Gone Too Soon: Legion of Super-Heroes

The-New-52-Legion-of-Superheroes-1

Here is the moment you’ve been waiting for NothingButFanbase; My assessment of the Legion from 2007 through the New 52!

Alot of research and reading went into this one,  and most of it was just background! It all ended up being quite an experience and test for my persistence.

So; in 2007 Geoff Johns did it again. He dusted off an old DC property, spit-shined it, and sent it spinning off to sink or swim for modern readers. Sometime before his Superman run in “Action Comics”; he brought back the Legion in the JLA/JSA crossover The Lightning Saga. This version was very (very) similar to the original Legion pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, and completely at odds with Mark Waid’s Threeboot version introduced in 2004.

superman-and-the-legion-of-superheroes  The original Legion was back (more or less), and later in 2007 Johns wrote the classic “Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes”. It detailed a darker take on the 31st century where Xenophobia had griped Earth and the Legion was close to crumbling under the weight of the World against them.

The year after there was the “Crisis of Three Legions” which is thankfully isolated from “Final Crisis”. This book puts to rest the Superman Prime villain and set aside the DnA and Threeboot Legions as belonging to parallel  Earths.

After all of that; long time LOSH architect33_225822_0_FinalCrisisLegionofThreeWorlds Paul Levitz returned to keep the team flying. In the newly revived Adventure Comics and later LOSH, Levitz weaved an epic pitting the Legion against the remaining Xenophobia on Earth, new recruits, Magical foes, and finally a more lethal Legion of Super Villains.

LOSH2So, that brings us to 2011 and the New 52. You would think after all that time (plus several years previous in the 80s) Levitz would be tapped out on writing the LOSH. Nope. You may have heard that this “new” Legion series was too entrenched in previous continuity and too dense for new readers. Nope again.  The cast is still huge, but given some time and patience Levitz coaxes you into some simple plots for new readers to follow with minimal callbacks to previous series.

Running parallel with Levitz’s latest Legion, was “Legion Lost” written by Losh5Fabian Nicieza and later Tom Defalco which followed 7 LOSH members who became trapped in the 21st century by Flashpoint altering the rules of time travel. This series was canceled by issue 16 and seemed to struggle to keep readers. Meanwhile, Levitz’s kept his early Legion plots fairly straightforward and moderate. Story arcs usually lasted 3-4 issues did a good job of explaining what was happening and who the villains were that the Legion was facing. There were even a handful of one and dones. Levitz’s really instilled a light, fun atmosphere in those first story arcs that was welcome after the heavy epic he had crafted in the previous series.What was striking about the 31st century after Flashpoint was that the future got darker but it’s hard to put down why. The characters retained (shortly) their sense of fun adventure but the world they inhabited had grown darker in subtle ways.  Halfway through the series, about issue #15 or #16; things came undone a bit. The one and dones were gone, and a sense of dread pervaded the series. The story arcs became darker, the stakes higher, and the villains more sinister.  Maybe this was Levitz’s response to the series being canceled; which would be ironic because beforehand it seems like Legion had been what many readers were asking for from the New 52 in the early days.

None the less; the final story arc was dark and dire and was brutal to see happen. A few key characters were killed off so quickly I expected a dream sequence to be revealed until three issues in.  In the end the Legion wins again, but is forced to disband by the United Planets (a futuristic version of the United Nations) and each member to return to their respective planets.

Art wise the series had been a roller coaster; moving from regular artist Francis Portela  to fill ins to former L.E.G.I.O.N writer Keith Griffen. Portela gave the series a nice, polished feel that really impressed those who saw his work in the previous series and his absence was felt in certain issues. He and Yildiray Cinar remain two of my favorite Legion artists and I hope to see both of them come back to the characters.

A few things stood out from Levitz’s latest Legion run. One was the focus on new members Chemical Kid, Dragonwing, Glorith, and Harmonia and their growth as team members. Second was Invisible Kid II Jacques Foccart’s strong french accent. I’m sure accents would still exist 1,000 years in the future, but what are the odds that someone born in Louisiana would habitually break into French every five minutes? Third, was the relationship between Lightning Lass and Shrinking Violet which had slipped past me until about the last three issues.

LightningLassShrinkingViolet

Lastly, the open-ended resolution on the last two pages of issue 23. The writers offer us the suggestion that this Legion could be from Earth 2, Earth 1, or even others. This could leave the door open for this continuity to be shunted off like the other more recent iterations to make room for another reboot.

For me, this seems really unnecessary. Then again, so was rebooting the other two. This version is as close to the “classic” Legion as you can get without an actual Time Bubble, and most readers seem drawn to the “classic” interpretations of characters. This version arguably lasted longer than the last three combined. If the next series uses the pre-crisis Legion, I would be fine with that. However, I have to ask would people really hate just popping back in on those other LOSH’s that have been exiled to other parallel Earths? Maybe then I’d get to see more of Matter-Eater Lad.

