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Long Live the Legion

So, the new reboot of the Legion of Super Heroes is out. ocvictor liked it quite a bit. I am reserving judgement. My main problem is not so much with the issue itself, but more with the fact that my favorite book has been completely reset AGAIN. This makes the fifth time the group has been reinvented (not to mention the fact that it's the third completely different continuity).

A brief history of the Legions of Superheroes:

The Legion was founded in the thirtieth century when three teens with powers saved the life of the richest man in the universe, RJ Brande. The teens were heading to Earth looking for work, so Brande offered them a job as the first members of a group of teen-aged super heroes he was founding. Over a span of about twenty-five years, they took on a ton of new members, wore lots of colorful costumes, had lots of adventures (they were originally featured in Adventure Comics), and even broke some new ground. It was the first book to have a female character (Saturn Girl) as the team leader. Some of the lead characters even died. (Lightning Lad may well have been the first comic book hero ever killed in action. He was also probably the first to be resurrected.) My favorite character was Element Lad, who could transmute one element into another. As a budding chemist, I thought this was the best superpower ever.

And then there was an apocalypse. In a complete nonsequitur, they skipped ahead five years and rebootedinto a post-apocalytic United Planets where no one wore costumes anymore, or used code names, and the characters bore faint resemblance to who they had been before. (The writers had been LoSH fan-ficcers in a previous life, and they had "a vision.") History was rewritten, twice. It got so bad that the editors eventually brought in a second complete team of Legionnaires, including some of the dead ones, complete with their original costumes. Maybe they were clones, maybe they were the originals. Nobody knew. Both teams fought side by side. Things got confusing. They started changing character names. One of the Lightning Lads became Live Wire, and so on. I lost interest when they blew up the Earth because it was blocking the Dominators' view of Venus.

Then came another apocalypse, Zero Hour, and both teams sacrificed themselves to save the universe. The book was rebooted from scratch, with mostly the Legionnaires characters and names (i.e., Live Wire instead of Lightning Lad). They started with the Legion's origin, and worked forward from there, reimagining the Legion mythos bit by bit, character origin by character origin. Character personalities and relationships were rewritten. Long time characters were marginalized, or disappeared completely. Sun Boy became a one-shot guest star. Element Lad became a tree-hugging hippie. Starboy, Kinetix, and Kid Quantum had their powers change depending upon what the plot required. Brainiac 5 became a buffoon. The artwork was cartoonish. It was a mess. (I will note for the record that I didn't read any of these when they came out, but only years later as downloads. If I had been reading, I'm pretty sure I would've dropped it when they saddled Brainy with the monkey.)

Then came another apocalypse. Another nonsequitur and Earth is suddenly a conquered planet. The Legion defeated the invaders, but half the team vanished down a wormhole doing it, and the rest scattered to their home planets. Another reboot. The wormhole team was saved by Element Lad, who then went from tree-hugging spiritualist to an insano big bad that Lightning Lad eventually had to kill, dying himself (again) in the process that also sent the team back to Earth for yet another reboot...

I started reading again. (The new reboot coincided with the release of Fray, so I was going to the comic shop anyway.) The artwork wasn't great, but the stories were okay. The villains (Ra's al Ghul, Darkseid, etc...) were better. There were bad patches. Superboy was brought in as comic relief. Live Wire was brought back in Element Lad's crystallized body, with both sets of powers available depending upon plot needs. But it had its moments. The final stretch of four issues were great, hearkening back to the best of the original incarnation. And then, in yet another nonsequitur, the Teen Titans showed up. To save the universe and send the Titans back to their time, the Legion once again sacrificed themselves. Time for another total reboot.


The first issue finds the Legion already established with lots of the members already being old hands. The premise of the new universe seems thin. Life in the thirty-first century is too quiet, so the Legion was formed as an act of youthful rebellion to shake things up, and are now sort of like rock star role models to an entire generation. If you say so. There are hints in the first issue that adults are manipulating the Legion for their own purposes, and clearly somebody had to pay for the massive headquarters building they live in. RJ Brande, maybe? Anyway, the headquarters is hardly what would be called low profile, which is what rebel groups usually try for.

The writing, at least the dialogue, is witty, and far better than than in the old series. The character names are back to the fifties style of "adjective gender..." i.e., Lightning Lad, "...when gender applies," i.e., Chameleon. The costumes are a mixed bag, as detailed below.

The line up so far definitely includes:

Cosmic Boy: The responsible one, as usual. The humorless one, also as usual. Seems to be liasing with folks who are trying to manipulate the Legion for their own purposes. Costume is the best he's ever had. Of course, all of his other suits were either pink or lavender. And yet he's apparently straight. If you're new to the Legion, he has the same powers as Magneto.

Sun Boy: Smartass and ladies man, as usual. Appears to be deputy leader. His costume is similar to his original suit, although the enormous sun icon has got to go. Bring back the Native American style sun icon he used to have. His power is the ability to produce massive amounts of light and heat.

Element Lad: My favorite. No personality shown as yet, but at least they're not drawing him to look like a little kid. The costume is awful. It looks like one of Dr. Fate's hand-me-downs. No Capes!!! The only good thing is that, again, it's not pink. His power is elemental transmutation.

