Sunday, September 06, 2020

By Popular Demand

 So I made a big show about how I was going to write an article that blew the lid off of ambiguous character points in the fourboot Legion, and a couple of people have said, ooo, can't wait for this!, and guess what. It's going to be a bit of an anticlimax, because I have been beaten to the punch.

One must assume that most people reading this blog are also familiar with the Legion of Substitute Podcasters podcast, which has been discussing Legion comics weekly for well over a decade now. (I've been a guest several times, and am due to appear again to discuss a Legion issue that's very important to me in a week or so.) Anyway, in their most recent podcast, they said just about everything I was going to say, give or take (they also attached it to Brainiac 5's exposition at the end of LSHv8 #5, which hadn't occurred to me). So, nice job by them; I'll go over the case myself and see if there's anything useful I can add.

The problem is this. We don't know a lot about this Legion yet, and some of what we do know seems contradictory. Let's go over some of the uncertainties about these characters:

- is Mon-El from Daxam or New Krypton?

- is Invisible Kid really Lyle Norg or Jacques Foccart?

- have Ferro Lad and Computo been Legionnaires the whole time, or did they only show up partway through?

- what's the deal with Ayla Ranzz? Is she Lightning Lass or Light Lass or both or what?

- is Soultaker a thing or not?

There may be more; please let me know in the comments.

One obvious explanation for all this is that writer Brian Michael Bendis and editor Brian Cunningham have been sloppy about the details. And, really, from our point of view we can't say for sure that that's <em>not</em> the case. Although some of these details seem like they're too big to get wrong. So how about we assume that these are not just careless mistakes and see where that takes us.

If they aren't mistakes then they're on purpose. The obvious question is, why are they on purpose.

Toward the end of issue #5, Brainy says... well, he says a whole lot of things. You should go back and reread it. But one possible implication of it is that 30th-century reality is always fluctuating based on 21st-century reality, and that this is a permanent state rather than something that can be wrapped up in one six-issue arc.

It's neither necessary nor automatic to conclude that the hazy details around our characters is a consequence of what Brainy is talking about. He does say, for instance, that the reality abnormalities are at the edges of their galactic, which, presumably, is not where the Legion is. So maybe Brainy's explanation has nothing to do with the Legionnaires themselves. But it is suggestive.

Either way, I wonder if Bendis is giving us a situation in which the membership of the Legion is not a known and defined thing, but a loose and fluid haze that ebbs and flows with the tides of reality. If so, then in <em>LSH: Millennium</em>, Invisible Kid really was Lyle Norg... but now, he's not; he's Jacques Foccart. Mon-El really did used to be from Daxam, but now he's not; he's from New Krypton. Ferro Lad wasn't a Legionnaire in the early issues, but now he's always been a Legionnaire.

There are two aspects I want to talk about in relation to this: premise and expectations.

I'm on record as saying that I'm primarily a fan of the Legion as a whole and only secondarily of the individual Legionnaires. And I think that is still true. The idea of the Legion is a great and shining one and it will keep me coming back. The individual Legionnaires are intriguing and colourful figures, but often underdeveloped or even rudimentary; I like them but, outside of their team context, my interest in them is limited. I understand that I may be in the minority in how I construe my fandom but I do think that my description is accurate, and this may be why some Legion fans are often frustrated, because they want more out of the characters and they just aren't getting it.

But at least in previous versions <em>there were characters</em>. Some were just also-rans, sadly, but some were extremely well-developed. Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Wildfire. To the extent that Bendis is giving us a Legion that just has, in general, <em>some Legionnaires</em> in it, I think that's a mistake. I'd be a Legion fan no matter what the membership was, but I do want it to have a membership. To say that any or all of these characters doesn't matter enough to even decide who they are or whether they're on the team does not help me care about this comic book. It tells me it's not worth caring about.

That's premise. Now expectations. Brainy's exposition freely discussed the often-rebooted nature of Legion continuity (well, and overall DC continuity too). I kind of got the idea that Bendis was trying to express the idea that the reboots are, or are <em>now</em> anyway, part of the basic premise of the Legion. I would resist this notion.

I think we also heard it from Geoff Johns at one point. I seem to recall some kind of suggestion that the following logic was at work:

1. Some fans really like the Legion of Super-Heroes.

2. The Legion of Super-Heroes gets rebooted all the time.

3. Therefore, some fans really like how the Legion of Super-Heroes gets rebooted all the time.

I may be going way out on a limb here. I don't have anything I can point to about how DC is trying to force ephemeral continuity on the Legion because they think that's what we want. In fact, I think such is probably overstating the case. But I do want to make it clear that it is the opposite of true, that nobody likes reboots, and that we wish they would stop.

Which brings me back around to the current Legion. If Bendis is being cute with us about Light Lass, that's fine, it'll get sorted out. If Bendis's position is that it doesn't matter if there's Light Lass or not, that's not fine. I don't want to read about characters that don't matter.


I will end this article by noting that something similar to this vague-continuity situation happened in the pages of Jeff Lemire's "Infinitus Saga" storyline in <em>Justice League United</em>, when Legionnaires from the SW6 and reboot Legions appeared alongside the retroboot Legion. But nothing really came of that.

Labels: , ,