You have to feel a little sorry for the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, when Superboy was retconned out of existence and the backstory of the Legion invalidated, the team—once one of DC’s hottest sellers—has undergone cycles of abuse and neglect from creators, editors and fans. It had a short, happy life on the Cartoon Network and has had as many false-starts and reboots (and as much chaotic and impossible-to-understand continuity) as anyone this side of Hawkman.
It’s only fair, then, that Crisis on Infinite Earths artist George Pérez should be the one to help bring those reboots under one roof, and hopefully save the franchise from disaster, along with superstar writer Geoff Johns, in last year’s Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds, out this week in hardcover from DC Comics.
Given that each of the reboots have their fans, and Geoff Johns joins with most Legion fans as loving the originals instead, the way he’s dealt with these characters—to reintroduce a modernized, tweaked version of the originals as the “central” Legion while acknowledging the new ones as canonical as well; this is a great approach that the return of the Multiverse has allowed for. Yes, your favorite comic happened. Yes, so did mine. They ALL happened. Maybe you won’t be able to read “your” Legion forever, because frankly we need one that more people will enjoy…but at least the door isn’t completely closed to them coming back at some point, or getting a one-shot or something.
I’ll admit that I was never a huge Legion of Super-Heroes fan until fairly recently, but to those who think titles like this one (and Hawkman, Aquaman and Manhunter for that matter) can’t succeed financially or critically, I say “Go away and don’t come back until you’ve done some serious thinking.” The reality of it is, there are no “bad” properties at DC or Marvel. Anything you’ve ever seen come out of a mainstream superhero universe can be made good, profitable, enjoyable, or all three given the right creative mix.
Johns and Pérez certainly fit the bill as “the right creative mix.” Even with the insufferable Superboy-Prime as the principal bad guy, and its tenuous connection to the central Final Crisis story, this comic was fantastic. Seeing Pérez finally get to draw the Legion for a long period of time was well-worth the…well, the long period of time…that we had to wait between issues, and Geoff Johns showed again why he’s one of those guys who can be trusted to come in, mix things up and make them better (at least as far as most readers are concerned).
The resulting miniseries was so good, that the predictable twists and turns it took (let’s face it—three of the last four issues ended with “surprises” and only one of them actually surprised anyone) were paced out so well that they left readers gaping at the execution. The final handful of pages featuring Superboy-Prime may feel a little out of place with the rest of the story…but that’s the unfortunately part of what happens when you’re writing for a continuity-heavy universe where you always have to be “setting up the sequel,” as it were. You can’t just have him powerless and relegated to Earth-Prime with disappointed parents. There has to be a little PS to remind readers that, yes, he’ll be in Blackest Night.
Following up this series with Adventure Comics was great (although I still really like Manapul’s interpretation of the Legion, and felt like he was a little wasted on Conner Kent alone), but I hope that there’s a plan in place to make sure that the Johns-less Legion doesn’t fall prey to reader apathy and creative stagnation. The fact that the team is losing Johns and the format of the book is changing at the same time, certainly doesn’t seem too healthy…and DiDio’s reluctance to name the fill-in team (plus his insistence that the book will basically be absorbed into the all-consuming Borg that is the current “Superman on New Krypton” story) is a little frightening as well. The “event” we were promised for the fiftieth anniversary of the Legion ended up coming a little late, and now that we’ve finally seen it I feel like it would be a real shame to watch it all fall apart as the cycle of neglect and abuse picks up steam again.