Catching Up on the Legion of Super-Heroes

I’ve spoken to quite a few comic fans recently who are looking to get on board with the new Legion of Super-Heroes run. However, they’re not sure where to start. So, I thought I’d put together a trade list for just this specific purpose. The current iteration of the Legion (known as the “Retro-boot” or retro-reboot) picks up right after the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986. The following trades can get you caught up to speed with the Legion.

Superman: Secret Origin (OPTIONAL)

Superboy meets the Legion for the first time

Following Infinite Crisis, Superman’s origin is revised once again. Now, when he was a teenager, he once again adventured into the 30th Century to become a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The tale of a young Clark Kent meeting the Legion is collected in this volume. However, it is one single chapter out of the six collected issues, so it’s not strictly necessary to read but is included in this list for those that may be interested.

O! Call back yesterday!

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years (OPTIONAL)
Another optional book, this volume collects a new take on the Legion’s early adventures that appeared in Adventure Comics. Written by Paul Levitz, the stories focus on the Legionnaires around the time of the first Khund invasion by the warlord Zaryan. More details are shed on the Legionnaires of this time, most notably Saturn Girl, and some dark secrets of the Legion’s past are revealed.
This book is not required to understand current storylines, but it is a fun look at the Legion of yesterday and was written at the same time as the current Legion series by Paul Levitz. It won’t be released until late March, so if you’d like to collect the individual issues, look for Adventure Comics 12 and 516-520 (all from the most recent run).
Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga

The Legion returns!

After a long absence and different versions of the Legion, the original Legion of Super-Heroes returned to the DC Universe for the first time in almost 20 years in The Lightning Saga, a story running through Justice League of America and Justice Society of America. Legionnaires are discovered throughout 20th Century Earth for reasons that are a mystery, but they have a mission that involves the return of another hero…

Back to the 30th Century!

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
The first real “Legion” story since they’re return took place in the pages of Action Comics. Superman returned to the 30th Century to find xenophobia rampant and his own legend being exploited for the use of a racist group of “Earth first” heroes, led by a Legion reject now calling himself Earth Man. And a Crisis for the 30th Century is hinted at…
Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds

You want the Legion? We've got ALL the Legions!

First off, don’t let the title fool you: this story has NOTHING to do with Final Crisis, it just took advantage of the Final Crisis line and cover-structure.
Superboy Prime arrives in the 30th Century and is shocked to find he’s merely a footnote in history. Enraged, Prime gathers up a new Legion of Super-Villains and brings the fight to the Legion. The Legion summons Superman to help, but quickly realize they need the help of all the Legion… including the Legions of other timelines! It’s the Original Legion plus the Reboot Legion and the the Threeboot Legion, all teaming up to take on Prime… and a hidden villain who is masterminding it all!
This is highly reccomended, as not only is it a great story involving all the Legion variants, but it’s drawn by the great George Perez!
Long Live the Legion!
After Legion of Three Worlds, the Legion appeared as a backup feature in the new Adventure Comics series. Each story focused on a different Legionnaire and fleshed out the current status of the Legion. As of this blogging, there are no plans for collecting it in paperback, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. If you’re looking for the individual issues, check out Adventure Comics 1-4.

Mon-El in the 20th Century!

Superman: Mon-El Vol. 1, Superman: Codename Patriot, Mon-El: Man of Valor
During the New Krypton storyline in the Superman books, 100,000 Kryptonians were freed from the bottle city of Kandor and founded a new planet on the other side of the sun called New Krypton. In order to get to know his people better as well as keep an eye on General Zod, Superman departed Earth for New Krypton, but not before freeing Mon-El from the Phantom Zone to watch over Metropolis and the Earth.
Future Legionnaire Mon-El’s adventures in the 20th Century are tied into the happenings in the other Superman books pretty heavily, but they do provide a nice spotlight for Mon-El as a hero in his own right. As the story of New Krypton unfolds, it is slowly revealed that not all is as it seems: the members of the Legion’s Espionage Squad are in the 20th Century too, undercover for reasons unknown…
Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton, Vol 1, Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton, Vol 2

Brainiac is back, but Superman and the New Kryptonians will have some help from the Legionnaires

Brainiac returns to recapture what was stolen from him: the residents of the bottle city of Kandor, now known as the New Kryptonians. Superman, Mon-El, Supergirl and Superboy are aided by the now-revealed Legion Espionage Squad as they battle to save New Krypton from Brainiac’s forces.

