Current Reviews


Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Posted: Saturday, May 22, 2010
By: Thom Young

Paul Levitz
Yildiray Cinar (p) & Wayne Faucher (i)
DC Comics
I well recall the first time I encountered the Legion of Super-Heroes. It was during the summer just after I turned six and before I started first grade--before I knew how to read (kindergarten was not a mandatory part of the public school system back then). That summer, during when temperatures hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Boise during July and August, I would hang out with my friends on the covered back patio of their house drinking Kool-Aid and "reading" their collection of comic books.

That particular summer my best friend had Adventure Comics #344-47. Since I wasn't able to read, he explained the story to me while I looked at the pictures of Edmond Hamilton's "The Super-Stalag of Space" (#344-45) and Jim Shooter's first Legion story, "One of Us Is a Traitor" (#346-47). Of course, I had no idea at the time that I was looking at what are arguably four of the all-time greatest comic book issues featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Five years later, when I was in sixth grade and living in Oregon, I conned my sister (who was then the same age that I was when I first encountered the Legion) into subscribing to all of the Superman titles. The only Superman title I cared about, though, was Superboy featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Eventually, my sister decided she didn't want to spend her allowance on comic books that she wasn't interested in reading, so I started buying Legion of Super-Heroes issues with my own money. About five years after that, Paul Levitz wrote his first Legion stories--debuting in Superboy #225, and completing his first run with issue #251 (which had been re-titled Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes by then).

I was disappointed to see Levitz leave the title, and I don't remember the stories that came after Levitz's departure (because they weren't memorable, obviously). However, he returned as writer a few years later with Legion of Super-Heroes #281 (Superboy having lost his comic book completely by then).

Levitz stayed with the team for about eight or nine years, and those were some of the greatest Legion stories of the group's history (along with the Hamilton and Shooter stories from the 1960s, of course). Thus, it has been with great anticipation that I have been waiting for Paul Levitz's return to the Legion--and that day is finally hear with Legion of Super-Heroes (sixth series) #1. Fortunately, the story is not a disappointment.

Oh . . . I am a bit disappointed by the catastrophic event that was included in this first issue of the new series, but only because the effect of the catastrophe is akin to me losing an old "friend," as the event wiped out a part of Legion history that has always been a personal favorite of mine. However, catastrophes occur in life, and the event makes sense within the logic of the story.

As for the story . . . Levitz's best works have often been those that play with the established history/continuity of the DC Universe (or Multiverse), such as his Great Darkness Saga that ran in The Legion of Super-Heroes back in 1982 or his creation of Helena "The Huntress" Wayne as the daughter of the Earth-Two Batman. Levitz takes a similar "historical approach" here by basing his first new Legion story in 21 years (well, save for a 12-page anniversary story in 1998) on events that were first depicted in 1965 in Green Lantern (second series) #40--"Secret Origin of the Guardians."

The attempt by 31st-century temporal scientists to re-create the experiments of Krona (the observation of the moment when time began) has dire consequences, and it also appears to have released an odd energy entity from beneath the surface of Oa--a being who calls itself Dyogene.

I'm not certain how the being's name is supposed to be pronounced. If there was an "s" on the end of it, its name would be the same as the Hellenic philosopher Diogenes (dī-aa-jen-eez)--with the "y" taking the place of the "i," obviously (though "Dyogenes" is sometimes used as an alternative spelling of the philosopher's name).

I'm actually hoping that Levitz is intending an allusion to the Cynicism movement started by Diogenes. As it is, though, I'm guessing this new being's name is pronounced dī-ō-jeen.

The only part of the story that I was a bit frustrated with was the notion that Kirt Niedrigh (Earth-Man, aka "Absorbency Boy"), who (if I remember correctly) murdered several sentient beings during the Superman the Legion of Super-Heroes in 2008, is being offered the revocation of his prison sentence by the government of Earth so that he can join the Legion. However, the Legion is about as pleased by this turn of events as I am.

Still, even though this plot point is discussed as an outrage, I would have liked Levitz to have provided some viable reason for how such a plan could be enacted legally. The notion that the government of Earth would allow a mass murderer to go free because they want to have him be a member of the Legion isn't enough of an explanation--particularly when there are several citizens of Earth who are already members of the Legion (such as Sun Boy and Colossal Lad).

The conclusion of the issue, which brings Dyogene's part in the story into focus, may indicate that there is more to Kirt Niedrigh's story than has been revealed thus far--so I'm willing to let Levitz's plot play out before judging the concept of the Earth government releasing a mass murderer (at least for the reasons that have been revealed up to this point).

One intriguing point of the story (for long-time Legion fans) is the appearance of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad's twin sons Graym and Garridan--who look to be about four years old. Back in the 1980s, Levitz wrote in Legion of Super-Heroes Annual (second series) #3 a story in which Darkseid kidnaps Garridan as an infant and sends him back in time. Subsequently, Garridan grew up to become the Legion villain known as Validus.

Then, in Legion of Super-Heroes Annual (third series) #2 (confusing, ain't it?), Levitz wrote a sequel in which Darkseid sends Validus to attack his twin brother Graym (who is only about three years old). However, because the plot to have Lightning Lad kill his unknown son (Validus/Garridan) to save his other son (Graym) fails, Darkseid reverts Validus back to Graym at the appropriate age where he is once again the identical twin of Graym.

This story is significant in that it indicates that Levitz's story here is taking place only about a year after the story he wrote 24 years ago--and it further indicates that Keith Giffen's "Five Years Later" series that he created after Levitz stopped writing Legion stories 21 years ago is still in the future of this current incarnation (which, of course, means it's only one possible future for the team).

While all this history/continuity is something that appeals to longtime Legion readers like myself, Levitz is very a "Old School" comic book writer in that he actually scripts stories that are meant to be accessible to new readers. While there are references that will mean more to people who are very familiar with DC lore in general and Legion lore in particular, everything in the story is basic enough for new readers to grasp--with exposition provided when necessary--so, if you are new to the Legion, I don't think you should shy away from Levitz's work here. Anything you need to know is either provided or is something you will be able to quickly figure out as you read along.

Finally, while I am not familiar with Yildiray Cinar's work, I found his illustrations here to be more than adequate. If he's a relative newcomer to the comics industry, I can certainly see how he might well develop into a classic Legion illustrator along the lines of Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell--both of whom were relative newcomers when they first began drawing the Legion.

I am looking forward to more from Levitz in this series and its companion series, Adventure Comics. Long live the Legion!

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