Tuesday, May 15, 2007

JSA 5, 52, Countdown, and a Multitude of Legions

Ah, the joys of slackerdom and procrastination. Now I don't have to wade through 30+ posts to compile the JSA #5 review roundup, jamboree, and hootenanny. Instead I'll hit some highlights and add my own commentary from stuff which also includes the end of 52 and the start of Countdown.

Here's the special "10-for-1" cover. Pretty damn sweet! (Click to enlarge)

Obviously, there was a huge outcry - "nerdgasm" was a popular word - when we saw the Legion statues in Superman's Fortress. Even I let out a little "squee". And yes, I saw the second Wildfire and wondered if the artist screwed up, until I found out a couple pages later. But looking at the statues.... that's not the "real" Legion of the v3-era, at least not all from the same time. That's Polar Boy's new costume along with Sensor Girl, both of whom showed up like that a year or so after the Crisis. And that was well beyond the Great Darkness Saga time frame. And what's Ferro Lad's statue doing there? I thought these were given to Superman by the individuals? Oh yeah, and by the way, somehow now on this post-IC New Earth, Superman was Superboy again (even if they can't say the name). I think my jaw hit the floor on that little revelation.

I love the smile Superman has on his face in the last panel.

Now how do we fit this Legion into continuity? It appears that the "Lightning Saga" Legion may be the Legion of this New Earth. We were led to believe that the current Waid/Kitson Legion was, but ever since that backup story that showed the citizen Legionnaires inspired by 20th century comic books, I had been doubting that. With the revelation of the new Multiverse, continuity is actually much easier:
  • The Lightning Saga Legion is the future of New Earth (mainstream DCU post-52). Is this the pre-Crisis Legion?
  • The post-Zero Hour Legion (last seen on Earth-247) is the future of the new Earth-1. This is where Barry Allen travelled to just before the original Crisis, and where Bart (Impulse/Kid Flash/Flash) Allen is from.
  • The post-Crisis and/or Glorithverse Legion is the future of the new Earth-2. I propose this because it's a world in which there never was a Superboy or Supergirl, but there was a Superman and a whole legacy of characters to take inspiration from.
  • The Waid/Kitson Legion is the future on another Earth in which the Silver Age of the old Earth-1 appears in comics. For the sake of argument, let's say it's on the new Earth-4 (home of the Charlton characters).
  • During the Starman series, Jack Knight travelled to the future of the new Earth-1 instead of his own. He met the post-ZH Star Boy, who later traveled via Time Bubble as an adult back in time to meet Jack before going off to his death.
  • The Star Boy of New Earth's future tried for whatever reason to go back in time but got stuck on Earth-22 (Kingdom Come) somehow. He eventually made it to his own past (the current JSA).

Who said the multiverse was confusing?

For another point of view, Duke Harrington at Shanghalla tries his own hand at mapping a Legion to the new multiversal Earths. And Andrew Hickey at DC Countdown has a great recap of the whole Multiverse controversy from around the comicsblogosphere and concludes that
The new multiverse seems to be an elegant compromise between these two factions - one linear 'real' universe where all the currently in-continuity stories happen, and 51 others, all clearly delimited, out of the way, and definitely not to be confused with the real New Earth.

  • Brad Meltzer, JLA writer, interviewed by IGN:
    IGN Comics: So when did you figure out that you wanted the Legion of Superheroes to come into play in this story?

    Meltzer: That was early. To show you how far back it goes, if you look at the first image that we put out there of the Justice League, The Karate Kid is in there. I remember when I asked Ed [Benes] to put him in, I said, "Do I want to put this out there, or will they start guessing it too quickly?" I figured you'd have to be a really good guesser to get that one, so we put it out there.

    This was over a year ago when I was still waiting for approval on the team, and we already knew it'd be cool to do it with the Legion. We really wanted to do an homage to Seven Soldiers for a new era. That to me is the ultimate JLA/JSA team-up, even better than issues #21 and #22. Geoff and I are both huge Legion fans, so this was our way in. Again, this is cliché in any comic book interview today, but you know the saying - if you get to play with the toys, you might as well play with the good ones.

    IGN Comics: The Legion has undergone a ton of reboots and relaunches, more so than most properties. How did you and Geoff decide which version of the Legion to use?

    Meltzer: Geoff and I just have a very similar eye for what we like in geekdom. I just can't say it better than that. We're similar in age, same generation, so we read and grew up on the same comics, and the same stories affected us in the same way. So when it came to which version of the Legion we were picking, it was literally like - this one? Yeah! That was it. We knew it in a heartbeat. I don't even know who said it, because we were so in sync.

