Sunday, March 16, 2008

Something to consider

Consider this storyline.

We pick up with the Legion after several years of their time has passed, in a continuity that directly follows the "original" Pre-Crisis version. We don't know exactly what has happened in the interim, but we get some hints. The Legion has been disbanded and its members scattered. The world and galaxy are much worse off, but the Legionnaires (on and off world) still offer hope even though nobody really believes them, as the people of the world are being fed lies. Over the course of the storyline we meet characters who have not been seen in ages, with references to Adventure-era people, places, and plotlines. Some Legionnaires have been physically maimed in the interim, some are captives, and most have new costumes.

OK, now what series am I talking about?

This generic description fits both the Giffen/Bierbaum "Five Years Later" story early in the v4 series, and the current Johns "Superman and the Legion" story in "Action Comics."

So why do I love the Johns run as much as I disliked the TMK run?


naladahc said...

I'm a huge fan of the 5 Years later run up until the clone Legion thing started. It went downhill for me with the way too drastic destruction of Earth setting.

However, I'm wondering if you like this because it isn't rooted/mired in having to be after the events of Crisis which f'd so much continuity.

Since I was never a fan of Clark Kent having a Superboy career it was very easy for me to accept the post-Crisis Legion with minor reservations I quickly got over.

I don't know. Maybe something like that?

The only thing that kind of angers me... no... not kind of... DOES... is the fact that so many creators came up with perfectly good storylines over the past 20 years that totally fits in with the Man of Steel revamp.

The animated series gave us the best non-Kryptonian but still very much Kyrptonianesque Supergirl that would have worked perfectly in the comics. (We had to suffer that overly complex pocket-Universe protoplasm craziness and then the very unSupergirly angle phase.)

The new Legion series' inclusion of a young Clark as "Superboy only in the future" totally worked and would have been totally workable for the Man of Steel era reboot. (No pocket universe. The 3 originals admiring SuperMAN and not SuperBOY.)

The current tweaking of Mon-El's first appearance with Clark.

If something as simple as these things had been done in 1986 instead of the overly drastic stuff, I don't think we'd have had the Zero Hour reboot and then the current one.

Then again, who know...

Jake said...

Because it featured the Legion of Substitute Heroes attacking the Justice League satellite with a school bus, culminating in Stone Boy hurtling out the front windshield giving Radiation the devil's horns?

Why would you need anything else?

Terence Chua said...

Because the start of v4 was actually pretty good. It starts with the Legion in tatters, but Cos begins to get the band back together, and it's all about re-raising the flag, and restoring the Legion to glory in a galaxy that desperately needs it.

But then storylines stopped progressing, loose ends were left dangling, things were "resolved" off-panel, characters were retconned and assassinated, and basically, TMB's fanfic instincts took over.

What you're feeling about the Johns storyline is what we felt about the v4 storyline in, oh, its first year or so. Pray Johns' future stories about the Legion don't degenerate the same way.

Left Behind Child said...

I have to agree with Terence - v4 really started off with a bang and kept my attention until the clones - then the shark was officially jumped. It remains one of my personal favorite Legion eras. The new Johns/Frank storyline is the most I've enjoyed the Legion since that time.

As a side note - I know there are a lot of people who don't like Gary Frank's work - but I just don't understand why. I absolutely love it. Very John Severin is his style and ability to show emotion and personality. Just love it.

Mark said...

Was it 'cus the Johns run is essentially more of the same dudes-in-costumes-punching-other-dudes-in-costumes stuff you've loved since childhood, therefore tickling your nostalgia bone?

And who are the eedjits who don't like Gary Frank? He's like Steve Dillon's ultra-accessible clone brother!

murrfox said...

I'm one of the eedjits that doesn't like Gary Frank's art. It ain't doing a thing for me. Ugly ugly ugly (ugly eyes... ugly costumes... ugly poses... no not ugly so much as ridiculous), though, of course, one man's ugly is another man's pin up.

And put me in the camp as preferring the original five year gap storyline to the warmed over retread that Johns is giving us.

I don't like seeing so many of my favourite Legion stories thrown out again, just because some creator thinks they have a great story to tell. Granted, these favourite stories were thrown out years and years ago with the first reboot, but to have a kinda sorta team show up, just rubs salt in the wound one more time.

wmeisel said...

I must have been too dumb for the 5 years later version. After the first few issues, I found that I needed to read the summary in the letters section of each issue to have any idea what had happened in the previous issue. Sometimes I remembered reading the issue that was summarized. Sometimes I didn't.

Terence Chua said...

If this means the removal of the FemPro story or Nura as an overweight, man-chasing would-be adulteress from continuity, I think I can live with it. Then again, to paraphrase Futurama, "You read it! You can't un-read it!"

Either way, we'll always have Doctor Mayavale, so...

