In Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 (November 2008), Rond Vidar, the last remaining Green Lantern in the 31st century, manages to save the lives of the Legionnaires Wildfire, Dawnstar, Blok, and the White Witch by pushing them through a Stargate in order to get them as far away from the Legion of Super-Villains as possible, even though it means taking on the entire group all by himself. Hopelessly outnumbered, he is granted a momentary reprieve when his father, the supervillain Universo, attempts to claim his power ring, but ends up being executed by Superboy-Prime after refusing to give it up.
So who exactly are Rond Vidar and Universo and what’s their connection to the Green Lantern Corps? Good question. While I’d normally write individual essays for each of them, in the immortal words of Supergirl, separating them from each other is like trying to separate yolk from egg white in an omelette, so I’ll be covering all three of them in one go. Unfortunately, that makes for a ridiculously long essay this time around.
The short answer is that Universo is a cross between a James Bond villain and Prometheus, a bad guy who not only meticulously plans his grandiose schemes for world domination but also successfully implements them (however fleeting those victories might end up being). He also has a bizarre sense of morality: though he has no real qualms about killing people in order to attain his goals, he will only take lives when doing so is absolutely necessary to achieve a particular end, preferring imprisonment, mind-control, manipulation, and subterfuge over the senseless slaughter of innocents. In other words, he’s a bloodless coup kind of guy. His many plans for global conquest inevitably brought him into direct conflict with his son, Rond Vidar, who was a recurring character and the Legion’s go-to guy for time travel technology. As for their connection to the Green Lantern Corps…well, you’ll just have to keep on reading for that one.
Most of the supplemental information I’ll be providing on these characters is taken from their respective entries in Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Unfortunately, while the latter series is a helpful guide to the world of the 30th century, some of the facts appearing in their biographies appear to have been made up on the spot, and certain details are inconsistent not only with previously established continuity but also between the profiles themselves. I’m going to try my best to try and reconcile these differences, but, when in doubt, the information in the issues I’ll be reviewing will carry the greater weight.
Legion of Super-Heroes #295 (January 1983)
“The Origin of the Universe File” by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, Howard Bender, and Dave Hunt
This tale is actually comprised of two parts: a framing sequence in which Blok gives Timber Wolf advice on his relationship with Light Lass in the guise of watching an archive tape with him and an extended flashback to an adventure from the early days of the Legion. Since only the latter is relevant to the subjects at hand, I will be focusing most of my attention on it.
According to Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #6 (October 1988), the Green Lantern central to this story, Vidar of Space Sector 2814, has a pretty tragic past. Even though he was a relatively new recruit to the Green Lantern Corps, that didn’t stop him from making some very bad enemies very quickly. After they banded together and murdered his wife, his son, Rond Vidar, was sent to Earth to live with relatives. He himself avoided the planet, as Green Lanterns, for some unspecified reason, weren’t exactly popular there. And this was before the fallout from the events I’m about to summarize made them downright unwelcome.
Our story opens with the Legionnaires responding to a Science Police Data Channel report of a fire at Metropolis University’s Time Institute, a facility dedicated to time travel research, located at the edge of the city. Having seemingly beaten the authorities to the incident site, their hopes of using this opportinity to prove their worth (and possibly spinning some good PR out of it) are quickly dashed when Colossal Boy’s ripping the roof off the building doesn’t so much grant them quick and easy access to the blaze as force them to confront a rather embarrassing reality:
Circadia Senius goes on to explain that the problem started when they attempted to use a Time Viewer to see the origin of the universe. No sooner had the image of a giant hand cradling a galaxy appeared onscreen than a cosmic lightning bolt appeared out of nowhere and destroyed their equipment, prematurely ending the experiment. With everyone puzzled by this development, Lightning Lad decides to crack a joke, and we quickly learn that both he and Senius have no sense of comedic timing or delivery whatsoever:
The Legionnaires are later invited back to the Time Institute to participate in a repeat of the original experiment. The end results are essentially identical, with two major exceptions: Lightning Lad manages to absorb the mysterious thunderbolt this time around and an unexpected guest appears to break up the festivities:
In a move that will most assuredly result in higher insurance premiums for Metropolis University, the Guardians of the Universe rip the entire Time Institute right off its foundation using their emerald energies, surround it with a protective bubble, and transport it into outer space. Shortly after clearing Earth’s atmosphere, the team receives yet another surprise:
A battle immediately breaks out between the three Green Lanterns and the Legionnaires, one which shows no signs of abating until Saturn Girl decides to stage an intervention by using her telepathic powers to contact the Guardians of the Universe and petition them for an audience on Oa, a request they almost immediately grant.
The Legionnaires, the Green Lanterns, and Circadia Senius are brought before the Guardians of the Universe, who explain that they broke their standard rule of non-interference on this occasion due to exceptional circumstances. They then tell of an incident from Oa’s distant past, where one of their own number, Krona, allowed his curiosity to get the better of him and broke their most sacred law by attempting to view the origin of the universe, a story whose outcome sounds eerily familiar to our visitors…
After the Green Lanterns Vidar and Galte-Re finish making repairs to the Time Institute, the latter departs for his own space sector, leaving the former behind to tie up any remaining loose ends. Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl, on the other hand, have something else entirely on ther minds:
Things go well for all of about ten seconds, because as soon as the Time Bubble breaks through the time barrier, it begins dragging all kinds of creatures from various eras in Earth’s history into the timestream and taking them along for the ride. When the controls fail to respond, Lightning Lad uses his powers to short-circuit the entire navigation system, causing them to return to the present…along with all of their unwanted hitchhikers. While this latest crisis is quickly dealt with, everyone suddenly realizes that the Green Lantern who’d been there earlier has mysteriously vanished in the interim. Where could he possibly have disappeared to?