It's time for a new Green Lantern to be chosen in the 30th Century

The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Choice
Paul Levitz returns with an all-new Legion of Super-Heroes series. In the first volume, a world is destroyed, children are kidnapped and the Green Lantern Corps of the 30th Century begins to be rebuilt. It’s the start to a new era of the Legion and Levitz is on top of his game! Great characters, lots of plot seeds being laid and good, old-fashioned Legion action.
This trade won’t be released until April, but if you’re looking for the individual issues now, it collects Legion of Super-Heroes (current series) 1-6.

That should catch you up to the current Legion series. In additon to the current Legion series, remember that the Legion Academy storyline has begun in Adventure 521 and that has great artwork from Phil Jimenez. It’s a good time to be a Legion fan and a great time to become one if you’re not!


SPOILER WARNING! This article will deal with some of the events of the most recent issues of Fables.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided to sit down and read the entire Fables series from start to finish. It took me about 2 weeks and (with the exception of 4-5 book I picked up on new comic days) I read nothing else but Fables. Whew!

For those not in the know, the premise is simple: characters from all the old stories and nursery rhymes (called Fables) are real. When their homelands are conquered by an unknown Adversary, they escape to the Earth dimension and now live in a neighborhood in New York City. They keep their identities secret and try to adapt to living in the mundane or “Mundy” world.

Overall, it is definitely a series worth reading. The central gimmick (storybook/nursery rhyme characters living in modern times) never wears thin. The dialogue is crisp and the art is always eye-catching. Mark Buckingham’s pencils are emotive and at the same time simple. The variety of settings really works well with the comic book format, and you really believe these places exist, from Fabletown to the Homelands to Baghdad. I would recommend this series to anyone in a heartbeat.

But that’s not to say it’s always the best written series. The series as a whole gets away from the initial premise about 20 issues or so in, and from there it attempts more epic storytelling. The cast of characters is turned over several times, only allowing the reader a brief moment to adapt to a new cast dynamic before it changes again. That’s not really to my liking, at least not for a serialized story. It’s never dull and you’re always invested in the characters you’re reading, but the turnover harms the series as a whole in establishing emotional continuity.

Probably my favorite moment in the whole series. Should be telling that it comes in the 27th issue.

And when the series goes into a more epic story-telling mode, the charm of the Fables living in the real world is more or less ditched for a story of destroying the Adversary who conquered their home worlds. Which is all well and good, but it seems to come fairly early in the series’ life. I would have liked to see more stories in the Fabletown setting and more tension between Bigby and Snow White, but they quickly fall in love, get married with kids and leave their respective positions before issue 30, even.

What’s apparent is that this is a series about the characters. It started out with that being its strength, and throughout the series it remains what Fables does best. The bulk of the series involves wars, plots, and running from enemies, and all are very readable. But when one examines the actual structure of the plot, they are revealed to be a little flimsy. Most of the time, the pacing is way, way off. Take the latest villain, for example: Mr. Dark. Mr. Dark is released from imprisonment, spends an issue or two being menacing and building power, then proceeds to destroy Fabletown. After the Fables flee, he takes up residence there… and it’s about a dozen issues before anything really happens next.

The intervening issues deal with a lot of left-over character issues, including a power struggle among the witches of Fabletown and a different power struggle among the leaders of the Farm. Then, all of a sudden, Totenkinder returns and goes off to fight the Dark Man and fails, causing the Fables to flee even further.

A bad read? Not at all, but in retrospect, it seems like a bit of fumbling around before we get back to the real action. It’s even mentioned several times that they’re specifically avoiding Mr. Dark, which seems like a bit of lazy writing to avoid dealing with the immediate threat.

But ultimately, Fables is a great series and one worth buying every week. It has its problems, but the good very much outweighs the bad. I don’t regret dropping everything to catch up at all. As a whole, I give it a 7/10.

My Picks, Week of 12/15

Long weekend, didn’t have time to post (holidays and all). Avengers was delayed this week, but Emerald Knights is a carry-over, so there’s that. With no Avengers, this looks like an all-DC week!

