LEGION OF THE UNLIVING I
Membership: Baron Heinrich Zemo, Midnight (M'nai), Flying Dutchman's Ghost, Wonder Man, Human Torch (Jim Hammond), Frankenstein's Monster
Purpose: Destruction of the Avengers and capture of Mantis
Affiliations: Pawns of Kang the Conqueror
Enemies: Avengers (Hawkeye, Iron Man, Mantis, Thor, Vision)
Base of Operations: Limbo
First Appearance: Avengers I#131 (January, 1975)
History: (Avengers I#131)- Following a clash with the Avengers, Kang the Conqueror and his alternate future counterpart, Rama-Tut, were left hurtling through the timestream. Kang was rescued by Immortus, the ruler of Limbo and self-styled master of time, who also imprisoned Rama-Tut. Immortus decided to help Kang attack the Avengers, and Kang then told Immortus he had already done so using non-powered historical figures, failed, and that the event had been wiped from time. Kang suggested using a similar strategy, but explained that it would be best to summon and control superhumans. Moreover, Kang summoned superhumans who were believed dead in the present time, in order to increase the Avengers' fear.
Kang first summoned the Frankenstein Monster from 1898. He next summoned Wonder Man, who would serve as both a powerful physical foe and a psychological weapon against the Vision. In order to threaten the Vision physically, Kang also summoned the original Human Torch. Seeking to capture Mantis, Kang brought forth the kung-fu master Midnight to match her skills. In order to provide a random element, Kang selected the Flying Dutchman's Ghost. Finally, Kang summoned Baron Heinrich Zemo, whom Immortus had allied with in his previous battle with the Avengers. Immortus then suggested to Kang that he trap the Avengers in the Labyrinths of Limbo to further disorient the team. Kang agreed, beamed the Avengers to random locations in the maze, and then promptly trapped Immortus alongside Rama-Tut.
(Avengers I#132)- The Legion immediately began having problems, though; the Frankenstein Monster was not truly dead, only composed of dead body parts, and it wandered off. Kang also sent Midnight to find Mantis. After a skirmish with Thor, the Monster simply stumbled off with the thunder god following. The rest of the Legion, with Kang, encountered the Vision, who also left by passing through the walls of the maze when he discovered the villians were apparently immune to his solar beam. Kang sent the Flying Dutchman's Ghost to follow the Vision.
Meanwhile, Midnight encountered Mantis, who knocked him to the floor and fled with M'nai in pursuit, sensing the villain's "dead" nature. Iron Man and Hawkeye found one another, and were in turn found by Kang, Zemo, the Torch, and Wonder Man. As they clashed, Iron Man sent Hawkeye to find the others. Unfortunately, this allowed Kang to blast Iron Man while the Torch slipped up behind him. Using his flame to its fullest, the mind-controlled Torch fused Iron Man's life-sustaining armor, leaving the Avenger dead on the ground.
(Giant-Size Avengers#3)- Still elsewhere, the Flying Dutchman's Ghost found Mantis and the Vision, and destroyed himself in a near-fatal assault on the synthezoid. Mantis attempted to help the Vision, and was attacked again by Midnight, who, like all the others, had slipped Kang's control and now intended to kill his enemy. Despite M'nai's use of weaponry this time, Mantis was able to render him unconscious with a hold. While she battled the kung-fu fighter, though, the Frankenstein Monster carried the Vision to the Human Torch. The Torch had also broken Kang's control. Similarly, Zemo finally began asserting himself against Kang, who cowed the Nazi with threats. Even worse, Thor discovered Iron Man's body, and swore vengeance against Kang.
The Torch and the Monster, meanwhile, drove off Wonder Man and set about attempting to repair the Vision. The Torch was stunned to discover that the android had parts matching his own. Kang, realizing that things were turning against him, finally sent Zemo off to guard Immortus and Rama-Tut. Kang was immediately assaulted by Thor, and saved by Wonder Man's return. Hawkeye stumbled across the throne room, and despite Zemo's Adhesive X assault, managed to get off an impossible bowshot (with his teeth!) and free Immortus. Immortus then devolved Zemo into protoplasm and freed Hawkeye. Finally, Thor and a damaged-but-walking Vision found and battled Kang and Wonder Man. Kang, unable to fend off Thor, fled into the timestream. The Vision, using his ability to become diamond-hard, did beat Wonder Man into unconsciousness.
