One Legion comic today, and an unusual one: Smallville Season 11 #13.

If you haven't been following Smallville Season 11, it's a continuation of the TV show in comic format. As such, it's outside standard DC continuity (whatever that is).

I'm calling this as a distinct alternate Legion, albeit one that's an offshoot of the one in the Smallville TV show.

This is the first part of a three-parter, and it's got some interesting twists. Earth is in conflict with New Krypton, formerly the Kryptonian colony Argo. Earthgov, represented by Minister Kirt Niedrigh, views the Legion as collaborators with the Kryptonians. There are plenty of hints of the xenophobic "human supremicist" theme in this version.

Booster Gold is there, too, and has a Legion ring just like he's supposed to. Brainiac 5 is caucasian and looks like the actor who played him in the series. Clark and Garth are just plain cute. When the two of them meet once again, there's a definite sexual charge in the air. (Plus there's the fact that for much of the story, Garth is holding onto one of Clark's balls, and no, I'm not making that up.)

All told, it's a refreshing take on the Legion, and a fun little comic. I'm definitely looking forward to the next issue.

I did not see any Legion content this week.

The new issue of World's Finest has Power Girl and the Huntress fighting Desaad, who at times bears a striking resemblence to the Time Trapper...but I'm sure that's just the tattered purple robe and hood plus general menacing posture.

In other words: No Legion stuff to see here. Move along. Move along.

I did not see any Legion content this week. There was, however, a new issue of Young Avengers, and damn Hukling and Wiccan are the sweetest couple anywhere in comics!

 

New Legion comic today, hooray!

This one mainly concentrates on the new Emerald Empress, who is a finalist for the Otto Award for Worst-Hairstyle-on-a-Villain-of-Villainess.

(The Otto Award is a 31st century award that I just made up, named in honor of Otto Binder, the Legion's creator.)

We're still in the Fatal-Five-Stomps-on-the-Legion, things-are-getting-worse portion of the narrative. Mon-El is banged up so bad that everyone fears he might be dead (gee, that's never happened before in a Levitz/Giffen collaboration). Next issue we're promised that things are going to get even worse as Validus steps into the fray.

I hope this doesn't turn into one issue of pounding on the Legion for each of the Fatal Five, followed by Brainy's hidden plan delivering everyone from danger in the last issue.

Actually, if Levitz is true to form -- and if he can resist the Giffen influence -- I'd look for the Legion's salvation to come from either one or more inactive members (think Luornu & Chuck and Garth & Imra showing up in Earthwar), or one of the "weaker" members (think Dream Girl from the Great Darkness). If I had to guess, I'd look toward Mysa and the Sorcerer's World.

 

I didn't see any LSH content in comics this week.

I did not see any new Legion content this week. 

I did not see any Legion content in comics this week.

I have been pondering the Legion's popularity. In this post over on Legion Abstract, Matthew worries that the Legion is going to be cancelled, and wonders if "...the audience for the Legion of Super-Heroes may have permanently shrunk to the point where these characters just can't support their own title anymore."

I've also been cataloging the Legion's appearances from their first cancellations, the run in Action Comics and Superboy, which has got me thinking about Superboy.

They kept trying to ditch Superboy. He resigned, then came back. He resigned again, then came back again. He finally left permanently...and came back again. Eventually, he died.

The Earth-247 Legion eventually gained Superboy (Connor this time) as a member. There was Superboy's Legion. With the Earth-Prime Legion, Supergirl took the place of Superboy. The renaissance of the current Legion started with adventures involving Superman.

Why? What is it about Superboy?

I'd like to suggest that casual readers need to have some familiar element as a point of entry to the Legion. Liam and LaDonna Legion-fan, who've read the Legion for years, are happy to buy anything that says Legion on it -- but when Cameron and Cecy Comic-reader pick up a Legion comic, they see nothing that looks familiar to them. So they put it down, thinking "I'll never be able to follow this."

If Matthew is right and there aren't enough Liams and LaDonnas out there to support the title, we need to give the Camerons and Cecys something.

