Thursday, August 29, 2013


What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Dope (Berkeley, 2006).

There aren't many books that I'll blow through in a day. From a couple of weeks' distance, I can see some of the flaws in Sara Gran's third novel, Dope, but for a good few hours there, those cracks were invisible. This was a hugely fun ride and I enjoyed it tremendously. It's lost a little bit of its shine, but not too much.

I'm a big fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels, and think that they reached their peak in the 1950s, the era in which Dope takes place. But while Stout's stories are very entertaining, they're also very wish-fulfilling. The world of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe is one of fantasy and privilege, with only occasional peaks into the desperate world where the poor and the junkies and the prostitutes live. I felt that Dope is a more honest portrayal of New York City's squalor and misery. These are not the sort of people who can afford Mr. Wolfe's rates.

Things apparently begin when a well-to-do couple from upstate - the sort of people who could afford Wolfe or his associates - start looking for their runaway daughter. They hired a private investigator to find her, but he tracks her as far as he's able. She's disappeared so far into prostitution and heroin houses that he can't dig any deeper. One recommendation after another leads them to our story's narrator, Josephine "Joe" Flannigan. She's a former heroin addict and hooker herself, and, while clean for many months, is still a criminal, financing her cheap apartment through small cons and shoplifting. Maybe one day, Joe will get out of the gutter. She's made pretty good progress but has a long way to go, and the payoff from finding the missing girl could keep her floating until she finds honest work somewhere.

Joe's voice cracks a couple of times. Her author, Gran, is clearly an intelligent person, more so than Joe should be, and there are occasions where the author's 21st Century insight is more evident than the lowly-educated Joe's. It's also apparent that Gran has read considerably more hard-boiled fiction of the period than Joe ever could. It results in a very pleasing homage to the genre, culminating in an unforgettable climax, but its one that could have been even more of a gut-punch if we'd taken a little more time getting to know Joe's life and relationships. Recommended despite the minor quibbles, as this really did please me more than not.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Three Bags Full

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Three Bags Full (Doubleday, 2005).

This is certainly one of the most unusual detective novels that I've ever read, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it was a winner. I wonder what Chandler would have made of it. Far from featuring a knight, not himself mean, walking down mean streets in search of capital-T Truth, it features a flock of neurotic and slightly stupid sheep, wondering what will happen to them now that their shepherd, George, has died, his body found in the meadow impaled by a spade.

Unfortunately for the capital-T Truth and any hope that it has of coming to light, the policeman responsible for order in this quiet, craggy corner of Ireland is even more stupid than the sheep, willingly turning a blind eye to all sorts of criminal activity that has strange visitors coming around to George's caravan, with its impenetrable locks, confusing the sheep even further. One thing is certain: George had read to his flock for years, and they have a general understanding of the importance of justice. George's killer must be brought to it. Wherever that is.

I really appreciated the author's ability to create a large cast of distinctive and memorable characters. From a black ram with mysterious origins called Othello to the eccentric Mopple, who has the best memory among the sheep, they appear to be at least a little bit equipped to tackle this investigation, but then they realize that they can't actually count themselves to ensure that everyone is present, as none of them can count higher than ten and do not know how many of them are supposed to be there in the first place. And even when they identify a suspect, how can they tell the humans?

To be honest, this book does get a little long-winded. It's more than merely a very strange detective story with odd rules, it's an exploration of the philosophy of its unusual protagonists. About two-thirds of the way into the book, I was a little restless with a case that couldn't go anywhere, and sheep freaking out about the possibility of life after death. The sheep spend a lot of time freaking out, come to think of it. Some of the instances are pretty funny, since their intellectual limitations keep crashing down on them, but more often than not it's just too much of life itself that does them in. As an experiment, it probably succeeds, but not by a great deal, and I find myself hesitant to recommend it very strongly. Its highs are interesting, but with so many long stretches of tedium, it was a drag to finish.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Comeback (1997).

From 1962-1974, Donald E. Westlake, using the pseudonym Richard Stark, had written a pile of quite awesome thrillers about a criminal named Parker and the meticulous, detailed, highwire capers that he would pull, often in conjunction with other criminals, most of whom couldn't be trusted. Westlake retired the character after '74's Butcher's Moon and resumed other writing.

