Monday, September 10, 2012

The Legion of Super-Heroes

When I really got into reading comic books, I was a Marvel Comics fan first and foremost.  The adventures of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and Spider-Man were so amazing and, to my mind, more sophisticated than the Superman and Batman comics and cartoons I’d read and seen as a small child.  It took me a while to try and read some DC Comics after I had been exposed to Marvel goodness, and I still find the Marvel characters more compelling.  But there is one group that has become my favorite organization in super-hero fiction, and that group comes from DC!  The group of which I speak is the Legion of Super-Heroes!

The Legion of Super-Heroes vs the Legion of Super-Villains!  By Levitz and Giffen!
The Legion of Super-Heroes (LoSH) is a group of young (originally teen) heroes in the far future of the DC universe.  I think one of the things about the Legion that appeals to me is that they are mostly separate from the rest of the DC comics.  This means they aren’t burdened with keeping up with current situations in other comics.  Plus, they “get away” with things other heroes don’t.  For example, in the Legion death is a possibility, and character have grown up enough to marry and have children.  Another appealing aspect of the Legion is their large roster.  The Legion usually maintains an active roster between 20 and 30 members, and there are many supporting characters that appear regularly.
The Legion is an interesting mix of heroes.  They vary in planet of birth and physical makeup for instance.  Though most of the team is humanoid, and the Legion headquarters is on Earth, there are some very colorful members and some very non-human members.

Another interesting aspect of the team is the great variety powers within the group.  Some characters, such as Mon-El, Element Lad, and sometimes-members Superboy and Supergirl, are extremely powerful.  Some, such as Timber Wolf, Saturn Girl, and Star Boy, are of average power.  Still other characters, such as Phantom Girl, Dream Girl, or the Invisible Kid, have rather weak, or very specific powers.  Despite these extreme differences in power, the team works great together.  In fact, strength in diversity is certainly one of the Legion’s themes.

The greatest thing about the Legion, though, is how they interact.  It’s the interpersonal relationships of the characters that mostly carry the plots.  The romances, the break-ups, the feuds, the friendships, and how, in the end, they are all heroes.  This is what keeps me coming back to the future every month to see what will happen next.

Of all the Legionnaires, and I like all of them, my favorite character is Wildfire.  Wildfire, real name Drake Burroughs, is incredibly powerful, with the ability to project intense energy bursts.  Plus, because Wildfire’s body is composed of pure energy, he’s virtually invincible. However, all his power comes at a steep cost.  Drake doesn’t have a physical body, which keeps him from doing many normal, human things, such as having a physical relationship with the love of his life, Dawnstar.  Wildfire is also the emotional hothead of the group.  He doesn’t pretend to be happy about his predicament, and he’s not afraid to express his feelings about anything!

I started reading the Legion when they were being chronicled by the team of Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen.  Many, including me, would consider this team the best writer/artist duo the Legion ever had.  Paul, in particular, by far writes the best Legion adventures, and has done so with many great artists over the years.  My second favorite Legion artist is Steve Lightle, who had a long run as artist in the 1980s.  There have been a few reboots of the Legion over the years, but none seemed like the “real” Legion to me, and I’m glad that Paul has returned to begin a new era of Legion greatness!

Long live the Legion!!

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