So despite my reluctance to see the Legion tied too strongly to the DC present day, I will state the following as a Law of the Legion: The Legion needs a Superboy.

It doesn't have to be "Superboy" as such. It can be Supergirl, Superman, someone with the S-shield and the cape. A familiar symbol.

And now I have an ingenious way to give the Legion a "Superboy" while still retaining some distance from the current DC universe and allowing the writers maximum creative space. Picture this:

A "Superboy" joins the Legion. He's clearly not Kal-El/Clark Kent. Might as well make a whole "Who is Sensor Girl?" storyline out of "Who is Superboy?"

Turns out, he is...(wait for it)...the son of Superman.

"But wait," I hear you cry, "Superman doesn't have a son, except maybe Chris Kent who might not even exist any more. There's no way DC is going to introduce Superman's son into current continuity just to make Legion fans happy."

You're right. Superman doesn't have a son now. But he will, at some indeterminate point in the future. (We know Superman will have descendants.) We never need to see that part of it. We never need to establish a timeline, or a continuity, or even tell who his mother is. We don't even need to know if the kid is an only child or one of many. All we need is for "Superman's Son" to be involved with the Legion in the 31st century.

Why would Superman's son hang out with the Legion? Picture Superman raising this super-powered teenager. "Son, you need to learn how us use your powers, you need experience, you need a firm grounding in morality. I learned a lot of these things from my time with the Legion -- now I'm sending you to them for a training period."

A brand-new character who can legitimately be called Superboy (although if they want to make it Superlad or Superkid or even Superboi I won't complain.) A character who wears the S-shield and cape, and has a firm connection to the present-day Superman. A character from our near-future, hanging around in a time that's new to him -- a nice character for Cameron and Cecy Comic-reader to identify with.

Just as "Superboy's time" was a permanent 15 years before "Superman's time," the "new Superboy's time" could be a permanent 15 years after Superman's time. That provides a nice buffer against any craziness that DC imposes on the "present." We can further use the whole "this is only one possible future" dodge to make the Powers That Be feel better.

Who knows, "future Superboy" may even get his own title. Which the Legion could then invade, and finally turn it into Future Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

What about it, Mr. Levitz?

Two Legion appearances this week.

 


Legion of Super-Heroes 18 (2013/05)

Wow, someone agreed that Keith Giffen's art is ugly, so they had Scott Kolins and Tom Derenick do a Keith Giffen impersonation. They tried their best to make everyone and everything look ugly, but couldn't quite pull it off. There are an awful lot of gritted teeth and scowls. Ah, well, at least they varied the grid of panels quite a bit.

All tech based on quarks (which seems to be just about everything modern) has stopped working, all across the United Planets. Brainy, of course, can get things working with pre-quark technology.

This is all the fault of the newly-upgraded Tharok, who seems to be everywhere. The result is a world in which technology fails, economies collapse, Legionnaires quarrel amongst themselves and abandon their teammates, and they call one another by first names rather than codenames. You can just see them ditching their costumes and going to utilitarian grey jackets with lots of pockets as the unvierse collapses and the Legion, wracked by tragedy, becomes irrelevant.

Oh, wait, been-there-done-that.

Seriously, what does Keith Giffen contribute to these collaborations? Deciding which Legionnaires to casually kill off? Coming up with new ways to justify technological and economic collapse? Creating smirking characters and angry mobs who suddenly turn against the Legion? Gritting his teeth and scowling a lot?

I still have faith in Paul Levitz. I'm hoping that the collaboration went this way: Giffen thought of some really terrible things to do the Legion, then Levitz figured out how to make it a coherent story (and tell it in less than 25 issues) that comes to a satisfactory ending.

 


 

Action Comics 18 (2013/05)

Okay, I have admitted that I'm too stupid to understand what Grant Morrison does. So take this with a grain of salt.

Superman's fighting with Mxyzptlk's son(?) through all of space and time (?). He get the upper hand by having everyone in the universe (?) say their names backwards, which somehow turns the bad guy into a big stone statue (?), which Superman then throws into the moon.

