Saturday, May 17, 2008

Continuity Notes: Runup to Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds

Okay, so, the interruption in service should be over. I won't have a review of the new LSH31C until Wednesday, though, as I won't actually possess the comic book until then. In the meantime!

This summer will see a miniseries called Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. A couple of recent comic books (DC Universe #0 and Action Comics #864) have started to introduce this miniseries a little bit. I propose to explain the whole thing in ridiculously minute detail because some readers are starting from scratch on this one.

Q. What is Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds?

A. It's a five-issue miniseries starting in August. It branches out from DC's big event miniseries of 2008, Final Crisis. It's about Superman helping out his futuristic friends, the Legion of Super-Heroes, in what they're calling the 'Crisis of the 31st century'. There are three versions of the Legion involved.

Q. How can there be three versions of the Legion?

A. The Legion has a complicated publishing history and DC has rebooted them - started them over from scratch - a couple of times.

Q. So what versions of the Legion are there?

A. The first version is the version that Superman knows. They're the ones who have appeared in Action Comics recently, and in the 'Lightning Saga' crossover in Justice League and Justice Society before that. This Legion is also intended to be a continuation of the original Legion that DC published comics about between 1958 and... let's say 1984.

The second version is the version that appeared in Legion comics between about 1994 and 2004. They're usually called the 'reboot Legion'.

The third version is the version appearing in the Legion of Super-Heroes title now. They're usually called the 'threeboot Legion'.

(The alert reader will have detected a gap in the chronology between 1984 and 1994. I'll be touching on these years below when I talk about the Time Trapper.)

Q. And they're all in this comic? How's that work?

A. DC hasn't really made it clear yet. But it's been established that all three have met before, so it looks like they aren't treating it like a big deal.

Q. Hey, yeah! In the 'Lightning Saga', they talked about the 'Legion of Three Worlds' adventure! How could that be--this miniseries has already happened?

A. No. Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds is a new story and not a flashback. It just happens to represent the second team-up of all three Legions, where the first team-up is a story about which we've never heard the details. Maybe we'll get it in an Annual in six years or something.

Q. In Action #864 Batman said that he's met all three Legions.

A. Yeah. It was nice that they did that. There was a lot of history there that it wasn't clear whether DC was still using it or not, until that page.

Q. But hasn't Superman met the reboot Legion too, about when Batman did?

A. Yeah, he has. But: a) there's a value in providing exposition to the reader, and b) it was established in the 'Lightning Saga' that time-travel adventures are often accompanied by sketchy memory, and that one fact can cover a lot of 'But doesn't X know about Y' type questions. And I think that's actually a pretty good way of handling stuff like that.

Q. Who's the dude in the purple robes in DC Universe #0 and the end of Action #864?

A. That's the Time Trapper.

Q. Okay. Who's the Time Trapper?

A. He's the Legion's biggest enemy. He's got amazingly powerful time-manipulation powers and somewhat obscure motives. As for who he is, well... that's not clear. Maybe he's a rogue Controller. Maybe he's one or both of Glorith or Lori Morning (Legion supporting characters of various eras). Maybe he's Cosmic Boy. Maybe he's the living embodiment of entropy.

The important thing is that when it comes to a guy like this, there never has to be a final answer, because any story they come up with that's supposed to explain what his deal is, or finally defeats him, can be retconned as just another one of his time tricks. Which I suspect is what's happening here.

Q. How do you mean?

A. The Trapper just said, I think in Action #864, that he's tried to mess the Legion around with pocket dimensions and stuff. This is a reference to a portion of Legion history in the late '80s, a time that isn't currently part of continuity for any of these three Legions. It looks like writer Geoff Johns is using the Time Trapper to explain all of the weird convolutions that have bedeviled Legion comics over the past twenty-some years, many of which themselves originally involved the Time Trapper. This is Johns's attempt to shake the wrinkles out of Legion history. I don't know how well it's going to work, but he's at least selected the proper tool in the Time Trapper.

Q. So is he going to simplify things down to just one Legion?

A. Dunno. That would be the simplest thing to do, and DC does like to simplify its title characters and return them to what they looked like at their most popular. It'd be a shame in the Legion's case because the different versions are all great in different ways.

