Thursday, October 9, 2014

Legions Of The Unliving!

Warm thanks to Steve Does Comics for a recent post on the '70s character, Midnight, from the pages of Master Of Kung Fu, which brought to mind the Legion Of The Unliving where our cloaked martial artist was a charter member.

The Legion has certainly gotten a lot of mileage over the years, being formed from the ashes of the grave or plucked from the mists of time to be sicked on the Avengers in one shambling lineup or another. There have been five formations of the Legion, and it probably wasn't as easy as you'd think to fill their ranks. After all, it's not just a matter of thumbing through an index of dead characters and randomly choosing X number of corpses to reanimate--you'd have to factor in how they'd interact with the current lineup of Avengers in terms of powers and shock value, as well as how to balance "big guns" with lesser-reputed characters. And you'd be surprised as to how many characters managed to be chosen for repeat appearances in subsequent legions.

Which opens the creaking door to a dead-on-arrival

Marvel Trivia Question

Which new grouping of the Legion did not feature a member from the original lineup?

The members of the original Legion of the Unliving were chosen by Kang the Conqueror with specific purposes in mind. Wonder Man and the original Human Torch, to take on the Vision; Midnight, to battle Mantis; Zemo, a former ally of Immortus whom Kang was now working with; and the Frankenstein monster and the Ghost for their fear factor. The choice of Zemo, of course, was poorly thought through, since a scientist in the field wasn't very practical without Zemo being able to plan and coordinate with the others (and one reason why he and Kang came into argumentative conflict)--nor were the Avengers likely to be frightened by the monster or Van Straaten. But for a new concept, the Legion struck an impressive picture:

The Legion's next lineup was a grouping culled by the Grandmaster to engage in a "game" of battle with the Avengers with the existence of the entire universe at stake. As we can see, the Grandmaster's choices for the Legion were somewhat more powerful than Kang's, and greater in number in order to match both the east and west coast teams of the Avengers:

This Legion gave the Avengers a tough time of it, and had them on the ropes until Hawkeye hoodwinked the Grandmaster with a rigged game of chance and pulled victory from all-but-certain defeat. (By the way, did you recognize the guy who looks like a golf pro, standing next to the Goblin?)

When Immortus returned in a scheme involving the Scarlet Witch, he formed a new Legion in order to halt the Avengers' advance:

The sparring partners would seem to be pretty apparent, for the most part. Iron Man vs. Iron Man, of course; the Swordsman takes on Hawkeye; USAgent against Left- and Right-Winger (good grief, what terrible names); the Grim Reaper against Wonder Man; Quicksilver against Oort, a character from the 50th century he's never heard of (join the club, pal). It's pot luck for the others: the original Human Torch against the Wasp, and the second Black Knight (Nathan Garrett) against Hank Pym (though you could say it's Old Home Week for these two, since Pym battled the Knight when he'd been Giant-Man). The Knight seems to be as popular as the Torch so far, in terms of being a recurring Legion member--though it was Garrett's ancestor, Sir Percy, who was in the Grandmaster's group.

We see a true horror-based lineup in our fourth Legion:

Formed by the Grim Reaper, who has acquired supernatural powers (to raise the dead, I should certainly hope so), these members are spirits of the dead that are summoned to infuse a group of men that the Reaper has abducted. Once again, the Knight is part of the Legion, which now outnumbers the Avengers 2 to 1--with Zemo also returning as a member. Apparently the fact that Zemo is dead now gives him physical prowess to take on the Avengers--good thing, too, since the poor guy his essence has taken over wasn't likely to have one of Zemo's ray guns on him.

It's the Reaper who also later brings to "life" another grouping of corpses to take vengeance on the Avengers, though he doesn't call them the Legion as such:

Wonder Man returns as a member in this group, as do the Swordsman and Mar-vell. It looks like the Swordsman and the Black Knight are tied in having the most appearances in these lineups of the Legion (three apiece).

But to answer our trivia question, the Legion lineup that didn't feature any returning member of the original group is actually the one with the most members--the Grandmaster's Legion. Nope, not even Zemo was dug up to be drafted into it.  I'm betting the Grandmaster was holding him in reserve.


Anonymous said...

The second one! (I think)
But hey, seeing Thor go up against the Frankenstein Monster, even knowing it was gonna be a short fight, was just too cool to miss. mp

Steve Does Comics said...

Thanks for the plug, Comicsfan. :)

david_b said...

The Swordsman should never have died.. I know Steve Englehart's rationale with his Mantis-Vision subplot, but I really liked Pierre.

As much as I loved what he wrote for CA&F and Avengers like the summer team clash of 1973, he lost points for killing Swordy.

Iain said...

Thanks for covering this, the last incarnation of the legion for I felt the best one as it quite literally pitted friend against friend (I didn't even know Dr Druid was dead at this point) I liked how the Avengers convince the legion to turn upon the reaper too and they were kicking ass until they all died again but it gave Wonder Man his life back.

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