The Legionnaires, having traveled through time in order to save Superman, stand around in a hospital with the dying Myxyzptlk (?) until a guy arrives who is "a damaged edge" of the bad guy (?). They attempt to get him into their time bubble in order to...do something (?)...but right about then they all join the crowd saying their names backwards (except Imra's last name is back to Ardeen instead of Ranzz, so maybe she forgot she and Garth were married, or maybe they got divorced, or who knows what) and that takes care of everything -- without the Legionnaires having to lift a finger -- so why were they part of this story to begin with?

There's also a group of weird guys who apparently have (or will have) their own comic, who decided to come aboard for the publicity, because they certainly don't have anything to do with the story either.

At the end, presumably, Universo no longer takes over the United Planets in the 31st cenury...or maybe this whole alternate Legion ceases to exist...because we never get to see any resolution of that whole thing, not even an attempt to explain why this Legion looks so different from the one in Legion of Super-Heroes (Jeckie's a snake named Sensor, Shady's called Umbra, Chameleon Boy grows up to be just Chameleon, Gim is alive and called Colossal Boy rather than Leviathan, Chuck is Bouncing Boy...in general it's a hash of classic Legion and the Legion of Earth-247.)

One would almost think that this whole story was penned by someone who's so convinced he's a Great Talent that he sees no reason to respect the creations of others, follow any kind of continuity, tell a coherent story, or make the slightest bit of sense.

Nah, that couldn't be. Everyone assures me that Emperor Morrison is wearing a magnificently beautiful suit of clothes.

 

I did not see any Legion content this week.

Now that we're at one Legion title a month, a lot of weekly reports are going to start out that way. We can have seventy-five Batman titles a month, Justice Leagues all over the place, the entire Superman Family including adoptees and third cousins twice removed, and one comic for each one of the 3600 Green Lanterns (not to mention lanterns of red, yellow, blue, indigo, orange, pink, black, white, ecru, puce, vermilion, and the two colors Barsoomians have that we don't) -- but we get one Legion comic.

There's more than enough going on in the Legion universe to support multiple titles. For a start, how about these:

  • New Wanderers (the Legion formerly of Earth-247)
  • Heroes of Lallor
  • Legion of Earth-Prime
  • Legion Academy
  • Legions of Many Worlds (a different alternate Legion in each issue, either existing ones or new)
  • Science Police (Power Boy, Gravity Kid, Lamprey, Nightwing, Roon Dvron, Gigi Cusimano, Shvaughn Erin, etc. -- who couldn't make an exciting comic out of that lineup?)
  • Legion of Substitute Heroes (about time someone portrayed them as heroes rather than fools)
  • Sorcerer's World (you know Mysa is up to some amazing adventures with all kinds of magic-users - let's see them)
  • Legion of Super-Villains (focus on individuals or small groups and show what they're up to in between getting together to menace the entire universe)
  • Legion: Untold Tales (there are lots of untold stories from the early Legion, like the Legion's first encounter with Mordru - let's see these interpreted through the retro/new52 lens the way Levitz did with Legion: Secret Origin)
  • Legion Espionage Squad (come on, they deserve their own title, don't they?)

That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more possibilities, but for now I could be satisfied with a dozen Legion titles a month.

I did not see any Legion content in comics this week.

I'm continuing to work on this site's index of stories, having reached 1974. I estimate that there are about 2,000 Legion stories and related features out there; I've got 275 of them done so far.

In other words, don't expect a completed index for a number of years. smiley

I did not see any Legion content this week.

We have a new hamster. His name is Corflu and his super-powers include super-wheel-running, super-cheek-stuffing, and super-nest-building. Like Comet and Krypto, he's white all over; once he's old enough, I think he would make an excellent member of the Legion of Super-Pets.

This week there were two comics with Legion content.

 


Legion of Super-Heroes 17 (2013/04) is the start of the Fatal Five story. It's drawn by Keith Giffen, so of course everything looks ugly and squashed. And, of course, the panels are all done on a strict boring grid, mostly variations of six panels per page.

