Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rereading the Ghostboot

So I finally did what I've been saying I've been going to do, and reread the whole of LSHv6. I didn't reread all of Levitz's Adventure run, but I did read the couple of issues that were included in the storyline of LSHv6, with Saturn Queen and all that jazz, plus the LSV Special and the Annual.

And it was good! I enjoyed it more that way than I did reading the individual issues month-by-month. I'd say it wasn't as good as late-v2-early-v3-Levitz, maybe, but better than late-v3-Levitz. And it's certainly preferable to Geoff Johns's recent efforts with the team; at least Levitz is focused on the Legion themselves and not on Superman or Kon-El or Superboy-Prime.

One thing I definitely found was that some of Levitz's foreshadowing and subplot-simmering is a lot more effective when you read it this way. Harmonia Li first appeared at the start of v6, and right from the start she was emphasizing the importance of wisdom, something that wouldn't pay off for another year. Or look at Timber Wolf's mini-quest to be the guy who hunts and brings down Sun-Killer.

It's worth noting that Levitz was hampered by having to cut his stories down from 22 to 20 pages, and also by the relaunch forcing an end to the storyline with #16. We can hope that, now that the relaunch is out of the way, LSHv7 will allow him to proceed with the next storyline unimpeded, and that he's fully adjusted to the 20-page issues.

One thing I was hoping for when the comics shrunk down to 20 pages was that the stories would stay about the same length, and we'd just get more panels per page. It doesn't seem to have happened, but I suppose sometime I should sit down and run the numbers. I wonder how much harder that is for the artists, to pack more panels into a page. In one way you'd think it wouldn't make any difference, that a page's worth of art is a page's worth of art, no matter how many panels it's divided into. But then maybe there's a change in the density of detail they have to draw, and they have to take the trouble to compose the individual panels, and so on. But I do know one thing. From our point of view, the more panels there are on a page, the better, all other things being equal.

Levitz's method previously was to provide an individual story in each issue that contributed to the overall plot and also kept subplots humming along. It looks like he's still doing that, but that the individual-story aspect of it is less true than before. I wouldn't have said before that Levitz was a guy who writes for the trade, but it's always been true that he writes big long stories that just happen to be divided into smaller pieces; and that most Paul Levitz comics are connected to the next issue just as much as they were connected to the previous issue; not many dramatic climaxes. (Although, when he does do an issue that's the grand finale to a story, it's a good one.) Modern comics storytelling seems to have made enabled Levitz to continue doing some of what he's always done while deemphasizing the individual issues. Which I can't say I'm a fan of; I like done-in-one stories. (More than that: I think done-in-one stories are objectively preferable.)

I seem to be approaching a recommendation to wait for the trade on these Legion comics. I'll never do it; I like the month-by-month nature of comics and anyway a fine blog this would be if you didn't hear from me about current Legion matters but every six months. If you're not happy with the quality, though, but you're still fond of the characters, you might want to consider it.

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Anonymous Tim said...

did you ever figure out the chronology on Cosmic King at the end there?

11:07 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

No; let me get back to you on that. There're a couple of things I want to check again.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Madman2001 said...

>>Or look at Timber Wolf's mini-quest to be the guy who hunts and brings down Sun-Killer.<<
Did you ever discover how Timber Wolf figured out how Sun Boy could bring down Sun-Killer?

12:05 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yes and no. There's a scene where Timber Wolf is talking to the guys at the nuclear plant in Japan, and they discuss the effects of different kinds of energy on Sun-Killer, so that's clearly where Brin got his intel... but I honestly can't figure out why it's supposed to work.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Madman2001 said...

>>but I honestly can't figure out why it's supposed to work.<<
Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the exposition (usually after a battle scene or at the end of the issue) where they explained the intricacies of this.

Along the same lines, I would have also appreciated an explanation of:

-> how Earth-man defeated the blue entity,
-> how Star Boy's powers/experience aided in that defeat (particularly after Harmonia Li said that it was absolutely critical), or
-> how Chemical King and Variable Lad ended up blowing each other up.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I wonder about how Earth-Man defeated the blue entity too. I can take it part of the way: he absorbed the Legionnaires' powers to make him powerful enough to handle the blue guy's powers. Then he absorbed the blue guy's powers. Then...?

I don't really get the deal with Star Boy either.

Variable Lad and Cosmic King I do get. Cosmic King was trying to disintegrate everybody. Variable Lad had changed to a form that had reflective powers. So he reflected Cosmic King's power back on himself. But the reflective powers didn't protect him from disintegration, so he died too.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Murray said...

