11 July 2016

Revolutionary Reading: An Examination of the Legion of Super-Heroes Threeboot, Part II: Death of a Dream

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2006 (contents: 2005-06) 

Acquired February 2016
Read May 2016
Legion of Super-Heroes: Death of a Dream

Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Barry Kitson
Interlude Written by Stuart Moore
Additional Pencils: Kevin Sharpe, Georges Jeanty, Ken Lashley
Inkers: Art Thibert, Mick Gray, Drew Geraci, Prentis Rollins, Paul Neary
Letterers: Nick J. Napolitano, Travis Lanham, Phil Balsman, Jared K. Fletcher

Created to change the United Planets, the Legion of Super-Heroes now finds itself in the position of having to save it. As a result, this volume of the Mark Waid/Barry Kitson Legion of Super-Heroes is much less about revolution the first one, drifting away somewhat from the series's unique selling point. Of course, Waid and Kitson are still masters of their craft, and there's lots to enjoy here, good twists and pay-offs and genuine character drama. Loved what happened to "Atom Girl," loved that Brainiac 5 used the slingshot of the original Robin, loved the role of Dream Girl in the proceedings. And much more.

There are points where revolution is discussed, though. Sun Boy, the only Legionnaire whose parents don't disapprove of his being a member, starts to realize that it's not really about the cause they're fighting for, but rather that he's "just an opportunity for them to relive their days as young radicals. Which sucks."

The book also explores the appropriate way to create social change, with both external and internal conflict. Brainiac 5 begins to chafe at Cosmic Boy's leadership of the Legion, believing that Cos is too accommodating of diverse perspectives. Cos would rather create a coalition of diverse interests united around common goals, while Brainiac favors a smaller group dedicated to his leadership of the Legion. Cos's beliefs are shown to have both pluses and minuses: the Legion is awe-inspiring in its size, but its open-door policy proves to be dangerous when it allows suicide bombers to enter into the Legion plaza without interference. I think Cos wins in the end, with his argument that "The Legion’s not twenty guys with corny names and costumes! It is everyone across the galaxy who has made any kind of sacrifice to take back the future! It is everyone who has ever worn this [the Legion symbol] knowing that it makes a difference!" The Legion followers end up fighting alongside the core group in battle, helping save the day. But Brainiac is right that diversity and acceptance comes with its own challenges, challenges that Cosmic Boy struggles to overcome in this book. (In fact, Cosmic Boy needs to be compelled into not leaving the Legion through subterfuge by Invisible Kid.)

Cos does make compromises. In the 31st century, all underagers are monitored on the communications network known as the Public Service; Cos has the opportunity to shut it down, but he ends up needing it communicate during the war against Terror Firma, when it turns out to be the only functioning communications system in the U.P. The revolution is forced to sacrifice some of its principles in order to survive, for better or for ill.

Finally, Terror Firma turns out to be a revolutionary movement itself, albeit a terrorist one (I guess the name is a clue). Made up of the descendants of U.P. citizens exiled to a now-forgotten prison planet, they want to change the corrupt society they were exiled from. But their methods and justifications, especially those of their leader, Praetor Lemnos, remind me of Ozymandias from Watchmen: Lemnos is the man who can shrug off the deaths of innocents to achieve utopia, due to his belief that rebuilding has to take place starting from a blank slate. The conflict between the Legion and Terror Firma thus reenacts an age-old philosophical dispute between revolutionaries: gradual reform vs. catastrophic restart. Perhaps even without thinking about it, the Legion throws their lot in with gradual reform. The implications of that choice will be explored in the series going forward.

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