Writer Gerry Conway maintains his enthusiasm through this Legion entry, though he doesn’t have as many pages as usual to fill. Paul Kupperberg writes a backup—with pencils from Steve Ditko!–and eight fewer pages is what Conway needs.
He also gets to break away from the Legion story for a few pages to explore a planetary mining operation, where the women are the fighter pilots because dudes just aren’t suited for that kind of work. Conway starts the issue letting Duo Damsel save the day from last issue’s cliffhanger, and—even though there’s occasional cringe—he seems to like writing strong women more than annoying guys.
And the starfighters versus giant space genie sequence has better art than the space superhero pages. Jim Janes pencils the feature, with Dave Hunt on inks (Hunt also inks Ditko on the backup). Janes’s visual pacing on the battle might be his best work to date on Legion. I certainly can’t remember anything else comparable.
The genie’s attacking the mining colony because he’s only been awake a few hours, and he’s seen humanity infest the stars, greedily strip-mining the cosmos. No lies detected.
Conway also reveals the genie’s origin, which involves the Guardians (the Green Lantern Guardians), who imprisoned an entire species to little bottles and flung them out to various worlds in the galaxy. Just like the strip-mining, it’s a little weird how the book tries to present the Guardians as the good guys. Instead, they seem like thoughtless dicks.
And if they’re not thoughtless, they’re certainly not particularly prescient. Patronizing, maybe.
After Duo Damsel’s very wordy rescue mission—she has thought balloons for almost her entire sequence, the female star fighter, and the genie origin, Conway’s only got time for the action finale and wrap-up. He does all right. It’s a little silly, but Conway never gets bored, and he doesn’t seem to loathe any of the characters he’s writing, which is nice.
The backup’s a mixed bag. Maybe half of Ditko’s panels are fun Silver Age-ish ones; then the other half is a little lazy. Hunt’s inks hold the line (no pun) for about half the story, then figures start getting very loose. There’s still some good composition, even if the story itself is incredibly confusing. It’s the origin of the Legion flight rings and Kupperberg overwrites Brainiac 5 and the exposition dumps.
If one’s interested enough in the curiosity of Ditko illustrating, the art alone can carry the story—until the mealy-mouthed exposition at the end—but it’s a disappointment. Not just compared to the surprisingly adequate feature but also the backup’s first couple pages. Everything’s clicking (relatively) before it breaks down.
Still, a pretty decent issue for Legion.
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