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Superboy And The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years by Paul Levitz and Kevin Sharpe

01/01/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Superboy And The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years in the USA - or Buy Superboy And The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years in the UK

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pub: Titan Books/DC Comics. 144 page graphic novel softcover. Price: GBP10.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85768-425-7).

check out websites:www.titanbooks.comand

I hate introducing a graphic novel with a bad comment but if I saw ‘The Early Years’ on the shelf, I would still give the same reaction to the cover: What a bland selection of facial expressions! It seems more effort was given to getting the Legionnaire costumes right for the 1960s than giving them personality.

Fortunately, the content for the most part is the reverse of this statement and you have six stories about the Legion Of Super-Heroes that can be fitted into 1960s continuity if you choose or have knowledge of. This might serve under LSH fans longer in the tooth but unless the younger generation have been buying the Archive volumes, I do wonder if they are the intended market.

I do suspect writer Paul Levitz used this as mini-series to get himself back into the groove after being in DC management for so long and was probably addressing some of the gaps he saw in the early run that weren’t addressed at the time.

‘Playing Hooky’ has Superboy missing school for a day and visiting the 30th century with a to-do list to achieve. Levitz makes an interesting point that time is relative and a day in the future is also a day lost in the past, although I suspect it has more to do with ensuring Superboy’s age stays chronologically correct and not interfere with his time-line. More so when Saturn Girl telepathically modifies the Boy of Steel’s memory so he won’t recall anything of his older years in the Superman Museum when he returns to the past. Without giving away too much of the story, I like the idea that outside of Earth’s atmosphere that full exposure to a yellow sun enhances Superboy’s powers.

It’s well know that RJ Brande financed the LSH and that he’s a Durlan shape-shifter frozen in human form and it’s only much later that it is revealed he is also Chameleon Boy’s father. Hardly a great revelation but things are put in context after his death, we see his own story in ‘Brande Speaks’ relating a past event.

‘Saturn Rising’ switches back to the past and covers Saturn Girl’s desire to toughen up to make herself the equal of her male colleagues, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad. They are also being trained by the Science Police and quickly prove they are more than capable of handling situations. Considering how she could so easily wipe Superboy’s memory, it does make me wonder why she can’t defeat more villains on her own. Thinking about that, I suspect people of her era are probably better equipped to mind shield.

‘Whispers Of Doom’ brings in more Legionnaires and introduces Nura Nal, later to be Dream Girl, who foresees one of them is going to die. There is also a hint of a ghost haunting their headquarters.

‘Playing Hooky II’ is drawn by Eduardo Pansica and focuses on the LSH Espionage Squad infiltrating an operation off Rimbor, Ultra Boy’s home planet. Meanwhile, some of the other Legionnaires are in Superboy’s time in disguise to sort out one of Brainiac’s drones amongst other things.

The final story, ‘The Death Of Lightning Lad’ actually looks at the aftermath after he is killed by a freezing ray and how Saturn Girl copes with her grief. One thing I’ve been tolerating are the boxes being used to identify the various Legionnaires but Editor Lad – as also described in the odd box and formerly Brian Cunningham - misidentifies Lyle Norg as Jacques Foccart the second Invisible Kid. Back in the 60s, we were content just to have a roll-call at the front of each story and it’s a shame that this wasn’t used here, just to see if modern folk could accept that. Shame there wasn’t an appearance by Protty and Element Lad even in cameo.

An interesting but puzzling choice for a mini-series, mixing modern techniques with old characters. If anything, it adds to the emotional content of the original stories than adding unknown details.

GF Willmetts

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