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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