In the end, Cosmic Boy foils Vidar’s attempt to shield the Time Viewer from the cosmic lightning bolt and delivers a knockout blow after Saturn Girl uses telepathy to disrupt the renegade Green Lantern’s ability to use his power ring. The four of them are subsequently transported back to Oa and appear before the Guardians a second time:
Meanwhile, back in the present day, Blok, having apparently viewed the holo-tape of this adventure more than once, decides to access the Legion archives in order to test a little theory of his:
Exactly what happened to Vidar after he was handed over to the Guardians of the Universe and thrown out on his pointy-eared ass is pretty fuzzy. However, he eventually discovered that, by combining his Green-Lantern-fortified willpower with a hypno-gem acquired from Earth’s Museum of Mystic Arts, he gained the power of super-hypnosis. Somewhere along the way, he also started using the civilian name Argus Oranx III. Why exactly he did this – or whether this might actually be his real name – is unknown.
Adventure Comics #349 (October 1966)
“The Rogue Legionnaire!” by Jim Shooter, Mort Weisinger, Curt Swan, and George Klein
It’s time for the annual Metropolis Students’ Science Fair and the Legionnaires are in attendance, having been appointed this year’s judges by the mayor of Metropolis himself. Whether this is meant to be a great honor or part of some community service plea bargain agreement I can’t even begin to guess. While going over the exhibits, Superboy stumbles upon what would appear to be the 30th century equivalent of one of those nifty papier-mâché volcanoes that spew forth baking soda and vinegar “lava”:
While the Legionnaires are unanimous in their consensus that the Time Cube deserves first prize, they’re forced to cut their participation in the awards ceremony short because Brainiac 5 is receiving a tingle in his crotch area, and not the good kind: the alarm receiver on his belt buckle has gone off, indicating that someone is trying to break into their Superheroes Clubhouse. The culprit, as it turns out, is our old buddy Vidar, whose fashion sense and dignity appear to have gone the way of his Green Lantern power ring, though he has managed to sprout some nifty facial hair in the interim. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be having much luck gaining entrance using the tried and true technique of pounding his fists against the door in frustration. Clearly, this requires a more delicate approach:
Okay…don’t panic, Vidar. You can still talk your way out of this. Just come up with a really good excuse.
Now, as dumb as people were back in the Silver Age, they apparently weren’t quite that dumb.
While Universo’s super-hypnosis effortlessly subjugates most of the Legionnaires, Brainiac 5 manages to shake off its effects with the help of his computer mind and lunges for the supervillain. The latter takes this as his cue to exit stage left, but not before sicking his newly-acquired slaves on his teenage adversary, who activates his force shield belt to protect himself from his teammates before giving chase.
With the super-hypnotist gone, the other Legionnaires snap out of his spell almost immediately. The sole exception is Superboy, whom Shrinking Violet surmises remains zonked out due to a combination of a post-hypnotic suggestion with the use of Kryptnoite dust in Universo’s hypnotic eye medallion. Still, with the spare Time Bubble destroyed and their inability to build a new one within a reasonable amount of time with the Boy of Steel out of commission (not that this should really matter since, you know, it’s a goddamn time machine and the past isn’t exactly going anywhere), they appear to be an impasse…until they receive a conveniently-timed transmission puts them back on track:
As it turns out, the transmission is just a little too convenient, and for good reason: while the information he provided is indeed accurate, not only is Professor Huxton under Universo’s thrall, but the latter has also recruited agents in each of the five time periods mentioned and provided them with explicit instructions to deal with his would-be captors when they come looking for him…permanently. And, surprise, surprise, he’s also conveniently exhausted all the available options for following him into the past…save for one.
Like moths to a flame, the Legionnaires head back to the science fair and attempt to enlist the first prize winner Rond Vidar’s aid by having him increase the size of his Time Cube so that it can send people through time instead of just gaudy souvenirs from the future. While he’s more than happy to oblige, he is equally quick to warn them about the device’s inherant limitations:
With the Legionnaires en route to their myriad destinations in the past in search of Universo, Rond is left feeling restless:
So how’re our intrepid time travellers doing? Not so good as it turns out.
Cuzco, Peru (1300 A.D.): Chameleon Boy arrives in his target era just outside of the Incan capital, where the natives take him for a sun god after he assumes the shape of a giant lens in order to use focused sunlight to destroy a boulder that’s about to crush a nearby caravan. Seeking to capitalize on this case of mistaken identity in order to facilitate his search, he is instead forced to prove his divinity by surviving being thrown into an active volcano. Godhood is a bitch.
Gizeh, Egypt (1243 B.C.): Shrinking Violet quickly runs afoul of Universo’s agent in this time period: a falconer. Though she, with the help of her size-changing powers and flight ring, easily avoids arrest after he falsely accuses her of being a thief in public, his bird of prey, Horus, proves to be much tougher to evade.
England (693 A.D): From the moment he sets foot in this time period, Colossal Boy finds himself at a tremendous disadvantage (no pun intended): not only has he appeared in the middle of a castle siege in his giant form, but an unintended side effect of the time travel method has left him trapped at that height. Now an easy target for the attacking army – whose leader and king is Universo’s lackey – he narrowly manages to fend off their assault on his person with a siege tower, but fares far more poorly against their catapult.
Paris, France (1812 A.D.): When Saturn Girl is apprehended by the owner of the house whose wine cellar she appears in, she discovers that Universo’s mental hold over the man makes him immune to her telepathic powers. Faced with the threat of prison time, she is forced to submit to his demands by integrating herself into his household staff in anticipation of the arrival of a very special guest: Napoleon Bonaparte. Though Universo’s agent initially plans to dispatch her with the futuristic ray gun left in his care, he decides to let the imperial guard do his dirty work for him by planting evidence in order to frame her as a spy. His nefarious plan seems to go off without a hitch, as she is quickly tracked down and cornered by French troops. That’ll teach her to be irresponsible enough to leave her flight ring at home.
