Friday, November 14, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #20 Review


Sorta looks like the Save-the-Legion campaign has failed to bear fruit. It was worth doing, though.

This was the last issue of Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century. The animated Legion had a run of twenty-six televised episodes and twenty comic books. That's pretty comparable to the size of the run the threeboot will end up with.

Dan DiDio said some stuff in a recent interview about how there were big plans for the Legion. He was enthusiastic in his vagueness. I'll start paying closer attention once I hear some specifics. You know, assuming there are any specifics.

There are six Legion comics left.

What Happened That You Have to Know About:

Somebody steals Kryptonite from Brainiac 5's lab. At first, it seems like it's Metallo, out for a rematch with Superman, but it turns out to be Tharok in disguise. They fight and the Legion wins.


Former reboot-era artist Phil Moy provides the art for this issue, and does well. Is it just that all the artists we've seen have been really good, or is this Legion easy to draw? I particularly liked Lightning Lad on page 17, panel 2.

It seems like an issue that wasn't really supposed to be the last issue. There's nothing particularly intriguing about the Metallo/Tharok story; it's the latest in a long line of Fatal Five appearances in this title.

The revelations about Brainiac 5 and his kryptonite would have been interesting a year ago, before the Brainy/Superman relationship was resolved. Now, though, it just seems like the revisiting of an old story. Similarly, the issue of his mutual trust with the rest of the Legion is something that was dispensed with last issue.

But that just means that the story didn't manage to be better than a normal issue of LSH31C. That's okay. It was a normal issue of LSH31C.

Obviously, the parts of this issue that will draw the most attention from hardcore Legion fans are the Brainy-dimensional-travel pages and the last page. (When Brainy is exploring his dimensional portal, he sees glimpses of other Supermen and other realities, including Superman-X and his future, Superboy's audition in Adventure #247, Mon-El in the Phantom Zone, what looks like a Siegel-and-Shuster-era Superman, and a black-clad, leering Superman who I suspect is intended to be Superboy-Prime.) In particular, the last page suggests that this Legion was one of original-Legion Brainiac 5's projections, or maybe just a TV show he was watching. Or, given that the original Legion is one of the ones that animated-Brainy saw in the portal, maybe it was some kind of dimensional viewer.

I like the idea that the animated Legion was one of original Brainy's projections, intended to explore the implications of the Silver Age Legion going back in time to meet Superboy. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work: the original-recipe Lightning Lad shown here has an artificial arm, so they've already met Superboy and the trip to Smallville they mention is not the first.

It was a good series and it's over too soon. Thanks to J. Torres and Alex Serra and Jack Briglio and Matthew K. Manning and Sanford Greene and Ethen Beavers and everyone else who turned in the fine work that they did. Won't be forgotten.

Membership Notes:

I just want to note that this Legion's run has come to an end with Nemesis Kid still a member in good standing.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if there was at least one reality where Element Lad went wrong, maybe there's also one reality where Nemesis Kid stayed a good guy. That way it all evens out.


-- cleome45

1:16 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I wonder just what Abnett and Lanning had planned for Element Lad...

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for the kind words; it was nice to be part of this run and it's too bad it wasn't able to last longer than it did.

A few comments about this issue, to help shed some light:

- this story was pitched during Season 1 of the cartoon series and when the book was still in its infancy. Had I known Tharok and the Fatal 5 would have been used so much, I may have tried to come up with a different angle regarding Metallo. It was not originally planned as a last issue.

- this story should have taken place earlier, before J's Ring Arc, because I agree, we were tackling similar ideas with Brainy and Superman. Unfortunately, we were working on them at the same time and actually, had there been more issues, we had pitched a Brainy story to explain what happened to him after Season 2 ended and flesh out these stories we had told.

- the last page, your hypotheses are correct - the artificial arm was an oversight on my part, because, with this being the last issue, I wanted it to feel like a new beginning - as the cycle begins anew, albeit in a (hopefully neat) retro way. So, it was supposed to be referencing their first visit with Superboy. Sorry that the artificial arm there slipped in and no one caught it - I at least should have, since that was what I was going for.

Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks for your support.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Thanks. That's all good to know. It's a shame I seemed to be one of the few people who appreciated this series; I've said often that LSH31C had the most satisfying Legion storytelling DC was publishing. I'm sure that the single-issue nature of the stories had something to do with that (along with the talent involved). Anyway, it was a good series and yours is definitely one of the names I'm going to be keeping an eye out for from now on.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder just what Abnett and Lanning had planned for Element Lad...

