Review: Special Powers and Abilities
If you've been paying attention you may have heard about this: a slim (100-page) volume of poetry by Raymond McDaniel, all about the Legion of Super-Heroes. I ordered it almost immediately upon hearing about it, and finished reading it almost immediately after it arrived. (Go here if you want your own copy, and why wouldn't you?)
In some ways I'm the wrong audience for this material, and so might you be. Because we're so familiar with the Legion, it's hard for us to deal with this poetry on any level but the literal. McDaniel, I'm guessing, wrote this stuff because he saw the poetic potential in the Legion itself, and wanted to distil and shape it. But we know these characters so well that they aren't poetic to us; they're quotidian. It takes some effort to forget that and try to look at the Legion through new eyes, to get the full effect of the poetry. Seriously. I'm trying to imagine never having heard of the Legion before, and being introduced to it through these poems. What would it be like?
Some details before the review itself. McDaniel writes about characters and stories stretching from the Legion's Silver Age beginnings right up to the very start of the 5YL era. This is par for the course. I, being me, might like everyone to hold the reboot, threeboot, animated, and retroboot Legions in as high a regard as they do the original Legion, but the fact is that they don't, and that's that. (Plus, more people have read the original stuff, so it's a numbers game too.) Almost every Legionnaire from that period gets a little descriptive poetic summary, and many of the poems are recaps of Legion stories. If there's a theme that stretches through the book, it's Brainiac 5, his relative isolation from the rest of the Legion, and his love for Supergirl.
I eventually decided that I could best enjoy the thing if I treated it as a kind of Devil's Dictionary for the Legion: a reference guide for essences and not for facts. I mean, I already know Sun Boy's name, origin, and homeworld, but if I ever think, well, what about Sun Boy, I can crack open SP&A to get McDaniel's take on what makes him tick ("falls equally on everyone").
Anyway. I think it's good. I think it's worth your time as a Legion fan. Certainly I keep opening it up to random pages and finding things of interest. I must admit I'm not sure what to say about the thing. It wouldn't make sense to hold it to the standard of a Legion comic, because it's so very unofficial on the one hand, and apples-and-oranges on the other. But I don't know how to review poetry. At least I don't think I do. It's fun to read, it's thought-provoking, it's stylized. It seems to have been created according to some kind of poetic plan. Are those things to say about poetry? I give Special Powers and Abilities a positive but tentative recommendation.