Or – “Some Heroes Take A While To Warm Up…”

Last time out, we returned to the “Five Year Gap” era Legion of Super Heroes for the first time in a while, visiting the world as it was with neither Kal-El of Krypton or the Time Trapper.  I’ve said before, and I still believe that this portion of Legion history (now, apparently relegated to one of many alternate realities) was the first dry run for rebooting Legion continuity, which was then considered to be too complex and hard to understand.  Of course, Keith Giffen and company felt that the best way to deal with the issues of complexity and continuity was to remove the distinct color-schemed costumes and codenames and go low-tech.  It was a bold move, and one that worked mostly due to the characters in play.  One of the more unique Legionnaires of this time started out not as a hero, but as a Daily Planet cub reporter sent by Earthgov to bury the Legion with bad press.  In a Legion that welcomed a smuggler, a private detective, a senator, and even a former member of the Legion of Super-Villains, he was our point of view character, the closest thing we had to the kid next door in a 30th Century fraught with terror.  This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of the Legionnaire briefly known as Reflex of Earth…  Devlin O’Ryan!

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Our story begins in the offices of private investigator Celeste Rockfish (a short story which we’ll be getting to in rather short order) as Celeste and her associate Bounty recieve a high-paying gig from the corrupt Earthgov: hunt down and deliver a lost Legionnaire.  Good news?  Bounty and Celeste could probably pull it off.  Bad news?  The Legionnaire is Jan Arrah, currently ensconsed on his home planet of Trom, and no commercial spaceliner flies there.  (All the natives are dead, y’see…)  Enter, the Devlin!

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With his Daily Planet credentials, Devlin is able to secure passage to even Trom, managing to raise a freighter to deliver them to the home of the element-shifters.  ‘Course, that doesn’t mean that he’s able to charter a terribly RELIABLE ship.  Even Jimmy Olsen didn’t have unlimited funds…

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Once there, Devlin and Celeste go planetside to try and find the former Element Lad, watching a U.P. history tape that turns out to be not much more than the origin of Element Lad.  Devlin isn’t worried, however, believing that a hero like Jan couldn’t have turned into the mysterious crazy man reported to wander Trom and melting all trespassers…

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…and, of course, he’s right.  Devlin’s belief in the better part of human nature comes to serve him well in his dealings with the Legion…  up to a point.  Rockfish and Bounty take Jan into custody, but instead of trying to return him to Earth, they instead listen to his tale.  When someone mysteriously murders former Legionnaire Blok, Jan not only talks them out of turning him in for their (excuse the expresion) bounty, he convinces them to head to Winath where several former Legionnaires are massing.

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Once on Winath, Devlin is completely out of his element, surrounded by heroes with an agenda that he doesn’t quite understand.  Alongside Bounty, the other non-Legionnaire (theoretically, anyway) Devlin wanders the Ranzz family plantation waiting for his moment of greatness.

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Bounty’s irritation about dead Legionnaires comes from the fact that she (or at least PART of her) used to BE a Legionnaire, but Devlin’s good-nature (and, honestly, a bit of bone-headedness) gets him into trouble.  That buzzing, you see, is a colony of vicious Winathian bees, and Devlin was warned not to leave the path… 

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This marks the first appearance of the sweater that will become Devlin’s trademark, possibly the closest thing the Five-Years-Later Legion had to an honest-to-Kal-El costume for dozens of issues.  The Legion reforms, partly because of Devlin and Celeste’s actions on Trom, and O’Ryan returns to Earth and his job at the Daily Planet.  But he’s no longer the detached reporter, watching from afar.  Devlin’s sense of honor and decency force him to make a fateful decision…

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Devlin helps the Legionniares to find the evidence that will eventually doom the Dominator controlled Earthgov, but before the team can fully act, the Dominators push the panic button.  When a public demonstration gets out of hand, the alien overlords send their footsoldiers into the street of Metropolis with orders to open fire.  The city streets are sudden awash with blood, and even the power of the press can’t save Devlin from being shot…

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A lightning bolt?  What are the odds that you’d get hit by lightning on the streets of Metropolis?  Actually, now that I think of it, there were days when Weisinger Plaza might be a very likely place for that sort of thing to happen, around a time we call “Adventure Comics #301 to 375ish.”  His mysterious attackers change their tactics, and treat Devlin’s injuries, but even they aren’t sure of his ability to survive a frapgun injury and radiation poisoning from a burst fusion powersphere.

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The reference to “having it fixed,” of course, comes from the fact that he has met this particular woman before, or at least, met someone very much like her…  of course, that woman was missing an eye.  Healing up, Devlin regains more of his senses, and the mysterious woman decides to tell him the truth about her eye, her identity, and the identities of her pals.

