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Legion Of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga

01/01/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Legion Of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga Special Edition in the USA - or Buy Legion Of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga Special Edition in the UK

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pub: DC Comics. Legion Of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga Special Edition by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffin and Larry Mahlstedt. 416 page graphic novel hardback. Price: $39.99 (US), $47.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4012-2961-0.

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I’ve always had a liking for the Legion Of Super-Heroes. They tend to evoke a feeling of like-minded outsiders who are a bit different can be united other something. The resemblance to comicbook fans as well as Science Fiction fans should not go unnoticed. It probably explains why the LSH has remained so popular over the years, even if it was first thought of as a vehicle for Superboy to battle alongside people who could be as powerful as himself.

One of the things I definitely didn’t like back in the mid-1980s was giving Timber Wolf back his original face. Granted there was some a little like the competition’s adamantium boned warrior about him, hardly surprising considering that artist Dave Cockum had re-designed him first and did another version of him as Fang of the Imperial Guard. However, it lost him his distinctive look and made him into just one of the boys.

Dream Girl demonstrating that the anti-gravity field generated by her Legion flight ring could be used to lift up debris in her defence. She does a similar thing on Projectra’s home planet, Orlando, but it does illustrate the problem of what to do with a glamorous looking character who has to have a nap to see the future. Then again, there are also many demonstrations of the 30th century technology out of their normal use, including the telepathic earplug for communication when in space and elsewhere and their costumes capable of generating a transparent spacesuit when in vacuum. There was also an opportunity for artist Keith Giffin to modify costumes as in the case of Saturn Girl and move her away from that skimpy pink bathing suit she wore to something a little more practical. The same could also be said for Cosmic Boy, especially when it was never clear before when pink became fabric.

One of the strongest elements that comes out of this issue run from ‘Legion Of Super-Heroes # 284-296’ and ‘LSH Annual # 1’ and is be basis for this volume is the extensive work on developing their personalities. Considering that the LSH has over twenty-two lead characters that has never been easy and any creative team that drops the ball doing that is easily felt. Here, Levitz and Giffin really put the Legionnaires through the hoops when all manner of things go wrong and never gives them an easy time. This annual also presented a new legionnaire when Jacques Foccart is forced to drink the serum that granted the late Lyle Norg the ability to become invisible at will. Foccart ended up serving two purposes, to bring another black legionnaire into the fold and with a French accent to distinguish him from the others.

‘The Great Darkness Saga’ of the title didn’t really start until the mid-way point of this book but all the developing stories up to this point should give anyone an opportunity to get acquainted with the LSH better than just saying who they are. The number of different super-powered teams in the 30th century that came to the Legion’s aid is almost parallel to the recent ‘Final Crisis’ story even if we only got a hint of the Green Lantern Corps (who are actually banned from Earth) and the Thanagar Hawkmen. Then again, facing off against Darkseid and his minions, who was regarded as a myth and no one from that period had ever fought before really put the LSH through the grinder this time.

In the aftermath, the LSH is having to mix leisure with sorting out more problems suited to their powers. There is a story explaining why the Green Lantern Corps is banned from Earth for interfering too much after one of their number turned renegade after they stopped human activity into time travel. A marked influence of the Levitz/Giffen years was a growing disunity within the Legion. In many respects, this added to the drama even if it felt a little jarring at the time that it took so long for things like this to happen.

I do think there are some odd thoughts that Mon-el is regarded as the most powerful of Legion sans Superboy and Supergirl who are only reservists in those days. Considering that Element Lad took out the entire population of Daxam, Mon-el’s own race, at a stroke or rather changing a minute part of their atmosphere to lead, their weakness, shows him to be the most powerful.

The main ingredient of the extras is a copy of the original script for the LSH Annual # 1 by Paul Levitz using that primitive device, the typewriter, and a reminder that to remove the wrong information, it as x-ed out rather than with tippex. No doubt in the digital age, text copy is a lot tidier these days but it shows how far we’ve gone in the past twenty-five years. As this has to be the centre of what makes this book deluxe, it does illustrate how much looser the plots are compared to a couple decades ago when DC scriptwriters went down to the fine detail per panel. A looser plot gives the opportunity for the artist to do a lot more interpretation.

For his part, Keith Giffen shows a sampling of his original redesigning of key members of the Legion. In many respects, these tend to show a certain simplification of the design and still remain identifiable. Not so sure I liked Shadow Lass’ tighter hair-do then or now but then, I wasn’t that keen on how all the male near human characters having hair-cuts more 20th than 30th century. With such a large cast, I’ve always felt that the more different the Legionnaires look from each other the better.

This is a massive-sized book containing a huge slice of Legion history from the 80s. If you’ve got rid of your original collection but would like to re-live events, then this is a good way to get it again.

GF Willmetts

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