23 January 2012

The Legion After Darkseid

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse: The Deluxe Edition

Writer/Plotter: Paul Levitz
Penciller/Plotter: Keith Giffen
Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Guest Artists: Kurt Schaffenberger, Howard Bender, Frank Giacoia, Curt Swan, Dan Adkins, Dave Cockrum, James Sherman, Joe Staton, Dick Giordano, Dave Gibbons, George Tuska, Pat Broderick, Mike DeCarlo, Gene Colan, Karl Kesel, Romeo Tanghal
Letterers: John Costanza, Adam Kubert, Todd Klein
Colorist: Carl Gafford

For some reason, I ordered The Curse before I'd even read The Great Darkness Saga, so it's a good thing I turned out to like The Great Darkness Saga so much. Even better, I liked The Curse even more than I liked the previous volume. I don't know if this is because Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen really hit their stride, or maybe I finally hit my stride, absorbing enough Legion backstory for everything to hang together at last. Though The Curse contains no standout epics like The Great Darkness Saga does, it is more consistently successful, offering up a series of excellent character-based twists and turns as the Legion chugs ever dutifully into the future.

Unfortunately, The Curse opens with a rare misfire, when Cosmic Boy learns that his family was attacked in a firebombing at the end of the previous volume. This in itself is fine, but after this one story, it never seems to have a substantial effect on Cos's characterization (inasmuch as he seems to have any). On the other hand, Giffen's artwork really shines here, with a number of great panels showcasing Cos's grief and anger and powers.

From there, things unfold pretty interestingly. As some of the Legion fights revenge-seeking Khunds, Element Lad and Shvaughn Erin investigate the strange behavior of one of the Legion's own, and Invisible Kid is stranded in a strange dimension where he encounters both his predecessor (driven mad!) and Wildfire. Wildfire was, of course, transformed into a being of antimatter energy by a strange accident, but in this dimension, he has physical form again. There are some great moments as Invisible Kid forces Wildfire to come back with him. And also Chamelon Boy goes on a quest to his homeworld to regain his shapeshifting powers, finally reconciling with his estranged father. Phew! Life in the Legion is never boring, especially as Levitz and Giffen masterfully run all these plots alongside one another, making sure to always be starting and ending them at the same time, to continuously pull you through the book. Other highlights include the story where Weber's World (the United Planets' bureaucratic headquarters) is taken over, and Brainiac must work with his old crush Supergirl to stop it from colliding with another planet.

Indications of my emotional attachment to these characters began to appear with the subplot about Wildfire's relationship with Dawnstar. Without a physical form, Wildfire can never touch the woman he loves-- and her people must go into space when they turn eighteen to discover their husbands. There's a great bit where he's so upset over this, he purposefully explodes his containment suit. Ouch! Another great subplot is the discovery that one of the Legion was replaced by an impostor... especially when it's clear that the replacement happened before the impostor entered into a relationship with another Legionnaire. Ouch again!

One of my complaints about the previous volume was the group of characters I never figured out who they were, but that was alleviated in part by a recurring subplot about Star Boy, lover of Legion leader Dream Girl. That Star Boy is not front-and-center turns out to be an integral part of this characterization; he feels neglected by Dream Girl, but is too quiet to say anything about it. There's a great issue where, during a Legion election, he and Wildfire sit on the roof of Legion HQ under the stars watching the results come in, and Star Boy recounts his exceedingly unlucky past. It's nicely done, giving some depth, but also some awesomeness, to a Legionnaire who needs it.

I didn't much care for the four-part story about the Omen and the Prophet or whatever it was-- it never really made a lot of sense, and Giffen's art was unusually confusing when he got too creative with his layouts-- but even this had some nice subplots, such as when Colossal Boy takes his new wife home to meet his mother in a very cute story.

Finally, there's a tense multipart story about a traitor within the Science Police itself, giving some focus to these perennial side characters, and showing that events don't have to be enormously cosmic to be dangerous to our heroes. The fact that I love Shvaughn Erin probably helps keep me interested! The book wraps up with a short coda about a new birth in the Legion and an attempt to resurrect the sorcerer Mordru. This was okay, but the final two pages-- where we learn what the curse Darkseid placed on the Legion at the end of The Great Darkness Saga actually was-- made it all worth it.

On the whole, this was an excellent book of comics, and great value. I'd happily pick up more of these Legion of Super-Heroes deluxe editions if they were released. Are you listening, DC?

(Note that I did not do my own scanning because I am lazy; I found these on the Internet, presumably taken from the original issues. The quality of paper and color in the actual deluxe edition is much better.)

1 comment:

  1. I like when you have pictures. But there is no mouseover text.