Legion of Super-Heroes #1: Reviews of Old Comics
My reviews of the Legion of Super-Heroes comics that helped hook me not only on the Legion, but on comics as a whole continues. Today, we have the first issue of their series that featured printing on better paper that was initially sold only to comics shops. Yes, back in 1984, this was a big deal. At Marvel, when a comic went direct sales only, it was usually the kiss of death, but DC bet that comic shops and the direct sales market was the future for the industry. We’ll argue the ramifications of that another time, but in 1984, this was a big deal. Unfortunately for me at the time, I was only thirteen at the time and did not know of a comic shop that wasn’t two hours away. It would be almost a year before I would read this issue, but I’m reviewing it roughly as it came out, so the narrative is preserved.
Lightning Lord remembers looks out at a storm and remembers how he swore to other members of the Legion of Super-Villains that he would kill his brother Lightning Lad. On Ventura, Dream Girl and Star Boy are losing in the casino. Dream Girl is preoccupied with a prophetic vision she had of a Legionnaire dying. They witness a violent robbery taking place and act to stop it, but not before the criminal, a native of Imsk, shrinks out of sight.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Colossal Boy and his wife Yera move him out of his quarters in Legion HQ, checking out with Computo, who ponders timing conversations. On Daxam, a team (Mon-El, Timber Wolf, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy and Shadow Lass) finishes the last of the repairs to Mon-El’s home world, repairing damage done by Darkseid. They get word from Takron-Galtos that a renegade Daxamite is wreaking havok and freeing prisoners. They rush to stop him.
On Ventura, Star Boy and Dream Girl have realized that the robber is from Imsk. Micro Lad finds all of his exits sealed off by energy fields. He’s confronted by Shrinking Violet. He attacks her, but she makes violent short work of him with a little bit of payback for kidnapping her. He tries to grow to get away, but to no avail. Before Violet, Dream Girl and Star Boy can turn Micro Lad over to the Science Police, a bizarre warp transports him away, to prepare for vengeance.
On Winath, we finally see where Light Lass went after she left the Legion. Back home on a farming commune, she is being watched by a shadowy figure. She takes a cart to be processed and once alone, is attacked by a villain who incapacitates her with an energy blast of some type before having her taken away by a warp similar to the one that took away Micro Lad.
On Takron-Galtos, the team from Daxam finds it badly damaged with Science Police offers brutally murdered by a Daxamite described as “just a kid.” Chameleon Boy theorizes it is the same child Darkseid initially sent. Searching the planet, Mon-El finds the child reveling in the destruction, still worshiping Darkseid and murdering a science police officer. Unable to save him Mon-El and Ultra Boy confront the Daxamite child.
Elsewhere, Colossal Boy and Yera move into their new apartment. Settling onto the couch, Colossal Boy reads that his mother has resigned as President of Earth. On Winath, the shadowy figure that had been watching Light Lass sends his report to Timber Wolf at Legion HQ.
On Takron-Galtos, the inmates attack Ultra Boy while the Daxamite child introduces himself as Ol-Vir and evades capture just barely. Before the Legionnaires can catch him, another warp appears in the sky. It is much larger and welcomes Ol-Vir into the new Legion of Super-Villains. Other villains also escape through it before it closes to stop Mon-El from going through. Elsewhere, Sun Emperor tells Lightning Lord that not only did they just get Ol-Vir, but they also have Chameleon Chief, Ron-Karr and a few others for the the Legion of Super-Villains.
This is a perfect start to the Legion of Super-Villains story. The full membership of the group is kept secret, which is a credit to Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. It isn’t revealed yet who is creating the warps that are rescuing the villains from capture. It isn’t even revealed that it was Radiation Roy that captured Light Lass. Yet, even with all this story, Levitz even managed to work in a subplot or two.
With powerhouses like Mon-El and Ultra Boy on the team, it’s easy to forget about some of the “weaker” Legionnaires. This issue doesn’t fall into that trap. Shrinking Violet becomes a lot more capable in this issue, showing some fighting ability that she manages to incorporate with her size-changing. Light Lass very deftly uses her powers until she’s subdued by a more powerful foe using powers that she was unaware that he had. Dream Girl uses her short-term precognitive ability to stop one of Micro Lad’s robotic henchmen. These Legionnaires are often forgotten by lesser writers.
Giffen is in his full transition to a style influenced by José Muñoz. Many fans hated it, but I thought it was amazing. The pages became more dynamic and the Legion looked like nothing else on the stands. Giffen pulls in and out of scenes, making the action seem very quick and overly cinematic, if you were to compare it to the video editing techniques of today rather than to 1984. Keith Giffen was ground-breaking in 1984 and within ten years, almost all American comics would look like this.
Despite being a darker story, with a lot of killing by Ol-Vir, the book is colored very brightly, taking advantage of the whiter Baxter paper. Even the darkest scene where Light Lass is captured uses magenta and rich greens. One noticeable area of coloring is the variance in skin tones between Yera and Chameleon Boy, showing that not all aliens have to look exactly alike. It would have been nice to see that done as well with the humans in the book. If not for Giffen’s rendering, Timber Wolf and Ultra Boy might be indistinguishable from each other.
If you’re looking for the issue itself, then you should be able to find it with a little searching. Don’t pay more than a few dollars for it, as you can probably find a copy in bargain boxes.
This issue has been collected in Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye for an Eye (ISBN: 1401215696) Look for it, as this stroy is on par with The Great Darkness Saga (ISBN: 1401244165), which could also be read just to give a little reasoning behind Ol-Vir’s apparent insanity.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: The Recommended Reading links to pages on Amazon where you can buy those books and support Needless Essentials through their Associates program.)
FINAL RATING: 9.5 (out of a possible 10) The weaknesses are very minor. keeping us almost as in the dark as the Legion of Super-Heroes was a good move. It takes advantage of it’s new format and looks gorgeous.