Parker was revived in 1997 for a series of five novels with overlapping titles. (Comeback, then Backflash, then Flashfire and so on.) In this story, Parker has only been retired for a short time - as is often the case, the age of protagonists in series fiction is roughly consistent, and doesn't reflect the passing of a quarter-century since his last outing - and comes on board a promising score of $400,000 to be heisted from a disagreeable TV preacher's "crusade" at a small city stadium.

It's impossible to read a good caper story and not be impressed and pleased with the amount of planning and detail. This is a scheme that has every contingency planned for, except for the inevitable betrayal by one of the hoods, who fails to take all the money, but leaves a terrible loose end that Parker has to eliminate before leaving town. And then there's the bizarre arrival of three wet-behind-the-ears criminals who somehow know about their hiding place. Who the heck clued these guys in?

There's considerable similarity between the improvisational, fix-everything-fast nature of Westlake's books and the work of Gregory Macdonald, but Westlake was just eye-poppingly perfect at it. The inevitable showdown between Parker and the hood who has to die goes on a bit longer than I would have liked, but getting there was a thunderously fun and never predictable ride. Recommended, and looking forward to reading more of these.

Monday, August 19, 2013

LSH 1994 Reread, part eleven

Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 # 96-99 and Legionnaires# 53-55, 1997)

Major developments:

*In the 20th Century, we learn to our shock that Cos has actually been unconscious for weeks, still comatose. Imra's subconscious has been animating him. She is actually in love with Garth.
*Jo and Tinya get married.
*Crossing over with the Justice League and the New Gods to battle Darkseid, Ayla's powers are altered and she can now make things weightless.
*Brainiac 5 obtains one of the alien "Mother Box" sentient supercomputers. He had already been experimenting with Doc Magnus's "responsometer." Magnus and the Mother Box merge into a robotic intelligence called COMPUTO, attacking everyone else in fear that they will disassemble him once they've returned through time.
*In the 30th Century, Monstress is fitting in wonderfully and bringing good cheer to the once-gloomy team, although Magno, who has returned home to Braal, despairs of the loss of his powers.
*Lori Morning has found a HERO dial and is assisting police on small incidents disguised as different seen-once-only superheroes.
*The creative team is as before: Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer, and Roger Stern writing, Lee Moder and Jeffrey Moy as principal artists. Derec Aucoin assists with pencils on LSH # 99.

Oh, lord, the 20th Century stuff is just murdering me. There's SO MUCH OF IT that I didn't know was out there. There's a Supergirl Annual. There's a second line-wide crossover called Genesis. There's an issue of Secret Files & Origins. They're in Action Comics. That random other character who came back from the 30th Century with them, Inferno? She gets her own series! Good grief!!

Remember in the 1960s when Brainiac 5 built a supercomputer called Computo and it turned evil, because that's what supercomputers did in the 1960s? Well, here, Brainiac 5 takes the little "responsometer" device that powers the Metal Man Veridium, who used to be Doc Magnus, and plugs it into one of those odd "Mother Boxes" that Jack Kirby gave the New Gods, and it technoprestomagically turns Doc Magnus into C.O.M.P.U.T.O., which stands for something unimportant, and then it wants to wipe out humanity, and part three is in an issue of Action Comics which I don't own. I honestly do not care if I never read it.

Again, the 30th Century material is much better, and, as Lee Moder seems to be drawing less and less of the main book, it's more consistent because Jeff Moy never seems to take a day off. I'm enjoying it a heck of a lot and, as I've said many times before, I think it's a very underrated title that totally deserves its small but loyal fanbase. Shame about the crossovers though. They kill it stone dead.

Well, I promised eleven installments of this little project, and here's the eleventh. I'm enjoying the book a lot and have many more comics to read, but the chapters about the 1994 reread have found virtually no audience. People came to read me when I was talking about the Paul Levitz-helmed books, but either the 1994 series is much less popular than I believed, or people just aren't linking to it, or something. Each Levitz-reread chapter was getting 300 or more views, and the last few of these have barely managed a sixth of that. So that's the last of these; I'll write some more about detective fiction for the rest of the month. Thanks to all of the Legion's fans who read, commented, and emailed while I was doing this, and I hope that you keep me bookmarked for more little reviews about books and comics. LLL!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sinister Dexter: Witless Protection

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Sinister Dexter: Witless Protection (Rebellion, 2013).

I was startled when I heard the news that Sinister Dexter, a seventeen year-old action series written by Dan Abnett and drawn by dozens, was coming back after what seemed like an understated and overdue finale. I thought for sure that beast had been put out of our misery. Then I read that John Burns would be in charge of art duties and, for the first time since the series should have ended in 2005, I looked forward to the new episodes. John Burns painting Sinister Dexter is so obvious a pairing that everybody was amazed that it had not happened previously.