The idea that this will result in only one Legion has some support with the blackboard that appeared in a recent 'DC Nation' column. There was a notation on the board that read '1000 / 3 = 1'. As in, one thousand years in the future, three Legion versions, equals one Legion version. Could be.

There has also been much speculation that the three versions will be merged into one version. That could be, too, but I'm not much on the idea. The three versions have strong identities and I think you lose some of that when you stir them all together. It'd be hard to do well. Honestly, I don't know what the good solution is; I just know that I don't want to lose anything of value.

Q. Maybe Johns is just going to have Superboy-Prime kill about two-thirds of the Legionnaires and then the survivors can be the Legion.

A. I don't want to talk about that.

Q. Please identify everybody in that one cover that's split into three with the three Legions.

A. No. But I will point out one thing. Look at Mon-El floating up high in the threeboot side of the cover. He looks like he's still in the Phantom Zone. I wonder if it's going to turn out that he's the Mon-El from both the threeboot Legion and the Legion from Action and the 'Lightning Saga'. Remember, you heard it here first.

Q. What about Live Wire on the reboot side? Isn't he supposed to look like a crystal Element Lad these days?

A. Yes and no. Abnett and Lanning, the last regular writers of the reboot Legion, had always intended to restore Live Wire and Element Lad to their original selves, and the one panel of Infinite Crisis that featured the reboot Legion also had Live Wire looking like his old self. So it looks like Geoff Johns has just decided to skip to the bottom of the page on that particular subplot.

Q. How did Karate Kid and Una's bodies end up in that alley in Action #864?

A. The Time Trapper timewarped them there, to mess with Superman.

Q. Isn't Karate Kid supposed to be already dead?

A. Yes, but. Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy went back in time and saved him from the moment of his death so he could go back in time and participate in all the shenanigans in the 'Lightning Saga' and Countdown and all that. There's no paradox. (Presumably they also supplied a real-looking corpse substitute for his first death.)

Q. Please hold forth on Geoff Johns's unorthodox ideas about the original Legion.

A. Thanks, I will. In a couple of interviews, Johns has shared some odd ideas about his takes on various Legion characters. First, he sees Polar Boy as being the most similar Legionnaire to Superman. I have no idea how he figures that. Second, he sees Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy as being analogous to the famed Superman values of Truth, Justice and the American Way. That one also had me scratching my head.

I mean, it's not invalid for Johns to look at the characters that way. He's the writer; if that's his take, that's his take. But it still seems weird to me. Saturn Girl representing truth? Saturn Girl has been one of the most deceptive, and self-deceptive, of any of DC's heroes for a decade or two now. Lightning Lad representing justice? Really?

Q. What about the regular Legion title? Shouldn't whatever happens in this miniseries be reflected there?

A. It's not clear how that's going to work. Writer Jim Shooter's in the middle of a big storyline that was supposed to run for sixteen issues. But there have been rumours that he's gonna be removed from the book. So basically we don't know what's going to happen. Whatever it is, though, has a fighting chance to be good.

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Blogger kenaustin said...

"A. No. But I will point out one thing. Look at Mon-El floating up high in the threeboot side of the cover. He looks like he's still in the Phantom Zone. I wonder if it's going to turn out that he's the Mon-El from both the threeboot Legion and the Legion from Action and the 'Lightning Saga'. Remember, you heard it here first."

Hmmm...I hadn't thought of that...And THAT might explain Phantom Girl's presence during the "seance" panel with Brainiac 5 and White Witch from DC Universe #0.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This was a helpful overview. Many thanks for posting it.

Apparently I was operating under a misconception which would have made Legion of Three Worlds disappointing right out of the starting gate if you hadn't clarified it. My impression before now had been that this book actually was going to be the "Legion of Three Worlds" mentioned in the Lightning Saga -- not presented as a flashback, but as something Superman recalled that hasn't yet happened to each of the three teams. And if that sentence sounds confusing, it's only because of the way tenses get mangled when talking about time travel. The encounter between the three Legions couldn't be considered a "flashback" if it's happening a thousand years in the future...but it would be a flashback if it's depicted as having happened in the backstory of at least one Legion's present continuity. Boy, is this hard to talk about coherently.