Shang-Tu, China (1300 A.D.): As if to further illustrate the dangers of jerry-rigging experimental time travel technology, Brainiac 5 materializes in mid-air with a damaged, non-functional flight ring, causing him to plummet like a rock….and land smack dab in the middle of Kublai Khan’s imperial garden. These unfortunate circumstances combined with his green skin make it almost ridiculously easy for Universo’s underling in this century to convince the Mongolian leader – who, it should be noted, has been dead for six years by this date according to the history books – to have him declared a demon and sentenced to death. In a fit of inspiration worthy of a James Bond villain, the Great Khan decides to have Brainiac 5 strapped to a giant gong and have the shockwaves generated by the equally large mallet striking it kill him. While our teenage genius ultimately manages to escape from the elaborate death trap, he quickly discovers that he’s quite literally leaped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire:
Back in the 30th century, Universo marches into the United Planets Council Building virtually unimpeded with the intention of using his powers to manipulate the five inner could members into doing his bidding. When he tries to do just that, however, he discovers that he’s just been royally pranked:
And who’s responsible for this epic takedown? None other than his unwittling accomplice, Rond Vidar:
Adventure Comics #359 and #360 (August and September 1967)
“The Outlawed Legionnaires!” and “The Legion Chain Gang!” by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein
The Superheroes Clubhouse stands empty and abandoned as the Legion of Super-Heroes find themselves scattered across the galaxy dealing with various emergencies, including an invasion of the planet Tartos by the Xakkan Raiders, maintaining the galactic trade lines by getting a stalled space train running again, and preventing a stellar explosion threatening to wipe out all the inhabited planets in its star system:
Upon returning to Earth several days later, however, the Legionnaires receive a series of nasty surprises in rapid succession: they are fired on by a Science Police squadron, taken back to the Metropolis Spaceport by an armed escort where their cruisers are confiscated and swiftly disassembled, arrested for violating curfew when they attempt to gain access to their barricaded headquarters, and collectively tossed into the pokey. Why? Well, it seems that the wheels of justice in the future turn fast enough to make your head spin, as the Legion was declared unconstitutional and disbanded by the United Planets during the scant few days they were off-planet. How did it come to this? I think I’ll let Duo Damsel’s father – who’s just bailed his daughter(s) out of prison – field that question:
After Duo Damsel gives Cosmic Boy the 411, he contacts the others to inform them that acting team leader, Invisible Kid, has called a meeting in front of the Midtown Terminal the following day. The would-be encounter, however, is literally derailed when – in keeping with Dream Girl’s premonition – a monorail flies off its tracks and the early arrivals amongst the Legionnaires are forced to break the law by using their abilities to rescue the train and its passengers…only to be promptly arrested for their troubles by undercover policemen just before their teammates arrive and put on trial. Ungrateful bastards.
Before her royal highness can attempt to finesse justice any, however, she and the others are attacked by a bunch of rowdies and forced to defend themselves as best they can…without their superpowers. Unfortunately, during the course of the brawl, Princess Projectra is seriously injured after being knocked upside the head with a wooden board before the Science Police intervene and break up the riot.
Invisible Kid quickly discovers that the bizarre aggregation of coincidences plaguing the team has followed him home when his parents repeatedly violate his personal space: his mother burns his costume when he leaves it unattended while exercising and both she and his father bug his view phone, practically salivating at the lips at the thought of gathering evidence against him. Using a secret communicator hidden away for just such an occasion, he contacts Brainiac 5, who reaches the by-now inevitable conclusion:
And just in case you thought things on Earth were rough, check out what’s happening on Takron-Galtos:
True to Saturn Girl’s prediction, R.J. Brande proves equally unwilling to help, even going so far as to summon his guards to haul the Legionnaires away for allegedly trying to rob him. During the subsequent scuffle with his security force, the team’s ranks are whittled down to eight as Lightning Lad, Duo Damsel, Sun Boy, and Cosmic Boy are easily subdued after being injured and the others are forced to flee without them or risk being captured themselves. They soon graduate from being fugitives to enemies of the government with significant bounties on their heads, leaving them with no choice but to go underground…literally.
While wandering through the ancient sewer tunnels like a bunch of giant mutant turtles, Chameleon Boy accidentally triggers the hidden mechanism for a secret passageway. Curious, the Legionnaires decide to investigate the unexpected find and are surprised to suddenly find themselves in…
As the Legionnaires make plans to free their recently captured teammates, let us shift our attention over to Kandro Boltax, who is both angered and concerned by the fact that the eight teenage fugitives have thus far managed to evade capture.
With Brugol thoroughly satisfied with their arrangement – being allowed to keep all the space jewels his cosmic chain gang can mine as compensation for his services – Boltax shifts his attention to a more personal matter, one he keeps safely tucked away in a hidden room. Or, more accurately said, imprisoned:
Speaking of the Legion, in a spite of a few close calls, that jailbreak they were planning for later that evening went off without a hitch:
Eager to curb Star Boy’s newly discovered thirst for a life of crime, Invisible Kid explains that not only would they be playing right into the authorities’ hands by attempting such a rescue, but that their main concern now should be to figure out how everyone on Earth is being mind-controlled. To this end, Chameleon Boy, still riding the Durlan equivalent of an adrenaline high after how well the operation to bust the others of prison that he was in charge of went, uses his Legion Espionage Squad training to devise an intricate plan to break into the presidential palace in order to try and glean information from Boltax by spying on him. Unfortunately, unlike his previous undertaking, the reconnaissance mission fails spectacularly, and all they succeed in doing is attracting the unwanted attention of the Science Police:
Having suffered a significant defeat, the Legionnaires strategically withdraw in order to reevaluate their strategy:
Unfortunately, Phantom Girl has discovered that Boltax has picked the worst possible moment to make an inspection tour with his entire presidential motorcade. Left with no choice but to throw caution to the wind, the Legionnaires attack the presidential motorcade in order to buy Brainiac 5 enough time to add the antidote to the water supply. While the latter manages to make it all the way to the main reservoir without incident, little does he suspect that he’s been spotted in both a good and a bad way:
As for things on the outside…they’re not looking so hot, either.
