Friday, January 20, 2006

THE LEGION #6 DC Comics, 2002

I grew up reading The Legion of Super Heroes. One of my earliest comic book experiences was a Legion issue where the ultra-powerful sorcerer Mordru escapes from his airtight prison and hands the super-youth of the Legion their collective asses. Young Dave found that shit terrifying and fascinating.

The Great Darkness Saga? The Sensor Girl mystery? Frickin’ Superboy? I ate that stuff up with a spoon. Which is why I don’t have any more of my old Legion issues: I poured milk all over them and ate them like cereal so they could be part of me forever. Then I pooped them out.

Sorry; I’m still in the grips of diaper-changing dementia.

For those of you who don’t know or care, The Legion of Super Heroes is an army of teens with fantastic powers in the future (once led by a time-displaced Superboy) who help protect the United Federation of Planets from galactic menaces while wearing fabulous disco costumes. Sound corny? Hey, shut up, they’re better than your stupid X-Force, you big stupidhead. I love the Legion more than I love my first dog, which might sound mean, but my first dog was sort of an asshole as dogs go.

DC has published God-knows-how-many Legion of Super Heroes series over the years, probably because the editors and creators are mired in nostalgia and desperately cling to the memories of their youth – just like me! At this point, I’m honestly not sure that there are enough people in the world who adore the Legion of Super Heroes to make it a successful book, but DC keeps trying, bless their hearts.
"I love the Legion more than I love my first dog..."

Here’s an example of one of the many doomed incarnations of the book, called simply The Legion. Written by the team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with art by Olivier Copiel, The Legion is one of the best versions of my childhood favorite. They deftly avoid/ignore/handle the continuity traps and complicated back story that have made The Legion of Super Heroes such an impenetrable book for new readers, but retain the glamour and drama of the golden age of the Legion. I loved it.

So of course, it got cancelled.

Abnett and Lanning’s work is hit-or-miss with me (Bloodstone, anyone? Yech.) but they hit more often than the miss, and even when I don’t like their stuff I still feel like their hearts are in the right places. Darn it, they just want to tell good comic book stories. I can definitely say that The Legion was a creative success, even if it was axed, and the highlight of the series was the Ra’s al Ghul storyline.

Whaaat? Isn’t Ra’s al Ghul a Batman villain? Isn’t Ra’s al Ghul actually Liam Neeson? Well, yes. But now he’s a Legion of Super Heroes villain, too!

In a nutshell, the Legionnaires discover that the President of The United Federation of Planets is actually Ra’s al Ghul in disguise. The bastard is still alive hundreds of years into the future, no doubt due to the Lazarus Pit spa treatment he regularly receives. That, and a lot of water-rich foods and plenty of exercise and fresh air. The fact that he’s still alive kind of makes him the winner in the big Batman vs Ra’s contest, doesn’t it?
Anyway, Ra’s has always been keen on remaking Earth and ushering in a new age of perfection, and in the future he’s found the means to do just that, and big time. He unleashes a destructive wave across the planet, “terrorforming” humans into creepy pure lifeforms.

Naturally, only The Legion and one plucky six-year old girl stand in his way. Sadly, the plucky girl gets crushed by a rhino on page two – so it’s up to The Legion!

I loved this story because it caught me by surprise. As a reader you knew something was fishy about the President, but when it’s finally revealed that he’s Ra’s al Ghul in holo disguise – somebody give me a F*@% Yeah! That’s just a great idea.

My favorite bit in the storyline (which spans numerous issues of The Legion) is the part where Ra’s captures Mon-El and inters him in a chamber bathed with red solar light that saps him of his Daxxamite powers. Mon-El has spent some time in the 20th century as the hero Valor in the DC series by the same name, so he knows what Ra’s is capable of, but he can’t warn his fellow Legionnaires. We get this great scene where Ra’s shows up to give Mon-El the typical “join me or die” speech:

Mon-El tells the villain to get bent, which may not be the best idea because Ra’s is packing some heat, Dirty Harry style. Weakened by the red solar rays, Mon-El’s invulnerable body is
anything but… and Ra’s pops a cap in his ass!

