Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1: The Annotations
Cover: I bought the Lightning Lad cover because I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy who wants to see Legion characters on the cover of a Legion comic. Supermanboy-Prime doesn't cut it. The Lightning Lad cover shows the Johns version of the post-Levitz era Lightning Lad, and inside his ball o' lightning, we see the Reboot Lighting Lad with the robot arm and the Threeboot Lightning Lad with the David Cassidy haircut.
Page 1: Enter the Time Trapper, the Legion's most powerful villain. He has been revealed to be a member of the Sun-Eater-unleashing Controllers and an aged Cosmic Boy who has come back to "fix" time. Presumably this version shows here is the "original" Time Trapper, though what that means isn't exactly clear when you're dealing with time travel and alternate realities. But on page one he refers to how he tried to "rip out their soul" which refers to TT's creation of a pocket universe which the Legion had erroneously travelled back to. It was basically the continuity patch to explain how Superboy still inspired the Legion if Superboy no longer existed in the "post-Crisis" DCU. The pocket universe was later removed from continuity as well, but apparently Time Trapper still remembers it happening. And since he used a Superboy in his past plans, he uses a Superboy here: Superboy-Prime (a.k.a. Supermanboy-Prime, since DC isn't sure what to call him from page to page).
Pages 2-3: The "Earthman" stuff refers to Geoff Johns's recent arc in Action Comics #858-863. In that arc, the multicultural Legion had been branded as traitors by a xenophobic Earth and its Justice League, led by a character called Earthman (kind of a Superman type, but racist). Those are Martha and Jonathan Kent analogues (Mara and Jun) from Smallville's future. Notice how the alien-fearing future-Kents see a spaceship crash landing and try to blast it, unlike their liberal 20th century precusors. Also, Legion stories always take place 1,000 years in the future. So, 3008. (The only exception being the "Five Years Later" stories of Giffen and the Bierbaums, which would be 1,005 years in the future.)
Pages 4-5: Supermanboy-Prime, formerly of Earth Prime, the only superhero on his planet. He was one of the central heroes of Crisis on Infinite Earths and then removed into a pocket continuity bubble until Infinite Crisis, where he started punching extra-dimensional walls and causing/curing continuity problems galore. Since then, he's been locked up in space and joined the Sinestro Corps. He's had a rough couple of years. He's also a fanboy analogue, complaining about continuity changes and superheroes not being like they used to be when he was a kid.
The Interlac on the Superman Museum reads "Superman Museum." I'm not going to translate all the Interlac in the comic, unless it's funny and/or important to the story. I'm sure someone else will translate every single word, though. Good for them. We need that kind of gung-ho attitude.
Pages 6-7: Just the big images and characters : Pictured on the top of page 6: (1) Young Clark Kent with Ma and Pa, (2) Clark Kent getting married to Lois Lane, (3) Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark Kent at the Daily Planet, (4) Lex Luthor. Top of page 7: (1) Power Girl, (2) Steel, (3) Lori Lemaris, (4) Original Justice League of America. Middle of page 6: (1) Superman of the Golden Age/Earth 2/or from Superman for All Seasons by Tim Sale, depending on what you're looking for, (2) Superman 1,000,000 , (3) Kingdom Come Superman, (4) Tangent Universe Superman (a.k.a. Earth 9 Superman). Middle of page 7: (1) Krypto, the Superdog, (2) Superwoman (Kristin Wells) of the 29th century, (3) Supergirl--current version, (4) Superboy, Conner Kent. Bottom of page 6: Jonathan Kent, Martha Kent, Pete Ross, Lana Lang (all looking like the ones from the Byrne revamp). Page 7, bottom: Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White. Also of note: the golden statue is the image from the cover of Action Comics #1 and the manger scene above the steps is from Superman: The Movie.
The Superman Museum of the future apparently draws from multiple realities and timelines.
Page 8: Jimmy Olsen's whole shtick in the Silver Age Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen comics was that he'd turn into a different weirdo monster or hero each issue. Hence, the 1,000 Olsens. As Elastic Lad, he was even a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Page 9: Top left: Nightwing and Flamebird, the superheroes of Kandor (actually Superman and Jimmy Olsen in disguise!) Interlac joke: the "Portrait Gallery" at the bottom of the page features artist credits. The one in the foreground is labelled "Perez," (although it's the famous Neal Adams image of Superman breaking the chains). Behind that, we see artist credits for (Joe) Shuster, (Wayne) Boring, (Curt) Swan, (Jose Luis) Garcia-Lopez, something I can't make out, and what looks like (Rob) Liefeld (?!?--But check out that exaggerated hand and pointy feet!) [UPDATED: It's "Hirschfeld"!]
Page 10: Do you want me to name all the Legionnaires?
It's important to note that throughout this issue, and Johns's other use of the Legion elsewhere, he doesn't seem particularly concerned about using a team from a specific time period, so the team compositions are a bit out of whack and members who had left or died are sometimes shown with characters who hadn't yet joined. But since the Time Trapper, Supermanboy-Prime's continuity punching, reboots, Crises, and multiple Earths are all in play, it doesn't really matter, does it? Everything is in flux, especially in the future.
