Thursday, April 30, 2009

First Thoughts on L3W #4

(SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers. Don't read it before you've read the comic.)

I'll have a fuller report on this week's comics, including L3W #4, soon. But first, I have some reflections on what Geoff Johns is doing in L3W. Specifically, I believe that Johns is codifying a unified meta-history of the DC Multiverse(s), and putting the Legion squarely in the center of that history.

Earth-Prime is a Special Place

Earth-Prime stands in a unique relationship to all the other Earths, past and present. Earth-Prime is the "real" world, the comic-book version of our world. In Earth-Prime, all the rest of the DC Multiverse (Multiverses?) appears in the pages of comic books. Earth-Prime is the foundation, the "mother universe," the template from which all other Earths are derived.

(Earth-Prime is not the only Earth in which comic books existed: for example, the Flash of Earth-2 appeared in Earth-1 comic books. But Earth-Prime was clearly identified as the world in which the artists, writers, and editors of DC Comics produced the comics that we read.)

Originally, there was a big DC Multiverse with infinite Earths. Then came the Crisis
on Infinite Earths, which ultimately combined all these Earths into one single DC Universe.

From the perspective of Earth-Prime, we-the-readers knew (for example) that Superman's history had been changed, or that Jay Garrick and Barry Allen used to be on two separate Earths. But the characters in those Earths were oblivious to the change: their memories were altered, so they remembered their world as if it had always been the only one.

There were anomalies: Lady Quark, Power Girl, the Pocket Universe, etc. The single universe mutated, changed: there was the Glorithverse, the SW6 batch, various Elseworlds, etc. But still, to the characters in those universes, everything seemed stable. Some people remembered a vague Crisis and a big battle with the Anti-Monitor, but that was it.

Further widescale changes came with Zero Hour. Specifically, there was a completely different Legion (the Legion of Earth-247). Hypertime appeared, then went away and was forgotten.

Then came Infinite Crisis. Earth-247 was destroyed and its Legion left in limbo. A new Multiverse took the stage: instead of an infinite number of different Earths, there were 52.

Through all of these changes, Earth-Prime remained a privileged viewpoint. From the perspective of Earth-Prime, all the previous Earths still existed: they were in the pages of comic books stored in back-issue bins.

The Legion of Earth-Prime

With L3W #4, it's become obvious that the most recent version of the Legion, the "Threeboot" or "Teenage Revolution" Legion, actually hails from Earth-Prime.

In one sense, clues have been there all along. Cosmic Boy had an extensive comic book collection, and various Legionnaires shared his enthusiasm. Often, we saw Legionnaires looking at actual comic books, their covers depicted in such detail that fans could readily identify title and issue number. On what Earth did such comic books exist? Earth-Prime.

We know that Superboy-Prime came from Earth-Prime (so that's where they got his name!). He has all the godlike powers of the pre-Crisis Superman, and he is immune to Kryptonite and magic. (It's been well-established that Kryptonite from one universe doesn't necessarily affect people in another; the Pocket Universe Superboy, for example, was immune to post-Crisis Byrne-era Kryptonite.) Presumably, only Kryptonite from Earth-Prime could affect Superboy-Prime.

Then comes the icing on the cake, in L3W #4: The Threeboot/Teenage Revolution Element Lad creates Kryptonite that affects Superboy-Prime. The Teenage Revolution Element Lad (and hence his whole Legion) is from Earth-Prime. Q.E.D.

Superboy-Prime believes that Earth-Prime was destroyed in the first Crisis, but apparently it wasn't. Or perhaps it got better. And a thousand years later, Earth-Prime produced a Legion of Super-Heroes.

The Time Trapper

We know that the Time Trapper, like Earth-Prime, is somehow "outside" the flow of DC continuity. He doesn't belong to any particular Earth or Multiverse; he transcends them. At the same time, he is somewhat subject to the changes that ripple through continuity; his nature has changed several times in the past 50 years.

Perhaps the Time Trapper himself said it best, around the time of the Legion's 40th anniversary:

I've watched you Legionnaires for a long time, studied you, fought you, even "saved you. I've been both "villain" and "hero" to you. I may even be one of you. I have been, you know. I've tried to control your legacy -- change your history, your origins, your very lives. Anything that didn't quite "fit."

I believed I was helping, but my arrogance caused untold damage, and almost destroyed reality itself.

While all the other characters are trapped in their various continuities, the Time Trapper is on the same plane as the reader: he remembers every change and every intermediate version.

And here's what Johns shows us: the Time Trapper is Superboy-Prime. He is from Earth Prime: our universe, the universe of the editors and writers and artists and readers. Presumably the Time Trapper has the greatest collection of Legion comics ever, and can simply look up any past story he wants.