On the other hand, things’re looking up on Takron-Galtos, as the Legionnaires trapped there take advantage of the guards’ ever-growing complacency to free themselves from their restraints and stage a full-blown prisoner revolt.
Meanwhile, the situation on Earth has grown so desperate that Cosmic Boy is forced to arrange a distraction-within-a-distraction by having Sun Boy blind the guards with a flash of light long enough for him and the others to get their hands on Boltax in a vain attempt to use his continued safety as leverage against his troops. Hilariously, their would-be hostage not only knows they’re bluffing, he actually calls them out on it:
Just when it looks like they’re even more royally screwed than before, one of the liquid tanks overhead suddenly explodes, drenching the security forces in water which the Legionnaires, totally unaware of Brainiac 5’s fate, assume has been treated with the antidote. Their hearts collectively sink faster than the Titanic when the guards continue their approach after their surprise bath, weapons drawn. Yet when they’re finally within range…they end up arresting Boltax instead of them! The Legionnaires are naturally ecstatic at this development and pretty much start preparing to do the 30th century equivalent of high-fiving Brainiac 5 for coming through when, as if on cue, he shows up to burst their bubble:
In an exposition that resembles nothing so much as a demented episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Rond Vidar lays out Universo’s entire scheme, down to the last sordid detail:
With Brainiac 5’s antidote being circulated in the world’s water supply, the real President Boltax freed, and Princess Projectra having recovered from her injuries, the Legionnaires prepare to head out to Takron-Galtos to free their teammates, only to discover that they’ve been beaten to it:
If his entry in Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #6 (September 1988) is to be believed, Rond was already an undercover Green Lantern by this point, having been secretly recruited by the Guardians of the Universe to keep an eye on his father. As such, he took the (unintentionally) ironic conferring of Honorary Legionnaire status – a distinction reserved for individuals without superpowers of any sort – upon himself in stride.
Superboy (Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes) #207 (March-April 1975)
“The Rookie Who Betrayed the Legion” by Cary Bates and Mike Grell
The President of Earth has come a-calling with some bad news: it seems that Universo has broken out of the Omega Prison Complex, thumbing his nose at law enforcement by having hypnotized the guards into not only letting him go but also providing him with a getaway ship. According to the latest intelligence reports, he’s holed up on R-7, a minor planet in the Rigel Planetoid System. Given their extensive mutual history, the president’s decided to let the Legion of Super-Heroes take the first crack at nabbing him, an assignment they eagerly accept.
It turns out that the “intruder” Colossal Boy has apprehended is a young Science Police officer named Dvron, who, having gotten wind of the jailbreak, came to Legion Headquarters in order to join them on their hunt for Universo. He is quite emphatic about tagging along, and for good reason: it turns out that he has a very personal stake in the matter.
Touched by his story, all of the Legionnaires immediately agree to allow him to accompany them on their search and capture mission…except for Superboy, of all people, who makes a pretty dickish comment to the Science Police officer about how it’ll take everything he has to work alongside of them no matter how good a cop he is before finally giving his approval.
Upon entering the Rigel Planetoid System, the Legionnaires quickly home in on Universo’s general location on R-7 and decide to split up in order to cover ground more effectively, leaving Chameleon Boy and Dvron behind to guard the cruiser.
When the Legionnaires return from the search empty-handed, Dvron readily admits his guilt in letting Universo escape and makes no attempt to defend himself or excuse his actions. He denies being the influence of super-hypnosis at the time, but remains noticeably mum about a possible motive, something which greatly bothers Chameleon Boy. Superjerk, on the other hand, doesn’t give a rat’s ass, slaps a “hostile prisoner” label on him, and orders Light Lass to keep an eye on Dvron by holding him at gunpoint with his own weapon while the rest of them go after their fugitive. Shortly thereafter, while still dodging the female Legionnaire’s attempts to figure out the reason behind his betrayal, he’s shocked when she’s suddenly taken out with a karate chop to the base of the neck by a familiar face:
After apologizing to Light Lass for taking such drastic measures to coax the truth out of the Science Police officer, Chameleon Boy grants Dvron – who now considers his debt to the escaped supervillain paid in full – a second chance to prove himself. When they finally catch up with the other Legionnaires, however, they discover that Superboy is now under the super-hypnotist’s control and can only watch as he takes out both Timber Wolf and Shrinking Violet in his entranced state before making off with their foe. The three of them continue the pursuit, and, after momentarily losing sight of their two escapees when they duck behind a rock formation, Light Lass manages to incapacitate the Boy of Steel by using her gravity-negating powers to screw with his flying ability, leaving Chameleon Boy and Dvron to deal with Universo himself. The latter, however, responds by drawing his weapon and firing it at an unexpected target:
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #233 (November 1977)
“The Infinite Man Who Conquered Time the Legion!” by Paul Levitz, James Sherman, and Bob Wiacek
After thwarting an attempt by Sklarian Raiders to add another item to their list of pilfered high-tech equipment, the Legion of Super-Heroes successfully delivers their payload – a newly manufactured, experimental hypertime drive – to their headquarters, where Rond Vidar is waiting to conduct his latest time travel experment:
With their clueless human guinea pig…er…brave volunteer strapped into the time travel device, Rond flips the activation switch and it blinks out of existence as expected…only to unexpectedly reappear a fraction of a second later – far sooner than anticipated – with a far more intense glow than it had when it left. Then, as is the case with most things Brainiac 5 has worked on in a laboratory, it blows up.
