Friday, August 22, 2008

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #1 Review

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: George Pérez

There is a lot of exposition in Legion of Three Worlds #1, and I didn't mind any of it. Like a lot of DC Comics readers, I've never really followed the Legion of Super Heroes. It takes place a thousand years in the future and is largely self-contained, so following what happens to them is not really necessary to following the rest of DC comics. Moreover, a series of ill-advised reboots has made them even harder to follow. There have been three legions, recreated after both the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour stories, meaning that most of what we might have cottoned on to by accident by following other comics over the decades may be largely irrelevant.

Despite my almost complete lack of familiarity with the franchise, I feel like I understand what is happening in Legion of Three Worlds. A thousand years in the future, Earth has become a mostly xenophobic planet, afraid of aliens whom they fear may be taking over the planet. In order to combat that xenophobia, a wealthy alien disguised as a human, R. J. Brande, brought together a group of young aliens inspired by Superboy, the world's greatest alien. They have been saving the world, but have largely not been successfully fighting xenophobia. The government tries to disband the Legion as being useless and outdated, but they are saved by the last minute intervention of Brande, who is promptly assassinated and revealed to be an alien. The Legion made more sense to me after this issue than it ever had.

While all of this has been occurring, a villain, who I think is called the Time Trapper, sends Superboy-Prime, a version of Superman from another universe, back in time to destroy the Legion. He is at first very upset to find out that he was not even considered one of the great Superman villains, but discovers that he has inspired the Legion of Super Villains, playing the antithesis of Superboy's role. I know a lot of people hate Superboy-Prime, but I think he is a great concept. He is a completely out of control teenager with the power of the Silver Age Superman, able to destroy entire planets easily (which he has done). He's like the most sociopathic emo kid on your favourite message board, but with superpowers. He makes a fantastic villain because he is so powerful and so uncontrollable, except by the occasional evil mastermind (like Alex Luthor or Sinestro) able to manipulate his puerile rage. In this story, he frees what seem to be most of the supervillains of the future, and is about to lead them against the Legion.

Or, perhaps I should say, against the Legions. Brainiac 5 decides to bring in the two Legions from other Earths, whom I believe are probably those before the two reboots (I may be wrong on this). This makes me incredibly excited to see that George Pérez is drawing the book. He draws crowd scenes of superheroes better than anyone, and drew the original Crisis on Infinite Earths story back in the mid-1980s. If anyone can make three separate versions of the same heroes look distinct, and create exciting battle scenes with literally hundreds of characters, it is Pérez. This story promises to have a fantastic look to it, and I look forward to reading the next issue.

However, Superman has something of another plan. Superboy-Prime has largely been dealt with by throwing large groups of heroes at him. The results have been disastrous. If the Teen Titans hadn't attacked him back in Infinite Crisis, he may never have turned so evil. Superman realises that the best way to deal with Superboy-Prime is probably to try to redeem him. This is an interesting idea on Superman's part. He knows Superboy-Prime very well; after all, it is him from another universe. Moreover, I think he probably actually feels badly for the kid. There but for the grace of God go he. Had things gone a little differently, Superman might not have ended up the hero that he was, and Superboy-Prime's madness is largely the result of the exile he suffered after helping to save the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Superman hopes to redeem Superboy-Prime, and that creates the possibility of a more psychologically rich story than the standard adventure romp.

Of course, in order to do that, he has to try to redeem him while six dozen Legionnaires are trying to pummel him. We all know Pérez draws great battle scenes, not so much redemption scenes. However, Johns is capable of crafting extremely complex stories, and I trust he will find a way to blend the two elements.

I have great faith that this will turn into a great series. If it drew me in, a long-time non-Legion fan, I can only imagine what it does for those who understand the franchise. It is a well crafted book, with all the right elements for an exciting futuristic adventure.



Cristiano Silva said...

Hi Daniel,

First of all, I don't remember if I've already told this to you, but I was expecting this mini-series a lot, much more than Final Crisis itself. In this moment, L3W series it's more, for me, "Crisis-like" then Final Crisis.

Now, the clarifications: in fact, the Classic Legion, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, has returned in the recently and acclaimed Geoff Johns arc in Action Comics title "Superman and The Legion of Super-heroes". The other two Legions are, first, the post-Zero Hour Legion, and second, the post-Infinite Crisis Legion.

About the redemption, I think it's a excellent idea, but I'm wondering about it. I can't help to think about this: will Superman bring or not Superboy-Prime into Justice? I've already commented this in another Blog about this redemption thing: how could Prime live with memories of killing billions of people?

You know, it was "almost" the same question about Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey in "The Dark Phoenix Saga": how could she live with the memories of destroying an entire planet? So... they killed her. :-)

Anyway, it's really interesting to bring this discussion to this issue. This series will be really great!



Daniel said...

Thank you for the clarification of the different Legions, Christiano. I didn't realise that there were actually two different Legions now, and just assumed the one I was reading about in Action Comics was the same one as in the Legion comics themselves.

You're right, Superboy Prime has killed billions, and it opens up some real philosophical (even theological) problems as to whether he can be redeemed. There's also the literary question as to whether the character can be redeemed in the eyes of the readers. For the first one, I (and apparently Superman) would answer "yes", but for the second one, I don't think the character can ever be redeemed sufficiently to the readership.

Hal Jordan had something of the same problem after becoming Parallax, but they made that not really him. No such retcon is available in the case of Superboy-Prime.