Too Many Long Boxes!
  • Belief
  • Of Bugs and Bug Men
  • Circus!
  • Collector's Item
  • Green Future
  • Hooray For Hollywood
  • Idiot's Delight
  • Mere Mortals…
  • Mister Zeus…

  • End of Summer

    What's Up, Dox?

    Remembering the L.E.G.I.O.N.

    by Chaim Mattis Keller

    Friends, Romulans, and countrymen, lend me your ears. I come not to bury L.E.G.I.O.N. but to praise it.

    One of the canceled series I most miss is L.E.G.I.O.N…not the Legion of Super-Heroes, but the twentieth-century version. A spin-off of the "Invasion!" Miniseries, and an indirect spin-off of the thirtieth-century Legion title, it added to the DC Universe a dimension that had been missing since the demise of the Green Lantern Corps, and possibly even the Omega Men: a series with an emphasis on interplanetary science-fiction staples such as alien cultures and cross-species cooperation. And it remained faithful to a core of DC Universe law established by the Legion of Super-Heroes series. It might even be said that its success inspired the mini-boom in space series that includes the second wave of Green Lantern titles and Darkstars.

    However, the thrust of the book was always the personalities of the core group of heroes, especially the leader Vril Dox II. The book's central theme, throughout its run, was his growth as a person, which, when seen in the perspective of the entire series, is impressive…especially considering the way the series came to a full-circle ending.

    Our introduction to Dox and his group is in Invasion!. Vril Dox is a prisoner of the Dominion-led Alien Alliance who spends his time in complete silence, not acknowledging any creature around him. Soon enough, though, he reveals to several strategically chosen allies that he had been planning their escape. One of these allies is actually a Durlan who has been his friend…his only friend from a cold, computer-run, emotionless world. Sure enough, Vril Dox and his allies escape their prison…at the expense of dozens of other prisoners' lives!

    It's only later in the series that we learn something about Dox himself. We knew from the beginning that his father was the space-criminal Brainiac, but we didn't know that the Computer Tyrants, who ran his home planet, Colu, had created him from Brainiac's genes as a lab assistant. We didn't know that he and his father were the only free-thinking Coluans on the planet. And we didn't know the kind of humiliation he received from his father over every little perceived mistake.

    Thus, we discovered what makes Vril Dox II tick: a burning hatred for all sorts of tyranny based on his treatment at the hands of his father, a brilliant mind that saw itself (perhaps correctly) as superior to all others, and a complete lack of understanding for the emotions of sentient beings. To these tendencies, we learned that the Durlan had added an understanding of the concepts of self-determination and justice, concepts that Dox now understood as integral to the proper functioning of society. However, Dox still remained a Machiavelllian manipulator, convinced that he knew the right thing to do…and if the sentient tools he would use to do it would object to being drafted for the task, then they would have to be made to serve against their will.

    Upon leaving the Invasion prison, Dox convinced his newfound allies to take him to Colu…without telling them that they could expect to be imprisoned or killed on the planet unless they destroyed the Computer Tyrants, the very thing Dox wanted them to do in the first place. His next act was to keep the group together by turning an accidental encounter with Lobo into a means of forcing the others into complying with his wishes. In order to protect his fellow Coluans from ever again being submissive to a tyrant, he programmed them for free will…with a little back door for him to have some extra charisma if it ever proved necessary. As if this manipulation weren't enough, Vril then turned his attention toward creating a galaxy-wide police organization with his five new acquaintances and Lobo at its core. Rather than laying out a plan and asking them to participate (except for Lobo, who he hired), he diverted them out of the way and later drugged them in order to allow him and Lobo to crush a planet-wide criminal organization through wholesale slaughter and sacrifice thousands of local policemen in order to forge them into his image of an ideal fighting unit. And did I say Lobo participated voluntarily? Dox thought his new hireling was too powerful, so he chemically removed some of his powers without telling him.

    For obvious reasons, these kinds of tactics didn't exactly endear him to his teammates-to-be. Stealth killed him (in a hormonal rage, not as revenge) and, after he was successfully cloned, Lobo tried to do the same. He found out that Stealth was pregnant with his child and insisted that the child be aborted, which led to her running away to give birth and her hiding the child from him. When Garryn Bek, a policeman from Cairn (the criminal planet which Dox took over and made into L.E.G.I.O.N. headquarters), stumbled across the Emerald Eye of Ekron (a magical artifact of power familiar to readers of the original Legion book), he needed Dox's help in order to manage it, but when Dox asked him, "Who's been L.E.G.I.O.N.'s greatest enemy from the very beginning?", Garryn immediately responded, "You!"

