu, now in humanoid form, arrive through space and land on Talok VIII. Cross-referencing their memory, the realize that this is the homeworld of Lyrissa Mallor, which they become very excited about. 
 
The next morning, the assembled drug lords attack. Dox sends Lobo to launch the counterattack, going to his quarters to await the surrender. An army of Lobo clones charge into attack aboard rocket bikes, with direction to kill everything. They board ships, killing everyone in sight and blowing them up. Some of the Lobos are mowed down by the drug lords’ forces, but true to Czarnian physiology, it only causes more Lobo clones to form.
 
Dox goes into the quarters of his core group. All are still asleep as Dox explains his motives to the sleeping group. He tranquilized their food the night before. The Computer Tyrants of Colu never gave him compassion or a conscience. Therefore, he only does what he must. Stealth sits up and reveals that the tranquilizers didn’t work on her alien metabolism. Also, the two men she killed did nothing to satisfy her urges. Dox tries to fight her, but she beats him into a bloody mess and tells him to sit back and enjoy.
 

Review:

This cover is awesome. I’ve always preferred covers without any captions, word balloons or other blurbs touting the issue. Great cover art can sell the issue on its own, and Kevin Maguire is one of those artists that could deliver it.

Now it’s time to deal with the elephant in the room for this comic. Stealth commits several sexual assaults. It’s seen as horrific by those that learn of it, but the Durlan does nothing to alert anyone of it, and by the time Dox learns, it’s too late for him. In subsequent issues, Stealth’s crimes are not punished or condemned, but otherwise ignored. Dox makes her an officer in L.E.G.I.O.N.. They even cover up her assault on Dox.

As time has gone on, this element doesn’t age well at all. It’s a hard sell for getting anyone interested in this series, even as an ancillary series to Legion of Super-Heroes or Lobo. The scripting tries to juxtapose it with Lobo’s brutality, but it’s a false comparison. Lobo’s brutality is for the sake of carnage, while Stealth is exerting power over others and satisfy baser desires that go beyond the need to murder.

As for the story itself, it shows why Lobo as a character had to be curtailed. Lobo is a parody. In making him a regular character in a series, he has to be taken down the power level ladder. As a result of this scheme Dox uses to take out the drug lords, Lobo’s unique reproductive quality of growing instant clones from his blood is rendered inoperative. It needed to be done, and outside of the next issue’s rage, Lobo doesn’t get dramatically changed by it at all.

Dox’s character takes his ultimate turn here. His motives are explained as genuinely for the best, but a lack of empathy or morality doesn’t place limits on him using those around him to further his ends. It’s also nice that it takes several issues to get the team called L.E.G.I.O.N. in place, evenm though that doesn’t happen until around the eleventh issue. 

The art by Barry Kitson shows some of the element s that got refined for his more recent work. A lot of the lack of appeal may come down to inker Mark McKenna. Within two years, Kitson would be inking himself and showing a lot more detail. Here, the end product was sparser, and left the book looking unremarkable. The core is there, but the end result is lackluster.

Notes:

This issue has not been collected, to the best of my research. L.E.G.I.O.N. never had very much impact on the rest of the DC Continuity. Just recently, Vril Dox reappeared in the DC Continuity, making this series more interesting. However, to own a copy of this issue, you certainly shouldn’t spend too much. It should be easy to find in well-stocked bargain boxes. While not apparently on Comixology, it can be found for Kindle, and may be available on other digital platforms that have escaped my notice.

Final Rating: 5.0 (out of 10)

The sexual assault wipes out any advantage the writing gives this book. I feel that calling this an average comic doesn’t get into how badly this has aged.