Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Action Comics: Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes (Part 1-#858)

What Happened That You Have To Know About:

Brainiac 5 recruits Superman to travel through time to the 31st century, because everything's terrible and only Superman can help. Superman arrives as Colossal Boy, Wildfire and Dawnstar are retrieving a box of rings (flight rings, one must assume) from an abandoned Legion HQ, and the Science Police raid them, destroying the Time Sphere Superman came in. Apparently the 31st century is now very xenophobic and the xenophobes are using Superman's name and symbol to strengthen their brand identity. Even worse, Earth's sun is red now, so Superman isn't exactly at full power. A couple of intriguing references in this issue are to a 'Justice League', and Brainy's mention of a 'fictitious discovery in the Arctic' as the start of all these problems.

Not Quite a Review:

Certainly some intriguing choices here. Casting the Legion as the embattled champions of diversity is kind of a six-inch putt, in that it's a role they're pretty well-designed to play. The red sun is a cool idea, and a useful one in that it keeps Superman (and, theoretically, Mon-El) from running off with the story. I wonder if it's going to pay off in other ways? I presume that the fictitious discovery in the Arctic is some kind of fake Fortress of Solitude...

The Legion logo used on the splash page was the one from Legion of Super-Heroes volume 3, the 'Baxter series' of the 1980s. And yet... there's a similarity between this story and the infamous 'Five Years Later...' stories of Legion of Super-Heroes volume 4. Both were separated from Levitz's run by a few years of in-story time. Both intervening periods featured significant events involving the sun (it turned red in this story; during the Five Year Gap was a little thing called Black Dawn, which was a turning point for the Legion's fortunes). And both stories are set in a future significantly more dystopian and depressing than is usual for the Legion. I wonder what the thinking is... is it a tribute to 5YL, or an attempt to do it 'right'? Or coincidence?

I’m a little unclear on what’s going on with Superman’s memory. I know that time travel is supposed to fog up one’s memory, but… he remembers the Lightning Saga, but Brainy has to remind him of how he first met the Legion? I’m not sure that scans.

It seems that I am willing to accept these Legionnaires as almost-original, deep down. Certainly when Colossal Boy was fighting the SPs I had more confidence that he could handle it than I would have for Leviathan or Micro Lad. But they don't feel completely right. Part of it's the costumes, and the unfamiliar art style, I guess.

I'm not sure what to make of the opening sequence, in which an alien couple on a civil-war-wracked planet send their kid to Earth in a revisit of the famous Jor-El-and-Lara scene. If it's a plot point that's going to be revisited later, then that's one thing. But if, as it seems, it's a vignette to show us just what the 31st century is like, then I don't like it. It's just mean. It implies, not that this is how bad the worst of the 31st century has gotten, but that this is how bad the best of the 31st century has gotten. I may find reason later to change my mind about the scene, but right now it's leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Some points I’ve seen other people make, and agree with: Saturn Girl was being quite the flirt in that flashback, which is quite out of character. This was before Lightning Lad, of course, so no-harm-no-foul, but still out of character. Oh well; she was young. Also, Brainy mentioned “traveling to the proper vibrational plane”, which supports the notion that Superman and this Legion don’t come from the same Earth. (Which makes me even more curious about Mon-El’s story.

I know a lot of people were looking forward to Gary Frank's art in this story. I wasn't previously familiar with his work, but he acquitted himself well. Some of the characters look a little scrawny and/or wild-eyed, but that's okay.

Anyway, it's early days yet. The story hasn't really started getting going. We've had the premise established but not much else.

Early Reaction:

Seems to be uniformly positive so far. (Except for some qualms about various characterizations at the Daily Planet, which I believe is outside of my scope.)

Running Legion Count:

Bouncing Boy*, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy*, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl*, Element Lad*, Ferro Lad*, Invisible Kid I*, Karate Kid*, Light Lass*, Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad*, Mon-El*, Phantom Girl*, Princess Projectra/Sensor Girl*, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass*, Shrinking Violet*, Star Boy/Starman*, Sun Boy*, Superman, Timber Wolf*, Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel*, Ultra Boy*, Wildfire (27) (* only in brief flashback: 19)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to see no-one's mentioned it yet, but I actually got the feeling that a certain ex-Green Lantern is behind the Earth's change in attitude towards aliens. It certainly seems like his MO.

I don't know how he could have turned the sun red though...Unless that and Superman's injury are hallucinations...

7:24 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

That's one way they could go. I'm actually leaning towards Dr. Regulus being involved in things. Not only because of the sun, but also because didn't Starman mention something about Sun Boy being missing?

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did he? Ah! I missed that.

Maybe it's a team-up?

10:09 PM  
Blogger Jamaal said...

I'm glad that you mentioned the similarities with 5YL. It looks like Geoff is going to borrow Giffen's narrative device for the early 90's series (i.e., the LSH confronting a darker and more cynical world)without the burden of excessive continuity. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the book, even though I'm still not a fan of his version of Superman (who seems to be an updated Superman from thirty years ago).

10:04 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

If that's the kind of deal it turns out to be, then I find it kind of ironic, in the sense that many of the people overjoyed by this series are the same people who hated 5YL.

6:49 PM  

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