Jack Haringa's Reviews > Legion of Super-Heroes, Vol. 1: Teenage Revolution

Legion of Super-Heroes, Vol. 1 by Mark Waid
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May 12, 11

bookshelves: graphic-novels
Read from May 09 to 12, 2011

The Legion of Super-Heroes was one of my favorite comics when I was growing up, and I sought it out in all its incarnations, from a back-up in Silver Age Adventure comics to the title to their own. I lost track of the team just a short way into Keith Giffen's "Five Years Later" seismic jump. I didn't love the growing grittiness of the comic (which was following the trend of every other superhero comic on the stands) because one of the essential qualities of the future the Legion books offered was the near-Utopian peace and promise it offered. Not everything has to be grim and dark to treat more adult themes and ideas, though this fact is tough to convince comics publishers of. Continuity had also gotten insanely convoluted, in no small part due to an over-reliance on time-travel plot devices and the endless "crises" of present-day continuity.

I was somewhat leery, therefore, of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's "Threeboot" of the Legion. Here the future enjoys domestic peace, but it also suffers paranoia, fear of youth culture, and a near-obsessive need for surveillance. Not that Waid might be interested in post 9/11 social commentary. So I worried that my beloved characters and their lives on and among the United Planets. Waid's handling of, and in some cases re-imagining of, the essential characters of the Legion is thoughtful and inventive. He doesn't radically separate them from their classic incarnations, but like a very good cover artist, he makes them his own. He also does a good job of juggling the varied cast. My only complaint is the portrayal of Chameleon (formerly Chameleon Boy) as something of a naif. In the past he was one of the smartest members of the team, its leader, and a combination spy/diplomat. Here Cham is little more than a socially awkward adolescent, and he comes across as whiny to boot.

The plotline follows something of a grim-and-gritty course, increasingly so as the story progresses, that suggests late-Paul Levitz, early-Giffen material, but with the advantage of a coherence that comes from shucking the weight of continuity. Additionally, the characters remain hopeful and positive even if the world around them is less rosy than the future envisioned by writers in the '60s and '70s. Kitson's art carries the tale well, and his take on the modified costumes does a nice job of acknowledging tradition while updating the look of the Legionnaires.

I'm looking forward to reading the second trade collection of the series, and I'm more than a bit disappointed to know that this series ends with issue #50.
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