Friday, December 24, 2010

Timelines: Divergent, Parallel, and Otherwise

I just realized that the current (Retro) Legion is something that we've seldom seen in science fiction. Bear with me, and we'll get to it in a moment.

In SF we're used to the idea of divergent timelines: two or more universes that share the same past, but have different futures. To borrow Doc Brown's graph from the Back to the Future movies, divergent timelines look like this:

The best Legion example is LSH v.2 #300, when Douglas Nolan showed glimpses of these alternate timelines.

Somewhat related, and more familiar, is the idea of parallel timelines: two alternate universes that have different past, present, and futures. The graph looks like this:

The most familiar Legion example is the Legions of Three Worlds. More fundamentally, this is the concept behind the whole DC Multiverse.

The two concepts overlap; if you follow parallel timelines far enough back into the past, you may find that they diverged from a common history.

Now here's what's happening in the Legion that is very seldom seen: convergent timelines. Here, two parallel timelines come together to the same future. Here's the graph:

And here's how the concept relates to the Legion:

The Original Legion and the Retro Legion have different histories. As a minor example, in the Original Legion Mon-El visited Krypton, met Superboy, went into the Phantom Zone almost right away, and stayed there until the Leigon let him out. In the Retro Legion, he didn't visit Krypton, met Clark Kent, went into the Phantom Zone...then was released by Superman and had a 21st century career (including seeded the U.P. worlds) before going back into the Phantom Zone until the Legion released him.

If I understand DC's philosophy, though, the Retro Legion and the Original Legion share the same 31st century "present." The assumption seems to be this: If Levitz had continued writing Legion after the Magic Wars, then the group would have wound up in the same place it is today*. In Legion terms, the timelines look like this:

This idea of convergent timelines isn't brand-new in science Doctor Who there has been talk of collapsing timelines together, and also of "fixed points in time" which may represent the same idea. In written sf, Poul Anderson and Fritz Leiber have played around with similar concepts. But convergent timelines are still largely unexplored territory.

Anyway, for me this insight provides a satisfactory answer to the question of whether the current Legion is an alternate version or the real thing. That answer? It used to be an alternate version, but now it's the real thing.



*No, I don't actually believe that if Levitz had continued the Legion, it would be in the same place today.  In fact, I would vigorously argue that it would be very different. But I'm willing to accept this as an assumption for the sake of argument.

Look at it this way: The Original Legion could have ended up with today's Retro Legion. The Earth-247 Legion and the Earth-Prime Legion couldn't have ended up here. That's good enough for me.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Week of 22 December 2010

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

"The Shape of Death"


Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Earth-Man, Element Lad, Ferro Lad (memorial statue), Invisible Kid (Jacques), Kid Psycho (memorial statue), Karate Kid (Myg) (memorial statue), Karate Kid (Val) (memorial statue), Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Tellus, Wildfire, S.P. Chief Gigi Cusimano, Dr. Gym'll, Pheebs, Durlans

CUTE BOYS: Brainy, Brin, Cham, Dead Val, Gim, Jacques, Jan, Mon, Rokk

Brande's private secretary Pheebs is the latest target of the renegade Durlans, but the Legion is there first to protect him. He explains that Brande was trying to rebuild Durla and bring it into the United Planets, and that he, Pheebs, chose the Durlan leaders who have now started a vendetta against the U.P. Council in Brande's name.

Pheebs' ultimate fate is the end of the fight he's on the ground, bloodied and unmoving, and Dream Girl says "Poor Pheebs." Alive or dead? We'll probably find out next issue.

In the meantime, Tellus brings Dawnstar to Medicus One (attended by a suitless Wildfire), where Dr. Gym'll puts her into a recovery coma. Chief Gigi asks Tellus to telepathically interrogate the Durlan prisoner, but all Tellus learns is that if even one of the Durlans lives, the U.P. Council will die. Is this yet another clue that there's at least one disguised Durlan floating around? Cos says sp explicitly: "Who knows how many Durlan assassins are on the loose?" And Phantom Girl replies, "Or who they're disguised as." (I've still got my eye on Dream Girl, who rather conspicuously did not use her power this issue.)

Cos calls for help from Brainy and Cham; Brainy decides that the two of them will head for Durla to investigate the situation there. Cos leads the phony Zendak to Brainy's lab, where the Durlan sheds his disguise and attacks Cos -- seems that since Cos was there when Brande died, the Durlan has decided that Cos must die for not having done enough to save Brande. Element Lad saves the day by imprisoning the Durlan in an airless shell of what I assume is inertron.

