Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes, Vol. 2

Review by Stephen Theaker This volume collects adventures of the Legion of Super-Heroes from the early to mid-sixties, many of them written by Edmond Hamilton.

Cover art by Curt Swan and George KleinNowadays the Legion seems to be in a complete mess. Towards the end of the original Legion saga things went wrong with the introduction of the Legionnaires (teenage versions of the adult heroes, who were either clones or the original heroes rescued from suspended animation), and things went pretty badly for Earth. Following Zero Hour the whole story was rebooted, and since then I get the impression that it’s been rebooted one or two times more, though I haven’t kept up to date. Reading these stories makes you wonder how DC got into such a mess.

Of all super-hero stories, the Legion is the easiest to keep perpetually new – rotate the older heroes out, and bring in new members to replace them. It’s been part of the premise from the very beginning. Why on Earth anyone thought introducing a bunch of clones or rebooting the entire saga was a better idea is beyond me. So while the ongoing saga of the JSA grows ever weightier, the Legion has become nothing more than a series of fuzzier and fuzzier photocopies of itself. Would Doctor Who have been better off if both the TV movie and the new series had kicked off with Ian and Barbara wondering why one of their pupils is so preternaturally clever? Clearly not.

Never mind: at some point (if they haven’t already) I’m sure someone who cares enough will reveal the years since Zero Hour to have been a plot of the Time Trapper, the Legion will find a way to put the broken pieces of Earth back together, and a bunch of brand new teenagers will be invited to join the team. Don’t get me wrong: I’m certainly not one of the people who always want the originals reinstated. What I want is for stories to continue and develop.

In this book, though, you see everything going right, everything that was so good about the Legion. The stories grow and develop from one issue to the next. Towards the end there is a series of multi-part sagas, but even before that decisions in one issue will have ramifications explored in future stories. Characters die, lose limbs, leave the team, join the team, and, best of all, start to develop personalities. When reading “Computo the Conqueror” I gave a little cheer to see Brainiac 5 getting grumpy for the first time. “What is this–” he shouted via the tele-monitor, “a private lab or Grand Central Spaceport? Can’t you read, Chameleon Boy? Shove off!”

Lots of notable issues here, but for now the most memorable is “The Legionnaire Who Killed”, mainly for the panel where Invisible Kid yells to Star Boy, “Come on and join us, Star Boy… We’re having the big computer decide who’d have the most fun kissing whom! It’s a riot!” Chameleon Boy can be seen snogging away with Light Lass. Star Boy declines, leading Invisible Kid to note, “Funny… Star Boy never seems to have time for romance!”

Sounds like Invisible Kid is carrying a torch!

There’s lots of similarly enjoyable daffiness in these pages, and if the actual enemies tend too often to lameness, that’s forgivable when the heroes are so interesting and varied.