Thursday, November 30, 2006

Random Reading: Legion of Super-Heroes: Death of a Dream, and Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Strange Visitor from Another Century

Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's Legion of Super-Heroes is a series I've heard a lot of good things about. It seems to be one of those series that everyone has accepted as good and moved on, because you don't hear much about it anymore. Lots of praise near the beginning and then not much. But, the bookstore had volumes 2 and 3, so I figured I'd pick them up and see what the big deal is.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Death of a Dream

OMG! The ftr iz all stpd & adlts rul evrythng!!!11!!!!!

Shit, that was lame, wasn't it? I can't even fake "netspeak" I'm so old. 23 and I'm too old to type like a moron. That's odd.

Anyway, it's the 31st century and parents control every aspect of their children's lives through something called the Public Service, a big-ass computer system of some sort. But, luckily, the Legion of Super-Heroes are here to shake things up and be all "We're wearing stupid costumes, mom and dad!" because somehow, the message they got from the legends of Superman, Batman and the JLA was to fight against the status quo. You know, the same heroes who have all had at least one story where they look around, realise that the world sucks ass and they have the power to change it only to have every other hero say, "You have to let people do that themselves!" and then fight to maintain the status quo.

If that was my first thought, my second was, "If this Public Service is such an intrusive and all-powerful system, how the fuck did it ever occur to these kids to rebel when the parents would just, I don't know, USE IT TO STOP THEM?" Maybe this was answered in the first volume. I suspect it as something to do with Brainiac 5 since he's the one who creates the Legion's flight rings, which also shields them from the Public Service.

Anyway. The story here is that there's this guy who has the power to erase himself from both organic and computer memories and he's trying to rip apart the United Planets by destroying planets. He's already destroyed Super-Rich World and next up? Super-Smart World! Isn't it really stupid of the future to make it so every world only has one thing going for it and thus when something bad happens to that one world, it fucks everyone else over big time? Like Super-Rich World gets destroyed? There goes the economy because all of the fucking money was there! Smart thinking. Couldn't Super-Smart World have foreseen something like that happening? Or maybe Future-Seeing World? WHERE THE FUCK WAS FUTURE-SEEING WORLD, PEOPLE?

So, Brainiac 5 and a few of the other Legionnaires go to his home planet of Super-Smart World and find that everyone has some sort of retard virus. That means Brainiac 5 isn't just the smartest person in the Legion (as he tells us every damn time he opens his mouth), he's the smartest guy in the universe.

Now, this is where a lot of stories falter, because, let's face it, Mark Waid is not the smartest guy on the planet or anything. Not his fault, but it makes writing a character who is, far FAR more intelligent than he is problematic. Like I said, this is a problem for a lot of writers. How do you write a character whose intelligence is beyond us as much as ours is beyond a dog's? (And shut up, dog lovers, we are smarter than them. They're pretty fucking dumb.) Would you trust a dog to accurately write a human character? But, this is something that probably only bothers me--same thing with Q in his various Star Trek appearances.

Actually, almost all of my problems with this book are problems I generally have with science fiction. All-seeing computers that for some reason never see the rebellion until it's too late, every planet except for Earth filled with completely homogeneous races that all think exactly alike, beings that supposed to be far more advanced than us intellectually but never really are--oh, and Earth as the centre of the fucking universe. The undying belief that humans are somehow unique and innately superior somehow.

Ignoring all of that stuff, this is a pretty good read. Waid handles a large cast well, moves the story forward at a good pace without rushing it, and doesn't explain every little detail. He trusts to readers to fill in some of the blanks and throws a few surprises our way. There's also the best "David & Goliath" moment I've seen in a long while.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Strange Visitor from Another Century

My first thought: Why didn't they use the cover of issue 18 for the cover of the trade and have it continue the design of the first two trades with a member of the team facing the camera, right hand out, Legion ring prominent? Am I the only one who thinks that would have worked much better than Supergirl-leaning-up-against-a-pillar-leg-bent-looking-all-cool-and-shit-while-the-Legion-hangs-out-in-the-background cover from issue 17? Or how about the fact that it doesn't continue the volume numbering? These seem like stupidly obvious design elements that should have been included.

This picks up right where the last volume left off with the Legion having saved the universe from war, their headquarters destroyed and the adults looking like idiots for ever criticising the Legion. So the adults offer them a deal where the United Planets will fund the Legion, which interim leader Lightning Lad takes them up on, which makes the Legion look like sell-outs.

And then Supergirl shows up and everyone is all "OMG! SUPERGIRL! WHOO!" except for Light Lass, who's all "I don't trust her!" And so on.

To his credit, Waid has given the whole Supergirl introduction a cool twist: she thinks she's still living on Krypton, dreaming everything that has happened since it exploded. So, she has a very flighty and superficial attachment to what's going on, which I hope is exploited further in future issues.

There's also a big problem since Brainiac 5 has stolen the dead body of Dream Girl, hoping to bring her back to life, which puts him at odds with the rest of the Legion who is being yelled at by the people on Future-Seeing World because they want to bury her.

Again, Waid handles the large cast well, has some interesting stories, blah blah blah. The art is solid in both volumes, too.

This volume also has a special treat of various 4-6 page letter column comics from past issues. They're pretty damn funny at times. My main problem is that you think this trade has issues 14-19, but REALLY has 14, 16-19 because issue 15 was a letter column issue or an out of continuity issue or something. I only found that out by checking online. Something telling the reader this--hell, including the cover to issue 15 would be a big enough clue. I was left wondering "What the fuck happened to issue 15?"

Hell, the whole packaging of this trade leaves me wondering about the people putting these collections together.

Oh, and even more nit-picky point: the addition of Supergirl happened at the same time as the whole "One Year Later" thing at DC and thus, the Legion title had "1001 Years Later," but (and this shows me to be a total dork) if this title takes place 1000 years after the current DCU and it jumped a year forward, but this title didn't (and it didn't, just to be clear), isn't it really 999 years later? Wouldn't it need to actually jump TWO years ahead to be 1001 year later? Just wondering.

So, while my review may not say this well enough, I did enjoy these books. They were engaging reads that never bored me. Most of my problems are those nit-picky things that don't actually make the reading experience less enjoyable--and are, often, problems with most stories involving the future. I do plan to pick up the first volume over the Christmas break and the fourth volume when it comes out this spring.