And finally comes the news we were all waiting for: the winner of the election for Leader is Mon-El, with Brainiac 5 as runner-up (and therefore Deputy Leader). Since Mon-El left to become a Green Lantern in the last issue, this is going to be an interesting next few issues. No wonder Paul Levitz said he was furiously rewriting a full year of plots!


Did anyone else squee in delight when Dr. Gym'll wanted cred vouchers authorized? ...And then laugh out loud when Tellus refused to put up with it? Ah, good times.

The Mission Monitor Board shows six groups of Legionnaire symbols. At Headquarters are Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid (Jacques), Earth-Man, Shadow Lass, and Element Lad. Wildfire, Tellus, and (presumably) Dawnstar are at Medicus One. Sun Boy and Quislet seem to be off together on some adventure. Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, and Tyroc are presumably still guarding the U.P. Council. (Jo and Troy's symbols are largely obscured by Tinya's head. At first I thought Tyroc's symbol was Bouncing Boy's, but then I realized that Tyroc's symbol is now the lines-and-circles doohickey from the front of his uniform.) Cosmic Boy's speech balloon obscures at least one symbol, probably Mon-El. And Sensor Girl seems to be on a mission with the One Ring. No, wait, that must be Gates. Not appearing on the Board: Colossal Boy and Dream Girl (fighting Durlans three pages earlier), Brainy and Cham (off to Durla),  Ayla and Vi (off to Imsk), Chameleon Girl (last seen at dinner with Gim and his mother), and Polar Boy. Yera and Brek are probably both off-duty, (unless Yera has gone underground and is infiltrating the Durlans), but I don't know why the others don't appear on the Board.

Interlac translations: On page 9, "Gate 5." On pages 25-26, drawers in Brainy's lab are maked with alhpanumeric codes like 87-C and such. Page 29, Mon-El is "elected."

From drawer 87-C Phantom Girl produces "Brainy's old cancellite formula." Cancellite is a spray that neutralizes Durlans' shape-shifting powers. It would have been the perfect weapon, but ultimately it isn't used...Element Lad saves the day.

In the Hall of Heroes, there's a statue of a chubby guy with a mask and cape. My first thought was "Wow, Reflecto has really let himself go," but then I realized that I had no idea who this guy is/was. Anyone? Bueller, Bueller?

Election Stats:

Votes: Mon-El (7); Brainiac 5 (6); Polar Boy (3); Earth-Man and Sun Boy (2 each); Cosmic Boy, Dream Girl, Gates (1 each). Dawnstar registered no vote because she is in a coma.

If Dawnstar had voted for Brainy, there would have been a tie. I think Dawnstar has better judgment than to vote for Brainy, but I thought the same thing about Imra and she voted for Brainy. Anyway, if Briany wants to contest the election, he may have a valid point. In fact, he may have more than one: see the next point.

There were  25 candidates and 25 voters -- but they weren't identical. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl voted but were not candidates...they are on a leave of absence, but are you going to tell them they can't vote? Chameleon Girl and Mon-El didn't vote and were not registered on the tally board. Okay, Mon-El is theoretically on some sort of detached duty...but then wouldn't he have been ineligible to win? And what about Yera? She vanished from the Monitor Board and from the vote tallies. Yep, something's up with her. Like I said, probably infiltrating the Durlans.

Dream Girl voted for Sun Boy, who lost. Hmmm...wouldn't she already know who was going to win? More evidence, perhaps, that Dream Girl is not displaying any predictive ability. Yep, something's up with her. Like I said, probably a Durlan.

Brainy and Polar Boy both voted for themselves. This used to be somewhat of a Legion taboo, but I think I remember that Brek voted for himself last time he ran, also...and if Brainy reasoned that he was the best candidate, no mere taboo would keep him from voting for himself.

Mon-El has been Leader at least twice before: for a half-term that began in Action #392, and a for a full term beginning in Superboy #190. There have been at least two three-term Leaders before: Element Lad and Cosmic Boy. (I say "at least" because we don't know for sure who served (if anyone) between Jeckie's term at the end of the Magic Wars and Cosmic Boy's term at the beginning of Superman and the LSH.) However, both Mon and Jan served incomplete terms: Mon's half-term, and Jan's takeover when Lightning Lad resigned the position in LSH (v.2) #287. So Cosmic Boy remains the champion, having served at least three full terms.