Sinister Dexter is an occasionally lighthearted and pun-filled melodrama about two gunmen for hire in the ugly, futuristic megalopolis of Downlode, a crime-ridden nightmare that sits atop what's today central Europe, and which is controlled by warring underworld factions. Over its first several years, when the series was a semi-regular in the pages of the anthology 2000 AD, we met a huge cast of characters and followed several overlapping and complex subplots. Rather than linger on its fall from grace, suffice it to say that the last essential Sin Dex tale was told in 2005 - I do mean essential; the epic "...and death shall have no dumb minions" is a must-read for anybody who likes good fiction in this medium - and it has been treading creative water ever since. Mercifully, it seemed to end six years later. Nobody mourned it or clamored for its return.

I wonder whether Abnett knew that he'd be writing for John Burns, because the latest twelve-week run of this series plays very much to this artist's strengths. Burns, to my mind, doesn't have a very deep bag of tricks, but what he has, he uses better than most anybody. He doesn't seem to have updated his reference material since the 1970s, and so the best of his work - possibly the really fun Bendatti Vendetta from the mid-2000s - has a deep sensibility of the 1970s to it. The urban grime of Times Square, the squealing tires of action-packed cop shows, ugly fat men with bad moustaches, and, when a little playful sexiness is needed - it isn't, not in these particular pages, but it often was in some of Nikolai Dante - it comes with a late-period Carry On slide whistle.

With that in mind, this new adventure picks up some time after we last saw our heroes Finnigan Sinister, Ramone Dexter, and Dex's girlfriend Tracy Weld. After dismantling one of their enemies' huge criminal operations, they've been taken into witness protection and moved off-planet to a sprawling frontier world called Generica, which had been introduced some years previously. Finny is relocated to a city that, perfectly, looks exactly like Pittsburgh in a 1974 Quinn Martin production for CBS. You can almost hear the bow-chicka-bow as gigantic cars with unbelievable suspension fishtail across wet pavement.

It's almost as though Abnett scripted this adventure in direct response to fan complaints about its six years of meandering. The cast is cleaved down, the subplots start from scratch, and while the heroes still have the seemingly-immortal kingpin Moses Tanenbaum as their main villain, we're actually given a specific reason why they need to hunt this guy down. It's a convoluted and suspiciously convenient reason, not to mention full of sci-fi implausibility, but this time, I'm actually willing to buy it.

The twelve-week run comprises three stories, the first two painted by Burns. In the opening four-parter, Finny looks for work in his new home, discovers that Tannenbaum has also been relocated to Generica, and decides to find Dex and Tracy, who are in some other state. Doing so, he runs afoul of the witness protection agency and an old crime boss from Downlode. In the second, things get majestically awesome as he makes a deal with the devil and takes a job with his old enemy to get the funds to cross the country. Things don't go well.

This second story is in the running for one of Dan Abnett's best stories ever, as it becomes apparent that Finny is teetering closer than ever to a breakdown. He's become the narrator of his story, talking to himself in a sarcastic approximation of tough-guy fiction. Strikingly, he's aware that he's doing it, but he can't stop, and it isn't played for laughs. As if this story wasn't bold enough already, it then climaxes in an unbelievable explosion of meticulously-crafted violence. Finnigan's ruthless killing prowess had previously only been depicted either as black comedy or as a heroic talent. This time, we see him through different eyes and, for the first time ever in the series, he's absolutely terrifying. It is a bold and stunning choice, certain to leave readers wondering whether we can ever go back to the silly quips and puns when we see that this brutal, remorseless murderer is capable of such carefully-choreographed butchery.

This leads me to speculate on where things could possibly go next. The third and last of the new stories sees old hand Simon Davis back on art duties. For the first time ever, putting the great Davis back on Sin Dex, where he had previously been the shining best of all its many artists, manages to disappoint. In part that's because in my daydreams, Davis is diligently working on episodes twenty-three to twenty-five of a six-month Ampney Crucis Investigates story (quiet at the back, it could happen), and in part because Burns is just so damn good that I don't want substitutes. But Davis brings his best and the resulting three-part story, checking in on Dex and Tracy, is certainly really great despite my silly grumbling. As foreshadowed, Dex and Tracy are doing quite fine without Finny in their lives. They've begun their lives together at last, and simply don't need the violence of Downlode and Moses Tannenbaum any more, but of course, they're going to get it...

