Twenty years ago, several members of the Legion of Super-Heroes were lost in space. And time.
Actually, that statement doesn’t do the extent of the their problems justice; they’ve been flung outside of reality itself, with no landmarks to help resident genius Brainiac 5.1 even begin to plot a way back. They do, though, gain a new friend in Shikari, a member of a nomadic race on the run from vile beings known as The Progeny.
Little by little, Saturn Girl, Monstress, Ultra Boy and the rest regain hope, their Legion spirit pulling them forward. Maybe, just maybe, they will find a way home.
When comic fans are asked to name the best Legion of Super-Heroes story of them all, The Great Darkness Saga is the go to. And I’m not surprised, Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s brilliant, brash, multi-layered story is pure comics joy.
It’s a shame, though, that the Great Darkness Saga is such a landmark that so much other brilliant work is forgotten. Like Legion Lost, published as a 12-part maxi-series and collected here as the second volume of Legion work by writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. The first collection re-presents the Blight storylines in which Abnett & Lanning – often referred to as DNA – gave a new energy to the post-Zero Hour Legion. While remaining true to the work that had come previously, they took the ‘Archie Legion’ and darkened their world. The characters went through a crucible and emerged as closer to the pre-Crisis version of the team, a little older, a tad battered, but always able to shine in the dark.
Partnering DNA in giving the team a new feel was future superstar artist Olivier Coipel, in his first DC work; his scratchy, gritty approach a real shock to the system, but perfect for the Blight story.
It’s even better here, as Coipel’s skill grows before our eyes, his layouts and characterisation complementing the script, enriching the ambitious story. His sci-fi space-scapes are mind-blowing, his alien races startling.
Coipel isn’t alone, Pascal Alixe draws three chapters. His work suffers slightly by dint of his gracious attempts to maintain Coipel’s look, but overall, Alixe does a great job and I appreciate the effort he puts in. There’s an especially brilliant splash page for the Umbra spotlight. And co-writer Andy Lanning helps keep the look of the story consistent by foregoing his usual smooth inks for a style more sympathetic to the tone Coipel sets.
Long-time Legion colourist and sometime writer Tom McCraw handles the whole series, and the work is fabulous, his balanced palette making every page pop. And Comicraft’s people stretch their lettering muscles with varying approaches as each chapter is narrated by a different player.
I recall enjoying this series at the time, but reading it in one go, it is spectacular – the fiercely intelligent DnA amp up the sci-fi concepts so the Legion becomes more than ‘super-heroes in space’. They bring new approaches to familiar abilities, making better use of Umbra’s shadow bolts, for example; showing us how his quick mind lets Ultra Boy address his one-power-at-a-time limitation to best effect; demonstrating what goes on in Brainy’s far-from-tiny mind.
They even explain what the heck it is Kid Quantum’s traditionally nebulous fields actually do… and I almost understand it.
And the surprises are constant, as twists and turns abound, with only one big reveal, towards the end, making me lift an eyebrow… then I go back and look again at a particular chapter and it’s no cheat.
Best of all, is the emotional pulse of Legion Lost. Our heroes go through hell, several times, and what they encounter batters their emotions, disrupts their relationships, but there’s always someone there to hold out a hand – they are Legion.
If you’ve ever been a Legion fan – of any iteration – but haven’t read this storyline, seek it out, whether in the original issues, trade collection or digitally via ComiXology, DC Universe or Hoopla. Heck, if you like smart comics at all, give it a try, it’s surprisingly new reader friendly. Legion Lost deserves to be anything but.