When we first met Brande's personal secretary in Adventure #516 (2010/09), his name was spelled "Pheebes." Here it's "Pheebs" without the third e.

Pheeb(e)s speaks of Brande's desire to bring Durla "back into the United Planets" -- but as far as I know, Durla was never actually in the U.P. to begin with. Unless it was a U.P. protectorate or something.

Dr. Gym'll is shown with four arms. Historically, he has had three...but this isn't the first time we've seen a fourth arm. I suggest that Gym'll's people have a retractable fourth arm that emerges when needed.

Up until now, symbols on the Monitor Board have been in alphabetical order (within teams). Now they're all over the place.

FINAL THOUGHTS: With Mon-El winning the election, it's going to be a fun year. I can't wait!


SUPERMAN/BATMAN #79 (2010/02)
"World's Finest Part One"


Mon-El, Phantom Girl

CUTE BOYS: Mon-El, of course. Robin. And then there's Robin the Toy Wonder...there's a certain charm to a robot that looks (somewhat) like Robin...I'll bet I could think of a way to make him shut up, nudge nudge wink wink.

This takes place in the 853rd century of DC's One Million. But the Legion cameos came as a complete surprise; they come as the Lord of Time is traveling backwards through "tesseract space," which seems to be the Phantom Zone. He passes Phantom Girl (in her pigtails and bell-bottoms) and Mon-El (looking all butch) as well as Zod, Ursa, and Non. I was hoping for a glimpse of Chris Kent as well, but alas, no.


HOUSEKEEPING: The Retro Legion has been around long enough now that I've started collecting custom icons for them. I'll continue using the regular icons for the teen Legion and for dead Legionnaires.


Week of 15 December 2010

Sorry this is late. I did not see any Legion content in DC Comics this week.

In other comics news, apparently Brightest Day is still going on...which means I'm saving a lot of money by not buying the endless tie-in titles.

In the new Superboy comic, the devilishy cute and unspeakably brilliant Simon Valentine (right) continues his romantic pursuit of Conner...who remains oblivious to the adorable young genius. Seems to me that a nice, sweet romance with another boy is just what Conner needs right now.

Simon looks a little like Jimmy Olsen, and who could possibly object to a little Simon/Jimmy/Conner hot action?

Ah. well, Simon will probably turn out to be (a) related to Luthor, (b) evil, (c) an alien, (d) a girl, (e) hopelessly heterosexual, or possibly all of the above. But seriously, I would really respect the creative team if Simon turns out to be gay, have a crush on Conner, AND be so utterly useful that Conner has to keep him around. And finally, after Damian Wayne is a few years older and less of a twit, Simon can get over Conner and live happily ever after with Damian....


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Week of 8 December 2010

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

DCU HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2010 #1 (2010/02)


Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Element Lad, Gates, Invisible Kid (Jacques), Lightning Lad, Lightning Lass, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Polar Boy, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Sun Boy, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, Wildfire

CUTE BOYS: Brek, Brin, Dirk, Garth, Gim, Jacques, Jan, Jo, Rokk...and don't miss shirtless Anthro in the first story in this comic

Oh Holiday, the UP-wide day of rest and relaxation, there's no rest for the Legion. Science Police Control sends several groups of Legionnaires on emergency missions that turn out to be innocent situations. Brainiac 5 leads them to S.P. Control, which is an artificial intelligence that's been operating continuously for decades. Its false alarms were a cry for help -- help which Brainy supplies by turning off the machine and allowing it to reboot, clearing out decades of accumulated errors.

Control reboots, and says that this was the longest break it's had in centuries. now it feels refreshed enough to face another thousand years. Nevertheless, Brainy says that he will build an annual one second rest into the AI's operating protocol.

All available Legionnaires show up (courtesy of Gates) to answer the alarm of a break-in at S.P. Control. Dawnstar says that it looks like they will be spending Holiday with friends and family after all.


Holiday: According to Element Lad, the U.P. "combined all of the cultural, ethnic, and seasonal festivals of olden days into this one day...a day where citizens could peacefully celebrate with their friends."

This is the first we've heard of Holiday. In the past, individual Legionnaires celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, and other "cultural, ethnic, and seasonal festivals." In addition, we've seen the Legion celebrating Klordny.

"Holiday" is one of those ideas that sounds okay when you first encounter it, but gets more problematical the more you think about it. Were all the cultures, ethnicities, and religions of the 31st century happy to subsume their own holidays into Holiday? What about the Earth xenophobes...would they happily accept the U.P.'s imposition of this new Holiday? Or would they fight back?

