“The Lightning Saga: Final Chapter”
(subtitle translated from the Interlac at end of review)*
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artists: Ed Benes (p), Sandra Hope (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: The JLA and the JSA realize they’re being punk’d, which really pisses Clark off. It doesn’t, however, seem to bother Batman that much, because he thinks he knows why.
Comments: This is probably as much as I have ever enjoyed Brad Meltzer’s writing. Finally, I’ve found something we have in common: a love for the Legion of Super-heroes and all its shiny bright lore. From the Interlac-written real title of the installment, to the many short snippets of dialogue that hint at relationships and stories of old, this story has evinced a deep knowledge and love for one of the longest running (and yet most star-crossed) of concepts that ever came from the Superman family.
This is actually what got me somewhat excited by the initial issues of Identity Crisis. It seemed that Meltzer could bring a mature level of dialogue to a fan’s knowledge of the material and combine those gifts to weave a new tapestry rich in history and tradition.
That wasn’t, of course, what happened with Identity Crisis by the end, but things are different all over again in the post-Infinite Crisis world. While some reviewers and readers cry foul at digging up a bunch of stodgy old continuity they don’t care to learn, I’m firmly in the camp that backwards-looking is the only way DC will ever move forward, and that there’s never any need to reinvent the wheel when you’ve got a little rust remover, some polish and the requisite elbow grease to get her running again.
There have also been quibbles that the “Legion” we witness in this story could never have existed as such. While they look the most like the seventies Cockrum/Grell era revival, there are bits and pieces that seem pulled from the later Giffen and Lightle runs.
They’ve got Saturn Girl in her original costume (not her hot pink seventies bikini, based on a fan design of the time), but Princess Projectra is dressing like Sensor Girl, a character who emerged only after Karate Kid died, though he’s very much alive here. And both he and Star Boy seem poised to extend their stays in the 21st century, too.
And you know what? I’m eating it all with a spoon. This is exactly the sort of mix-and-match that was promised by Hypertime (which I guess we no longer need now that multiple earths are back after all); that everything you loved was still there, just waiting to be seen again some day. I love remembering how much Dream Girl loves Starboy, and that Dawnstar had frustrated feelings for ERG, a ball of energy in a Wildfire suit. I’m deliriously happy to see these old, happy, sexy, uber-competent, rule-obsessed heroes again, so different from the more juvenile Reboot version or the grim survivors of Legion Lost.
So it turns out all we’ve seen so far has been an Espionage Squad mission, and they’re intent on re-enacting a procedure from one of their earliest tragedies? We never really find out much information to discern this on our own, which is a storytelling weakness. We’ve all been taken for a ride in this crossover, and it seems to recreate a lot of old, familiar tropes before ending up with a result even the Legion doesn’t seem quite to have anticipated. Meaning, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors, which would have worked as well as any other smoke and mirrors, giving the rather broad and multi-purpose nature of the final result.
But that isn’t what’s most important. What’s important are the ties of loyalty and family that unite all three teams in this crossover. It’s fun to see Jay Garrick argue with a serenely confident Dream Girl, to see Mr. Terrific try to reason with a time addled Starboy, to see the Tornado reach out to Wildfire and Superman impotently threaten the imperturbable Queen of Orando. Just as it was fun to lose Timber Wolf in the jungles of Gorilla City, or to have all the characters witness Clark’s fascination with his time lost old friends back for a new adventure.
Benes has been doing a generally great job on this title, curbing his worst burlesque tendencies to just show a lot of well-rendered superhero action. The JSA crossover issues, full of detailed recreations of costumes out of use for some 25 years, were visually satisfying as well. Don’t ruin it all by purchasing the hideous Michael Turner cover for this ish if you can help it; there’s a 1 in 10 variant by Jiminez & Reis that’s worth whatever your shop charges extra for it. Power Girl’s still buxom on that one, but she also looks plausibly human (think Pam Anderson Lee rather than a life-size Bratz doll), and it’s a scene of warriors rather than underwear models.
*“The Villain is the Hero in His Own Story”
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