It's like this: Abnett, Burns, and Davis have done the impossible. They've taken an aging disappointment, slow on its feet and full of fat, and turned it into the can't miss title of the summer. Week twelve came too soon; when Sin Dex returns in 2014, I honestly hope that it's for a lot more than three months. If you'd told me a year ago I'd be saying that, I'd have said you were drunk. It's that impressive. Go buy episode one by clicking the image above.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The God of the Hive

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The God of the Hive (Bantam, 2010).

It's really not fair to be disappointed by a story because it doesn't fit into your preconceived fan notions and your narrative. The story is the author's narrative, not yours. Yours are only wishes. The author is under no obligation to grant them.

Back in the second of Laurie R. King's novels of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, there is a fleeting reference to Holmes having a son, Damian. The matter is shoved under the rug. Now, among some Holmes fans - by no means a majority or a consensus - there's a belief that during the "missing years" after Reichenbach Falls, Holmes looked up Irene Adler and spent some time with her and they had a son. Among some of that subset of fans - by no means a majority or a consensus - there's a belief that Adler raised their son on her own, and that boy grew up to be Nero Wolfe. That is the greatest fan theory of them all. I love it to pieces.

Sadly, King belongs to the first camp but not the second. And I felt so certain that she was One Of Us. It was a writer named William S. Baring-Gould who concocted the "son of Sherlock" theory in 1962. King had already included this man's real-life grandfather, the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, as a character in the fourth of her series of novels, The Moor, and revealed that the reverend was Holmes' godfather. So it's not like she could have been unaware of this theory. She just had another direction for the son of Sherlock.

Before continuing, I should point out that one writer has, using a pseudonym for the still-copyrighted Wolfe, written two novels set during World War One in which Holmes and his son, "Auguste Lupa," work together. The writer is John Lescroart, and I enjoyed those books so darn much that I started reading his subsequent, much longer series of contemporary legal thrillers featuring a revolving series of featured protagonists. A lawyer named Dismas Hardy takes the lead role in most of these books, and I enjoy that universe so darn much that I'm forever in Baring-Gould's debt for coming up with the theory, because I'd probably never have made my way, via Lupa, to the wonderful world of Hardy, Abe Glitsky and Gina Roake without it.

And I should point out how selfishly disappointed I was in Robert Goldsborough's recent Archie Meets Nero Wolfe, a book which is solid and entertaining and doesn't do a darn thing wrong except miss out on the spectacular opportunity to introduce a Wolfe who had not established his routine yet. I really wanted to see a man on the cusp of becoming that set-in-stone icon, still putting his ready-for-caricature rules together.

So when Damian Adler showed up at Holmes and Russell's door at the beginning of 2009's Language of Bees, a book that I read in late June, I punched the air with excitement because - surely! - we were about to meet the proto-Wolfe. We don't. There's just no way that Damian could possibly be the same man.

The Language of Bees and 2010's God of the Hive are so closely joined that they might as well have had "part one" and "part two" inscribed on them. It's one very long epic, set over the course of several weeks that sees Damian swallowing his pride and asking his father for help in finding his missing wife. In short order, he also goes missing and his wife's body is discovered, and the police want a word or two with him, and with Holmes and Russell about what they know. The powerful cult leader at the center of things - sort of a pastiche of Alistair Crowley - looks set to be one of Holmes' greatest adversaries, particularly when "part one" ends in a remote corner of Scotland, with Holmes and the grievously wounded Damian looking for discreet medical attention, while Russell, trying to get Damian's small daughter - good heavens, our 24 year-old heroine is a step-grandmother! - back to London, realizes that their enemy was not killed as they believed, and is still alive...

God of the Hive then twists things even more deliciously, as it's revealed that the cult leader is himself a patsy for an even more powerful villain, a master manipulator who removes even the mighty Mycroft Holmes from the state of play. King then pulls a twist about Mycroft that's so remarkable that I broke apart completely, abandoning every rule that I hold dear, and thumbed through the back twenty pages of the book because - surely not! - I just could not believe her moxie in doing that. I'm not going to tell you what "that" is, but it's sort of like asking whether Molly Ivins can say that (can she?) after she'd already said it.. Nope, there it is. She did it. (Well, that would be telling.)

