Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern, and Justice League (plus our top ten DC trades with female protagonists); now we're going to give a Legion of Super-Heroes trade reading order a shot.
The Legion is unique in the DC Universe, second only to the New Gods in its own engrained mythology. Batman fights the Joker and sometimes Superman does too, but there's hordes of heroes special just to the Legion, not to mention villains like Nemesis Kid, Dr. Regulus, and Tyr, rarely been seen outside Legion comics.
But despite the characters being set apart in the future, DC has perennially published the Legion title (often even more than one). Creators and stalwart fans thrive on Legion trivia. It's not hard to see why; I am new to Legion fandom, but the tapestry on which the stories are built is so rich, and the universe so engagingly expansive, that I think Legion titles will always have a place on my reading list now.
I am far from a Legion expert -- I'll provide links to some of those at the end of this post, who can likely answer any Legion question you'll ever have, ever -- but I think my new Legion fandom is a benefit in this instance. What follows are suggestions from a new Legion fan, not a seasoned follower, and in that way maybe I can better help those just starting to read about the Legion of Super-Heroes.
To wit, I believe can be entirely caught up with the Legion with just these books, all but two of which published in the last couple years:
* Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga
* Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse
* Justice League of America, Vol. 2: The Lightning Saga
* Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
* Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds
* DC Comics Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes #2
* Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton Vol. 1
* Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton Vol. 2
* Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years
* Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice
* Legion of Super-Heroes: Consequences
* Legion of Super-Heroes: When Evil Calls
DC New 52
* Legion of Super-Heroes: Hostile World
* Legion Lost: Run From Tomorrow
(Enter sound of true Legion fans weeping for all that I've just skipped over.)
What you have above in Great Darkness and Curse are part of writer Paul Levitz's 1980s run on Legion ("Great Darkness" is considered one of DC's all-time classic stories); the rest are Geoff Johns's post-Infinite Crisis relaunch and Levitz's current modern run on the title. Legion continuity got a little confusing, to say the least, shortly after Great Darkness, but Johns's relaunch preserves Darkness and then picks up fresh from that point. Levitz's The Choice refers back to Darkness also.
If you want to hit the ground running, catch up on the Legion and their major characters and relationships, and be able to read the DC New 52 Legion titles, this is all you need.
But of course, there's so. much. more.
The Golden Age of the Legion
There is a lot of Legion you could read. A lot. That is, there's thirteen Archives editions (with Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 13 coming out in May). These would take you from the Legion's earliest appearance in 1958's Adventure Comics #247 all the way to Legion stories published in the late 1970s, Paul Levitz's first run on the series, and important adventures too numerous to list, some still in continuity, including the death and resurrection of Lightning Lad, the death of Ferro Lad, the introduction of Brainiac 5 and others, the marriage of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, and on, and on.
No kidding, you could read back issues of Legion forever, and it's a testament to the team's popularity that DC has released so many collections. Material from the first nine Archives is also collected in four black-and-white Showcase Presents volumes, plus a special DC Comics Classics Library: The Life and Death of Ferro Lad hardcover (which duplicates some material from Showcases vols. 2 and 3, or Archives vols. 5 and 6).
Legion Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths
* Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye for an Eye
* Legion of Super-Heroes: The More Things Change
* Superman: The Man of Steel, Vol. 4
DC has released two Legion collections that take place just after Great Darkness and The Curse and just before Crisis on Infinite Earths, Eye for an Eye and The More Things Change. The Legion titles, at this time, had split into Legion and Tales, and the two books only collect the Legion issues, which lessens their readability somewhat, though these are good stories of the Legion versus the Legion of Super-Villains. I'm still hoping DC will release deluxe hardcovers, like Great Darkness, of both the Legion and Tales stories from this era.
Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman had never been Superboy and therefore wasn't a member of the Legion. DC revised the Legion's history through the machinations of a villain called the Time Trapper, and this collection of the John Byrne-era Superman stories includes Legion issues and a post-Crisis Superman/Legion team-up. Other than this, precious little of the post-Crisis (including Keith Giffen's famous "Five Years Later" Legion and a spin-off Legionnaires title starring back-to-basics Legion clones) has been collected.
Legion Post-Zero Hour
* Legion of Super-Heroes: The Beginning of Tomorrow
* Final Night
* DC Comics Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes #1
* Legion Lost
* The Legion: Foundations
* Teen Titans: The Future is Now
DC rebooted the Legion completely after the Zero Hour crossover (as they maybe should have done after Crisis). Only basically the beginning of this series is collected and the end; the Legion and Legionnaires titles shuttered with the "Legion of the Damned" storyline, and then DC relaunched the franchise (though not the continuity) with the excellent Legion Lost miniseries that followed from "Damned," and then a new series just called Legion. (Maybe two years in, this Legion factored heavily in the Final Night crossover.) The Connor Kent Superboy guest-starred with this Legion in Foundations, a poor riff on Great Darkness Saga, before this Legion was lost in time and the series ended as of the Teen Titans trade.
* Legion of Super-Heroes: Teenage Revolution
* Legion of Super-Heroes: Death of a Dream
* Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Strange Visitor from Another Century
* Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Adult Education
* Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Dominator War
* Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Quest for Cosmic Boy
* Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising
* Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Manifest
Called such because it would be the third from-scratch version of the Legion, the "Threeboot" series was written by Mark Waid with no connection to any previous Legion series. The first volumes, especially, are quite good, and I credit this series with sparking my own interest in the Legion. Waid portrays the Legion as a youthful political movement in a way I hadn't considered the Legion before, and his take is definitely more "space opera" than action series, much like that of Levitz. The final books by classic Legion writer Jim Shooter are also good enough, though Shooter quite famously feuded with DC towards the end and even had his name removed from some issues.
The second and third Legions are interesting and relevant, in that the second interacted with the DCU and Superboy and the third interacted with the post-Crisis Supergirl, but they're not imperative reading if your only goal is to catch-up with the present. All three Legions appear, as the name suggests, in the Legion of Three Worlds series, though the original and current Legion is the most prominent of the three.
Further Legion reading and resources
* Legion of Super-Heroes: 1,050 Years of the Future
* Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes
* The Legion Omnicon
* Legion Abstract
* Legion of Substitute Podcasters
* Legion Wiki
Published for the fiftieth anniversary of the Legion, 1,050 Years of the Future collects stories from about every Legion era. The first appearance is in there and the aforementioned death of Lightning Lad story, as well as material from the post-Zero Hour team. The volume came out in 2008, however, so nothing from the "Threeboot" nor Geoff Johns-reboot series.
Teenagers from the Future is a collection of essays on Legion stories and themes, many by popular authors and bloggers around the 'Net (edited by GeniusboyFiremelon and ComicBookResources's Tim Callahan). I've been holding a copy of this on my shelf for a long while until I'm more familiar with the Legion; now that I've read through Great Darkness Saga, it's probably about time to crack it open.
And then there's a brain trust of Legion sites. Back in 2008, Collected Editions crossed over with the Legion Omnicom for a series of trivia questions supporting a week of Legion reviews (thanks Michael!). I've visited/listened to the other sites throughout my reading when I've been trying to figure various things out (Why does White Witch look like that if she's Dream Girl's sister? Who was Andromeda again?) -- check 'em out!
So that's my Legion run-through. Whew! Hopefully that gives new or confused Legion fans a better idea where to start. If you've got additional Legion questions, just ask, and I'll do my best to answer them. And coming up, our review of Legion of Super-Heroes: Consequences.