At this point, Immortus arrived. Explaining that time stands still in Limbo, he simply revived Iron Man with a gesture, and then restored the Vision. Finally, Immortus sent all the Legion members except the Torch back, restored and without memory of the battle, to the moments of their deaths (though Hawkeye had to convince him to restore Zemo). Immortus then allowed the Torch and the Vision to remain and learn their mutual origin.
Comments: Legion of the Unliving idea created by Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas.
As noted above, the Legion members initially seemed impervious to most physical harm, but that faded as they broke Kang's control. Chalk it up to the properties of Limbo or just the mind-control itself.
It's par for the course in these Legion of the Unliving tales to note how many of the members returned to life. In this case, of course, two members were sort of brought back in the story itself - the Torch and the Frankenstein Monster. The Torch returned as himself in Avengers West Coast#50, which was explained in Avengers Forever#8. Midnight returned as Midnight Sun under Englehart's pen in Silver Surfer III#31; and the Flying Dutchman's Ghost returned in Marvel Comics Presents#46/2. Though it wasn't a resurrection, Zemo's body was possessed and briefly ran around in Captain America I#364. And for the record, Zemo would serve as a member in the fourth Legion of the Unliving as well. (The Baroness, Heike Zemo, once claimed to possess the mind of Heinrich Zemo, though she later refuted this claim, and married Helmut.---Snood)
Per Degaton: Toro of the third Legion of the Unliving claimed that he was in the original Legion of the Unliving. Kang himself in Fantastic Four Annual#25 stated that it was the original Human Torch in the original Legion of the Unliving and not Toro.
This story was a small part of one of the greatest epics in comics, Steve Englehart's legendary "Celestial Madonna" storyline. It's no exaggeration to say that all of the material introduced in the epic is still playing out today, from the Celestial Quest series to the revelations in Avengers Forever. Most significantly, this story leads directly to the first Vision origin and the revelation that the Vision was the original Human Torch. The origin was retconned in West Coast Avengers#50, but then reinstated in Avengers Forever#8.
Speaking of Avengers Forever, it's almost certain now that Kang and the Legion members were influenced by Immortus the whole time, particularly as the Vision's learning his origin was so central to Immortus' schemes. I won't go so far as to call them all Space Phantoms, though Immortus' next Legion in Avengers West Coast#61 was certainly composed of those creatures.
Here's some more trivia, if'n you like it:
this Legion was plucked from time prior to their
"deaths." Here's the chronologic appearances of the
characters, courtesy of the Avengers Index:
Baron Zemo: b/t panel 3 and 4 of page 20 of Avengers I#15
Flying Dutchman's ghost: b/t page 18 and 19 of Silver Surfer I#9
Frankenstein's monster: b/t page 5 and 6 of Frankenstein Monster#12
Human Torch: within the flashback in Avengers I#134
Midnight: b/t panel 4 and 5 of page 17 of Marvel Special Edition (which evolved into Master of Kung-Fu)#16
Wonder Man: b/t panel 3 and 4 of page 19 of Avengers I#9
All Legions of the Unliving got a group entry in OHotMU Horror 2005.
Profile by Omar Karindu.
Clarifications: Legion of the Unliving I is not to be confused with:
images: (without ads)
Avengers I#131, p12, pan4 (Legion of the Unliving I main image)
Avengers I#132 (February, 1975) - Steve Englehart & Roy Thomas (#132) (writer), Sal Buscema (pencils), Joe Staton (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
Giant-Size Avengers#3 (February, 1975) - Steve Englehart & Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Cockrum (pencils), Joe Giella (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
Last updated: 12/14/04
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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