Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Legion Primer

The new LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES series will be entering it's second year this Spring with the promise of a major storyline shaping up in LEGION OF SUPER-VILLAINS #1.

Paul Levitz has returned to the book that he put on the map back in the '80s with his large cast of characters and mastery of plot development. The subplot design that he established back then has been coined the "Levitz Paradigm" and was even mentioned in Dennis O'Neil's DC COMICS' GUIDE TO WRITING COMICS as an example of subplot/plot progression.
Anyone studying to write comics would do good to learn from his ability to juggle several story-lines running simultaneously.

ADVENTURE COMICS, which Levitz took over the month following the launch of the new series, started off featuring the earlier years of the team back when they first began to work alongside Superboy. Starting with #521, however, the title is now a continuation of the main book and is planned to focus on the Legion Academy in future issues.

The Legion is a complex beast, complete with its own history and mythology. There's the United Planets, the Science Police, various worlds, aliens and customs, interlac (an inter-planetary alphabet)... things that are unique to it.

Then there's the Legion Constitution, the whole -boy. -girl, -lad, -lass thing that some people have trouble getting past, the leader elections (which is traditionally done by the readers and was just recently ran) and more.

Some folks would think that something this complicated would be hard to get new readers interested. I would have to disagree.
Star Trek, with just about as much history and alien knowledge, is probably the closest comparison one can draw. And new Star Trek fans spring up all the time. Some even know how to speak Klingon.

One of the biggest draws to the series is also one of its weaknesses. LEGION and ADVENTURE are separated from the regular DC Universe by about a thousand years and all of the characters are completely vulnerable to whatever the Levitz wants to do.
This benefits the book in the fact that anything can happen. Such as the destruction of Titan or the murder of Chief Zendak.
However, its isolation from the other DC comics also leads to fewer readers checking it out due to a lack of any direct connection. This, undoubtedly, has been a reason behind the recent Green Lantern story and the future Flashpoint tie-in may help, too.

If you're new to the Legion, don't be afraid to dive right in. A universe like this one is perpetual and you will likely have difficulty finding a "jump-on point" as there's always something going on.

If you can pick up the SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and LEGION OF THREE WORLDS trade paperbacks those would be a good start. Otherwise, just begin with #1 of the current run.
I would also recommend the WHO'S WHO IN THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES series that covered the members of the team, its supporting cast, history and anything and everything that's come before. The new LEGION series is said to begin sometime after Levitz's last run that ended in 1989. The WHO'S WHO books covered everything up to 1988. Which, in a relative sense, would be like it came out a couple years ago.

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