So, to recap without the melodrama and overblown pomposity: if you do one too many revolutions on the space-time continuum merry-go-round – way past the point where a normal person would want to throw up – you’re lose the three esses (shoes, socks, sanity) but gain a snazzy new wardrobe and nearly infinite time manipulation powers. Unfortunately for Rond, the omnipotent space hippie formerly known as Jaxon Rugarth retains enough clarity of mind to know exactly who’s responsible for sending him on the Cosmic Amusement Park Ride from Hell in the first place and immediately goes after the young man, casually summoning dinosaurs and a tank to deal with the Legionnaires, suspending Star Boy in time, and sending Superboy hurtling through myriad alternate dimensions. That last one, however, proves to be little more than a mere nuisance to the Boy of Steel:
Luckily for Star Boy, the “time paralysis” effect wears off once the Infinite Man vanishes. Realizing that they’re all living on borrowed time as the Infinite Man literally has forever and a day to hone his skills and abilities before returning to almost the exact moment he left and finishing them off, acting leader Wildfire assigns Superboy the job of protecting Rond (not that Mr. Undercover Green Lantern actually needs it), sends Phantom Girl, Dream Girl, and Brainiac 5 on outer space informaton gathering missions to find a way to destroy the Infinite Man, and assigns Lightning Lad and Star Boy with setting up some defenses while he contacts the United Planets in order to keep them apprised of the situation. Meanwhile (relatively speaking), in a location beyond the reaches of space and time, their adversary has managed to squeeze in the equivalent of a millennium of training…
Unfortunately, neither Dream Girl nor Brainiac 5 have any luck consulting the elders on their respective homeworlds, and Phantom Girl’s attempt to gain insight from the incorporeal Timeless Ones of the planet Gendyx is also a bust. Back on Earth, nerves are beginning to wear thin amongst the Legionnaires as they wait for the slaughter:
Y’know, in spite of this comic’s repeated attempts to portray him as insane, the Infinite Man is actually remarkably lucid and focused: he blames Rond Vidar for his transformation and suffering (an accusation which isn’t completely without merit) and is only responding with swift, brutal (yet notably non-lethal) force against the Legionnaires because they continue to attack him while protecting the intended target of his wrath. Eventually, though, he just gets sick and tired of dealing with their crap and takes the kid gloves off by “sharing the wealth” with his adversaries – briefly putting them through the same hellish existence he experienced – before deciding to pass it forward to Rond himself:
Reasoning that Brainiac 5 must’ve been referring to the hypertime drive, Superboy destroys the fail-safe mechanism while Lightning Lad and Wildfire, amidst the chaos of cavemen and prehistoric beasts summoned to battle the other Legionnaires, combine their powers to supercharge the time machine. All the while, the Infinite Man merely watches their antics with amusement:
Despite Brainiac 5’s assertion that time is of the essence in finding a cure for Professor Rugarth’s condition – which, given the cyclical nature of time proposed in this story, is essentially meaningless – this problem will remain on the back burner for years until Legion of Super-Heroes #18 (January 1986), when a botched attempt by Brainiac 5, Rond Vidar, and Circadia Senius to expand the range of the Time Beacon – a cosmic singularity that served as the equivalent of a lighthouse for time travellers and was seemingly shielding the Time Institute from the most disastrous consequences of the Crisis on Infinite Earths – merely ended up freeing the true source of that protection: the Infinite Man himself. In the end, the White Witch casts a spell of affinity to siphon off his cosmic energies, and, while this has the unintended side effect of restoring his humanity, the trauma Jaxon Rugarth has already endured is so great that he’s left comatose and brain dead as a result of his experience:
Legion of Super-Heroes #32 to #35 (March to June 1987)
“The Universo Project” Chapters 1 to 4 by Paul Levitz, Greg LaRoque, Mike DeCarlo, and Arne Starr
For his sixth major appearance, Universo did something nearly unheard of in the history of supervillainy: having carefully analyzed the flaws in his previous plans for world domination and apparently skimmed Peter Anspach’s Evil Overlord List for pointers, he initiated a systematic takeover of Earthgov from the shadows that slowly unfolded over the course of nearly two years of real world time (22 issues), being extremely careful to tie up any loose ends along the way and devoting special attention to what had always been the weakest link in his plans thus far: his own flesh and blood.
It all begins rather innocuously in Legion of Super-Heroes #10 (May 1985), when the Legionnaires save the lives of three individuals selected by the Worldcomp as political candidates for the next President of Earth from a group of Khund assassins. The eventual winner is Mojai Desai of Hyperbad, a city located on the Indian subcontinent.
Some time later, in Legion of Super-Heroes #22 (May 1986) a glorified Neo-Luddite calling himself the Restorer goes on a rampage to destroy all the advanced technology he can find in order to usher in a new golden age for mankind by restoring the planet’s natural environment. During the madman’s attack on Metropolis University, Rond Vidar is seriously injured while protecting a fellow professor and hospitalized in the Medi-Complex, the largest and most advanced medical treatment center on Earth. Later, when the Restorer is finally captured, his mind essentially self-destructs after Tellus tries to telepathically probe it, leaving the Legionnaires none the wiser about the full extent of his plans…and President Desai’s right hand man, Vid-Gupta, extremely pleased:
Unfortunately, things only get worse for Rond Vidar, and, by Legion of Super-Heroes #25 (August 1986), his situation has become downright grim:
As you’ve probably already guessed by now, Universo’s lust for power and world domination has grown to the point where it’s thoroughly eclipsed any sense of fatherly love and familial obligation he ever had, and he’s determined to not give his son another chance to betray him…something which Brainiac 5 learns the hard way in Legion of Super-Heroes #30 (January 1987):
With the only individual immune to his powers now permanently out of the way, Universo initiates the final step of his plan with the help of his partner Zymyr, a member of alien race known as the Gil’Dishpan and former member of the Legion of Super-Villains, which essentially amounts to a “divide and conquer” strategy spread over the course of several weeks: separate the Legion into smaller, more manageable groups, then use his hypnotic powers to take control of their minds once they’ve been sufficiently weakened, worn down, or disoriented.
Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and Blok are asked to accompany one Ambassador Relnic into Dominator space, the United Planets having ostensibly received an invitation to send delegates in order to negotiate a treaty. Once they arrive, however, they’re met not by diplomatic vessels but instead by three heavily-armed warships.
After being used for target practice, the Legionnaires head out into space to engage the Dominator spacecraft directly and buy Relnic’s ship enough time to get out of range. Unfortunately, they soon find themselves being fired on by both sides and are caught completely off-guard when one of Zymyr’s space warps appears, transporting them directly into a waiting Universo’s clutches.
Unaware of their teammates’ fates, Wildfire, White Witch, Quislet, and Tellus travel to the latter’s homeworld of Hykraius, following up on rumors that Atmos, the champion of Star Boy’s home planet Xanthu, had been spotted in the area and hoping to dig up some leads as to the whereabouts of several Science Police officers that have recently gone missing. All they end up finding, however, is trouble:
They subsequently engage the Gil’Dishpan and his robotic army in battle, only to end up being transported via separate space warps to different locations on a nearby desert world. Once there, they fall victims to traps or situations that end up leaving them sufficiently vulnerable to Universo’s mental dominance.
Back on Earth, the remaining Legionnaires have fallen so completely under Universo’s thrall that they not only become his private army and enforcers but don’t raise any protest whatsoever when the planet’s puppet ruler, President Desai, enacts a series of new laws, rules, and regulations to permanently close their headquarters as well as systematically dismantle and disband their team.
Meanwhile, retired Legionnaire Saturn Girl receives the mother of all rude awakenings when she gets up one morning in an unfamiliar barracks minus her flight ring. This quickly go from bad to worse when she discovers that she’s in a farming commune…on an island in a sea of sulphur….on an unfamilar alien world. Not only that, but she’s surrounded by faces both strange and familiar – with Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, and several of the previously-mentioned missing Science Police officers numbering among the latter – all of whom have been turned into docile, simple-minded automatons due to a combination of mental blocks and controls. Worse still, circumstantial evidence suggests that they’ve all been trapped here for several weeks now.
Theorizing that the barriers erected in her own mind were ultimately broken through subconscious use of her telepathic abilities, Saturn Girl wastes no time in trying to engineer an escape. With the help of her keen observational skills, she stealthily manages to evade the electronic floating spy-eyes that are guarding her and the others long enough to learn the lay of the land. After gathering all the information she is able to on her own, she systematically abducts her fellow Legionnaires under cover of darkness, transports them to a secluded location, and uses her mental powers to free their minds from Universo’s control.
Using his shapeshifting powers, Chameleon Boy does some hardcore reconnaissance work and discovers that the tunnel beneath the fountain near their farming commune – the only local source of fresh drinking water – leads directly to a control center for the entire compound. After using her telepathic abilities to link his mind with that of Brainiac 5 – thus allowing the latter to literally see things through the former’s eyes – they come up with a plan to escape from the planet on which they’ve been imprisoned:
After a fierce battle with the compound’s automatic defense systems, the prisoners emerge victorious. Brainiac 5 subsequently cannibalizes the available technology in order to construct makeshift spacecraft and lifeboats for everyone unable to leave the planet under their own power. The Legionnaires themselves head for Dream Girl’s homeworld of Naltor, where the planet’s leader, the High Seer Beren Kah, brings them up to speed on current events, or at least as much as his precognitive visions have revealed to him:
Though Beren demonstrates that he is willing, if asked, to intervene by rallying political support from the colony worlds and hold Earthgov accountable for its actions, the Legionnaires decline his generous offer and decide to maitain a low profile, head home, and solve their own problems. To this end, they book passage back to Earth on a starship line, in disguise and telepathically linked with one another. As one might expect, slipping under the radar on a planet whose inhabitants are known for their precognitive abilities does not go off without a hitch, and Chameleon Boy is forced to assume the form of a flying insect and hide on board for a significant portion of the trip after he arouses the suspicions of an overzealous Naltorian security guard. A second disaster involving Brainiac 5’s fascination with antiquated robo drones is only narrowly averted.
Upon reaching their destination, they find out that security measures have been ramped up due to the presence of an “unregistered Durlan” onboard their ship and that it’s only a matter of time before their covers are blown. Dropping all pretenses of inconspicuousness and stealth, the Legionnaires steal an abandoned cruiser and manage to escape from Metropolis Spaceport, but are quickly shot down by a squadron of Science Police vessels and forced to make a crash landing. Due in no small part to Brainiac 5’s piloting skills and technological knowledge, they manage to survive the ordeal, and, thanks to a chance comment by Saturn Girl, finally gain some insight into their situation:
These suspicions are soon confirmed when they kidnap and telepathically probe a Science Police officer, from whom they learn the whole sordid story behind Universo’s takeover of Earth:
Apparently, “thinking things through carefully” entails breaking into the Presidential Palace and subduing Mojai Desai by force, only for them to learn that he’s not Universo in disguise and attracting the attention of the brainwashed Legionnaires serving as his personal enforcers in the process. Now heavily outnumbered by their teammates and none the wiser about the identity their adversary has assumed this time around, they switch to Brainiac 5’s backup plan by having Saturn Girl stun everyone with a powerful mental blast in order to make good their escape, a move that manages to impress even their adversary:
While Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, and Dream Girl head to the former’s old workshop at the Metropolis University Computer Lab Complex, allegedly to build themselves an escape ship, it quickly degenerates into a desperate standoff between them and their hypnotized teammates as they literally throw every piece of technology at their disposal at the hypnotized Legionnaires, a tactic which ultimately proves futile. Meanwhile, Saturn Girl has managed to track down former Earth president Marte Allon, and the information she obtains from the latter concerning the possible identity of their elusive foe inevitably leads to only one place:
In spite of the odds against her, Saturn Girl takes advantage of her previous experience with Universo’s mental blocks in order to put Mon-El and Ultra Boy out of commission, albeit in a quick, dirty, and extremely painful fashion for both of them. In the end, however, it all boils down to a battle of the minds and the strength of their respective willpower – with a whole bunch of trash talking thrown in for good measure – but she ultimately gains the upper hand and goes for the low-tech, Captain James T. Kirk finisher:
With Universo’s influence gone, things quickly return to normal for both Earth and the Legion of Super-Heroes:
While Saturn Girl’s request is, of course, readily granted, as she herself stated earlier, there remains a lot of work to be done and quite a few loose ends to tie up:
Strangely enough, this is one of those cases where the readers actually have a much better view of the big picture than the characters. While we can quite easily surmise why Universo wanted to attack Oa – namely to both take his revenge on the Guardians of the Universe as well as acquire the raw power necessary to successfully carry out Krona’s experiment and view the beginning of creation – the Legionnaires themselves have not yet connected the dots between their foe and the disgraced Green Lantern they knew as Vidar (though they eventually will).