SPM said...

I thought the problem with Gary Frank was his inker until I realized the work GF did on Midnight Nation and Supreme Power was inked by the same person.

I have no picked up this run of Action comics because I thought GF's pencils looked terrible. Look at Midnight Nation and SP and then look at his Action run with the LSH. It look terrible. The eyes especially.

Gustavo said...

Ahhhh, same idea, such a different execution.
For me, 5 years later, even with some of the sillyness ( yes, the clones, and Shvaughn and Lobo )was a Legion pinnacle.

And this... this is a retread, pretending we forgot about the other one. If, on top of that, this is the same continuity as The lighting saga, we are also to forget key pieces of continuity, such as Karate Kid dying.

Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying the Action story, but I wouldn't go for a full book in this mode.

MaGnUs said...

I'm loving Geoff Johns storyline; except for the part in which Clark has full powers from boyhood...

Don't take me wrong; if DC had come out and said "OK guys, Infinite Crisis was a complete reboot for Superman; unless we say so, ignore all those Superman stories from Byrne and up" I could take it; but they don't... they just do one thing here (making Clark superpowered as a boy and posing-nerdy all along); then another thing over there (rewriting first encounters with villains, such as the Toyman in Confidential).... that just sucks!

Adam said...

I will agree that the middle part of the TMK era where they introduced the clone Legion was a bit much, but I really enjoyed the Legionnaires comic for what it was...a fun team comic. But I also enjoyed seeing the core team on the run in the core title, and enjoyed seeing how things changed after their battle with Glorith in issue 53. If there was one part of the storyline that could've used some closure before Zero Hour erased it all, it was that.

And now... I'm left missing the Zero Hour/Legion Lost version.

Greybird said...

Because Johns' plotting skills, and Frank's art talents, are miles above the Bierbaums' deliberate character skinning and gutting, and Giffen's degenerated ability to draw faces.

Or because Dawnstar has her wings back.

It's a toss-up. {g}

Anonymous said...

I liked the original TMK run was better. There, it felt like this storyline was growing organically from what came before, even the wacko parts. But now, this doesn't feel like any Legion I've read, just grown up -- it sadly only feels like yet another continuity to figure out among a myriad of continuities.

And I'm glad I'm not the only one wigged out by GF's art on this recent run. He's normally so great, but here it comes across as horror art or something. Not to my tastes.

Dvandom said...

Because TMK demonstrated that you could give them four years and they still wouldn't answer the important questions raised in the first few issues, while Johns has already answered most of the questions raised.

Bart said...

I couldn't be happier to see the return of the Pre-Crisis Legion and have really been enjoying the current run in Action Comics.

I have to take exception to some of the criticism of the Giffen / Bierbaum run on the old Legion title, though. I've just re-read the whole thing recently and was so impressed by it. In terms of the writing, it was far, far ahead of it's time.

That was a risky comic that took guts to put together; it featured some incredibly complex storytelling with nuanced characterizations and real emotional resonance. Yes, it took a lot of chances and it's not surprising if it disappointed a lot of the more conservative (small c) fans who don't like to see a lot of change in their titles.

As for me, I found it a multi-layered reading experience that took a real effort to thoroughly appreciate and it genuinely challenged me as a reader. How many DC comics can you say that about?


SherylR said...

Maybe it's just me, but I enjoyed the whole of V4 (oh, except maybe the zombies, and that clone thing.) I've also enjoyed the Action comics Legion. It's kinda cool to see the Levitz Legion as adults. That said, I'm enjoying the heck out of the new series, too. Much more than I enjoyed the whole of the last reboot.

I suppose if we all had the same tastes in Legion stuff the world would be boring:)

Jim Drew said...

Part of it is cognitive distance.

With the Johns run, we're 20 years later, and we never expected a return to that continuity, so we see it in a different light (and maybe are a bit more forgiving).

With the TMK run, it was (in theory) a direct extension of the continuity we had been in for decades until just a couple months before, so we had a definite set of expectations about what we would get. And those were not quite lived up to.

Also, we expected the Lightning Saga to be a one-shot story, a half-dozen issues. And then another limited shot in Action, once that was announced. In contrast, the TMK series was expected to be ongoing, and again, that has different expectations, different things to be concerned with. With the LS Legion, we now have another limited series announced, plus Starman in JSA, plus Karate Kid and Una in Countdown. The bloom certainly can come off this rose.

And then, of course, the storytelling in Action vs. the TMK Legion is vastly different. The TMK series was deeper and more layered (for good or for ill), making it that much harder to compare the two fairly.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually among the fans of the 5-year later version, up until the "clone era", as others have said. I thought was a valid set of storylines rooted in solid Legion lore. (Such as it was at the time.) A bit dense and harsh, but it seemed to "age" the characters in a reasonable fashion.

