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Legion of 3 Worlds #1
posted September 15, 2008

imageCreators: Geoff Johns,George Perez, Scott Koblish, Hi-Fi, Nick Napolitano
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 40 page, September 2008, $3.99
Ordering Numbers:

This was my choice of several Final Crisis-related comic books I recently saw on the stands. In case you don't pay attention to mainstream comic books, Final Crisis is DC's ongoing "event" comic book series. Event comics contain narratives of such overwhelming importance they have an impact on the entire line, both now and for the foreseeable future. In many cases, they may even foster a few series out of a whole cloth in order to cover all of its permutations. These are colon series -- not colon as in being full of crap, but colon as in they're frequently named as derivatives of the bigger series. Thus, "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds." For those of you further unaware of this particular event brand, the series that DC designates with the term "crisis" tend to be reality-bending armageddons that posit the central importance of DC Comics icons in nothing less than the meaning of life itself. The upshot is that if you go to a comic book shop right now, and want to buy something from the publisher, you'll have an impressive array of books to choose from: the core series, the affected series, the brand-new or "colon" series. I don't have the time or inclination to read all of them, but I wanted to read something related to the Final Crisis event while it was still going on to take part in the wider experience in something closer to real time than digging into a quarter bin three years from.

Why choose this one? Basically, I picked Legion of 3 Worlds off of the stands because the first issue's cover seemed reasonably appealing (I don't care for the FC books with the big blocks of color) and I thought I had a decent chance of understanding what was going on. Clarity may be an odd notion for one to bring to a Legion of Super-Heroes comic. There are about two dozen of DC's future teenage superheroes at any one time, they've been re-launched more times than Paula Marshall's network television career, and this particular iteration is illustrated by George Perez, an artist who packs his panels as if he's getting an agent's cut from everyone receiving face time. I had hope, though, in that advance word on the series clearly indicated the creators were out to play with that sometimes-baffling sprawl rather than crossing their arms and assuming it all makes perfect sense. The clash, the confusion, the contrast between characters becomes part of the central point, so any confusion you feel isn't a barrier as much as it is a perspective. If you don't know what's going on, you'll get enough information to fill in the blanks.

With that in mind, the creators here have gathered together, in classic Roy Thomas style, various versions of the Legion in a costume fact-checker's nightmare of a team-up to fight one very pissed-off, largely invulnerable fanboy stand-in named Superboy Prime and all of his allies. One imagines the end result will both celebrate these past character iterations and finally put them to rest in favor of a new status quo, and by put them to rest I mean literally. The giant team-up seems like a retrograde, fannish enterprise -- teaming up to fight an ultimate evil -- but it also makes for a whole lot of redshirts. In this day and age, with a near-omnipotent super-foe mustering his energy against our heroes, that means someone's probably getting their arms pulled off. I'm not ashamed to admit that in small doses I can find that thing very appealing, the same way I would watch more television reunion shows for things like Growing Pains or Eight Is Enough if there was more stabbing and less hugging.

imageStrangely, most of the series' first issue feels like having to go with your friend to the Dean of Students office and sit through their discipline hearing. Some sort of adult, multi-alien member congress -- memory tells me it's the United Planets -- seems set to take away the Legion's accreditation because of what I'm guessing is a xenophobia plotline in the regular series of the team's present iteration. In the end, the reasons don't matter as much as the emotions behind the upbraiding, the fact that we have clashing worldviews. I found myself being pulled back to the endless, boring congress scenes in those three horrible Star Wars prequels. Luckily, writer Geoff Johns kept things a bit more hopping than George Lucas by tossing in an assassination, shape-changing, people flying around for no reason, the police showing up, kids yelling that the parents just don't understand and more hair-dos from more time periods than an entire evening of Nick at Nite. I would watch C-Span all the time if it had less than half of the crazy noise the story brings to bear here. Looking back on the comic just now, I see that the congressional hearing part didn't begin until the second half of the book; the book opens with Superboy Prime going to a museum and yelling at Jimmy Olsen doing his Orlando Jones from The Time Machine impersonation. I liked those scenes, too. If there has to be exposition, it might as well be amusing.

So was Legion of 3 Worlds any good? I don't know. Not in the sense that I usually bring to such things. The problem when you get to the age where you've read so many comics and by any sane standard you're probably finished with a lifetime's worth of reading certain characters is that it's hard to engage certain books on any level but to kick back and enjoy the energy and try to imagine bringing fresh eyes to what you're seeing. The comic has a bounce to it, despite being a trip to the museum, congressional testimony and a funeral. I think why the boring parts work for the Legion of Super-Heroes when they don't for other properties is that the intense fan interest in the Legion crosses Mickey Mouse Club-like across several time periods, fads and presentational styles; as a result, the various Legion stories loop away like a slinky rather than come full circle like a toy train. I have no doubt that no matter how many people get heat-visioned to death in the 160 pages to come, that gentle return and progress forward will continue. Long Live the Legion, and long live goofy comic books. I hope to read all five.