Unbeknownst to everyone, Rond managed to survive his father’s machinations, but decided to remain “dead” to the world and lay low (which actually makes his undercover Green Lantern job a lot easier). It’s only after Sensor Girl accidentally discovers his presence and encourages him to rejoin the world of the living that he decides to come out of hiding and reveal himself to the Legionnaires. His miraculous return, however, is initially met with a great deal of reservation and skepticism due to recent negative experiences they’d had with the Time Trapper:
It’s only later in that same issue, Legion of Super-Heroes #50 (September 1988), that Rond reveals exactly how he survived Universo’s attempt to kill him:
With his closely guarded secret now out in the open, Rond Vidar decides to honor Earthgov’s standing Green Lantern ban and goes into voluntary exile.
The Continuity Verdict
With the current amount of information we have available, it’s impossible to determine how much of the material I’ve just covered is canonical. Oddly enough, we have upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes scribe Paul Levitz to blame for this. In a recent interview, he said (italicized emphasis is mine):
“I think I would characterize it by saying that we’re picking up the story after some gap after my last issue and what we saw in Geoff’s work in Legion of Three Worlds and ‘Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes.'” – Paul Levitz
Previously, Geoff Johns stated that the divergence point between the original Legion’s history and that of the current close analogue thereof lies somewhere around Crisis on Infinite Earths:
“Really, we’re sticking with everything that happened up through Crisis on Infinite Earths.” – Geoff Johns
If this is indeed the case, then the cutoff issue would be Legion of Super-Heroes #18 (January 1986). Unfortunately, Paul Levitz’s run extends all the way to the final issue of that volume, Legion of Super-Heroes #63 (August 1989), which makes for an additional 45 issues worth of material. While some of the stories from that timeframe – such as the previously summarized “The Universo Project” – don’t pose any major continuity issues, there was a major secondary story arc that began in Superman #8 (August 1987) and ended in Legion of Super-Heroes #51 (October 1988) which most definitely poses a problem and has to do with the “recent negative experiences the Legion had with the Time Trapper” I previously mentioned. In order to fully grasp the scope of the problem, though, a quick DC Comics history lesson and summary of the events in question are in order.
In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC gave writer and artist John Byrne carte blanche to update the Superman mythos as he saw fit and to do whatever it took to make him fresh and unique again. What Byrne actually did was casually jettison the character’s entire history and start things over from scratch. Not only was Superman now the only survivor of Krypton’s destruction – meaning that Supergirl had never existed in the first place – but he had also never been Superboy and only began his costumed career when he reached adulthood.
For those of you whose heads are spinning right now at the thought of how massively screwed Legion history would be as a result of this decision: congratulations. You officially have more insight and forethought than anyone who was working for DC Comics at the time. The resulting discrepancy was so massive, in fact, that it punched right through the fourth wall and even the freakin’ Time Trapper was left scratching his head.
Having come to the conclusion that Superboy was nothing more than an unintentional fabrication – the end result of centuries of historical distortions, legends, and misinformation becoming intermingled with facts – that came to be regarded as an actual person (much like the classic portrayal of King Arthur), the Time Trapper learns that the Legion of Super-Heroes is getting ready to travel back in time in order to meet someone who had never actually existed. So, he hits upon a brilliant idea: if there is no Superboy, then he’ll just have to create one.
Have successfully raided the space-time continuum cookie jar, he gets straight to work:
With all extraneous elements eliminated from his “pocket universe”, the Time Trapper manipulates history on both Earth and Krypton to create environments and circumstances that will one day produce a living facsimile of the Legion’s fictional inspiration. He then surgically connects the 30th century with his new creation so that every time the Legionnaires think they’re travelling back in time, they’re actually taking a detour into his own personal playground. Eventually, he attempts to blackmail Superboy into doing his bidding – bartering the safety of Earth and everyone on it against the lives of his teammates – but ends up having the tables turned on him by the Boy of Steel, who sacrifices his life to save his adopted homeworld and return his friends to their own reality and time.
Needless to say, none of the Legionnaires particularly appreciate the Time Trapper’s colossal mindscrew and the entire experience leaves them all…how can we put this delicately…royally cheesed off.
Superboy is subsequently interred on the graveyard asteroid of Shanghalla by three of the Legionnaires most affected by his passing: Saturn Girl (who had helped recruit him with the other two founding members), Mon-El (who came to think of him as a brother), and Brainiac 5 (whose life’s work on time travel had been reduced to a cosmic joke by the Time Trapper’s manipulations). With the arrival of a fourth, Duo Damsel (who had a longstanding secret crush on Superboy that she had never gotten up the courage to confess to him), a conspiracy is born. The four of them make a secret pact and form a Legion within the Legion, vowing that they will avenge their friend’s death by destroying the Time Trapper…or die trying.
