Keith Giffen, Larry Mahlstedt & Paul Levitz & Legion of Super Heroes
Covers and pages from The Legion of Superheroes #293 and #294 (1982) by Levitz, Giffen, Mahlstedt, Costanza, Gafford, Sutton and Berger.
Despite my once-intense love for DC comics, I never really got into the Legion. Even though they were technically part of the same continuity, the future setting positioned them as something ‘other’ that I didn’t need to pay attention to in order to keep up with the superhero world I was interested in. I did start getting into them in the waning days of the old DCU thanks to Johns and Frank’s work with them in Action, as well as Waid and Kitson’s ‘threeboot’ stuff.
The Great Darkness Saga seems to be regarded as the best story in the classic Levitz/Giffen era, and it can be had cheaply so I gave it a shot, as well as a few issues that lead up to it. The images above are just from the last two parts.
At least in this story, the Legionnaires themselves aren’t that appealing as personalities. They’re bratty and petty and shallow, almost comically concerned with who gets to be leader. Maybe this is Paul Levitz’s way of demonstrating their youth. In any case I couldn’t really latch on to any of the characters, but as a broad concept, they’re a lot of fun. There are so damn many of them, with such colorful costumes and fun powers. Levitz does a great job giving most of the huge cast a moment to shine. He and Giffen also plot out the central mystery quite well, peppering in lots of hints before finally revealing the nature of the big bad.
It’s cool to see Darkseid and other Fourth World concepts clash with this mob of superkids from the future, and it’s all expertly rendered by Keith Giffen. This is Giffen in perhaps a more traditional mode, but his storytelling and acting are top notch, adding lots of emotion to the epic action. He uses tons of panels and details but the pages never feel cluttered or hard to look at. Carl Gafford’s lively, varied coloring should also be lauded. This really is a visually striking book.
All in all, I had a lot of fun with this story. It’s exactly what you hope it will be - epic, old school superhero action on a cosmic scale. And it helped me gain more appreciation for the Legion as a whole. I know DC have basically abandoned the concept, but if I was in charge I would figure out a way to reboot the team and make them stick. A book that’s part Justice League, part Star Wars and part teen romance seems like a slam dunk, especially for the tumblr crowd, and it’s kind of baffling that they haven’t been able to make it work.