Great post! I enjoyed hearing how well the stories stack up when read one after another in a great big chunk.

Minor nitpick... Levitz had to adjust when his stories were cut from 32 to 22 pages (cuz originally, this was one of those 3.99 books, except that it didn't have a back up tale)... and then again from 22 to 20 pages. Which... when you really think about it, cuts a lot of story out of the story.

But as you say - now that all the formating issues have been resolved with regards to issue length and restarts, I think it's safe to say that Levitz can more easily plan his next story because he knows exactly what he's working with.

I'm looking forward to where he's going. In fact, it's mapping pretty closely to the original Baxter run which had a strong start, then kinda wandered around for a while while Levitz adjusted to losing first his plotting partner, and then the penciller. It was right around issue 16 that Greg Laroque would permanentl come on board, which is right around the time that the stories focussed on the new Legionnaires kicked into high gear.

Which brings to where we are right now with the retroboot Legion.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Thanks. Yeah, I remember the 32-to-22 transition, but somehow in my mind that wasn't the same kind of unexpected change. Dunno.

Extending your comparison... I guess there were a couple of interesting storylines in issues 16-50 of the Baxter series. I'd be happy with that, if we got it. (And I'd take Portela over Larocque, too.)

5:50 PM  
Anonymous eddie blake said...

a few in there are sweet, like tyr's warworld and the whole who-is-sensor girl bit, but the conspiracy build up to 50 is some damn fine storytelling...

and 50 ranks up there with the greatest legion stories told..

if levitz has half of that in him, it will be a nice run...

9:17 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Don't forget the Universo Project. That was pretty good.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I long ago went into a mode of three types of purchasing:
* Things I get only as singles (most superhero comics I buy) -- stuff that I'm fine reading bit by bit
* Things I get only as TPBs (Runaways, X-Men, etc.) -- stuff that I am fine waiting months between chunks
* Things that I want *now* but also want in chunks, either because I know there are issue-to-issue connections which play better as a unit or because I want the permanence (Legion, A Distant Soil, etc.)

2:09 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I only have the first two of those; I don't want to buy anything twice. But I'm about to have a third category, I think: stuff I want to get month-by-month but don't mind only reading electronically four weeks after it first comes out.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once I surrendered to being a Legion completist, not buying something twice went out the window. (That and the Archives: I had some issues as originals and most reprinted in the Adventure digests, so do I buy them again in a permanent form or not?0

Really, though, it was sporadic novelistic scope comics like A Distant Soil and Thieves & Kings that pushed me into the state. When a comic only puts out a couple issues per year, the wait between collections grows immense, and the creator needs the cash from the singles to even get there, and the story needs to be read in big chunks to not get lost. So you either give up on the whole thing or you double buy. (And thus read it all again in collected form, which is important.)

As you note, Levitz doesn't write for the single or for the collection. He writes for novel, or for the soap opera. Multiple plots bubble along, boil over, and eventually conclude, and he has no interest in artificially isolating them. (It's like life. Once you graduate from high school, you learn that life cycles don't stay in 9-month blocks.)

The other option to not double buying is to every six months, re-read the past year's worth, emulating the collection concept. Which entails digging out and refiling those comics, which can itself be a chore!

2:50 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

The other option to not double buying is to every six months, re-read the past year's worth, emulating the collection concept. Which entails digging out and refiling those comics, which can itself be a chore!

Oh, yeah; sorting through these comics is killing me. Ow, my back.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rereading the ghostboot myself gave me a different opinion of it. LSHv6 had the makings of a great run of stories,but it never quite made it there.Rather than inflict a lengthy screed on you to make my case,I'll stick to two points that I found representative of the whole run:Earth-Man and the mystery of the falling rubble.

A loose cannon like Earth-Man in the LSH really should've shook things up,especially with a GL ring on his finger.As it happened, he cast off the ring before doing anything interesting with it.He gave his life to save his teammates,but he remained such an unappealing cipher throughout than it was hard to feel anything about it.The whole ghostboot was like that;it never made us care about anything that was happening.

At the end of LSH #10,the walls were falling on Brainy.That's all we saw of it.Never again mentioned,much less explained.Too many things in the ghostboot were left unresolved like that.

Buying every issue of the ghostboot was like dropping coins in a slot machine and not getting a payoff.Gambling doesn't pay.

1:10 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I think I know what you mean. I hope it was just a case of Levitz finding the range, and that the current series will slip into gear. The first issue was decent, although I'm not sure about bringing in the Dominion.

8:58 AM  

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