Levitz drops us directly into the middle of a confusing, hectic story with little background and less explanation of what's going on -- so it feels very Giffen-written as well.

Why would a good writer like Levitz do this to his readers? Well, because it's Levitz, there's good reason. The Legionnaires are confused and have no explanation of what's going on...and Levitz puts readers right in the same place.  We instantly feel what the Legionnaires are feeling.

This is a chancy strategy for a writer. If the hectic confusion goes on too long, readers will just throw up their arms and walk away from the story. (That's exactly what happened during Giffen's non-Levitz run on the Legion.)

However, this is Levitz. I have confidence that by the middle of the next issue, we'll start to have some explanations. Clues in this issue already point to an underlying sense of what's going on.

Bottom line: Potentially a great, suspenseful introduction to a major storyline, with some really ugly art.

 


Action Comics 17 (2013/04) was billed as the conclusion to Grant Morrison's storyline. Well, the story doesn't seem to come to any conclusion, it looks like it will be continued next issue.

I say "doesn't seem to" because I can never follow Morrison's storytelling. Final Crisis left me totally at sea -- I've read plot summaries that seem to make sense, but damned if I can find any of it in the actual comics.

So maybe the story concluded in this issue, and I just can't tell.

Anyway, the Morrison version of Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl bounce around in time a lot, talking about how they have to do something to keep Superman from dying and Universo taking over the world...but all they seem to do is keep arriving late for everything. (They also pester Clark Kent's landlady for the exact date the Kents died -- why the Legionnaires thought the landlady would know this, or why they didn't just look up the obituaries online, is unexplained.)

 

I did not see any Legion content in comics this week.

I did get America's Got Powers #5 (of 6), which has been a long time coming but was worth waiting for. Cute teenage boys (some of them very large) with superpowers, government conspiracies, good vs. evil, not bad for a Legion off-week.

 

I did not see any Legion content this week.

There's a new issue of Kevin Keller that's just sweet beyond words. I think I finally get the appeal of Archie comics. I assume that Kevin Keller is about the same romance/comedy mix as the other Archie titles, except the formula is so much more meaningful to me when it's gay boys rather than straight boys and girls.

I did not see any Legion content in comics this week.

 

I did take the opportunity to re-read the entire run of  the recent Legion Lost title, and you know what? It's just as bad as I remember.

Okay, there are many reasons it was bad. There were too many ideas crammed into too few pages. Most of those ideas were obviously what I call "hey-wouldn't-it-be-cool" ideas, novelty for the sheer sake of novelty, without any thought of fitting into a larger narrative. Worse, most of these ideas were never followed up.

In addition, the title had two writers, who apparently never talked with one another about their conceptions of the series. The first guy at least seemed to have some idea of where he wanted to take the time-lost Legionnaires; the second guy just used the book as a companion title to Superboy and Ravagers, thus turning the Legionnaires into supporting characters in their own title.

All that aside, the most awful thing about this title is that everything constantly reset to zero. In the final analysis, nothing happened. The characters went through a series of apparent adventures -- at least three of them even died -- yet at the end, they were unscathed and unchanged. (All right, Gates was physically scarred and Tellus grew legs...but emotionally and psychologically, they were the same.) All the apparent sacrifices were pointless, because no one paid any cost.

As various critics have pointed out, the Legion is all about change. Characters grow, change, even die. There are real prices to be paid, and the characters are altered by their experiences. That's what makes the Hall of Heroes such a powerful image: the Legionnaires are aware of the prices they've all paid. That's what makes it worth while to follow convoluted Legion continuity: we understand the present Legionnaires by knowing what they've faced in the past.

In this day and age, a Legion series that goes 16 issues without anyone changing or paying a price is a series that's the opposite of everything the Legion means.

And that, in my opinion, is why Legion Lost was so bad.

 

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Get-a-Life Boy writes and reviews science fiction. Check it out here.

 


 

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Legion statuette images and some costume variation images created by Jim Gallagher, based on Curt Swan's sketches.

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