Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Legacy


With all these upstart companies filling up the comic shelves, Marvel Comics increased the number of titles they were putting out as well. In one massive company-wide gimmick, every “Annual” issue introduced a new superhero. One of them was Legacy, real name Genis-Vell, who was the cloned offspring of the late Captain Mar-Vell. He was artificially aged and implanted with false memories so that he would be ready to face his potential enemies immediately.

Legacy turned out to be a long-haired, leather-jacketed punk, a young wastrel who drank and caroused with his low-life friends on an alien world as often as he fought crime. Though he had his father's nega-bands, he did not really learn how to use them at first. He had an adventure with the Avengers in which he and Monica Rambeau met, and though the (now former) leader of the Avengers showed that she was a much more capable hero, she decided to let the younger Vell take on his father's name and “legacy,” and she would take a new name, “Photon.” (this name was later a source of ridicule).

Genis-Vell, now Captain Marvel, had a new series that was canceled even before the story being told in it was finished. Then a future version of him appeared in an Avengers epic event titled “Avengers Forever,” at the end of which he wound up merged with Rick Jones, just like his father was. He also wound up with his future appearance, with short hair and a costume moire like his father's. Then he was given another ongoing series,.

This series was written by Perter David and dealt with a lot of contemporary issues. It was canceled and restarted several times, like the earlier Marvel Comics series, at one point even starting its numbering all over again in a blatant gimmick move to boost sales. Genis was trying to learn how to be a good superhero (to make up for his past and live up to his father's name) and Rick Jones was alternately trying to help him and playing tricks on him. Genis did have the cosmic awareness that his father had, but it drove him mad. So here we had an omnipotent insane person who was trying to understand people in the universe, who, of course, never makes sense. In other words, he was a mad god. He would kill with abandon and seeming randomness, and figured out how to manipulate Rick Jones into killing himself, but resurrected him shortly after. He participated in the destruction of the universe, and then helped it be recreated again.

Ultimately, he was forced into a mental health intervention, in which he appeared to gain stability and serenity, but it was left unclear as to whether he was now going to be a true hero, or simply hold his insanity closer to the vest. In the course of this breakthrough his sister, Phyla-Vell, appeared, claiming to be “The New Captain Marvel.”

His sister was part of his false memories (which he knew were false), but was part of the universe that he had helped re-create. His mother (who had died but now seemed to be alive again, which was unexplained but probably also part of the re-created universe) had given her the mantle because she had seen how Genis had become a travesty of heroic ideals. And she participated in the intervention.

Shortly after this, this series of Captain Marvel comics was canceled. In a very self-aware final issue, it was revealed that Rick Jones was actually aware of the fact that he was in a comic book. It was also summed up that Genis-Vell's uniqueness, his unpredictability, was also his curse. The audience could not grasp what the was supposed to be, and left. In that same issue, Phyla-Vell hooked up with Moondragon, a bald female sorceress, psychic, and superhero. This played right into the contemporary trend that was popularizing, even mainstreaming, lesbianism.

Genis-Vell resurfaced in the pages of The New Thunderbolts, a comic book about former supervillains trying to redeem themselves by being superheroes. He was killed in his very first appearance, but returned several issues later, transformed into a new cosmically-powered superhero called “Photon.” This annoyed Monica Rambeau, but over drinks they agreed to get along, and they came up with a new name for her, “Pulsar.”

The new Photon proved to be short lived, however. A character of mysterious and questionable motivation, Baron Zemo (son of a villain by the same name) discovered that due to Genis-Vell's connection to the universe, he was actually destabilizing it, and thus had to be destroyed by being broken into many small parts which were sent to distant separate points in time. Through various nefarious means, Zemo managed to do this, and that is the last we have seen of Genis-Vell.

Phyla-Vell then held the title of Captain Marvel, which she has since relinquished since she gained the Quantum Bands and taken the title of Quasar, protector of the universe.

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