I've actually been on a hiatus from Legion since Zero Hour. Just too many realities.

I like what Johns is doing, of course, but more due to his respect for the era and my nostalgia for it. Familiarity breeds contentment, in my case.

Bryan-Mitchell said...

While there was a lot of random and unexplained crap in the TMK era it was, for me at least, much better than John's take.

In the TMK era there was change. The characters had grown older and weren't the same as they were before. In John's take the characters are all the same unless there is some random retcon like the asides about Wildfire or Timberwolf still at least pinning for if not involved with Vi, Starboy having a mental illness, or Dream Girl tied into the Dreaming.

The TMK era wasn't nostalgia. Pretty much everything Johns does is nostalgia.

John's Legion has been getting better. Although with the Lightening Saga it would be hard to go anywhere but up.

Michael said...

I decided to wait a few days to see where the discussion would go before putting my thoughts down. As usual, I got some good insights from reading what you guys wrote.

I grew up with the Pre-Crisis Legion. I had been reading it nearly 15 years before the TMK revision. What bugged me about it was how it was NOT a seamless transition, how during the five year gap so much changed that it wasn't "my" Legion anymore. It took a while to realize that, though, as I gave it a huge benefit of the doubt at the beginning.

Taking Superboy out of the Legion was a big mistake, it's obvious to everyone in retrospect. Because of my history with the Legion, nothing has seemed "real" after that. The whole M'Onel/Andromeda thing really pushed my buttons: how dare they invalidate those stories! I don't care how mature they are, this isn't "my" Legion no matter how much they say they are.

I like what Jim and the most recent Anonymous before this have said. "Familiarity breeds contentment" - that's good. It's been 20 years since "my" Legion left and I feel like the Johns version is as close to what I remembered as we've gotten in that time, through all the reboots. I'm sure a big part of it is nostalgia - "give me what I used to like" - but that's a huge part of what comics are these days to begin with. I happen to like nostalgia.

Maybe for me it boils down to who I think the writer(s) had respect for, who their target audience is/was. The Bierbaums wrote for the relatively small group of people they had known in Legion fandom for years, and the rest of us were just along for the ride. Johns, it seems, is writing for all of the old Legion fans and inviting people along for the ride.

murrfox said...

Michael says:
I grew up with the Pre-Crisis Legion.

Now me: Me too. Loved it! Started readign regularly in 1980 with the Space Circus of Death and haven't looked back.

Then Michael says,
What bugged me about it was how it was NOT a seamless transition, how during the five year gap so much changed that it wasn't "my" Legion anymore.

Now me: That's a fair comment. That didn't happen for me, though. Not for a long, long time. Not that I agreed with everything that happened during the Giffbaum years. There were some developments that I really, really didn't like. But for me, that's life. Things happen that I'm not going to agree with. In the end, it was still my Legion and I could roll with those things.

Taking Superboy out of the Legion was a big mistake, it's obvious to everyone in retrospect.

Me: And it should have been obvious to everyone at the time, too. Dummies.

The whole M'Onel/Andromeda thing really pushed my buttons: how dare they invalidate those stories!

I get it. Belive me, I get it. But those changes didn't bug me nearly as much you. I just substituted Superboy/girl in for any of those past references to Valor/Andromeda and I was fine. That worked for me.

What didn't work for me, was Zero Hour and the actual wiping out of everything I read. Up until that point, I could wrap my mind around things and make everything work enough to still make it my Legion.

Zero Hour changed that and physically broke the history and my attachment to that Legion. I'm still a fan, still want the series to do well, but I haven't been reading about my Legion in so long.

And, I'm still not.

I feel like the Johns version is as close to what I remembered as we've gotten in that time, through all the reboots.

Me: For me, the Johns version is the five year gap team (with all the negativity and ugliness and blood and guts) all dressed up in the their seventies best. Neither one of which is hitting the highlight of Legion stories to me, which would be the Levitz/Giffen version of the team. Johns has restarted the team (yet again) at a point too early for me to really hit the nostalgia factor.

Johns, it seems, is writing for all of the old Legion fans and inviting people along for the ride.

Me: I'd qualify your comment by saying that Johns is writing for a specific chunk of old Legion fans. In order to really hit the nostalgia buttons for me, I'd need to see the Giffen uniforms and see the characters as they were around the time of the Magic Wars (and I'm always torn about where to choose a cut off point for *my* Legion).


Mykey3000 said...

"So why do I love the Johns run as much as I disliked the TMK run?"

There's a very very sensible reason for the difference: the passage of time. You can't really compare the two versions, in my book, because they were created not only 18 years apart, but amidst such different Legion 'zeitgiests.'

Would Johns' story have nearly the same impact in 1989? Not hardly. It also would not have seemed revolutionary, as it does now.