There's one difference. Superboy-Prime is locked in place. He is a character, with a character's limitations and a character's changeable memory. He exists on the comic book page, in the comic book universe, within the boundaries of panel and page and covers. Sure, he remembers reading comics about Polar Boy and the rest...but he can't get to those comics now. He can't get back to Earth-Prime.

The Time Trapper, though, is beyond those limits. He exists on the comic book page, sure, but he also exists in Earth-Prime. No matter what happens to the Time Trapper within the story, his essence will always exist, and he'll always be back with all the memories he had originally.

I think of it this way. Superboy-Prime is like Batman or Wonder Woman: he is (or has become) a made-up character who exists only on the comic book page. The Time Trapper, however, is like a comic-book version of, say, Geoff Johns: he exists both on the comic book page and in the real world. Anything can happen to the comic book Johns: he could die, gain super-powers, turn into an intelligent octopus, win the Nobel Peace Prize. But none of that would change the real-world Johns.

Come to think of it...the Time Trapper sounds an awful lot like the ultimate comic book writer/editor.

Anybody Remember Zoot Sputnik's Dog?

In the late, lamented 'Mazing Man comic, there was a comic book character named Zoot Sputnik (trust me, it's way complicated). Zoot's dog, Barker, was struck by radiation that gave him "Cosmic Consciousness" -- that is, Barker was able to remember things from one reboot to the next, and ultimately realized that he (along with Zoot and all his friends) was a character in a comic book.

So here's my theory: something happened/heppens to Superboy-Prime that gives him "Cosmic Consciousness." Not only that, but he gains the on-the-page ability to manipulate time and alternate worlds. (Maybe he studies for years on end, like Cosmic Boy did in the "End of an Era" storyline; maybe he gets zapped by something Rip Hunter built; or maybe he gets hired as a writer at DC.) Now he is the Time Trapper.

In a way, the Time Trapper is a symbol of how Legion fans perceive DC management. Both have tried repeatedly to destroy the Legion, both have tried to erase Superman from the Legion's continuity, both have made changes in the Legion...and both have, ultimately, always failed. Because Polar Boy (speaking for all Legion trufans) is right: there will always be a Legion. The fans always force the Time Trapper/DC to bring the Legion back.

So if Superboy-Prime/Time Trapper is DC, and Polar Boy is the fans, then I suppose Geoff Johns is Brainiac 5.

So how will L3W end? How will the Legion defeat Superboy-Prime/the Time Trapper
this time?

If I didn't know better, I'd look for the solution to come from the Legion's greatest fan, Flynt Brojj.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are We There Yet?

It's due out today, it's due out today, it's due out today, it's due out today!

Or, to put it another way:


(Not that I'm, like, anxious or anything...)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Week of 22 April 2009

There was no new LSH content in DC comics this week. Alas, the mysterious Superwoman was revealed to be someone who has never, to my knowledge, appeared in any LSH comic.

However, there was some old Legion content: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes volume 3.

The Showcase Presents volumes are a great way to read a lot of old stories for not much money (this one was $19.99). The paper is perhaps one step up from newsprint, and the stories are presented in black-and-white outline. But each volume is something like 500 pages: this one includes nearly two years worth of stories from Adventure 349 - 368 and Jimmy Olsen 106.

And what stories! This period was the first part of the original Shooter years, and many of the stories are classics. The Rogue Legionnaire was the first appearances of Universo and Rond Vidar. The Outcast Super-Heroes/The Forgotten Legion featured the Devil's Dozen (including the White Witch) and Dr. Zan Orbal, who restored Lightning Lad's arm, Bouncing Boy's powers, and Matter-Eater Lad's normal weight; as if that wasn't enough, Star Boy and Dream Girl rejoined the Legion. The Fatal Five/The Doomed Legionnaires introduced the Fatal Five and the Sun-Eater, and killed off Ferro Lad.

The Adult Legion/The War of the Legions showed a possible future of the Legion. The Six-Legged Legionnaire brought Insect Queen to the 30th century and granted her Reserve status. In The Five Legion Orphans we got to see Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Mon-El, and Superboy as babies, and the world Rokyn (settled by the inhabitants of an enlarged Kandor) was introduced to the DC universe. The Ghost of Ferro Lad was a spooky story that added another bit to Legion lore. Lyle Norg showed his stuff in The Hunter.

Universo and Rond Vidar returned in The Outlawed Legionnaires/The Legion Chain Gang (Mon-El in bondage, whoo-hoo!), which also introduced R.J. Brande. The Unkillables introduced the Dominators. The Lone Wolf Legionnaire Reporter was a fun Jimmy Olsen/Elastic Lad story. We got a glimpse of several Legion homeworlds (Daxam, Orando, and Naltor) in The Chemoids Are Coming/Black Day for the Legion. The Super-Pets starred in Revolt of the Super-Pets.