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Ladles and jellyspoons, I give you…  the SW6 Legion of Super-Heroes!  From left to right, starting in the back, we have Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Colossal Boy, the first Invisible Kid, Light Lass, Ferro Lad, Laurel Gand, Valor/Mon-El, Ultra Boy Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, Phantom Girl, Element Lad, Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Shrinking Violet, Saturn Girl, Triplicate Girl, and Cosmic Boy.  Devlin’s response is a very dignified “Buhaminah???”

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Thus, Devlin is partially responsible for the discovery of the SW6 duplicate Legionnaires in the hidden chambers under Metropolis.  He is, naturally, stunned to find that they exist, since he’s met many of their counterparts and those LSHers are a couple decades older…

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Invisible Kid explains how the “clones” woke up in hidden Dominator stasis pods under Metropolis, but even the mind of Brainiac 5 can’t tell them whether or not they’re clones of the Legion, or the real thing, trapped for years while clones took their place.  Devlin realizes that these Legionnaires could be the key to finally overturning the Dominators control of Earthgov, but the LSH kids (with good reason) aren’t sure whom to trust.

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The team finally decides that they have to ask, but in their attempt to rendezvous with their counterparts, the encounter a Dominator strike team.  The Legionnaires prepare to go into action, but Devlin impulsively acts to try and protect his new friends…

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Less divine intervention, Tenzil, and more the mutative capabilities of fusion powersphere energies on Dev’s wounded body.  Either way, Devlin has developed an actual super-power of his own, the ability to repel attacks back on his attackers.  Devlin and the Legion successfully join forces with the underground, only to find that it’s being led by none other than their old foe… Universo!

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Devlin may have faith in the Legion as heroes, but he has less in Universo, but Invisible Kid continually overrules his fear.  Most interestingly, romance blooms between Devlin and the young SW6 Shrinking Violet, an unsure lass who finds his mid-twenties confidence and self-assuredness quite attractive…

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Devlin’s wish to be the documenter of events on Earth comes true for him, but not in the way that he might have hoped.  The Dominators are run off (thanks to the SW6 and older Legionnaires) but the damage that they’ve done to the planet cannot be ignored.  The core of the Earth has become unstable, and is near a catastrophic explosion (ironically similar to what happened to Krypton decades ago.)  Devlin and the Legionnaires work feverishly to save what they can, and Devlin’s ruminations from the front lines finally net him his dream: the front page of the Daily Planet.

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Devlin’s is the voice that explains the final fate of the Earth, as an ancient series of defense systems is engaged, and cities all around the globe literally blast off into space!  Millions of people are killed, several of the cities are destroyed during the evacuation, and most horrifying of all?  Hundreds of thousands of people are forced to CHOOSE to stay behind, giving up their lives so that others have a chance to survive the end of the world.

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The Legionnaires phase the linked cities (dubbed “New Earth”) into the Bgztlian Phantom/Buffer Zone, and they all watch in horror as the Earth explodes.  Devlin’s dream of being a big-time reporter seems bittersweet at best, a hollow victory given the price that so many have paid.

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Devlin reached his goal, being recognized galaxy-wide as a talented writer and a good reporter, but his time with the Legion made it seem insignificant in comparison, so our Mr. O’Ryan does what any good kid would do, if given sudden super-powers:  He becomes a Legionnaire!

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Ironically, though, the same personality traits that made him a force to be reckoned with in the young SW6 Legion make him the young impulsive kid on the older team.  Saddest of all is how crestfallen he is when his shrinking girlfriend isn’t flattered by his attempt to pull strings and get her into the grown-up Legion…

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Violet’s ‘Dear Devlin’ letter is sad, but he quickly recovers and sets about the task of settling in with his new team.  Of course, his naivete makes him stand out with this older, more jaded team of LSHers, especially in his interactions with the younger, but much more street smart Kono…

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Team leader Jacques Foccart tries to dub Devlin ‘Reflex,’ a name that fits his powers well, but the Legion doesn’t seem interested in having code-names.  Of course, they are a bit preoccupied, as they’re immediately dragged into a war with Mordru, during which the Dark Lord uses mystical powers to raise an undead army against the Legion.  In desperation, the team joins forces with Khundish heroes Flederweb, Bloodclaw, Veilmist, and Firefist (and this is as close as they’re getting to Hero Histories themselves, by the by) and the team once again goes to war, and Devlin finds himself wishing he’d stayed with the young Legionnaires on Earth.

