Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Showcase: Legion of Super-Heroes vol 1

My recent reading has included DC Showcase Presents: The Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 1.  This collection consists of the earliest tales of my favorite DC Comics team, published in titles such as Adventure Comics, Superboy, and even Jimmy Olsen from 1958 to 1964.  First off, I will admit that even though I am such a big fan of the Legion, I didn’t rush out to buy this when it was first released, and there’s a reason for this.  These comics are from an era that I’m not a big fan of, when comics were over-simplified and the Marvel style begun by Stan Lee in Fantastic Four #1 (1961) hadn’t seeped over to DC.  What I mean to say is, these are definitely comics from a different time, and some of the stories contained within are rather goofy.  However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t goofy fun!  It just means you have to keep in mind the era and the conventions thereof, at least as far as DC comics were at the time.

It is, certainly, fun to see how the Legion got its start.  The group of superheroes form the future seek out the young Clark Kent to join their club.  Back in this era, Superboy had incredible powers, and wasn’t stoppable except by kryptonite, so travelling in time was no problem for him.  The superhero teens catch some bad guys and play tricks on each other during their initiation ceremonies, and the ranks of the Legion continue to grow as new characters are introduced.  The writing is rather bland in most of these tales.  The Legionnaires don’t differ significantly in personality, and they are barely introduced except for their respective powers.  In fact, I’d say the tales of Polar Boy’s substitute heroes are more interesting, as the subs deal with being rejected from the Legion while still dedicating themselves to helping out.  The best development of the actual Legion I think is Lightning Lad, who sacrifices himself to save Saturn Girl, and Saturn Girl when she attempts to return the favor. 

There are many strange things in these stories, and I some tales involving Jimmy Olsen that aren’t told here.  Jimmy’s first adventure with the group in this volume makes it obvious he already knows the group, but how is not told. Jimmy has many goofy alter-egos in this era of comics, and he becomes a Legion Reserve as Elastic Lad.  Another strange occurrence is how Star Boy and Ultra Boy have changes in their powers with no justification, just explanations of what their new powers are.  Star Boy began as a Superboy copy, while initially Ultra Boy had only vision powers.  Then they change to their more classic versions, but without a real explanation.  My favorite bit of strangeness is Supergirl.  When she first appears she interacts with the adult Legion group.  This makes sense as she is a contemporary of Superman, not his teenage incarnation of Superboy.  Later, she is seen hanging out with Superboy and the teen Legion.  This would mean Superman met her before her “met” her as an adult when she first appeared in Superman comics.  Well, continuity wasn’t a big deal back then, anyway.  It’s also funny because we see Brainiac 5 join the Legion as an adult, then later he’s with the group and a teen! 

In brief, the writing is fun and goofy at times.  It’s never really great.  It is sometimes rather awful by any standard, but I don’t think it is bad enough that I wouldn’t recommend this volume to a Legion fan, or someone interested in comics from this era.

But wait!  I’ve only spoken of writing so far.  I must mention the art in this volume.  Simply put, the art is amazing!  Mostly due to the contributions of Curt Swan and Jim Mooney, who are absolutely fabulous! But I also have to give proper credit to John Forte, an artist whom I am not familiar with.  I thought he started off a bit shaky but by the end has gotten the team down just about perfectly!  If you like good comic book art, this volume is a must!!  Any weakness in stories is more than made up for with the great line work on these pages!  I have volume 2 in my reading queue and I’m looking forward to continuing the adventures of these teen heroes from the future!

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