I think I'd prefer it if this book turned out to be the event that Superman was talking about, as I originally supposed it would be, rather than some kind of followup rematch -- a sequel to an unseen story -- but I'd prefer Johns had done a lot of things differently, so it's a bit late for me to carp about it now. And just to play devil's advocate, my all-time favorite Legion story was presented as a kind of sequel to a nonexistent precursor: "Mordru the Merciless" in his non-debut debut. So I'll admit it can be done well...

6:21 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Ken: It makes sense for the Legion to treat Phantom Girl as their interdimensional expert.

RAB: My pleasure. Me, I'm more worried about the implications than I am the initial premise...

8:14 PM  
Blogger snell said...

"Yes, but. Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy went back in time and saved him from the moment of his death so he could go back in time and participate in all the shenanigans in the 'Lightning Saga' and Countdown and all that."

A) I must have missed that one...where were we told that?
B)So what, they somewhow thought it was OK to send a guy with an extinction-level virus back in time? Nah, that wouldn't mess with anybody's timelines...

8:50 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

A) I don't know. Somewhere in there. I think in the Lightning Saga, actually.

I also had some kind of notion that they did the same thing for Triplicate Girl's first body, the one Computo killed, and she was the one who went back as Una, leaving an intact Duo Damsel in the 31st century. But I don't think I actually have any kind of a basis for that and may be completely off base about it.

B) Where did Val pick up the virus, anyway? I don't think I ever heard. Was it mentioned in Countdown? 'Cause I didn't read Countdown.

11:05 PM  
Blogger snell said...

Where/how exactly Val was infected was never dealt with in Countdown...he just had it. He just shows up at Oracle's and announces that he's dying. Typical of the slipshod storytelling in that series.

It was revealed that Earth-51 21st century science couldn't defeat it because, having existed in Val's bloodstream, it had adpated itself to all the medicine and nano-tech of the 31st century, and thus was immune to anything we primitives could through at them. But they never actually came out and said that he contracted it in the future, or if Val had somehow picked it up in the 21 century and it's mere existence in his blood made it super-duper.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Well, I'm sure the virus is why Brainy didn't let him come back to the 31st century. He probably picked it up during one of his adventures as Trident.

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrifying thought, that a superhero could be named Trident. Doublemint was taken, I suppose?

6:25 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I'm going to answer that seriously, because people might not know!

In the early issues of Brad Meltzer's Justice League, Karate Kid was disguised as Trident, an old mostly-forgotten Teen Titans villain, who had been enslaved by an artificial Starro on the back of his neck to be Solomon Grundy's henchman. Black Lightning nabbed him and brought him to the Batcave, where Batman found his true identity.

Why was Karate Kid disguised amnesiacally as Trident? Same reason Dawnstar was on Thanagar and Dream Girl was in Arkham, et cetera: they were lost on the way back to fulfill Brainiac 5's lightning-rod mission. More on that in another post soon, I think.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been my feeling that Lemnos of the 3Boot Legion is a version of the Time Trapper. In the 3Boot, all of the LSHer's who were previously involved in the defeat of the Time Trapper have been rather fairly compromised in one way or another.

BUT this theory assumes that there is some PTB who is paying particular attention to LSH and are directing their fates in a cogent manner. Of coure, this has not been the history of this book.

Would that Jim Shooter were allowed to edit this book as well as write it.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't think it matters who you get to edit the book--or, for that matter, write it--if they're only going to be there for a couple of years and then DC changes gears on the whole project.

Lemnos as the Time Trapper? I don't think Lemnos thinks big enough.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gosh. if that's what Geoff Johns thinks about the Legion, then i guess the Threeboot really is on its way out.

and now that I think that, i'm guessing L3W might just turn out to be a massive bloodfest to trim the Legion down to its 2009 version.

think i'll stick with the cartoon for now, until the dust clears.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

That would really tick me off if they did that.

