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Too…many…characters – Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #5

June 4, 2010

I know that the Legion has been a popular team over the years, but I’ve never shared in that enthusiasm.  That’s not through informed disdain, but more from my ignorance of the characters.  By the time I became literate enough to buy comics — in the 80’s — the Legion weren’t occupying the same lofty level where they once were perched.  And, woefully behind in my Legion lore, I’ve never been able to keep the myriad Boys, Girls, Lads and Lasses straight.

So I don’t get along very well with the Legion.  It’s my fault.  I admit it.  I’m so ignorant, I can’t even begin to properly analyze an issue.  I just don’t get the whole vibe from these far-future youths.  But there’s one dude I can get.

Darkseid.

Perhaps the greatest villain in the DC Universe, the stone-faced ruler of Apokalips is the big bad of all big bads.  He rules the rogue roost, if you will.  He’s so tough, he’s still menacing all of creation in the far-future of the Legion.

Now, I have to confess, I’ve never read “The Great Darkness Saga.”  I hope to correct that soon, but this annual (actually a reprint of a regular Legion of Super-Heroes Annual) serves as a sort of epilogue to that classic from The Legion of Super-Heroes.  While I liked the writing style of scripter Paul Levitz, not being familiar with that earlier story (or the characters, for that matter) I was a bit bewildered by all the goings on.  The plot involves Darkseid secretly kidnapping one of Saturn Girl’s twins at the child’s birth, sending the kid back and time, making him a villain, and trying to get Saturn Girl and the child’s father, Lighting Lad, to unwittingly kill their own offspring.

At least I got that part.

The treat for me was the pleasant contrast between the two pencillers for this issue.  Curt Swan handled the bulk of the story, while Keith Giffen tackled a few framing pages at the beginning and the end.  While I’m pretty dumb when it comes to the Legion, I know enough to grasp that these two gentlemen are very closely tied to these characters because of their long associations with them.  And you couldn’t pick two artists whose styles are more different.  Swan’s has a softness to it, an elegance, while Giffen’s is harder, all sharp lines and deep shadows.

For example, there are the different ways that they draw Saturn Girl.  Here’s a page from Swan:

And here’s one from Giffen:

There’s a definite contrast, but the way it’s handled in the story works.  Kind of like hot fudge and ice cream — one’s hot and one’s cold, but boy oh boy, do they ever go together.  The same holds true here.  Giffen’s pages deal with Darkseid’s machinations, and his firm style melds nicely with that character’s cold, rocky evil.

Now I need to go track down some of those “Darkness Saga” issues.  I’ll have to put myself through a weekend-long cram session on the Legion at some point — this giant gap in my comics knowledge can’t go on.  It just can’t.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2010 11:02 am

    You’re setting yourself a monumental task, there. The Legion has had so many reboots in the last three decades or so that you could find yourself drowning in a sea of contradictions.

    However, it seems you’re coming in on the ground floor of “Legion Reboot #4521”. Literally, the first issue just came out. And the good news is, the Legion in this reboot is the return of the same characters who fought in “The Great Darkness Saga”. So, my advice would be to focus your studies on pre-Crisis (I know there’s been a dozen “Crisis” tales, but surely the phrase “Pre-Crisis” still means the DC event of the mid-80’s) Legion and then leap frog over all the variations to the here and now.

    At this time, I found Giffen’s art style far too stylized. In the “Great Darkness Saga”, he was still finding himself or something, and I found his work much more palatable.

  2. June 4, 2010 12:27 pm

    I was aware of the various iterations of the Legion over the years, and I was going to stick to the pre-Crisis stuff (there’s only one Crisis for me, and that’s the original) — thanks for reinforcing my inclination.

    As far as Giffen — for some reason I’ve always liked his art, even the jagged and heavily stylized period. Normally I’d be on your side when it comes to stylized comics art, but in this case I like it. To each their own, I guess. He did a Crisis-era DC Comics Presents issue with Superman and the Creeper that sticks in my mind to this very day.

    I smell another post…

  3. June 4, 2010 5:25 pm

    The Showcase Presents volumes start off with some puzzling stories but by the third volume you’ll be hooked. I’m still undecided about following the newest incarnation but the first Shooter run is justifiably considered classic.

    • June 5, 2010 7:51 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion — I generally stick to back issues, but sometimes I pick up a cheap trade or two. I’ll keep those in mind.

  4. September 25, 2014 2:11 pm

    Sooooo, did you ever read The Great Darkness Saga? If so, I would certainly enjoy hearing about your thoughts on it. And for a perspective on this particular tale from someone who is a bit more familiar with Legion lore, here’s a piece from my own blog…

    http://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/legion-of-super-heroes-the-curse-of-validus/

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