Star Boy: Not the brightest bulb on the tree, as usual, although this time he seems to have a sense of humor about it. Got most of the good lines in the first issue. The biggest change here is that Star Boy is now black, and they seem to have settled on his having only his traditional power of mass induction. The costume is a cross between his original suit (complete with cape), and his later "starfield" suit. Pretty nifty.

Ultra Boy: Cocky, as usual. Ladies man(?), which would be a switch. Ultra Boy/Phantom Girl, has always been one of the two true pairings in the Legionverse, the other being Lightning Lad/Saturn Girl. Ultra Boy's costume, at least, is still very close to its classic design. He has the similar powers to Superman, but can only use one at a time. He can even see through lead, something Superman can't.

Phantom Girl: No personality shown yet. Costume is similar to what she wore later on in the first continuity. Can become immaterial, and can also shift into other dimensions (most notably the Phantom Zone back in the day).

Lightning Lad: No personality shown yet. A founding member in the other continuities, and has had horrible things happen to him. A lot. His main motivation has always been his feelings for Saturn Girl. Costume is similar to all his later costumes. Can generate lightning.

Light Lass: Appears to be a bit boy crazy, which is certainly different. In all the other continuities she is Lightning Lad's sister (there's also an evil brother), and usually starts out with the same power (and named Lightning Lass or Spark). At some point in every continuity her power gets changed the ability to make things super light-weight, sort of the opposite of Star Boy's, and then it gets changed back to lightning eventually. Her costume is sort of a takeoff on one Element Lad wore for awhile, until they figured out that having an arrow extending up the chest from the crotch just doesn't look quite right. Light Lass's costume is way better looking than the old E Lad suit, and the fact that her midriff is bare, er, cuts off any possible penis symbolism. (As a general note, the women's costumes feature lots of bare midriffs. There must be a dress code of some sort that requires it.)

Chameleon: Shapeshifter, as usual. Durlans had gender in the other continuities, but apparently none in this one. Costume is nondescript, with simple shapes on it to show that he's a shapeshifter. Not that Cham has ever really had a great costume.

Colossal Boy: Appears to be a totally different character than the original. Gim Allon, the original, was an earthling who could grow to great height because of an accident. (He's was also the first Jewish comic book superhero.) The new Colossal Boy is actually Micro Lad, a member of a race of giants whose power is the ability to shrink down to six feet tall. Interesting that. His costume is kind of generic, but it's better than most of the old Colossal Boy/Leviathan outfits.

Shadow Lass: Appears to be more like original continuity SL, as opposed to the perpetually pissed off Umbra from the second continuity. Skin is less blue and more grey, and she is drawn more elf-like. Costume is similar to others the character has worn. Power is the ability to cast darkness over large areas.

Karate Kid: Wax on. Wax off. No personality yet. Costume is similar to what he wore later in the first continuity. Greatest martial artist ever.

Brainiac 5: No personality yet. His costume has always been pretty generic, so no real change there. Human computer.

Invisible Kid: Brilliant scientist, as usual. So far, he's the only character who's been referred to by his given name, Lyle (in the TT/Legion crossover). I'm wondering how many of the characters will have the same given names. So far, the only one who we know has a different origin is Colossal Boy. Still wearing street clothes. Can turn invisible, as his code name suggests.

Seen in either the book or the TT/Legion crossover, but not yet mentioned by name:

Saturn Girl: A founding member in the other continuities. Often referred to as the Ice Queen, she has in the past demonstrated that she has the will of a Green Lantern. She's a telepath.

Triplicate Girl: Can split herself into three separate bodies, all of whom had separate personalities in the second continuity. They bickered. They also crushed on different guys, leading to much hilarity. In the original continuity, they killed off one of her bodies (becoming Duo Damsel), and she later married Bouncing Boy. After that, she and BB retired because they realized their powers were kind of useless.

There are also a few female characters who've been shown but can't be postively identified yet. One looks an awful lot like Shrinking Violet, and there's a couple who could pass for Dream Girl or maybe first continuity Projectra. (Second continuity Projectra/Sensor was a big snake. Don't get me started.)

Notable MIAs, so far:

Mon El (aka Valor, aka M'onel): One of the most important characters in the Legion, ever. Same powers as pre-Byrne Superman, without the pesky kryptonite weakness. (He is allergic to lead, but there's a serum.) He's from Daxam, which was mentioned in the issue, so I'm hopeful.

Wildfire: Chaos in a suit. Another very powerful being, consists of pure energy. Generally bad-tempered due to his frustration over his lack of a body-having.

Dawnstar: I was talking about Dawny with ocvictor. He wants to see her back. I didn't like her all that much. Since then, I reread the TT/Legion crossover. In it, all the Legionnaires vanish except one. Shikari, who is the radically different second continuity version of Dawnstar, survived, and apparently wound up in the new continuity's universe, so I think it's her we'll see instead of Dawny. Both characters have wings, and can track things through space. Dawny is a genetically engineered human, while Shakiri is an alien.

Timberwolf: Sort of a cross between Wolverine and the Beast, but without the claws or the fur.

XS: Bart Allen's cousin, Jenni. Another of Barry Allen's grandkids. Speed powers.

Ferro Lad: Pretty much the same powers as Colossus. Died and stayed dead in the first continuity. Didn't die in the second continuity.

RJ Brande: I'll say it again. Someone has to be funding the Legion.

Tags: comics, legion
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