Review: DC Comics Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes #2 comic book

Monday, March 19, 2012

I liked Geoff Johns's recent Legion "reboot" -- bringing the classic Legion into modern continuity -- and I liked the first volume of Paul Levitz's return to the Legion title. Bridging the stories of those two writers, or so I thought, were a couple of backup tales by Johns from the Adventure Comics series; I was pleased when DC Comics solicited DC Comics Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes #2, collecting those stories.

Unfortunately, what this volume revealed is that Levitz's first new Legion collection, The Choice -- while entertaining -- picks and chooses from Johns's stories, at times outright ignoring them. That's Levitz's prerogative as the Legion writer, but having followed Johns's Legion to this point, the fact that Levitz doesn't sync up leaves some plotlines terribly unresolved.

What follows is different than my usual reviews in that the DC Comics Presents issue (mainly collecting a story called "Long Live the Legion") really contains precious little to cover. Instead, I'm going to look at how the DC Comics Presents issue by Johns and Levitz's The Choice don't quite mesh. I'm approaching it this way because, having previously read Last Stand of New Krypton (the culmination of Johns's Legion saga) and then The Choice without "Long Live the Legion," my assumption was that the discrepancy between those stories was covered in "Long Live"; having now read "Long Live," I see that's not entirely the case.

For the reader like me trying to follow the Johns/Levitz Legion saga in collected form, here's some areas where if you're confused, it's not because you missed something but rather, in some cases, because everything doesn't quite line up.

First, what DC Comics Presents: Legion #2 does offer us. In The Choice, Saturn Girl and husband Lighting Lad (Imra and Garth Ranzz) have been apart while Garth searches for a sibling he never knew. There's no talk of this in Legion of Three Worlds, for instance, but in The Choice Garth has been gone for a while. "Long Live" covers this; there's no great revelations in Garth's chapter of "Long Live," but if you want the sequence of events laid out, the impetus for Garth's search is shown here.

Levitz ignores, however, or at least does not address in Choice, two other parts of the four-part "Long Live the Legion." In the third chapter, Polar Boy and Sun Boy team up to catch a criminal on Polar Boy's home planet; that criminal not only turns over an artifact from the twenty-first century past, but also hints at a Legion of Super-Villains espionage team in the twenty-first century. An interesting possibility, but nothing that alters the characters necessarily, so we'll give Levitz a pass on the fact that he never mentions this one.

The first chapter of "Long Live the Legion," however, watches the crazed Starman Thom Kallor bounce around a bit in the twenty-first century (before returning to his own time after Last Stand of New Krypton) until he meets fellow Legionnaire Tellus and, in the final panels, begs for help locating the lost Dream Girl. Well, the reader will find her ... in the second chapter of Choice, on her home planet of Naltor, not time-lost nor kidnapped as "Long Live the Legion" suggested.

I don't mean to be overly picky; the reader can chalk up Dream Girl's sudden reappearance to a story yet to be told, of course. But I've been following the saga of this Legion over at least five collections written by Johns, in which the Legion slowly reconstitutes and characters are gathered from all over, until all that are still missing are the Legionnaires in Last Stand of New Krypton and then only Dream Girl, the mystery almost solved ... and Levitz just sweeps it under the rug in The Choice. It's disappointing.

The DC Comics Presents issue also contains the first appearance of the Legion, from the original Adventure Comics #247. This is fun in its simplicity, full of innocent Silver Age trickery, and also for the reader to see how much the Legion has changed: here, they're all from Earth, use rocket-packs to fly, and refer to themselves as the Super-Hero Club (Legion fanatics, when did things change over to the modern Legion with rings and such?).

There's also the fourth part of "Long Live the Legion," a story about Blok and White Witch, who were characters I didn't know much about before I read Legion: Great Darkness Saga, but now I like their nontraditional love affair (and how Johns reflects Wildfire and Dawnstar's problems through their trying to help Blok and the Witch). Levitz gives Blok and White Witch one panel in The Choice, so we'll call that a "pass" also.

These story issues aside, constant readers know my gripes with the DC Comics Presents series are also "legion." This book does not include covers, which is a shame because some of these stories appeared in issues with cool Legion-themed variant covers. Also collected here is Action Comics #864, itself a bridge issue between Superman and the Legion and Legion of Three Worlds -- but it's placed in this book after "Long Live the Legion," not beforehand as originally published.

This may leave the casual reader wondering, for instance, why Starman is free in the beginning of this book and in a sanatorium later on instead of vice versa, and the answer is because there's a lack of artfulness to how the issues are collected here. I'm glad to read both "Long Live the Legion" and Action #864, don't get me wrong, but this combined with the lack of covers gives the DC Comics Presents books a kind of "collect it and forget it" feel -- as if simply reprinting these stories is enough in its own right -- that's a little troubling.

We get a Mon-El story, too, that was also collected in one of James Robinson's Mon-El "New Krypton" volumes; don't even get me started on how this same space ought have gone to something never collected rather than reprinting a collected story over again.

Maybe I'm being overly hard on DC Comics Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes #2. I would rather have had the chance to read Adventure Comics's "Long Live the Legion" than not, so for that reason I'm glad DC released this volume; and Paul Levitz's The Choice remains quite enjoyable even if Dream Girl appears out of nowhere. For Legion fans trying to get the whole story, however, just know that all the pieces don't necessarily make a whole.

Tomorrow ... because you demanded it (well, camckinnon at least), the Collected Editions guide to Legion of Super-Heroes. Don't miss it!
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5 comments:

  1. Agreed on the Mon-El story. I would've liked to have seen the Legion story from the DCU Holiday Special 2010 (even though Johns didn't write that one). There are also the two uncollected Legion Brave & the Bold stories, but they wouldn't have been able to fit those in under 100 pages. Maybe all three can be in the DC Presents: Legion #3?

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  2. I only bought this book to fill the hole between Superman and The Legion of Super-Heroes and Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, and while the lack of covers disappointed me, what really ticked me off was how they reprinted the stories out of chronological order.

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  3. I was surprised to see the Action Comics issue after the "Long Live the Legion" stories instead of before, too. But wait -- it gets worse! Look for my review of Legion: Consequences later this week -- there's issues in that trade out of order, too.

    Good suggestions for another Legion-themed DC Comics Presents, RandallJL. DC has released fewer of the DC Comics Presents books in the past month, but then just solicited another one, so I haven't counted them out yet.

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  4. I haven't read any of these, but I was wondering if when you said "Levitz gives Blok and White Witch one panel in The Curse", you meant "The Choice", not "The Curse", as most of your comparisons seem to be on that book, and not the old Curse book that you recently reviewed and is otherwise not mentioned. :-)

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  5. That's right; Levitz gives Blok and White Witch a panel in Choice, reacting to events on the planet Titan. Which is more than he gives them in the next volume, Consequences. I don't mind a slow-building plot, but I hope he comes back to this some time -- the White Witch's transformation to the Black Witch was a big part of Geoff Johns's later Legion stories, but never fully explained, and I'm interested to see more done with that story.

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