Green Lantern #60
I’ll admit, this book hasn’t really been setting things on fire the last couple of issues, but Johns knows how to hook people with a mystery. I’ll keep reading to find out what the deal with the Indigo Tribe is, as well as who the mysterious being collecting them is (my guess is Appa Ali Apsa, The Mad Guardian, knowing Johns’ propensity for re-using old characters).
Batman and Robin #18
Paul Cornell wowed me with his first issue in this arc, to the point where I found myself saying “wait, this is a fill-in story??” I wasn’t planning on picking up this book regularly once Morrison left, but they’ve got me hooked for this arc, at least.
Birds of Prey #7
Birds of Prey and I have a complicated relationship. I always find it to be well-written, but I rarely find it to be particularly interesting. It tends to focus on the friendship between all the various Birds, which is great but the action/adventure has a tendency to suffer because of that sometimes. I love Gail Simone’s work, I think Secret Six is absolutely fantastic, I just don’t think this is my usual cup of tea.
However, this new storyline starting has been getting a lot of good buzz, and I’ve got about 12 friends on Twitter who may murder me if I say anything against this book, so I’m keeping an open mind and giving it another try. Plus, a bad-ass Batman cover.
Supergirl #59
Boy, I’ll miss Sterling Gates on this book. Before he came along, the new Kara Zor-El was a mess of psychoses, indecision and a hefty dark side. Sterling took over and made me excited for Supergirl for the first since Linda Danvers was erased from continuity (I’m still pissed about that one). This is Sterling’s last issue, and I’ll be sad to see him go.
Time Masters: Vanishing Point #5
I know, I know, this barely has anything to do with Return of Bruce Wayne as advertised, but if you look at it, it’s basically the continuation of the previous creative team’s Booster Gold run. Maybe it’s nostalgia that I can’t give up on Dan Jurgens, but I’m still checking this one out. I like his take on Booster (not surprising, given that he created him), and the time travel story with Rip Hunter is pretty nifty, in this writer’s humble opinion.

REVIEW: Superboy #2: Smallville Attacks! Part Two

Superboy #2 by Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo

“Two words… PARASITE FROGS!”

That may need some explanation.

This month’s Superboy picks up where the last one left off: Poison Ivy is in Smallville and she needs Superboy’s help. Superboy initially distrusts her, but she claims she’s not the one causing all of the vegetation to go nuts. There’s some alien power affecting the whole Green and all the plant elementals are feeling it. They track it down to some kind of alien device. Ivy is able to… “disable” it and immediately turns on Superboy, trying to use her pheromones to force him to steal the device for her own use. It’s then that Simon is able to use some of Parasite’s cells to genetically modify his frogs and use them to take Ivy down. It’s all wrapped up nicely when Superboy and Simon find an ancient artifact with some very familiar markings (to the reader, that is).

Jeff Lemire proves that he has a very good handle on what DC wants from the Superboy premise: a simple story of Superboy in Smallville with a villain-of-the-week and his pals helping him figure out the problem. In other words, a cross-breed of the original Superboy stories with the early Smallville TV series. As unoriginal as the premise is, it’s executed well. Lemire has a good hold on Superboy’s character (even if Pier Gallo went a bit overboard with his hair). Simon Valentine is more than just a young Lex Luthor (so far), he is his own character and an interesting one at that.

All that said, the issue really feels like half a wrap-up of the previous issue and half the opening part of the next issue. Stuff happens, but it’s all just hints at future storylines. That’s not unprecedented for the second issue of a series. Things are just getting started and a lot of pipe has to be laid to pay off in the future. All in all, you can probably pass up this issue safely, but you won’t feel gypped if you do buy it.

REVIEW: Action Comics Annual #13: Father Box; A Father’s Box

Lex. Darkseid. Paul Cornell. 'NUFF SAID

Well, he’s done it again. Paul Cornell has taken his fantastic take on Lex Luthor in the pages of the monthly Action Comics series and condensed it into 2 self-contained stories, making this probably the best annual I’ve ever read. This slimly overtakes my previous favorite annual, which was, oddly enough, Action Comics Annual #2. What makes this annual better than that one is that this is entirely standalone, and probably the best DC comic you’ll read all year.