Hopefully it would have involved removal of that absurd chin-patch.

;) BTW, it's mostly due to this website and Major Spoilers that I marched off to the library and got a couple of the Waid/Kitson volumes. I had heard that I'd be allergic to them because of my old history as a Levitz fan, but they actually turned out to be pretty good.* I hope the "In 31st Century" stuff will eventually be collected as well-- Because space and money issues kind of prevent me from buying anything for the forseeable future.

*Element Lad won my heart by saying "I hate pirates," despite the chin-patch.

-- cleome45

7:34 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I think some of them *have* been collected. I believe Johnny DC comics are collected, six issues at a time, into some little digests. I'm pretty sure I've seen Volume 1, at least, in my LCS. (And that's a good one: it has the Infectious Lass issue in it!)

7:56 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, and I meant to say that it's good to hear that I was able to turn you on to the threeboot. It's not perfect, but it's one of the most intriguing eras of Legion comics.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...It's not perfect, but...

Fans don't really want perfection. We enjoy complaining. That's why everyone loves Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.

But, yes, the core concept Waid was working on seemed to hold a lot of things together-- which overrides any misgivings I might have about the concept itself. Even an imperfect plan is better than no plan.

Maybe when I read the stuff after "Death of A Dream," I'll change my mind. We shall see.

-- cleome45

2:19 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't enjoy complaining. I'd be happy never to complain again.

The threeboot after the Lemnos arc does a lot of wandering around to no apparent effect. Many of the ingredients are good, but overall the whole Supergirl/Dominators/Wanderers thing ought to be about eight issues shorter. Also, Barry Kitson hurt his hand so there's a lot of fill-in art. Still worthwhile, but many missed opportunities.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...I'd be happy never to complain again.

Hmm. Must be just me, then. ;)

I remember dropping the book and nearly every other Big Two book I read by around 1988, because I was tired of all the incursions on storylines and characters due to what always felt like heavy-handed editorial directive* in the face of Secret-Infite-Crisis-whatever. I guess the more things change, etc etc...

*Which is not to say that Indy books with only one creator at the helm don't also sometimes go completely off the rails and lose me-- it's just that it's for a different reason.

-- cleome45

12:29 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I had a similar experience in the early '90s. One of the titles I was collecting was New Titans, and they did that thing where they wanted fans to buy, instead of one comic, four comics that would contain two-and-a-half comics worth of story. My interest in comics happened to be in the trough of the sine wave at the moment, and I quit cold turkey. I had considered sticking with Sandman, Groo and LSH, but made a clean break instead. (Then, around the time The Legion #11 came out, I suffered a Legion jones powerful enough to pull me right back in.)

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm stealing that "sine wave" bit. Or I'll send you a box of cookies in a couple of week as payment.

What has been steadily dragging me back is... the economy. During my increasingly sporadic job situation (isn't that a nicer way to say "pitiful spate of low-paying temp jobs ?") this year, I stumbled on the LoSH cartoon. It was already canceled by the time I found about it-- I don't even remember how I did. Idleness is its own punishment/reward. :o

Proves to me (once again) that corporations are run by idiots. You'd think they'd be happy to have a property in one medium bringing people into another medium, hopefully with open wallets (eventually) but, no... It's also pathetic that they can't afford to keep a book (or two) afloat that loses money but still has a lot of sentimental value. Same as it ever was...

-- cleome45

2:48 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I just think DC and Marvel aren't really interested in expanding their sales significantly. If they were, they'd do things a) to make their comics more accessible, and b) to make their comics more *findable*. It's been suggested before, but why wouldn't DC, for instance, strike up a deal with any or all of the following places to have their comics sold there: McDonalds. Blockbuster. Toys 'R' Us. Starbucks. Video arcades or game stores. Wal-Mart. Sure, maybe the product would have to change a little to make it cost-effective for these places, but that's okay. There are a lot of boats waiting for that rising tide.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DC seems to want to make the characters but not the comics more accessible... You can buy Superman figures easy in any good toy store, but try and find a good comic? I know in the UK, thats a trip to no man's land to find the only comics store within 25 miles. Unless you live in London, where there is a BIG comics book store that makes others seem so small.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I honestly don't understand the thinking. I mean, I can see why comic books aren't a big priority for Time Warner, but I can't see why you just wouldn't try at all.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Sure, maybe the product would have to change a little to make it cost-effective for these places...