That’s cold.

Does Mon-El die? YES. He totally dies! Oh, hang on. I just flipped through the comics again. No, he doesn’t die. My bad. Still, it makes for a great cliffhanger. Please note that I’m cheating a little and am including scans from other issues in the storyline, not just issue #6.

The whole damn thing is well executed and fun. The story is epic, fast-paced, and features a host of characters – just like the Legion stories I read as a kid. Every Legionnaire gets a chance to kick ass or gets a good line, and they’re all wearing chic superhero uniforms, just like in the good old days. They even slip a roll call page in issue #6 for the benefit of new readers. Check it out.

Olivier Copiel’s art is crisp and cute without being too cloying. I don’t know if that even makes sense. If memory serves Copiel left the book shortly after this storyline to draw Chuck Austen’s run on The Avengers, which proves that there is no God.

I’m a big fan of Copiel’s work, and with The Legion he is at the top of his game. It looks like he’s having fun. What comic book artist wouldn’t want to draw spaceships and sexy women and weird aliens and Science Police? It might be a lot of work, but if I were an artist I’d rather draw that stuff than twenty-two pages of Peter Parker and Mary Jane talking in a bedroom.

Plus – look at Copiel’s Shrinking Violet! I guess she’s called Leviathan in this series, which is not the nicest thing to call a lady, but she’ll always be Shrinking Violet to me. Look at how cute she is, with the hairband and the little flower insignia on her costume. I’ve got a bit of a crush on her.

Yes, I know that she’s fictional and that I’m married, but I love Shrinking Violet. Testament to the power of The Legion.

So there you go – I heartily recommend hunting down The Legion in the back issue bins – you won’t be disappointed. It's good old-fashioned high concept futuristic fun, and that's never wrong.


Anonymous said...

Neat! Yes, I said "Neat!" This book must have comed and goed in between my collecting phases (which coincided with me being flat-ass broke in my 20s and while I have a little more money now, my ass is still flat). How many issues did it last? I'd love to go digging for it.

Anonymous said...

How many issues did it last? I'd love to go digging for it.

The series lasted a total of 38 issues before being canned in favor of the current Waid/Kitson run (which is pretty good too, by the way). Abnett and Lanning did the first 33, and Gail Simone wrote the last couple of issues. Not her best stuff, but better than most of what's out there. It's pretty recent, so the back issues should be pretty cheap.

Marc Burkhardt said...

Abnett & Lanning's run was underrated, but they "got" the Legion better than most others. Haven't tried the Waid/Kitson stuff yet, but if its got Triad I'm there! (You're not the only married man/father with a crush on a Legion member.

zailo said...

I have never read any legion and your post is seriously tempting me. I am sure one of the reasons I shy away is coming in the middle of the story. Nobody likes to do that. Least of all OC geeks. I love your your enthusiasm in your reviews. Enthusiasm for the inherent fun that should be in all comics. But seem to be more in the comics of our youth. I give a F*@% Yeah for your enthusiasm!

Anonymous said...

I loved this series, even when the brought the new Superboy into the story near the end of the run. Something about that old Baxter run is still with me... I have always enjoyed Waid's work, but the new series leaves me cold.

Anonymous said...

Abnett & Lanning's run was underrated, but they "got" the Legion better than most others. Haven't tried the Waid/Kitson stuff yet, but if its got Triad I'm there! (You're not the only married man/father with a crush on a Legion member.

Not only do they have Triplicate Girl, but she goes on dates with three different Legionnaires at the same time. And they all get back to her apartment at the same time. It was for intelligence gathering. Really really.

Anonymous said...

I've always loved the Legion, mainly because in all of its incarnations it's generally been unapologetically colorful and crazy and action-packed, but I also love Oliver Coipel.

Seriously, I think Coipel's art is full of energy, and it really grinds my gears that he keeps on getting used in Marvel projects that bore the pants off of me. House of M was boring and silly, but sweet Jesus did it ever look fantastic.

