BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Jonathan Siebel

When I was a kid growing up, the Legion of Super-Heroes was one of my favorite comics ideas. They debuted in issues of Superboy as a group of super teens from the 30th century. At first there was only Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl. But dozens of others joined over the years.

I wasn’t the only comics fan taken with the idea of a club of teen superheroes. The demand for more adventures with the Legion flooded the offices of DC Comics. Pretty soon, when Superboy was published in Adventure Comics, the Legion of Super-Heroes ran as a back-up feature that eventually pushed the Boy of Steel out of his own comic.

The Legion flight rings were totally cool and gave everyone the power of flight. That way each Legionnaire could have his or her own unique power in addition to the ability to fly. Some of the powers were inevitable: Invisible Kid (yeah, you know this one), Ultra Boy (kind of like Superboy only limited to using one power at a time), Chameleon Boy (shape-shifter), Colossal Boy (yep, he grows), Shrinking Violet (yep, she shrinks), and others. Karate Kid came about because Kato was on the Green Hornet and martial arts claimed a lot of attention.

Of course, there was always Matter-Eater Lad, who had the super ability to eat anything. Now there’s a power to write home about!

Anyway, comics fans were consumed with interest in this teen organization. However, as comics turned bleaker, so too did the Legion. We got some really dark stories there for a while. Where the Legion flourished while a colorful, space-crossing, force for good, they tended to languish as teens of retribution and confusion.

The Legion just wasn’t meant for all that negativity. In my opinion. The Legion is supposed to be about being heroic, larger than life (not just Colossal Boy), and fighting the good fight. Being dark really limited their strengths. Kind of like when the Metal Men went on the run and disguised themselves as humans. Or when the X-Men split up.

The Legion came back under Mark Waid in a new incarnation, but just didn’t click as well as I’d hoped it would. I liked the issues, but the old vitality just wasn’t the same. The comics just weren’t as fun. Even though they weren’t dark, they were a tad too serious, too incestuous in scope.

Geoff Johns is currently writing Action Comics, and he came up with a great story for an arc that became this graphic novel. What if, in the 31st century, the legend of Superman became the thing that suddenly divided the United Planets and nearly resulted in an intergalactic war?

Not only that, but Johns finds a way to put the future earth under a red sun, taking Superman’s powers away and reducing him just to the flight ring’s ability to fly. Would he still be Superman?

I was blown away by the concepts, but having watched Johns handle so many characters with aplomb in the past, I knew I was in good hands. The story starts with a simple conceit: that the worlds are polarizing, and Earth has become xenophobic to the degree that they rewrote Superman’s history. According to the new popular legend, Clark Kent was just an earth man given mighty powers by the planet to become her protector.

Superman, who had once been the influence that first brought the Legion together, was now the reason the United Planets treaties were on the verge of total failure. Now there’s a story.

But Johns doesn’t stop with merely an excellent story. While he’s busy turning the Superman mythos on their head, he reaches back into the past and brings forward everything that was great about the Legion. All the interplay, the character backgrounds, the loyalty, everything that made the Legion like no other comic book around, is here again in these pages. Including the Legion of Substitute Heroes. This just wouldn’t have been the perfect story without them.

Not only that, but Johns again takes a stand to remind us what Superman is all about and what makes that character so unique. I loved the book. Loved the story and loved the homage to so much of the wonder I grew up with all those years ago.

Gary Frank’s art took a little getting used to at first, but he won me over within a few pages. It just looked different than anything I was used to in the Legion, too realistic, then he pulled me into that futuristic world in a way that I hadn’t been there before.

If you haven’t read comics in a long time, Geoff Johns and Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes are the strongest reasons I know to come back to believing teens can fly.

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One Response to “SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Jonathan Siebel”

  1. Thanks for your thoughts on the LOSH. I must say that Keith Giffen’s run in 1989 and until he left the book has been my favorite. The Legion has always grown (sometimes with pain) and that is what I felt was so great. When DC decided to reboot with the clone Legion (retcon) I left the title. I was only 14yo when the 1989 reboot happend after the Magic Wars, and I imagine many were happy to see the Goodie-Two-Shoes Legion return. Retcon has been as bad as deus-ex-machina devices in comics (Shall I mention “Brand New Day” Spidey).

    Anyways, I agree with your excitement about Johns and Franks version and too bad that the Legion was canceled again. I bet if they take a bit more serious tone, they will be around until the 22nd century : )

    klt


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