Readers of the Last Arc: Action Comics

by Patrick

Hello and welcome to another of our irregular features at The Bad Genious, Readers of the Last Arc. Rather than look at just the newest issue of a series, we'll be taking a look at the most recent storyline, or, the last arc. And while I may be posting the first installment of this series, the credit for the awesome name must go to The General. Long may he command his collection of X-Men books!

There are those collectors out there that we may refer to as "whores." The X-Men whores; compelled to pick up everything "X" book regardless of whether or not it is any good. Dan has already admitted to being a Warren Ellis whore, buying everything Mr. Ellis puts his name on. But myself, for a good portion of my adult life, my weakness has been for anything with a logo spelling out Legion of Super-Heroes. I don't know what it was exactly that drew me into to DC's super-team of the 30th century, but they were the center of my fanboy obsessions from high school through my 20's .

But the last decade and a half has not been kind to the Legion. First they introduced the LEGIONNAIRES. Then the earth was destroyed. And then a couple of years later, the Legion was wiped out as the future was destroyed in ZERO HOUR and then 35 plus years of continuity started over from scratch. Half the team ended up stuck in the present day DCU for a couple of years, and then eventually, the Future was rebooted. AGAIN. I've still picked up the Legion book, but it's more out of my fanboy completest compulsion than out of any great love for what has been going on in the book for the past decade. (With small exceptions here and there.)

Then last year, a small ray of hope appeared. None other than Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer brought back the original Legion. Not the clones (yeah- Spider-Man was not the only one to have a clone saga in the '90s. Again- don't ask). Not the reboots. But the "real" Legion that first appeared with Superboy in the 1950's. And while it's fun to see those old characters again, the book suffered because the story was silly and kind of sucks. In the course of the story, they dropped hints that it wasn't safe for Superman to go the future to help the Legion, the Legion was on a desperate mission for some magical so and so, and that they left three people in the past to be in other books for no reason other than to annoy me. (I really want to like Starman being in the JSA, but, I am not. But that's a subject perhaps for another time.)

Given the last outing that the Legion had with Johns at the helm, I was a was a little scared when I heard that there was an upcoming arc in Action Comics titled "Superman and the Legion of Superheroes". But Johns and new Action artist (and one of my old favorites) Gary Frank, started out strong with a "giant-sized" issue, and it got into things pretty quickly. The Legion is in trouble in the future, so the smartest man of the 31st century, Brainiac 5, sends for Superman. Superman arrives in a future where his name and legend have been perverted to promote bigotry and hatred by a group of Legion rejects operating under the name of "The Justice League." And, Earth's sun has been turned red, so Superman has no powers to help turn things around.

There are a lot of great little touches to the characters that I really enjoyed. Ever since the Legion was rebooted, Brainiac 5 has been portrayed as a bit of an asshole. The arrogant smart guy. But in this story, we see the old Brainiac 5. Not a jerk, but more like the smart guys on the Big Bang Theory. So smart he can see the big picture in ways no one else could, and build almost anything you want, but misses out on all the little personal things around him. Or Polar Boy, the hero with freezing powers, who when rejected for Legion membership, formed the Legion of Substitute Heroes. His own group to be accepted in.

And then, there was also this moment:Anytime you can throw in a reference to Jim Croce and You Don't Mess Around With Jim, you are doing alright in my book.

I really don't want to spoil too much of this arc for you all, because if you didn't read it, the collected edition is coming. The big themes of the arc have to do with that universal feeling of not belonging and the deep rooted desire we all have to find a place to fit in. From Clark Kent not fitting in at the Daily Planet, to flashback of a teenage Clark wishing he had friends he could share with, to the villains feeling rejected by the Legion, and wanting revenge for feeling outcast, the theme runs strong in this book.

Add that with the strong art, action, and a great storyline from Frank and Johns, and you get a book that this reader gives an A- to for it's last arc. If you were a fan of the old legion, forget the trainwreck JLA/JSA crossover that brought them back. THIS is the story you have been waiting 15 years for. Now bring on THE LEGION OF THREE WORLDS mini!


Brandon said...

DC continuity constipates me. The rebooting and retooling described in your article has doomed me for the day!

Doug Smith said...

I wasn't too sure about this arc based on the first issue, but by the time it was done, it just blew me away.

"Legion of Three Worlds" is probably the single upcoming event I'm most excited about. George Perez drawing the Legion - let the drooling begin!

Jon Quixote said...

"You don't tug on Superman's cape/
You don't spit into the wind/
You don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger/
And you don't mess around with Jim"

Not Leroy Brown. " Bad Bad Leroy Brown" is Superman-reference free.

Patrick Gaffney said...

Crap in a hat! Jon's right! At least I got the right artist.

Jon Quixote said...

I read a lot of LEGION growing-up, but I never was a fan. Even as a little kid, I thought it was stupid.

However, I thought the Waid-written reboot from a few years ago was sensational. So that's kaput? Too bad.

Still, I liked the reference and the story sounds like old-school Superhero fun. The kudos from Doug and Patrick have sold me. How has the rest of Johns's SUPERMAN stuff been?

Jon Quixote said...

Sorry Patrick. But it's one of my favorite songs, so I totally reserve the right to be a major dick about it.

Patrick Gaffney said...

well, it correct in the article now, so there is no proof I ever got it wrong. Unless someone reads these comments. But that will never happen.

Patrick Gaffney said...

The Waid/Kitson reboot started out strong, but it kind of petered out after about a year.