You mentioned the digests above. Seems to me like that would be the most effective way to go. That and the mid-sized trades.

But, yeah, seems to me that these too were issues being discussed the last time I bailed out. So not much progress since then. :( It's a shame.

-- cleome45

11:52 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Digests might work. They kind of put the artists at a disadvantage, though.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Granted, some styles of art and story work better in a small newsprint-y format than others.

But digests would be a great, inexpensive lead-in: Concentrate on self-contained stories and then use them to plug larger, more expensive volumes that people could buy in place other than a big-box store. Put the digests in the check-out line or the magazine sections, next to those little recipe books and the like.

Well, what do I know ? Once upon a time I was a huge fan of the original Amethyst. I also read girls' mags like Seventeen. Even at that age, I knew there was something wrong because DC complained that the book wasn't selling, and there were all the teenage girl mags with... no ads for comic books.

Yeah, I'm that freakin' old. :p

-- cleome45

12:54 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Amethyst was awesome. Ernie Colon! There's supposed to be an Amethyst collection coming out sometime soon, right?

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't that be nice ? (Colon had that terrible misogynist Nazi-hunter-werewolf comic that I was duped into buying once [shudder], but Amethyst more than makes up for it.)

Giffen deserved a dozen kicks in the shins for what he did to her, though. I hope somebody got around to it, since I wasn't available.

-- cleome45

1:47 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Speaking as a fan of both Legion and Amethyst, I don't think either franchise was well-served by tying either to the other.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

DC and Marvel may be hobbled in their ability to get their comics out to more places due to exclusivity deals with Diamond.

That and of course many of those places you mention are not conducive to racks and racks of comics, so a new publishing and marketing strategy would be required, and I don't think either company is up to that.

I still think that the Essentials/Showcase model would be one of the best. Once a year, repackage the previous year's worth of a title in a B&W newsprint volume at like $12 a pop. (Manipulate the schedule and page content to break along storyline boundaries where possible.) There are many title that I have no interest in buying monthly at $3-4 a pop, but would go for annually in a chunk at $1-1.50 a pop.

Do them in reduced size, too -- the "manga" size used for Minx titles, Runaways digests, etc. The point being: the entire line is re-released and done *cheaply*. People who want the isolated storylines in color on good paper can but the TPB and HC volumes, but these would reach the audience who just wants the stories.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I'm not sure Diamond would be a problem.

1. Maybe all these places I mention could simply get their comics through Diamond.
2. Bookstores don't deal with Diamond; why would Toys 'R' Us have to?

It's true that none of those places would want huge racks of comics. Maybe, for Starbucks, they'd get a little display thing with a standard package of four issues of Vertigo comics in it. Something like that.

There are lots of ways of doing it. I have to believe that at least one of them is preferable to not doing anything.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...I don't think either franchise was well-served by tying either to the other...

Oh, if I had a dime for every time I used to think that, about a whole lot of books. :p

As to Jim's suggestions: Very intriguing. Of course, if it were up to me, I'd start the cost-reduction strategy by firing a bunch of Veeps and, y'know, bringing in a couple of people who might actually have a clue. But that's why nobody ever puts me in charge of anything. Not even the local block party. I'm mean.

-- cleome45

12:42 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I don't know. Maybe they're happy the way they are, as a copyright-maintenance organization for the company's licensing properties. Wouldn't suit me, but, you know, whatever.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to have Phil Moy back.He and brother Jeff are two of my favorite Legion artists.Either one could've used their regular styles and not have been out of place on this title.
Both toon show and its satellite series were cut down before their time,and in the Legion's 50th year yet.Truly pitiful.Also a pity is how,contrary to Mr. Briglio's intent,the last page proved to be divisive in some quarters.Maybe fans do love to complain.

2:01 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Was it divisive? I hadn't heard anything about that.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Divisive is perhaps overstating it,but there were fans who seized on that final page as proof that "their Legion"(whichever one that is,maybe the one in their heads)was the one true Legion and all other versions were rank impostors.Jack Briglio tried to be inclusive,but they need to be exclusive.I'm paraphrasing something I read,but nothing so divides people as an interest in the same thing.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, that crowd. Aah. They can't be pleased and should only be ignored.

1:56 PM  

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