Plus...are we to believe that everything in the U.P. shuts down for a day? That's certainly the implication: every place the Legion goes is deserted -- presumably everyone is home celebrating. But what about emergency services? Medical emergencies? Law enforcement? Power, water, food? One of the reasons that Christmas and Hanukkah work in today's world is that those who don't celebrate stay on duty in essential posts. If everybody has the same day off, who shows up for work?

Still, it was a nice story.

Control: When Chameleon Boy was in the 21st century during the Brainiac storyline, he masqueraded as a Science Police officer known as "Control." Did he bring that term back with him? And did the S.P.'s keep it for the next thousand years?

Brainy describes the Control AI as "a cloud of nano-mist particles." That's a nice term. I give Brainy an A+ for technobabble.


R.E.B.E.L.S. 23 (2010/02)
"To Be a R.E.B.E.L. conclusion"


Adam Strange, Amon Hakk, Captain Comet, Lobo, Lyrl Dox, Starfire, Vril Dox, Wildstar, Xylon, Astrild Stormdaughter, Smite, Starro

CUTE BOYS: Adam Strange, Captain Comet, Lyrl Dox, Vril Dox

The interminable feud between L.E.G.I.O.N. and the Green Lanterns concludes amid Psion and Citadellian mischief and attempted double-crossing by the Doxes. But really, the more interesting development is the return of Starro (along with his boy-toy Smite and his dyke friend Astrild).

If they can't bring in any real Legionnaires, I guess Starro and his posse are the next best hope for making this comic fun again. (Time out for musing on how quickly and easily the Legion would wipe the floor with Starro & company.)



Sunday, December 05, 2010

Week of 1 December 2010

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

ADVENTURE 521 (2011/02)
"The Summons of the Ring"


Chemical King (memorial statue), Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar, Dream Girl, Earth-Man, Element Lad, Ferr Lad (memorial statue), Invisible Kid (Jacques), Invisible Kid (Lyle), Karate Kid (Val) (memorial statue), Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Polar Boy, Quislet, Shadow Lass, Sun Boy, Tellus, Tyroc, Wildfire, Dyogene

CUTE BOYS: Brek, Dirk, Gim, Jacques, Jan, Lar, Rokk

Dyogene shows up at Legion HQ in order to examine the Legionnaires to choose a new Green Lantern. Meanwhile, a team deals with the aftermath of an earthquake in east-central Africa. Dawnstar and Wildfire determine that the quake was caused by something emerging from Olduvai Gorge. The mysterious thing speeds off into space, blasting Drake and Dawny when they try to follow. Mon-El accepts a power ring from Dyogene dons a cool Green Lantern suit, and flies off into next issue.


Shady is (deservedly, IMHO) pissed that Dyogene passed her over for the power ring.

Symbols on the mission monitor board show the following groups:

  • Element Lad, Invisible Kid, Sun Boy, Tellus
  • Timber Wolf, Tyroc, Ultra Boy (still guarding the U.P. Council?)
  • Dawnstar, Wildfire (in space, blasted by a thing)
  • Brianiac 5, Chameleon Boy (on Naltor with Dr. Li)
  • Earth-Man (blank symbol), Shadow Lass (outside HQ)
  • Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl (on leave)
  • Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet (gone to Imsk)

Not appearing on the board, but present, are Colossal Boy, Dream Girl, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Polar Boy, and Quislet.

Mon-El says to Dyogene, "I...I'm not what you think..." Huh? I'm guessing that we'll come back to this at some point.

Wildfire's containment suit now contains an emergency beacon that triggers in case of system failure. A wise addition, considering how often Drake's suit gets blasted open.

The contrast between Sodam Yat and Mon-El is an interesting one. Both have survived the past thousand years: Mon in the Phantom Zone, Sodam Yat preserved by the power of the Ring. Sodam seems to be broken and despairing; Mon-El is powerful and a symbol of hope. Both are potentially the most powerful beings in the universe.


Element Lad stops a fire by turning the oxygen in the air to xenon, then back to oxygen before trapped students can choke. I suspect that there would be enough heat left for the fires to start back up when oxygen was restored -- but I'm wiling to give Jan this one.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Week of 27 November 2010

I did not see any Legion content in DC comics this week. I did have a great dinner that would have satisfied Matter-Eater Lad, and I went to a magnificent con that was like a great big Legion meeting (without the super-powers).