    While Dox was being cloned, two things happened that began a change in his outlook: The Durlan disappeared, to be replaced by a mysterious woman called Phase (who Legion readers recognized as Phantom Girl from that thirtieth-century team), and Lyrissa Mallor, the heroine from the planet Talok (an ancestor of the Legionnaire Shadow Lass), took over the implementation of Dox's dream. The Durlan's disappearance made it suddenly important that Dox seek approval from another source. While the Durlan managed to inject some social conscience into Dox's mind, Dox had a bullying hold over the Durlan as well, due to the debt he owed Dox for his survival on Colu. Lyrissa impressed the newly revived Dox with her competence and maturity, and Dox made her his second-in-command…and his conscience. Following an adventure that added Lady Quark, Captain Comet and an alien Telepath to the team, Vril discovered that his father, Brainiac, was alive, and resolved to kill him. When he had Brainiac in his power, Vril conducted a sham trial, at the end of which the Coluans, who were programmed to view Vril as a hero, agreed to execute Brainiac. But Lyrissa was able to convince Vril of the unjustness of his approach. Though he had originally deemed the charisma-programming necessary in order to prevent the Coluans from ever again being enslaved, he was taught by Lyrissa that it's too easy to turn such noble causes into a means for achieving a selfish agenda…and if he did this, he'd be no worse than his father.

    Just as Vril had found his new moral anchor, though, she was gone, killed by her daughter under the control of the Computer Tyrants of Colu. Fortunately for himself and L.E.G.I.O.N., Dox already had in his employ the man who would replace Lyrissa as the voice of conscience in the team: Captain Comet. Dox distrusted do-gooders, but the hero's words of caution struck a chord with him when he attempted to add the increased charisma program to the curing of Lyrissa Mallor's brainwashed daughter, Lydea. Dox listened to Comet, who stuck with the team and provided a balance to Dox's cold calculation.

    Positive emotion was a stranger to Dox until the L.E.G.I.O.N. recruit called Ig'nea came into the team and stole his heart. "Stole" here is not merely a turn of phrase…she turned out to be a criminal with the ability to manipulate emotions. However, her powers only worked to activate emotions that existed…meaning that this love she made Dox strongly feel was a love that he did feel, to a small degree, without being manipulated. Her activities, on behalf of her father, crime boss Maximillian G'odd, made Dox disband the L.E.G.I.O.N. While the other members of the team eventually discovered that G'odd was behind their disbanding and attacked his home base, it was Dox himself who had to make his mind understand how it had been manipulated, and re-evaluate his priorities in life. Given the choice between comfortable retirement and the laborious rebuilding of an organization that he partially dismantled in order to preserve justice in the galaxy, he chose the latter.

    The next turning point in Vril Dox's life was also caused by Ig'nea: she kidnapped the son Stealth had created with Dox to use as leverage in a scheme for revenge over her father's death during the L.E.G.I.O.N. assault on his home. L.E.G.I.O.N. fought Ig'nea and her minions to a stalemate and managed to retrieve the baby. As Dox held the baby in his hands, he saw himself in the power position that his father had been in on Colu, and this frightened him. Dox decided, as Stealth had, that the less he had to do with the raising of his child, the better off both he and the child were.

    This proved to be a mistake, though. Dox soon discovered that the baby was, like himself, super-intelligent. Suddenly, Dox took a greater interest in the child, in order to educate his son in the running of the organization. Unfortunately, though, Dox discovered his son to be what he himself might have been if not for the moral instructions provided by the Durlan and the others who had been involved in his life. As a baby, the child (who named himself Lyrl) had no understanding of others' needs at all and coldly executed calculated moves to organize other beings under his power. Vril was horrified by this, but was blind to his son's machinations until it was too late. Lyrl improved on Dox's enhanced charisma program and used it to take over the L.E.G.I.O.N. Vril and his few remaining allies fled, leading to a change in the comic's title, to R.E.B.E.L.S. By the time that book had ended, Vril deposed his son and reverted Lyrl's intelligence to that of a human baby, he quit his post as leader of L.E.G.I.O.N. in order to raise the child properly, and Captain Comet took over the L.E.G.I.O.N. for good.

    L.E.G.I.O.N. -- the story of an interstellar police force…and of the personal maturing of a single character, Vril Dox II.

    Letters Editor Chaim Mattis Keller, aka Legion-Reference-File Lad, is a computer programmer who lives in New York City with his wife and four children.

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