The whole book's a headspinner, with new characters dropped into the narrative like small atomic bombs, their loyalty questionable and their motives uncertain. The most bewildering is this lord of misrule type, who's a mad mix between Robin Goodfellow and Lord Sebastian Flyte, and how trustworthy this guy is, even after finishing the book, I can't say. What I can share is that even though parts of the story had me biting my lip in unhappiness over the direction things were going, I was completely and thoroughly unable to guess what would possibly be happening next, and who would be safe. This is the tenth book in the series. For any series to go on so long and still be so completely unpredictable is a really good thing indeed.

Now if somebody, somewhere, would kindly write me some dense, novel-length fanfic set in 1924 involving Russell, Holmes, and a son who's a decade away from becoming Nero Wolfe when he moves to Manhattan, and which is one-tenth as engaging and as weird as this, I'll pay decent money. Not a lot, but decent. I wish that I had the talent to write it myself.

Heh. If I did, I'd have to use pseudonyms for Wolfe and for Russell. Laws!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

LSH 1994 reread, part ten

Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 # 93-95 and Legionnaires# 49-52, 1997)

Major developments:

*In the 20th Century, Andrew Nolan's brother Douglas, incarcerated in a home for mutants that is run by a corrupt thug, dies trying to escape. The LSH offers Andrew, as Ferro, a place on their team.
*Brainiac 5 starts a fight with the Metal Men after he mistakenly assumes that they are robots and attempts to use their "responsometer" computers in his time travel experiments, but they are actually (in this continuity) human intelligences in robotic form.
*Cos and Imra announce their engagement.
*In the 30th Century, the United Planets forms a gigantic task force of superheroes to attack Mordru, who is hunting for the Emerald Eye. The Eye and Mordru battle, and the hero Atom'x of Xanthu thinks he can blast them both away and rescue Violet, but Mordru murders him and drains all of his energy. Violet and the Eye merge into one being, Veye, and proposes to become Mordru's consort.
*Mysa and Kinetix abduct the Eye and the heroes attack in force. Vi is freed from the Eye, which vanishes into space, Mordru goes dormant and is sealed away as he had been before, and Mysa is revealed to be his daughter, de-aged to her early twenties. Another of the allied heroes, Blast-Off, is killed, and the Legion's Magno loses his powers. Vi ends up with additional ones: the Eye quasi-granted one of her wishes while she was helplessly in its power, and she can now grow to giant size as Gim Allon could.
*Monstress from the planet Xanthu joins the team.
*The creative team is as before: Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer, and Roger Stern writing, Lee Moder and Jeffrey Moy as principal artists. Mike Collins pencils LSH # 93. Issue # 94 features a whole pile of substitute artists, each contributing one or two pages. Among the names that I recognize from their other work that I have enjoyed, Phil Jimenez, Walt Simonson, and Val Semekis

Let's get the worst out of the way: these Metal Men stink. In 1994, DC had upgraded and rebooted a lot of older series. Some, like Legion and the James Robinson-Tony Harris Starman, came out bright and shiny and wonderful. Then there was the Dan Jurgens Metal Men miniseries, which killed off Gold, put Doc Magnus in an armored suit, and revealed that they were amnesiac humans all along. I loved the 1970s Metal Men as a kid. They'd always show up as oddball guest stars in things like The Brave & The Bold, and those big Showcase omnibus editions show that their original 1960s-1970s appearances were incredibly fun comics. This revamp is awful, and the Legion's continued association with the 20th Century DC Universe is really, really getting old as dirt at this point.

Happily, despite the feeling of fatigue and malaise that the last seven issues prompted, this is a mostly better run of comics, thanks in part to the really remarkable battle with Mordru, which is staged brilliantly, and also the decision to slow the narrative down for two issues afterward to deal with the ramifications of what happens next. I'm not kidding about the brilliant staging of the battle in issue 50. It's a textbook example of how to build up to a big superhero fight and make it matter. The outcome is in doubt all the way through, and there's just no way to guess how it's going to finish. It is also drawn beautifully. This Jeffrey Moy - if you don't like his work on Legion, you've just got no hope in the world.

I was honestly reminded of the big, mean smackdown in issue # 50 of Levitz's big run, when four of the heroes make a suicide run against the Time Trapper. This one has consequences, and while this doesn't have its antecedent's apocalyptic shock - there are, after all, far more heroes this time out - there are fatalities and long-lasting (if not permanent) injuries and big changes to the normal run of things.