Both stories are flashbacks to Lex’s past. The first, Father Box, is the stronger of the two. A young Lex comes to Metropolis for the first time. He has no job and only enough money to pay for the first night in his hotel. When the desk clerk informs him of this, he replies “Then I’d like my key, please. I have to get to work to find some way to pay for the second night.” Hitting a bar, Lex runs into a man who he quickly deduces is Perry White of the Daily Planet undercover. Turns out, the bar is a front for Intergang. Lex worms his way in to Bruno Mannheim’s confidence, just enough to be brought to the attention of his boss: Darkseid.

Lex learns from Darkseid. Note the layouts and gorgeous colors!

Marco Rudy and colorist Val Staples paint a moody picture of Lex’s adventure, from the griminess of the bar to Mannheim’s organization to Apokolips itself. The whole thing is done in a pop-art style and Rudy plays with the layouts in a near-hypnotic pattern. I won’t spoil the end of Lex’s story on Apokolips. Needless to say, his work for Darkseid builds to a very Luthorian-climax and Lex learns a valuable lesson. I also liked how Cornell brought back (in a fashion) the post-crisis relationship between Perry White and Lex Luthor. Though Lex is now much younger than Perry, it brings back the possibilities of Alice White sleeping with Lex while Perry is reporting on a war. I don’t think it will go so far as to have Jerry White actually be Luthor’s son since they seem to want to make Superboy Lex’s only offspring (or at least, son… not sure if Lena Luthor existed in this reality), but it’s a nice touch.

The second story, “A Father’s Box” doesn’t meet the high standard of art the first one set. Lex, slightly older than he was in the last story, is apprenticing under Ra’s al Ghul. He learns of Ra’s take on the world and how to save it, he must kill most of it. Luthor decides that a better solution is to lead the world instead, and he and Ra’s have a falling out over this. Luthor fails a test of Ra’s and Ra’s actually goes so far as to murder Lex and toss him in a Lazarus Pit.

The story kind of feels forced to me. Not everything in the DC Universe has to have a “secret history” with everything else. Luthor and Darkseid make a certain amount of sense since Intergang was a big force in Metropolis as Lex was gaining power, so it follows that their paths would have crossed. But Luthor and Ra’s al Ghul is unnecessary. And the Lazarus Pit has become an overused plot device ever since Black Canary was throw into one and regained her sonic scream. The logic starts unraveling when these pits, previously only used by Ra’s to keep himself immortal, are used by everyone and everything. Also, since then Lex would have been killed and brought back, why wasn’t he one of the Black Lanterns Nekron controlled during Blackest Night? That, my friends, is the sound of losely developed plots smashing into each other.

Lex in the pit

However, the story is beautifully drawn by Ed Benes and told entirely in narration, much like an old story book (fitting Ra’s motif nicely). It is the weaker of the stories, but still a nice stand-alone tale and look into Lex’s past (of which we haven’t seen much past Smallville in this post-Infinite Crisis reality). The annual as a whole is very much worth picking up, even if you don’t regularly read Action Comics. And maybe that should be “especially if you don’t regularly read Action Comics.” If you don’t care to pick up a comic in the middle of a storyline, this annual is the perfect way to get a taste of the magic Paul Cornell is working with Lex.

My Picks, Week of 12/8

Here’s my anticipated comics for this week. Reviews will start once I have them in my hot little hands.

Superboy #2
It’s so great to see The Kid back in his own book, and it’s even better to see rising star Jeff Lemire writing it. The first issue captured the spirit of Superboy perfectly, and the gorgeous pencils of Pier Gallo really made Smallville come alive. In the second issue, Poison Ivy is in town and all the vegetation of Smallville is going crazy. Should be a fun read.
R.E.B.E.L.S. #23
When I began reading comics seriously ~15 years ago, L.E.G.I.O.N./R.E.B.E.L.S. was the first full series I ever collected. I was really thrilled to see Tony Bedard bring back Vril Dox in this book, and it’s proven to be one of the most reliable books month-to-month for superhero-space opera. Jumping on the Green Lantern bandwagon, L.E.G.I.O.N. is once again butting heads with the Corps, and guest star John Stewart has been dispatched as an envoy for a treaty between the two. Meanwhile, the Psions are dealing with the aftermath of Starfire’s attack.
This book makes good use of DC’s rich tapestry of aliens to tell some great space stories. Claude St. Aubin’s work continues to wow me with the detail he puts into alien worlds and starships. This may be the number one sleeper hit you should be reading from either of the big two.
New Avengers #7
While I’m happy they restored Avengers with the classic line-up of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, the first storyline was all flash and not much substance. The first arc of the renumbered New Avengers was much better. The aftermath of the demonic invasion it is felt in this issue, and the previews promise some shake-ups in the team’s roster. This promises to be Bendis at the top of his game, working without restrictions.
Lady Mechanika #1
I’m not usually a big steampunk guys, but I’ve heard so many good things about this one. The Joe Benitez art looks great and the #0 issue was intriguing. I’m willing to give it a shot.
27 #1
They had me at “Hendrix, Cobain, Joplin, Morrison. All belong to the “27 Club,” which admits only the most brilliant musicians and artists…and kills them dead in their 27th year.”

