And, lo, there was an ending. And it was good. That it’s ending. The actual story? Well, that’s a mixed bag.
Justice League #261
Vibe is dead. Steel is dead. Everyone else has quit. But J’onn J’onzz is still alive and kicking and he’s after revenge.
So is Vixen. Steel’s death has forced her into action. She tracks Ivo to his lair, but is beset upon by a number of androids. Fortunately, J’onn arrives in time to save her. They continue to fight the androids while Ivo watches. When she gets the chances, Vixen attacks Ivo, ripping his head off.
But this Ivo is yet another construct. Did Vixen know that before she killed him? She says she did, but there’s ambiguity there, which works nicely with what we’ll see in the next phase of Vixen’s life (in the pages of the Suicide Squad, which spins out of Legends). The real Ivo is in a straight jacket in a padded cell where he ha apparently been since his androids freed him from Arkham Asylum. He is riddled with guilt over the deaths caused by his constructs.
J’onn and Vixen take him into custody and eventually close the book on the Justice League. J’onn says there must always be a Justice League and Vixen tells him that he should leave her out. Just as J’onn is about to leave their HQ, he sees an emergency signal, and flies off to see if he can help.
That signal leads him to…
This issue is a bit of an editorial clusterfuck, although it’s not like the entire series has been sparkling.
After Dr. Fate assembled a new Justice League (they aren’t calling themselves that yet), Martian Manhunter just kind of shows up. The problem here is that these others were literally united by Fate, so J’onn just seems like that kid who’s trying to hang out with you and your friends but no one really wants him there and he can’t take a hint. Why not make J’onn one of the heroes Fate called upon? I’m guessing the scheduling of the final issue of Justice League of America made that a problem, but it would have made a lot more sense.
And speaking of heroes just kind of randomly showing up, post-Crisis Wonder Woman makes her debut, at least for the rest of the DCU (her solo book had just launched). She just kind of shows up in the middle of the battle between the heroes and G. Gordon Godfrey’s forces. I guess editorial just added her at the last minute to make Legends more relevant to their current publishing push? Because that’s what it seems like.
Anyway, the heroes beat the bad guys and America turns on Godfrey after they see him hit a little kid (go wherever you want with that information, as it’s ripe for commentary) and in the end Dr. Fate announces them as a new team…except that most of them bail. Superman says he’ll help when he’s needed, but can’t join. Wonder Woman disappears just as mysteriously as she appeared. The Flash echoes Superman. Changeling says he’s sticking with the Titans.
Batman agrees to join because of justice (yes, justice). Blue Beetle is on board because what else is he going to do? Black Canary is in. Captain Marvel is in. Guy Gardner says maybe, but who is he trying to fool? Martian Manhunter is only too eager to get the band back together.
What really matters here is that this series ends and leads into two of the greatest superhero comics DC has ever published.
Secret Origins #14
Before launching one of the aforementioned greatest comics, DC decided to give its readers some back story on the Suicide Squad.
Technically, this is the story of Rick Flag, whose father led the original Suicide Squad, and who would follow in his father’s footsteps. The story of the Flag boys is at the heart of the Suicide Squad, not just because they were in charge of the teams, but because the Squad is a reflection of who they were. While committed to serving their country, the Flags also carried with them a real sense of sadness, a feeling that dying at any moment was totally fine with them.
They’re both clinically depressed and the fact that the elder Flag passes this along to the younger only underscores that they’re dealing with real problems. In a way, it’s a nice to read because it’s not handled as if either of the Flags is a bad person, nor are they depicted as being insane. You can also look at their desire to serve their country at any cost — ANY cost — as an attempt at finding meaning, something so hard to find when you’re battling depression.
This is also the origin story of Amanda Waller, one of the greatest characters to ever come from DC. And it’s not just that Waller stands at odds with the typical depiction of a women, let alone a woman of color, in comics. She is a wonderful character. She sees all the angles, plays all the angles, puts up a front when needed, but gives ground when she has to. She’s a political person who hates red tape, yet manages it masterfully. She is ruthless and incredibly caring at the same time. She is a force of nature and perhaps the most fully realized, three dimensional character to grace the pages of a superhero comic.
What’s interesting about this issue is that it does very little to entice readers to buy the Suicide Squad if the premise of the Squad is “dangerous super villain work release programs.” There’s no indication of the Who’s Who of characters that will move in and out of the series for it’s 5+ years of existence.
But it tells you what the Suicide Squad is really about: characters, flawed, troubled, complex characters, the likes of which we will never see again.
Bonus: Justice League #1
As I’ve stated many, many times, the payoff from Legends comes in the form of the Suicide Squad series and the new volume of the Justice League. Both are fantastic titles that you should absolutely track down.
The Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire era of the Justice League often gets reduced to the “Bwa-ha-ha-ha!” era, or the “funny” Justice League, because including humor in a superhero comic just wasn’t really done back then. But the truth of the matter is that this version of the Justice League focused on the characters first, the superheroics second. This led to some comedy gold, of course, but it also led to some excellent dramatic moments.
The six characters from Legends are joined by Dr. Fate, who brought them together, and Mister Miracle to form the new Justice League. But while the team is trying to get its legs under it, a mysterious new character appears to be manipulating them for some reason.
The other fantastic thing about this series, beyond the character moments, is the indication that there’s a plan. The series launches as the Justice League, with no national affiliation. The book would evolve in that regard over the course of its first two and a half years. It would eventually become Justice League International, then Justice League of America when a second title, Justice League Europe, was launched. This seemed to be the goal from the start and it’s rare to read a comic that appears to have nearly three years of stories worked out in advance.
In the end, Legends can be considered a success because it gave us two of the greatest comics DC would ever publish. If it hadn’t been for the eventual greatness of the Suicide Squad and Justice League, Legends wouldn’t have been just a disaster of a comic, but a failure as well.