Top Legion of Super-Heroes trade paperbacks

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What are the best or most accessible Legion of Super-Heroes collections? If you had to pick the top ten (or so) greatest Legion of Super-Heroes trade paperbacks to read, what would they be? We've tried to answer this question already with 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.

"Threeboot" Legion

* 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.
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12 comments:

  1. Can't wait for the results!! I'm new-ish to the Legion and have really enjoyed most of what I've read, including Lightning Strikes, Legion Lost, as well as Levitz's return to the Legion (especially Secret Origin), and Legion Lost vol 2.

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  2. CE, I bow before your absolute awesomeness! The fact that you would take the time and trouble to compile this based (at least partly) on a comment question from my humble self is totally amazing - that's what I call helpful! I'm also nicely surprised to see that I have half a dozen or so of these - I look forward to diving into a few of the others. Nice work, and I am indebted to you for doing it.

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  3. You're very welcome, cam. As part of my recent stint into the Legion-verse, I have been trying to wrap my head around all the Legion reading options out there myself, so yours was an opportune suggestion that I share some of that knowledge. Let me know what you think of some of the books after you've read them. Cheers!

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  4. The Legion is the one part of the DCU that I really can't get into. I'm all about the JLA and JSA, Teen Titans and Outsiders. I'm willing to follow them both now that they've been split back into separate earths. But for some reason I can't muster the interest in the Legion.

    That's without ever reading any Legion, mind you. Maybe if I actually dove in and gave them a chance I'd change my mind, but the fact that it seems so daunting and disconnected fro the normal DCU is probably a big part of it.

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  5. Here's hoping maybe this list can give you an entry point, Dijonase. In studying the Legion lately, I've been struck by, as you said, just how separate the Legion is from everything else in the DCU, and also how much different the Legion titles are (at least as written by Paul Levitz) from most other DC comic books. There's action, certainly, but Levitz's Legion is far more a soap opera-type story than anything else DC produces.

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  6. Reading single issues of Levitz's run as a kid, what struck me more about his stories is that the team always splits up.....always. To that end, there were a lot of favourite sequences that I still remember, like Princess Projectra's fight with Nemesis Kid, Timber Wolf's journey in the memory of Karate Kid, Dawnstar's odyssey when she was in love with Wildfire, and the perennial enmity of Lightning Lord and Lightning Lass/Light Lass. To wit, most of Waid's Legion has been etched in my mind (Waid did a lot of post Zero Hour Legion as well) as being fresh, authoritarian and dynamically different. The resurrection of the "classic" Legion by Johns in which Karate Kid was shown alive confused a continuity geek like me for the most part (Levitz probably wrote the best Karate Kid story in An Eye for an Eye) and when I asked Levitz on the official status, he said you'll have to live with a little ambiguity (maybe the powers that be) on that but I consider An Eye for an Eye as having happened.

    I don't enjoy the current crop of Levitz's Legion as much as his previous works and Waid's, though it is still leaps and bounds away from umpteen other titles on the stand in my opinion, same as I did not enjoy the current crop of James Robinson work (Mon El, Justice League) as much as I did his Starman and The Golden Age.

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  7. Excellent overview!
    I just discovered "Damned" and "Legion Lost"...amazing, must-read.
    "An Eye for An Eye" is an intense self-contained saga, recommended. But "The More Things Change", which immediately followed, suffered a swift decline in quality. Which explains why no 3rd volume followed.

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  8. Thanks for the post. I'm a huge Legion fan, and any exposure is good.

    I'm not sure if you missed it or intentionally left it off, but there is one more Legion-related trade out there, and that's the collection of the first set of issues from the Legion in the 31st Century series, the comic version of the animated series. While not part of continuity, it's an interesting footnote in the Legion saga.

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  9. As even more a newbie to LOS I appreciate this!
    CE, I've only read Legion of Three Worlds and it's two pre-cursors, starting out would you advise I stick with the current legion first or try the first of each incarnation and see which one I prefer? Thanks

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  10. I've been reading Legion for over 40 years and that's a real good run-down of Legion in print. It's a shame there's not more Legion books available.
    The Legion of Super Heroes/Legionaries series of the 90s was very good and it's not collected except for the first few issues.
    I'd have to call the Supergirl and Legion series as the worst in their history, and I'd advise potential readers to skip that run entirely.

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  11. Just my two cents, but I rather liked the Legion/Supergirl and the Legion era by Mark Waid; it was my gateway drug into Legion fandom, as it were. The first couple of trades are downright excellent, I think; when Waid leaves, however, the series goes downhill until it's cancelled in favor of the old Legion returning.

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  12. @Glint, I think a new fan's best bet is to start with the list at the top -- Great Darkness, Curse, and then into the most recent Legion books that lead into the DC New 52. You can go back and pick up Legion Lost and such later, but that very top list is comprehensive and more importantly, the stories are all good, so that's where I suggest starting.

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