    I think people are going to be surprised next issue when they're able to see the new explanation of the Legion, and I think it'll all make more sense. I'm someone who doesn't like writing about the old stories. Everyone calls everything a retcon, and I don't even like the word because I think it acknowledges that you can just ignore things. As much change as I've been lucky enough to make on certain parts of the DCU that I've worked on, the one thing I've tried to do is pull in as many of those old stories as I can and bring them back into continuity, as opposed to just looking at them and saying "those are cute coloring books, but we don't need them anymore."

  • Rokk at the Comic Book Revolution:
    The first Crisis just destroyed the Legion and wreaked havoc on their history. The first Crisis gutted the Legion and mortally wounded the team. The damage inflicted by the first Crisis combined with the fan fiction stories of the TMK Legion directly led to the Legion having to be completely re-booted during Zero Hour.

    It is an excellent idea by DC to re-introduce the Legion of Super Heroes into the new DCU’s time stream and history in the pages of the JLA and the JSA. This move firmly cements ties between the two premier super teams of the present day DCU. Also, by linking the Legion with the JLA and JSA it elevates the Legion as a team of the future on the same level of importance to the DCU as the JLA and JSA. Plus, this allows DC to introduce this new take on the Legion in the new DCU to a large number of readers who follow the popular JLA and JSA.

  • Caleb at Every Day Is Like Wednesday:
    Oh yeah, by the way, Superman? He was a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes back when he was Superboy after all, just like before the first Crisis (which he refers to as “the first crisis”), a time period that was erased from his past and their present during the Crisis. So, did the “New Earth” rejiggering restore the pre-Crisis Legion/Superman continuity, thus negating the other Legion reboots (and/or the Superman reboot), restoring the 20-year-old, pre-Crisis continuity and complicting if not negating much of post-Crisis continuity? Aaaugghh!

  • Charles at FanBoyWonder:
    This reveal by Superman about his (post Infinite Crisis) history with the team of future-based heroes was a true WTF moment for us. We haven’t regularly read any of the Superman titles for some time (for the record we left during the god-awful electric blue Superman disaster of the late-90s).

    We particularly have not read the recent Superman stories by Geoff Johns and his mentor and Superman film director Richard Donner—but does this mean that DC has gone and (again) retro-conned Supes again? So the John Byrne Man of Steel re-boot and the 20 years of stories thereafter don’t count anymore or didn’t happen???

    DC really does need to clarify its post-Infinite Crisis continuity but we digress.

  • Steve at Gad, Sir! Comics!
    Here are two types of fan-fiction.

    For Brad Meltzer, super-heroes are his imaginary friends. He wants to hang out at their clubhouse, playing games. They can call him “Brad”, and he can call them “Bruce” and “Clark” and “Hal”. Grudgingly, he fits in a few shards of plot. But his heart’s not in it.

    Geoff Johns is a different sort of fan. You can picture him holding a comic in one hand while frantically making notes with the other about the “facts” the issue contains. He seems determined that the school notebooks he filled with screeds of information about the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 1970s and 1980s should not go to waste. Now, it is in the nature of the DC Universe these days that writers have to make choices about which versions of past continuity to adhere to. But it is foolish to draw attention to this unavoidable weakness, and downright perverse to base your whole story on asserting your preferred version of continuity over all the others. Johns is interested in exerting control over an imagined world more than in telling stories that can stand up on their own.

  • Graeme at the Savage Critic:
    It's not that continuity around the Legion wasn't already dicey, but having characters explicitly point this out in stories just underscores how mallable and uncertain continuity is for DC, post-Infinite Crisis; something that wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't for the fact that their comics consistently refer to themselves over and over again. The strangest thing is, they do it to themselves. There's no reason other than fanboyishness for the pre-Crisis Legion to be used here instead of the threeboot version of the characters, but in order to satisfy that fanboy neediness, the creators needlessly confuse everything.

  • Meanwhile, Dr. Doom's Mailbag tries to sort things out. Even the ruler of Latveria admits defeat - "Although Doom's brilliance knows no peer, even he must admit defeat in the face of current Legion continuity" - but he does a good job at it regardless.
    The complicated and contradictory provenance of these different futures is enough to make even the most fervent Legion fan blanch. How idiotic and self-defeating it all seems. Contrast that with the numerous alternate and mutually-contradictory futures in my own universe - the distopian "Days of Future Past", Killraven's Martian besotted apocalypse, the Guardians of the Galaxy, even the alternate 2099 wherein a future doppelganger of myself conquers America. How simple to resolve such discrepancies - it is enough merely to say that they are alternate futures, which may or may not come to pass. Even after the futures have been prevented from occurring by contemporary events, they still exist in the infinite multiverse.

