The Legion of Super-Heroes is back in their own comic. And it’s the Legion I grew up with (as opposed to the Legions I grew old with), the team inspired by Superboy, the force as at home battling Darkseid as babysitting the Super-Pets. Sure, there are discrepancies from the comics history which ended in the Eighties – such as Karate Kid having been alive again recently – but I’ll consider these things to be explained rather than irritations.
And if returning writer Paul Levitz chooses to ignore them and steam right along with what he’s been given, I’m good with that. He’s certainly earned my confidence, having written the team in more than 100 issues over two stints. He justifies my faith with every page of this extra-length opener, showing a masterly talent for juggling characters and plots.
The main story this issue is Earthgov forcing the Legion to open their ranks to Earth-Man – who recently tried to kill the team. The Legion don’t want it, their extraterrestrial-hating antagonist certainly doesn’t wish it, but it’s happening. Seems there’s a powerful pack of xenophobes at the heart of Earthgov and they’re forcing the issue. If the Legion don’t agree, they have to move off Earth.
Why the Legion don’t call Earthgov’s bluff, I don’t know. They’d soon come crawling back to the Legion next time Earth was invaded. But the team reluctantly agrees, believing the Legion should be quartered on Earth at the centre of the United Planets, and hoping to bring Earth-Man round to their way of thinking/sanity.
My problem with this plotline – apart from having had my fill of Earth-Man in the long Geoff Johns-written Action Comics story which helped win the team this run – is that the sudden xenophobia makes no sense. By 2110 Earth has had contact with aliens, good and bad, for 1000 years. They’ve been protected by the extraterrestrial-filled Legion for probably a decade, so it’s loony to think Earth-Man could spread enough dissent to get the Legion kicked off Earth and persuade the world to leave the United Planets.
Still, as a maguffin for one storyline, I could accept it. I just don’t want the whole xenophobia bit to flow through into this new book longterm. I want all-new challenges, I want Levitz to have free reign to go where he wants.
Where things go this issue is Oa, and the universe’s last Green Lantern Sodam Yat, another refugee from Johns’s recent storylines. He sees Oa birth a spooky new kind of Oan, Dyogene, who looks like Casper the Friendly Guardian. Well, hopefully his motives are pure – by the end of the issue he’s offered Earthman a GL ring. Is that wise?
Oh well, it motivates the comic’s rather dull cover, whimpering ‘buy me’ to GL fans while demonstrating that Earth-Man’s too dumb to wear his Legion ring the correct way up. I’d favour a nice team shot to kick off this ‘all-new era’.
So, I’d prefer Earth-Man locked up in space prison Takron-Galtos and off panel, and the Green Lantern mythology elsewhere … at least for the first issue. The LSH has occasionally featured GLs, just not on the team, as I fear will happen here. While Superman and Supergirl are vital to the team’s history, I don’t want a Legion filled with JLA legacies – in the past, during the team’s various incarnations, we’ve had Flash and Marvel Family types hogging panel space that should be reserved for unique Legionnaires.
Nevertheless, and despite the fact he’s been away from them for a couple of decades, Levitz knows how to make interstellar lemonade. This book grabs from the word go (actually, it’s ‘The’ swiftly followed by ‘Arghhh!’) as we see that Earth has the tech to dampen Earth-Man’s powers – he began as a Legion reject named Absorbancy Boy – and not all Earth folk hate the Legion. One of the scientists here is even a fan of Saturn Girl.
And that’s who we soon join on a return visit to her home of Titan, where everyone’s mental, in the best possible sense. After a reminder that hubby and fellow Legion founder Lightning Lad is off on a personal mission, leaving her looking after their twins, Imra Arden Ranzz is soon helping at a disaster. And it’s a big one, as hubris-filled scientists recreate a famous DC mistake – using a time viewer to watch the hand of creation at the Big Bang.
Despite her efforts, and that of the Legion sub-team she summons, her boys vanish and the planet dies (funnily enough, last week we saw the beginnings of Titan in Adventure Comics; kudos for good planning, DC). The issue ends with the double whammy of a world’s end, and the surprising, ironic choice offered to Earthman – Legionnaire working with aliens, or GL working for aliens.
Levitz brings everyone up to speed with the past and the new status quo speedily, with numerous short scenes that build to the double climax. We spend time with a handful of Legionnaires and a couple, Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5, get extra attention as we share their thoughts, but Cosmic Boy, Wildfire and others also get quality panel time. We even catch up with some old supporting characters, Imra’s teacher, Dr Aven, and Officer Gigi Cusimano, now promoted to Chief of Earth’s Science Police. And we meet some new guys, though a couple won’t be back anytime soon.
The characterisation of Imra is promising, she’s slightly grumpier than when we last met her – at one point she even seems to be wishing bad luck on semi-useless hubby Garth. I believe parenthood can do that to a person, and she always has been a bit of a bossy mare. Brainiac 5 acts as superior as he’s been portrayed throughout the last several continuities, but Levitz shows, rather than tells, us why that might be – he does indeed have the busiest of minds. And there’s a great gag about his tendency to blow up labs.
Joining Levitz is an artist new to me, and the Legion, Yildiray Cinar. On this showing, I hope he sticks around awhile – his work is clean, strong and dynamic, good with angles and dramatic scene setting. He’s not trying to show off, but I know Legion artists … the best ones ease into the book – easily one of comics’ most challenging, with its cast of thousands and many locales – and, on finding their feet, start going crazy with the designs and layouts. My favourite moment this month is a splash of the Legion helping evacuate Titan, showing a team whose members knows what they’re doing – you can be sure Levitz will give them interpersonal issues aplenty, but they don’t drag them into the field.
I also love the page showing reactions to the death of Titan, done as a nine-panel grid, a wink to the glory days of Levitz and artists Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt that’s appropriate for this point in the script.
Cinar draws an interesting Titan, depicting it as a world combining 31st-century design with the classical architecture of Earth. Shame it’s dead. His Legionnaires are a good-looking bunch, especially Colossal Boy. His Brainy reminds me of Seventies artist Jimmy Janes’, just a tiny bit too manic and eyebrowy. And Imra needs to lose the hoops on her arms and legs that she’s been sporting recently, and grow her hair long again – now we’re beyond the Adult Legion story in Action Comics there’s no need for her, anyone, to look so old. Young adults is fine.
But these are the definition of minor quibbles. I like Cinar, teamed here with veteran inker Wayne Faucher, letterer Sal Cipriano and colourist Hi-Fi. This is a good-looking comic strip, all 39pp of it. Yup, DC gave us 33% extra for our money, cheers peeps. If subsequent issues are in the regular $3.99/30pp format I’ll be very happy. Whatever the format, though, I doubt there’ll be many buyers of this first issue who won’t be back next month.
And praise be, there’s even a text page in which Levitz welcomes readers new and old to the book, and himself back. All in all, this is a terrific package. The Legion of Super-Heroes has come home.