We want to hear from you! What are you looking forward to this week?

The Greatest Comic Series of All Time?

Four Legionnaires face the immensely powerful Time Trapper at the End of Time

I’m going to go ahead and make a declaration: the Legion of Super-Heroes (in all it’s various incarnations, with all it’s various spin-offs) is the greatest comic of all time. Some who read this may know that I’m in the middle of reading all the Legion books, from their first appearance in Adventure Comics 247 in the late 50s on. It’s been on and off, and slow at times, but I’m now approaching the end of Paul Levitz’s second run, the end of the 1984 Baxter series. I was just floored by Keith Giffen’s return as co-plotter and penciller in issue 50, the gigantic battle against the Time Trapper. WHAT AN EPIC BOOK! I can’t believe this isn’t on lists for epic battles/storylines.

The plot is great: after Superboy’s death at the machinations of the Time Trapper (a long story for another time), four Legionnaires secretly swear an oath that they will find a way to get to the end of time and kill the Time Trapper in revenge, despite the moral and legal implications. The conspiracy slowly unfolds over several issues until, finally, it’s revealed. The Legion as a whole agree to go and take on the Trapper, a being of immense power, in his domain. It appears to be suicide. At the last minute, Brainiac 5 takes the rest of his conspirators into the future, leaving the Legion behind.

The battle seems hopeless, the Legion is bounced around by the Trapper, there are casualties and revelations, and when all looks lost, Brainiac 5 reveals his secret weapon: he’s taken the brain-dead body of Jaxon Rugarth (a man who was once sent through the timestream on an infinite loop, becoming the powerful and tortured Infinite Man) and recreated the experiment, forcing Rugarth to again become the only being capable of taking out the Trapper. The Trapper, the embodiment of Entropy and the destruction of all things at the end of time, finds himself dragged from the end of time into the beginning of time by the Infinite Man, seemingly killing them both.

That alone is worthy of applause. I was stunned by the scope of the story and the scale of Giffen’s art. I kept reading to the next issue, 51, expecting a nice epilogue. Issue 51 revolves around the Legion’s trial of Brainiac 5, not for conspiracy or even for the murder of the Time Trapper, but for the apparent murder of Rugarth. Polar Boy prosecutes, Saturn Girl defends and Cosmic Boy presides as judge (if you’ve followed the series to this point, these are perfect roles representing their personalities in the Legion). It was argument back and forth, written well enough, but nothing spectacular… until Brainiac 5 decides to forego a defense and make a speech:

Brainiac 5's statement... powerful dialogue

If you’re not a Legion fan, I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again how great it is from Legion fans, but I’m also sure you’ve heard all about the roadblocks for reading it (complicated continuity, cheesy code names creating a perception it’s corny and hacky, gigantic cast of characters, too much soap opera, etc.). I hope this post serves as an example (relatively small in comparison to all the others I could give about how awesome the Legion is) as to how good the Legion can be. One thing I’ve also always found is that the people who do take the time to get into it always end up absolutely loving it. And if you used to read it and gave up on it, well, the old adage applies: once a Legionnaire, always a Legionnaire! There’s no better time than now (with Paul Levitz back on the book and the original Legion back in continuity) to pick up the new issues, or at least do yourself the service of reading one of the trades.

You’ll hear more from me from time to time on the Legion, that’s for sure.

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