How is this character so underused?!
How is this character so underused?!

It might be better to see a brand new vision for the Legion, Johnathan Hickman apparently has a pitch and I would love to hear it. I would also like to see more of a teenage take on the characters, as once they grow up and their relationships form and crumble and rearrange it gets kinda dense. Or, bring in more of the recruits from the Academy so the team has new blood.

Thinking about an all new Legion and a new creative team; I’d love to see Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver reunite to really bring the Legion to new readers or maybe Jeff Parker and Ivan Reis. Just imagine some big guns let loose on this property, it could be fantastic.

Whenever we see the Legion again, I hope its for another healthy run. The LOSH is too big for DC to let sit idle for long.

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13 thoughts on “Gone Too Soon: Legion of Super-Heroes”

  1. Jonathan Hickman? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

    I think he’s proven in his time on The Avengers that juggling a large cast of characters hasn’t been his forte. The complete lack of decent characterisation in that book is the polar opposite to what a successful Legion re-launch needs. Although Avengers World #1 showed some promise.

    Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver would be a much better way to go.

    Thanks for putting so much time and research into your post, Dude. I hope you had a good time doing it and it wasn’t a chore.

    I was glad for John’s return to the “original” LoSH, being a fan of the old Levitz/Giffen series, still the Legion’s best run. I liked what DC did with the pre-New 52 Legion series and companion series in Adventure Comics and loved having original Superboy in the mix too. Sod the retcon’s and continuity and stuff. These are the Legion stories I wanted to read. They did a good job on that brief run.

    With the launch of the New 52 it sudden lost something for me and never recovered. Except for that one brief issue when Levitz and Giffen were re-united again. It suddenly seemed as though the Legion was right back on course again. That “something” that was missing was back, only to disappear a month later when Giffen was gone.

    Looking forward to seeing the Legion return sooner rather than later with a decent creative team that can build on the past.

    1. I thought Hickman’s FF run had some good characterization, but I also think He and Remender’s Avengers seem alittle distant. Also, I think Nick Spencer cowrote AW.

      This was fun overall, I really like writing about the Legion. And I agree, pre New 52 Legion had this attitude that was missing. But I still really enjoyed the early New 52 stories.

      Glad you like the post @streethawkjim!

  2. Great review. I don’t know why they did not get Johns to write the post 52 Legion either. Although I bought both Legion and Legion lost, splitting the team in hindsight was not a good idea. Some of my favorites like Timber Wolf and Wildfire not being in the main title really ended hurting the parent title. I don’t know why DC thought two Legion titles could survive at the same time.

    I thought Levitz did a good job in the beginning too with the election process of new leader for the team like the old days but somewhere in the middle I started to see the tone of the book change as it wasn’t near as much fun to read. And when they killed Sun-Boy…well I knew the fun was really over.

    I’m glad DC tried to make a go of it with this version again but in the end I’ll stick with my 70’s and 80’s issues. This version is now a distant memory and has also been sold on Ebay. 🙂

    1. You’re right about the Legion/Legion Lost split, Jeremy. I could never get into Legion Lost. It was good to have Tellus and Gates around but they and Wildfire definitely belonged in the main book. I’d’ve been happier for the two storylines to run concurrently in one Legion book. Hell, just do like the old Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes days and have a 12 page main story and 8 page back-up or something.

      But I’m with you. It’s the good old 70’s and 80’s books that are the Legion at their prime (Cockrum, Grell, Giffen…) and I doubt we’ll ever see their like again. Especially with the loss of Superboy. Still a favourite part of the Legion for me,

      1. You say these things just to get a rise out of me, don’t you, Patrick?

        Hickman writing Superman is one of my nine circles of Hell; sandwiched between winning a dream date with Justin Beiber, an eternal marathon of Little house on the Prairie, and a BBQ invite from Honey Boo Boo’s family. Dan Slott writing Daredevil on the other hand…

        1. Hahahahaha NO. I love Hickman. Sorry. I even liked this weeks issue. None of it feels cold to me. I don’t get that criticism. Whatev’s different strokes and all that.

  3. I haven’t read this week’s Avengers yet but I saw the preview pages awhile back with Ant-Man’s body being found or whatever and that coupled with Deodato’s cover has got excited for this arc. I’ll never be a fan but I am trying and not just dismissing out of hand. Avengers #24 was a lot better than anything going on during Infinity.

  4. I’m still longing for the days of the great darkness saga.
    I had just gotten used to the five year gap storyline
    I can recalled my first legion story “the super Moby dick
    Of outer space”.

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