The Fatal Five returned (and wrecked the Legion clubhouse), the Legion visited Talok VIII, and Shadow Lass joined in Escape of the Fatal Five/The Fight for the Championship of the Universe. The Legion got a new clubhouse (with built-in Miracle Machine) and faced the Dark Circle for the first time in No Escape From the Circle of Death. And the last sotry in this collection, The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines, contained those immortal lines, "Gasp! All of a sudden, there's an army of Due Damsels!" "They're comin' through the walls!"

Now, look at how many elements from these stories have appeared in recent DC comics. Rond Vidar, Universo, the Fatal Five, the Legion of Super-Villains, an Adult Legion, New Krypton (aka Rokyn), Daxam, the Miracle Machine, an army of Luornus (okay, seven), a war of Legions, and even the Fatal Five trying to penetrate a force-shield around the Leigon clubhouse (a shield made with Brainiac 5's force-shield belt).

It's been 40+ years since these stories were published, and current writers are still mining them.

I would not be surprised to see the Super-Pets and Insect Queen showing up in Legion of 3 Worlds before it's over.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Week of 15 April 2009

(SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers. Don't read it before you've read the comics.)

R.E.B.E.L.S. #3 (6/09)
"A World of Hurt"
ROLL CALL: Bounder, Brainiac 2 (Vril Dox), Strata, Tribulus, Wildstar
OMEGA MEN: Broot, Darkfire, Doc, Elu, Tigorr

The LSH connections continue. Let's go down the list.

Brainiac 2 (Vril Dox) is, of course, the ancestor of Brainiac 5. Brainy's voice is inside Vril's head, giving him info about the LSH. Vril is prevented from directly revealing any of this info, but he can use it to build his team.

Tribulus is a Validus analog, with great strength and ability to generate devastating mental lightning. For the moment, he is under Vril's mental control.

Wildstar is an analog of both Dawnstar and Wildfire. She is from Dawny's homeworld and has her tracking abilities; Vril transformed her into an energy being who lives inside a containment suit. She seems happy with the transformation.

Strata is the Blok analog. She hails from Blok's home planet, and may even be Blok's ancestor (I don't know if this was ever explicitly stated). She is married to Garv, a big purple guy with enormous strength. And in this issue, we learn that they have a baby. Somehow.

Bounder is a Bouncing Boy analog. His exact species and powers are yet to be revealed, but he turns into a big ball and smashes things. He's light blue and wears a helmet, which makes him look a lot like Wildstar.

I don't know much about the Omega Men; I've never really followed their adventures, and I'm not sure how they fit into all this.I do know that Broot is a big grey critter dressed in light blue, which makes him look a lot like Strata.

I really like the art, except that there are way too many light blue/grey people with masks or masklike faces: Strata, Wildstar, Bounder, Broot, and dozens of L.E.G.I.O.N. troopers.

At the end, we find that L.E.G.I.O.N. has been possessed by Starro. And we see a spiky-haired woman (with grey skin, of least her outfit is green, not light blue). I have a feeling I should recognize her, but for the life of me I can't. She's not Stealth (she's orange), she's not Lydea Mallor (she' guessed it, light blue)...I dunno. More will be revealed next issue.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Week of 8 April 2009

There was no Legion content in DC comics this week, unless you count Booster Gold's Legion flight ring or the Controllers in GREEN LANTERN #39.


Week of 1 April 2009

There was no Legion content in DC comics this week, unless Invisible Kid was in the crowd in the Flash Museum. But there were a couple of tangentially-related sightings.

In FLAHS: REBIRTH #1, Bart Allen is back. He says, "I came here from the future so that everything could go back to the way it used to be. Wally's the Flash and I'm Kid Flash." No surprise: we last saw Bart at the end of LEGON OF THREE WORLDS #3. The trip back from the future seems to have addled his brains a bit, and made him unaccountably hostile to Barry Allen. "The way it used to be"? There was a time when Bart didn't want to be called "Kid Flash," and he was somewhat hostile toward Wally West.

The biggest disappointment in FLASH: REBIRTH #1 (besides a difficult-to-follow plot) was the absence of Jenni (XS), or any mention of her. Okay, maybe there's a DC-wide blackout of possible LEGION OF THREE WORLDS spoilers. That fits into the ongoing DC goal of frustrating Legion fans at every turn....

At the end of JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #25, they show the cover for the next issue..and there's Starman (Thom Kallor) over there on the left. Last I heard, Starman left the JSA to dig up graves. Whatever's going on, Legion completists will probably want to pick up JSA #26 next month.