Okay, so admittedly, the fatalities are members of the C-list cast, and the most grievous injury is to somebody equally on the periphery, and the Legionnaire most injured - Magno is depowered - is one of the newest three, whose power set duplicates Cosmic Boy's, but this is a book that has clearly shown that nobody is safe, and that if even Gim Allon can die in battle, then anybody can.

Heck, they're already threatening to have Cos and Imra get married!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Don't Go Out in Your Underwear!

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Don't Go Out in Your Underwear! (Dominie, 1997).

She seems to fly under everybody's radar, but here in Atlanta, we have an author of kids' books called Babs Hajdusiewicz. She's written stories in all sizes and formats, but I think that my favorite of the ones that I have seen is a goofy collection of 67 poems offering sensible and cautionary advice in a very silly way.

"Reviewing" poetry, in the context of this blog and not academic papers, seems like herding cats to me, but I can certainly recommend this collection to anybody who's enjoyed Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic, or, in other words, everybody who reads English. It is a ridiculous and fun and lighthearted collection of imaginative and goofy poems, and a perfectly good way to spend time reading to a child. Find a kid and a comfortable chair, or find your inner kid and do the same. The book's just great.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

LSH 1994 Reread, part nine

Covering Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 # 89-92 and Legionnaires# 46-48, 1997)

Major developments:

*In the 20th Century, Cos and Imra's relationship has really got under Ayla's skin and she tries to quit the team. Imra is really heavy-handed with her and gives her such a telepathic "scream" that it is heard miles away by the comatose and institutionalized supervillain Dr. Psycho, waking him.
*Rokk is injured and comatose after the fight. All of the Legionnaires briefly meet up in the "timestream" in another attempt to get the stranded team home. As it fails and they drift apart, Triad joins the others, hoping to meet up with Superboy again.
*The heroes don't return to 1997, but 1958, briefly and amnesiac in a short episode that pays tribute to the classic LSH artist Curt Swan, who passed away in 1996.
*In the 30th Century, Dreamer Nura Nal has a premonition of something attacking Kinetix from behind an underground artifact.
*Chameleon and Sensor form a close friendship as the team's two non-humanoids, each wanted by their home planets to come back and fulfill spiritual obligations to their respective populations.
*The sorceror Mordru, who had been released from centuries of confinement, draws attention to himself as his power grows and he murders a handful of civilians across the galaxy while hunting down his ancient artifacts. The Legion gives him a solid thumping, but he is far more powerful than they were told and he continues his quest for the Emerald Eye. Meanwhile, Mysa and her new acolyte, Dragonmage, abduct Kinetix as part of their plan to oppose him.
*The creative team is as before: Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer, and Roger Stern writing, Lee Moder and Jeffrey Moy as principal artists. Philip Moy co-pencils Legionnaires # 46 with Jeffrey.

Right in the middle of this mess - and that's exactly what LSH has careened into, a mess - there's one of the best single issues of the series. It's just a simple and quiet story with Sensor and Cham enjoying some time together. There's a minor disaster that prompts them to spring into action and help people, giving the comic a little melodrama and adventure, but otherwise it's a really perfect and beautifully drawn piece that lets everybody catch their breath.

Unfortunately, it highlights what's wrong with this 30th Century. Everything is moving incredibly fast. I'm suddenly reminded that one of the reasons that the celebrated 1980s Paul Levitz run was so successful is because he spent so much time on character moments, with the world-ending threats spaced far out between them. Here, we've had so little time to breathe that everything feels weighed down. Good grief, now we have Mordru to deal with? And Mysa is back to bore everybody? Event fatigue, man. We just needed some issues where everybody goes out on dates and catches some bank robbers.

In the 20th Century, there's almost a story like this. Ayla gets fed up with the rest of the team, and is very upset that Cos and Imra have started dating. This starts out all right, but I'm very troubled that they use their powers to try and force her back to the other heroes, especially Imra using her telepathy to jump into Ayla's head with a psychic scream. This is all very out of character and very unpleasant to read.

And the rest of the 20th Century stuff is no better. Reading the whole story requires searching countless back issue boxes for titles like Impulse and Showcase, and what we do get in LSH is rushed and unsatisfying. I'm starting to get very bored of this project, which is very odd, because DC, in the spring of 1997, was producing lots of terrific books. Grant Morrison's JLA debuted then, as did a really good take (well, for its first couple of years) on Supergirl by Peter David and Gary Frank. Garth Ennis and John McRea were scoring with Hitman. How'd this stumble so badly?