    But DC has been obsessed with the internal consistency of their futurescapes for so long that such a natural solution seems beyond their capacity. Everything is so literal-minded, with every universe officially labeled, and every future depicted in its turn as the only possible future . . . an approach that has caused inestimable confusion among fans. Anyone who cares enough to follow the Legion's adventures in the first place will have an intimate investment in just how these adventures fit in the grand metatextual scheme. To push aside these considerations is to misunderstand the appeal of the concept, and to pretend that such considerations are of little importance is to undermine their appeal for the books' core constituency.

  • Don McPherson at Eye on Comics has annotated the issue. He notes that this has everyone except Chemical King, Tyroc, Tellus, and Quislet. Curious.

Final notes:
First, a comment about Batman vs Karate Kid at Thought Holder:
The Karate Kid I am talking about belongs to a teen super group of the future inspired by Superman of the past (our present).

Batman would kick Ralph Machio's character in the MOVIE Karate Kid into the ground with severe quickness and alacrity. No contest.

THIS Karate Kid, from the future, really is a true friggin badass.

I'll close with this email from a fan that Brad Meltzer posted to his MySpace blog:
I had never been a big Legion of Superheroes fan as I had always seen their history as a tad complicated but since their involvement in this storyline I have borrowed a few of the DC archives of a friend, bought the Legion Showcase vol. 1 and the Great Darkness Saga and I can officially say that I am hooked. To me he legion is one of those books that was so ahead of its time, its unbelievable.


Matthew E said...

Your analysis of how continuity works with the new multiverse is perfectly sensible. There's only one problem with it: I don't think that's what they're doing. One of the 52 writers, Waid or Johns or someone, in their Newsarama interview, said something like, 'we're not doing this to have something to fit old stories into. We're doing this to make room for new stories'. I suspect DC may be content to leave the Legion's history in a messy and abandoned state while they concentrate on what they want to do going forward. Which may be annoying for you and me but it's certainly defensible from their own point of view.

Stephen said...

Part of the article said we'd get an explanation in the next issue. I can't wait :)

Maybe it's yet another reboot but one that simply takes the best elements from pre-crisis Legion as its core. A bit like the post ZH Legion reboot but with the core characters, settings and personalities intact. That would give the older fans something very familar with new twists and the new fans jumping on from the crossover wouldn't have the weight of LSH history crushing them from issue 1.

Jonathan Miller said...

Honestly, the smart thing would be to have this new/old Legion be the LSH of Earth-1, rather than New Earth, especially since it appears the Supergirl/LSH title is going to be continuing as is for at least the next few months. (I'd assume longer, but we only have Previews to go on.) The new/old Legion being from another Earth would be an elegant solution that might not cause fans' heads to explode, anyway.

I do agree that this is pro-fanfiction, but at least it's pro-fanfiction that I'd want to read. Although the missing statues bug me a bit. (I always liked Tellos!)

One last thing: It seems that there was only a "Superboy" in the future; in the present (the 20th century, at this point), Clark kept things under wraps, like in the recent Mon-El story. Well, that's how I read it, anyway.

Michael said...

And I never even touched on Mon-El. He left "our" past before Clark became Superman (as seen in the Action Comics annual), yet somehow he is in both the future of the current title and the "Lightning Saga" Legion.

Maybe - and I'm grasping at straws here - something Mr. Mind did when he puked up the Phantom Zone in the last issue of 52?

Jim D. said...

I don't think it's wise to omit mention of the cartoon show as part of the mix here. The idea of him being "Clark Kent with powers" until he met the Legion and learned to be a hero (and to wear a gaudy costume) in the future seems to play adequately well into this.

Not that the cartoon should be seen as canon, just as a guide to what happened with Superman and the Legion. (And that would also make this an intnetional merge of cartoon continuity into comics that we've seen, a way for people coming from the TV show to not stumble badly in the comics.)

Angelo Telesforo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angelo Telesforo said...

Why are there 2 wildfires? One besides Phantom Girl and other between Invisible Kid and Timber Wolf. And have you noticed that Colossal and Shrinking Violet have switched places?