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During the battle, Devlin’s lack of combat experience nearly gets him killed several times, and earns him the ire of Firefist, a very Punisher-esque Khund warrior.  Of course, the two of them are separated from the rest of the Legion, and blasted headlong into Mordru’s harem (which makes me kind of envy the mystical jerk.)

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Mordru’s courtesans hide them from discovery by Mordru’s aminions, but Devlin’s attitude once again rubs the cyborg Khund the wrong way.  When Mr. O’Ryan says the wrong word at the right time, Firefist loses his very limited cool in a big, stupid way…

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Still, even though he lacks in combat experience, Devlin still acts when he needs to.  After Mordru buries his partners alive, Devlin (remembering the lesson of Firefist) uses a little strategy and a lot of luck to confront the wizard face to quivering, sweaty, terrified face.

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Whether by instinct or training, Devlin manages to harness a power he can control, his use of words (he is a professional writer after all) to goad Mordru into triggering his OTHER power…

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With Mordru out of action, Devlin has to move quickly to save the his teammates from certain death.  Phase two of his plan involves digging up the Khundish girl, Veilmist, and using her to return his partners from beyond the pale.

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Devlin’s action are key to the team escaping death at Mordru’s hands, and prove to be the turning point that allows them to rebuff Mordru’s attack.  His quick thinking puts him in rare company, as not every Legionnaire has single-handedly saved the entire team, and very few have actually put one over on the mighty mighty Mordru.  Even more impressively, his actions also won him…  a wife!

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Heh…  Veilmist reminds me of Spider-Man (which, I’m sure, was the intention from the beginning.)  Devlin’s big moment proves to be his Legion swansong, though, as the team is almost immediately forced to battle Mordru’s opposite number, Glorith of Balduur, the manipulator of time who replaced the Time Trapper when he was removed from the timestream.  Devlin once again leaps into action before his common sense stops him, confronting the demon-mother before she completely de-ages Lightning Lass.

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Unfortunately for Devlin, his powers don’t fully deflect her magic, and he (along with several of his teammates) is de-aged, though not as completely as poor Kent Shakespeare…

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Devlin’s Legion immediately has to go on the run, as their alliance with the Khundish heroes allows Universo to manipulate popular opinion against them.  Their appearances and ages altered by Glorith’s powers, the Legionnaires go on the run, leaving Devlin behind.  But, when the Zero Hour crisis affects the 30th century, and founding member Rokk Krinn goes missing, all living Legionnaires gather to try and find him, Devlin included.

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As it becomes more obvious that more than just a missing member is at stake, the various Legionnaires come together to create a desperate plan.  Pooling their sorcerous might, the mystical Legionnaires plan to use Devlin’s power as a focal point for a spell to reverse the decay of their timestream, but they’re slowed by an attack by alternate Legionnaires from various perverse realities…

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Devlin manages to keep calm and focus his powers against time, and the magic Legionnaires weave a powerful spell around him, but even they can’t foresee the damage that Zero Hour has done to time, space and dimension.  The universe has a sick sense of humor, as Devlin starts to feel a strange tingling sensation…

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Devlin O’Ryan’s tenure with the Legion was short, and unlike most young Legionnaires, he never got to hang out in an upturned rocket wearing a tight costume with a funny name.  Still, he managed to stand with his team against the mightiest of menaces, utilizing his unwavering sense of honor, a fierce belief in the difference between right and wrong, and a sheer luck to his advantage.  His words brought solace to millions in their time of greatest needs, his cleverness brought the Legion from the edge of disaster, and his good nature lightened one of the darkest periods of Legion history, proving that it’s not the size of the hero in the fight, but the size of the fight in the hero that counts.

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**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! Our previous Major Spoilers Hero Histories include:

Andromeda
Blok
Bouncing Boy
Brainiac 5
Catspaw
Chameleon Boy
Chemical King
Colossal Boy
Computo
Dawnstar
Dragonmage
Dream Girl
Duo Damsel
Element Lad
Ferro Lad
Gear
Gates
Invisible Kid
Invisible Kid II
Karate Kid
Kid Quantum
Kinetix
Kent Shakespeare
Kono
Lightning Lass
Magnetic Kid
Magno
Matter-Eater Lad
Mon-El
Monstress
Phantom Girl
Princess Projectra
Quislet
Sensor Girl
Shadow Lass
Shikari
Shrinking Violet
Star Boy
Supergirl
Sun Boy
Tellus
Thunder
Timber Wolf
Triplicate Girl
Tyroc
Ultra Boy
The White Witch
Wildfire
XS

Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all! Next time, we go back to the Five Year Gap again, for what will be the last time, as we look Devlin’s cohort and fellow Legion newbie… Celeste Rockfish!

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. Esther
    September 8, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Who’s next?