Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes TPB


These Superman trades take so darn long to ship, it really is too bad. I had really lost interest in most of the Superman books as I waited for the trade, but now that I finally get to read Geoff Johns' definitive take on the Legion, I find myself really digging it.

Superman is going about his business when he happens upon a Legion time-sphere. A message from Brainiac 5 fills in Supes that he's needed in the future to set the record straight on a few things, but when the trip goes wrong, Superman ends up arriving months after he was supposed to. He's already too late. And the sun is red.
There have been eras where I loved the legion (Giffen's 5 year later, DnA's Legion Lost) and eras where it has been just average (the zero hour relaunch and Waid's legion of teenagers). The common thread seems to be that I'm really interested in the dynamics of a huge crew of heroes, but only when they are the underdogs.

Johns plays it just right (for me) here, by the time Superman arrives in the future, Earth Man and his Justice League have the Legion on the run. I'm going show off my lack of Legion cred when I announce that I don't recognize any of the evil Justice League as former rejects of the Legion, but Johns brings me up to speed nicely. All these folks were rejected by the Legion back in the day, and really all the hate and cruelty they've fostered is just an attempt to prove they are worth something. The way Johns plays it, all the rejects have powers that actually seem worthwhile, even the lady with extra eyeballs. I really dug his take on the one reject who has the power to channel different auras of light. (Bonus points if you can guess that those colors now correspond to the rainbow lanterns of the current DCU.) Johns provides plenty of cameos and cool scenes for most of the Legion, but he wisely chooses to focus on a select few: Dawnstar, Wildfire, Colossal Boy, and Polar Boy. The dialogue does a nice job bouncing between earnest seriousness and camp recognizing the fun history of the Legion. The modern takes on the costumes helps, everyone is still wearing a version of their classic suit, but the cast is all so haggard and toughened up that it is clear "this ain't your father's legion."

Superman eventually comes through, relying on his goodness and strength of character more than his powers, just like all good Superman stories. There are a few great panels of the Justice League getting their comeuppance, which is an important part of every story. Supes' friendship with the Legion feels a tad forced, but I can respect the close bond Johns is attempting to set up. I really dug how closely Johns tied scenes here to his work on the current Superman: Secret Identity series. There are direct panels repeated in both stories. At this point, it is clear Johns has a plan. (One request though; could we get more Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl next time? They were my favorite part of the Zero Hour Legion.)

There are plenty of things I don't even get. I thought Chameleon Boy was a... boy, I'm not familiar with Chameleon Girl at all. Was Radiation Roy supposed to be someone I recognized, or just a general deviant? It is actually kind of funny, after reading comics for almost 30 years now, I rarely feel like I'm not getting the whole picture, but I felt like that here. Not that it stopped me from enjoying the trade. I think I can safely add Johns' take on the Legion to the list of eras that I like, rather than those that are just "there."

Gary Frank's pencils are always so nicely detailed. His faces are so expressive, very few can show emotions as well as his characters do. Sometimes his people can look at bit odd, for example, Night Girl looks like a bit of a kook in most of the panels she shows up in. That said, his updated costumes are really fun and I loved the design for Earth Man. We need more folks showing up in comics willing to rock the sideburns!

Good

3 comments:

Mart said...

Well, if it's sideburns you're after. don't miss the new Vartox coming up in Supergirl!

Chameleon Girl is our old pal Yera, former spy and wife of Colossal Boy.

Timbotron said...

I saw that about Yera, but she wasn't in any of the Zero Hour era Legion stuff, was she?

Gim got killed pretty quickly in that 90s version of the team, I like seeing more of him now. Growing powers are my favorite in comics, so someone named Colossal Boy is ok by me.

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I am not really a Superman fan but when he teams up with the Legion its always a good read! I have a lot of the old LSH drawn by Giffen and they bring back good memories!