I kinda wish he was pencilling New Thunderbolts or She-Hulk or something else that might actually be fun.

Anonymous said...

Heh. The first comic I ever read was a Superboy & the Legion one too. Mine was the one that was the 1st appearance of Blok, and I was practically driven mad by the cliffhanger... I was only 5 years old... waiting a month for the next issue seemed like waiting a life time...

Anonymous said...

I've been buying up old Legion issues, and I'm a particular fan of the Levitz/LaRocque and Giffbaum runs. The Five Year Gap lost its way after the first year, but it was fun seeing how increasingly screwed up things had gotten and how the Legion tried (and failed) to fix it.

Anonymous said...

I was also a big fan of this iteration of the Legion, even though I'd never really read any of the older stuff that came before it. The art on this series was great and the story was engaging. I still can't figure out why it was canned. I mean, the new book's okay, but I actually thought the last version was better.

Sort of the same thing happened with Doom Patrol. The previous version, drawn by some guy I'd never heard of named Tan Eng Huat (or something similar to my Midwestern mind) was WAY better than Byrne's latest car crash of a title. I guess it just goes to show that celebrity rules, even in comics. A big name trumps big talent.

Anonymous said...

I was always a fan of the obligatory recruitment issue every time the series was rebooted. It let us see the more pathetic heroes in the future, such as "Arms Fall Off Boy."

Anonymous said...

I was also a big fan of the Abnett and Lanning run on the series, probably the closest the franchise has been to matching the level of material from the late seventies-early eighties. And they brought back Wildfire, so that alone gets them a big thumbs up from me.

The current run, while not bad, isn't quite as good as this one was, imho. The reason for cancellation seemed pretty lame too. You can a book because of a Wizard snub?? Seriously?

Captain Mercury said...

The Giffen run was really, really weird. It reminds me of Morrison's JLA - there's stuff happening all over the place, and you just have to nod your head and act like you understand it all.
Any thoughts on Kent Shakespeare?

Ra's in the future - Darn good idea. I liked the way Ra's took the JLA to school int he Tower of Babel arc.

Anonymous said...

Hey, the JSA steals Mordru, so the LSH steals R'as. Made sense to me at the time! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Coming soon: Dave's Dog Box

"I'm going to review all the dogs I've had and you're going to like it."

Shon Richards said...

I loved the Abentt and Lanning run. When they took on an ancient Darkseid who wanted to kill his 20th century self to recharge and reboot history, it was a fun ride. This run was crammed with Fuck yeah! moments.

The Legion run I grew up with was far more insturmental in my sexual interests than I like to think. My first Legion comic was Ultra-Boy losing his memory and joining with a sexy female space pirate. Also in that run was a Grimbor the Chainsman who captured the Legionaires in a variety of cages, chains, manacles and a host of sci-fi bondage equipment. Where's my modern day Grimsbor in the comics now? He could be a Vertigo villain.

Jon said...

Copiel was on the Avengers before Austen for a little while, anyway. Did Red Zone with Geoff Johns, disappeared for a few months during that damned Search for She-Hulk storyline and then came back to help Austen crap out some stories that everyone promptly forgot when Bendis killed the book to death.

Scipio said...

The Sensor Girl mystery is what got me hooked on COMICS again after I'd stopped.

"How awful!" Heh I still remember that!

Legion is great because, well, you never quite know what's going to happen. Have to say, I haven't enjoyed Waid's run, though....

Anonymous said...

Ever see Jaime Hernandez' take on Shrinking Violet from a DC Who's Who?

Tim Easy said...

Cool blog entry here, Dave! As a kid, growing up in the 70's, I was the ultimate LSH fan, so much so that I would often pretend my Star Wars action figures were LSH. Bespin Luke was Lightning Lad, X-Wing Fighter Luke was Sun Boy, Tatooine Luke was Karate Kid, and so on...
I don't remember who my Proty was, ...Snaggletooth perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Abnett and Lanning were writing Marvel's Star Trek: Early Voyages--I might be misrembering the title, it was set under Captain Pike's run, with a very young Spock. It was good, fun stuff that tied into the old episodes without being slavishly devoted to them. Then Marvel dropped or lost the license midway through a four part story, which they never resolved. Abnett and Lanning (who sound like a Canadian comedy duo, put like that) seemed to take a "show's over, move along," attitude. Can't blame them, really.