Things come to a head in Legion of Super-Heroes #50, when, with all other options for travelling through time exhausted, the conspirators “enlist” the aid of the still brain dead Professor Jaxon Rugarth, carry out a more tightly controlled version of the experiment that transformed him into the Infinite Man, and tap into his power in order to transport themselves to the End of Time. Ultimately, the four “suicide pact” Legionnaires and stowaway Rond Vidar stand alone against the Time Trapper, who quickly hands them their collective asses in an extremely brutal fashion. Left with no other choice, Brainiac 5 releases his secret weapon…
The two diametrically opposed cosmic beings – one the embodiment of entropy, the other the living incarnation of time’s cyclical nature – then begin to duke it out, though Brainiac 5 ends up dealing the decisive blow in the Infinite Man’s favor:
While the Legionnaires manage to return to their native era, their victory is ultimately a pyrrhic one. Professor Jaxon Rugarth, the Infinite Man, died in battle…
…Duo Damsel lost yet another one of her bodies…
…and Mon-El was left so battered and broken as a result of this encounter that he was placed on life support indefinitely, ultimately succumbing to the severity of his injuries in Legion of Super-Heroes #61 (June 1989) during a power outage.
Well…that was pretty damn depressing, wasn’t it?
While you could conceivably shoehorn the aforementioned storyline into official continuity by retconning certain details to make it fit, it’s far more trouble than it’s worth, because if you do, then you’d also have to come up with explanations for the following:
1. Luornu Durgo (alias Una/Duo Damsel/Duplicate Damsel)
Luornu Durgo’s first real appearance following the “lost years” was in Countdown #41 (July 18, 2007), by which point she had started going by the codename Una:
Based on her dialogue – specifically the line that she’s “just the one […] now” – it would appear that Una is, in fact, the last remaining triplicate of Luornu’s, thus implying that her second sister self did indeed die during the aforementioned confrontation with the Time Trapper. Unfortunately, this is completely contradicted by what Duplicate Damsel says in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #5 (September 2009):
There are three possible explanations for this discrepancy:
- The events of Legion of Super-Heroes #50 either didn’t happen (in which case “Una” would be a name her second triplicate adopted in order to establish a unique identity for herself) or happened in a slightly different way than originally shown (specifically one that didn’t involve one of her two remaining selves dying).
- One of her three bodies was resurrected off-panel and sacrificed her life a second time while trying to help Karate Kid in Countdown to Infinite Crisis #6 (March 26, 2008). This explanation actually has a precedent in “Five Years Later” continuity, where Glorith used her time-manipulation powers to revive Luornu’s dead triplicate and subsequently tortured her by putting her through an endless cycle of deaths and rebirths – while allowing her to retain the memories of each and every one – in order to break her will and force her cooperation:
- The aforementioned dialogue from Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #5 is simply wrong and “Una” is actually a duplicate that Luornu produced after she gained her unlimited biofissioning powers.
On a rather morbid side note, Luornu Durgo is not only one of only two female Legionnaires on the original incarnation of the team to ever die in battle (the other being the original Supergirl) but also, by virtue of her powers, the only one to be killed off more than once.
2. Mon-El (Lar Gand)
Though he should technically be dead, it was revealed that, sometime during the “lost years”, Mon-El was banished to the Phantom Zone by Earth-Man and only retrieved from it by Phantom Girl and Shadow Lass in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 (October 2008):
In the “Five Years Later” version of continuity, it was revealed that Mon-El had never actually died but merely fallen into a death-like hibernation, a state which he remained in for years until his body had fully healed itself. While these events are no longer considered canonical, it’s possible that something similar happened in the current version of continuity. The simplest explanation, of course, is that the aforementioned battle with the Time Trapper either never took place or he wasn’t nearly as badly injured in it as he was in the original version of the story.
Despite my repeated emphasis on the dubious canonical status of the aforementioned story arc, the Time Trapper has referenced it at least twice in passing in current continuity: once in Action Comics #864 (June 2008)…
…and again in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4 (June 2009), where one of the portals at the End of Time flashes back to the battle in question:
It was later established that the Time Trapper is unable to distinguish between the actual timeline and an infinite number of theoretical ones, though, so his reliability in this matter is more than suspect.
Now we come to our biggest problem, one that exists regardless of whether or not the “Pocket Universe Superboy” saga is considered canonical:
3. The Guardians of the Universe, the Green Lantern Corps, and Rond Vidar
It’s clear from Legion of Super-Heroes #295 that both the Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern Corps continued to exist well into the 30th century. Moreover, Universo’s dialogue with Rond shortly before his death confirms that he was once a Green Lantern just like in the original story, meaning that at least certain aspects of it remain valid. However, it’s equally clear from comments made by various characters in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 and #3 (November 2008 and April 2009)…
…that the Guardians of the Universe, Mogo, and the Green Lantern Corps are long gone and Sodom Yat has been living in complete isolation on Oa for centuries, none of which is consistent with the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths version of continuity.
The only way that this can possibly work is if we mentally substitute Sodom Yat for the Guardians of the Universe in a revised version of the original story and assume that he personally recruited Rond at some point after his father was discharged, that the handful of Green Lanterns who appeared in it were all that remained of the Corps at that point in time, and that these ring wielders all died in action at some point after the events of that issue but before Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2. Also, depending on whether Legion of Super-Heroes #50 and its lead-in issues are canonical or not, Rond may have revealed his Green Lantern status to the Legionnaires under completely different circumstances.
As for who the new Green Lantern will be, based on this comment of Universo’s…
…my money’s on Rond Vidar’s as-yet-unseen son.
UPDATE (2010.05.19): Looks like I lost that bet. The Green Lantern power ring’s been offered to Earth-Man, of all people, though it remains to be seen if he’ll end up accepting it.