Which is not to say that whatever comic books came after that mightn't be good.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've been operating under the assumption that val picked up the virus that creates kamndi's earth from... kamandi's earth.

val & kamandi crossed over into each others books in 1978. it was the last issue of KK, and returning home from 1978, he "smashes through time to the future - THE WRONG FUTURE!"

(why does EVERY legion solo spin-off have to take place in the 20/21 century?)

2:38 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Didn't it say in Countdown where he picked it up? That's kind of a big hole in the story if it didn't.

why does EVERY legion solo spin-off have to take place in the 20/21 century?

Obviously, because that's the period of time that readers are most interested in.

9:46 PM  
Blogger PenaltyKillah said...

1000 / 3 = 1.

Well, no secret there. Very helpful notes you got there Matt, and thanks for clearing things out.

There's still a possibility for merger though - the safest option being an enrichment to the current Legion's backstory (aka "just fit it in and hope that no one makes a fuss"), and the LS/SM&tLoSH Legion would be the ones looking down from a paradise dimension, drinking blue milk with their way-grownup Superbuddy. Smooth move, DC Nation. That hint I'm calling moot so far.

But does it have its advantages? I can still see the current run of the Legion going on with new stories and stuff, as long as the merger of origins conform to the 'present' LSH, not vice versa, therefore avoiding a Glorithverse/Glorith's Curse. If it gives old man Shooter an excuse to reuse later-era characters of the original Legion, go on. Don't just let them belong to the nostalgics, maybe add a modern alternate spin on one or two seventies plots. Call me if the "ka-ching"'s not eagerly about to chime.

Then again, if DC's serious about the "future's always changing" concept, with the Butterfly Effect on high gear or somewhat... 1) treat the 31st century as a stomping ground and make a retcon every few issues, slowly changing its continuity. That actually serves the message... or 2) go crazy and create another dozen versions of the Legion or so, and lay hints in the DCU's present as to which version is a real possibility. Alright, DC's concept doesn't truly work. In any case, don't use the Time Trapper that often. He/she's a sweet treat, but too much wouldn't create a nerdgasm worth real "ka-ching"'s. To be a herald for EoaE, good one. But a certain grudge with a certain Man of Steel? And that has to do with Darkseid or somewhat? Guess we'll just have to wait.

2:01 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I think DC's big idea with their important/long-running characters, which includes the Legion, is to simplify them down to their iconic versions.

In general I think this is probably the smart way to do it.

In the case of the Legion I suspect it means that Johns's revival Legion may take over centre stage, and I'm skeptical about how much I'm going to like that. But certainly I don't think they're going to make it *more* complicated.

7:58 AM  
Blogger PenaltyKillah said...

Silver Age icons now taking center stage? Profit. Fans of the original Legion aren't 1) a dying breed, and 2), still are the bulk of comic buyers.

NRAMA: What do you think of the return of the multiverse?

Jerry Ordway: I think it's great, but right now it's like the Wild West ... I have no idea what's going on, what's real and what's not. I need some structure, as a reader. Which "Legion" is the real "Legion," you know?

From a Newsarama interview with Ordway for the JSA Annual. Aside from his first-hand rant of DC's ethics, is that supposed to be a hint at something? The Legion's three continuities aren't related with the 52 Multiverse so far, unlike Earth-247 & allegedly another 'Earth-Prime' for Threeboot. Next question...

NRAMA: Do you think the multiverse can last? What will make this time around less confusing than it was last time the multiverse had to be streamlined?

JO: I see no reason why stories can't be told of duplicate Earths, and heroes, as it's a great science fiction staple. But as I said, they need to map out some stuff and make everyone conform to it. ... There have been so many re-boots that my head starts spinning when I try to reference a character for a story.

He better be referring to origin reboots like Man of Steel or the post-Crisis JSA for this one, not the full reboots of the Legion. In any case, it'd be disappointing if Legionnaires imitate ZH Batgirl's "I'm as real as any of you" monologue...

10:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

It sounds to me like he was talking about, sort of, what I was talking about. Simplicity isn't the only virtue, but it is a virtue.

10:32 PM  

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