Anonymous said...

"Ever see Jaime Hernandez' take on Shrinking Violet from a DC Who's Who?"

I hadn't until now. His drawing any female character is enough for me to get a crush on them, to keep that theme running.

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge Legion fan, in all it's incarnations.

The "Five Years Later" stuff was brilliant early on, but fell apart after the 2nd year. (Al Gordon's "The Quiet Darkness" might be the most underrated Darkseid story of them all) Of course, part of the problem was DC's continuity issues, which post-crisis shredded the original Legion.

I like Waid's new version, but never quite understood the reason for the reboot. It just seemed very arbitrary (and came out of nowhere, story-wise).

One of the best back issue scores I ever made was when I got the first 20 issues of the Baxter run at a dime a copy. And then discovered that all the Lightle issues were signed!

Anonymous said...

I always wanted to get into Legion. I enjoyed the few issues I had, but I didn't have access to a comic shop for the baxter issues, and the 'year-old reprints of a series with a backstory I wasn't too familiar with that didn't really impact the regular DCU' was last on my priorities when I bought my comics at the local drugstore.

I'd really like to read a 'Showcase Presents' Legion book. That would familiarize the rest of us with the basic premise of the series, and could help popularize the current one.

Anonymous said...

I thought Abnett and Lanning's run started off horribly (back when there were two books, one called Legionnaires and one called Legion of Superheroes), and Copiel drew about as well as a retarded orangutan, give or take. That Legion Lost mini was some atrocious stuff. But by the time they got to this run of books, Copiel had developed into a pretty good artist and DnA had really figured out what makes a good Legion story. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I became a huge Legion fan during the Reboot years, and I have to say that the DnA run is my favorite of those ten years. By the time we got to The Legion, they were firing on all cylanders and man, were the comics good! Copiel was a revelation, and Chris Batista, who followed him was no slouch, either. My only complaint, when word came down from on high that they're run was over, they ended it damn quick. We could have had the Gail Simone issues for a better outro for the DnA Legion, instead of an inventory story.

ANd to establish my Legion cred... one of the first comics I ever bought was a part of the Great Darkness Saga, I was five or six. I remember because Dream Girl threatened to pull Star Boy's beard out hair by hair. Coming upon that sequence in the GDS trade years later brought it all flooding back.

My fave pre-boot story is the Terra Mosaic, from the Five Years Later era. By the end of it it feels like such a victory to have liberated Earth from the Dominion. And then they blow up Earth. Kills me every time I read it.

My wife got me a Flight Ring replica when we got engaged...

...And in spite of all that, I'm dropping the Waid book. They killed my Legion for no good reason, and this group is a poor replacement. STuck it out for the Teen War finale, but that's it.

Love the site, Dave! Keep up the good work! And congrats on the new one!

Anonymous said...

Gods, I was out of comics for years and congratulating myself for staying clean. Used to be a big time DC fan.

Then one day my wife finds a quilt shop and right next door is this comic shop, so out of nostalgia I wander in. What should I find but an early issue of the V4 Legion. WTF! What's going on, Mordru? Is that a gold funeral statue of Superboy in the garden? What happened???

Bang I'm sucked back in. *sigh* now I'm a bigger collector than ever.

Chris Arndt said...

not to pull things too far off but.... you got married....


you have a wife.


Mister Sinister said...

he is still alive?

How does this ancient bastard keep reviving himself?
You'd think that those Lazarus pools would've dryed up by then I mean damn!
And to admit she is pretty hot!


a demon from hell, the judge to my lawyerbear

Mister Sinister said...

that would mean that arabic douche is over oh, 1000 years old & didn't he recently die?

Talia is hot!


A Povey Cup-

A chalice that Predator drinks his blood from