Page 11: Most of the villains are identified here. Not named in the bottom right panel: Cyborg-Superman (also of the Sinestro Corps), Metallo, Toyman.
Page 12: A biased retelling of Supermanboy-Prime's life thus far, but it's not too far from the truth. Sodam Yat is the new Ion, in case you were wondering. Neutron, mentioned in the bottom panel, is a particulary lame Superman villain, and saying he made a "bigger impact" is a bomb joke but also a slap in the face to S-Prime.
Page 13: Bottom left: Composite-Superman. Almost-bottom-right: Geoff Johns's version of the Teen Titans from his relaunch a few years back.
Page 14: S-Prime did kill Conner Kent, a.k.a. Superboy. Although the Siegel lawsuit probably didn't help.
Page 15: The United Planets is a bunch of planets, united (but very geocentric, to be honest).
Page 16: In the Johns/Perez version of the 31st century, the United Planets meets just like the Federation in Star Wars: Episode II. Remember when Jar Jar became a Senator? Ha! That was hilarious and touching. Here, everyone hates the Legion because the Justice League of future xenophobes messed them up recently (as seen in Johns's Action Comics arc). The three Legionnaires at the bottom are, of course, the founders of the team, and you can tell they aren't the spry young teenagers who formed the team in 2958. They look pretty good for being in their mid-sixties, though.
Page 17: Blah, blah, blah summary of the aftermath of the Action Comics storyline. Brainiac 5 helped the Legion, so he's out at Colu. Everyone else is grumpy. Nobody takes the Legion seriously. Johns makes a meta-commentary on why they still have "boy" and "girl" names even though they are grown men and women. Seriously, why doesn't the Legion get any respect?!? Johns is asking that question in the comic and inviting the outside world to respond.
Page 18: Mon-El always ends up in the Phantom Zone. It's the only place he's safe from the lead poisoning that will kill him ever so quickly. Shadow Lass and Mon-El were a couple for years, at least in the original continuity (whatever that means).
Page 19: You can tell things have gotten bleak in the future, because the straight-laced Brainiac 5 stopped grooming.
Page 20: When Brainiac 5 says that he "alone" created the anti-lead serum, he's paraphrasing Dr. Frankenstein from the 1931 James Whale classic film. Goes along with his mad scientist haircut and everything.
Page 21: Sun Boy, the Johnny Storm of the Legion--in powers and lady-killing skills--was used in the Johns Action Comics arc to turn Earth's sun into a red sun, thus negating Superman's powers. He's literally burnt out from that. Polar Boy, the first Legion of Substitute Heroes member to get promoted to the big show, lost an arm in that arc as well. Fire and Ice, cynical and optimistic: contrasts.
Page 22: More from the United Planets of Grumpy Xenophobia. Karate Kid II (Myg) has grown facial hair AND an attitude since we last saw him. He started out bad, and even the Legion Academy couldn't whip him into shape, apparently.
Page 23: R. J. Brande, super-gazillionaire and benefactor of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Before Brainiac 5 invented the flight rings, the Legionnaires used to fly around with flight belts. Flight belts! How 2950s! Brande is actually the father of the Legion's Chameleon Boy, and a Durlan shapeshifter himself, although that is not known to the world at large. Such was revealed in Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes, one of the first comic book mini-series ever (published in 1981).
Page 24: Takron-Galtos, the prison planet. I love to see it pop up in Legion stories, but every time it does, some prisoners escape and cause trouble. This is the third Takron-Galtos in this continuity, I think, but maybe they should come up with some other rehabilitation program. I'm telling you. A prison planet SOUNDS like a good idea, but it rarely ends well.
Page 25: Do you want me to name all of the Legion of Super-Villains too? Really? [Okay, fine. From left to right, back to front: Zymyr, Mist Master, Silver Slasher, Magno Lad, Ol-Vir, Hunter II, Lazon, Neutrax, Spider Girl, Esper Lass, Sun Emperor, Tyr, Micro Lad, Ron-Karr, Titania, Radiation Roy, Tarik the Mute, Chameleon Chief, Cosmic King, Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen, Nemesis Kid, Terrus.] Anyway, this collection is from the first arc in the Levitz Baxter run, as recently reprinted in the An Eye for an Eye trade paperback. It's really good, except Giffen quit halfway through and Steve Lightle had to finish it up. Both are fantastic artists, but with COMPLETELY different styles. LSV, though. Bad news all around.
Page 26: Man, this is a long comic. With so many panels! We're getting our money's worth here, aren't we?
The Legion of Super-Villains was founded by Lightning Lord, Cosmic King, and Saturn Queen. They're adults with the same powers as the original Legion founders. Because adults are evil and always try to mess up our clubhouse with their smoking and cussing. [UPDATED: The adult Legion of Super-Villains was from the future, and originally founded by Tarik the Mute. Also, Cosmic King looks like Cosmic Boy, but he actually has powers similar to Element Lad.]
Page 27: Brande's speech implies that the Legion taught Superboy how to become Superman. That's not really what happened, but it's a pretty cool interpretation of the events. Maybe it happened between panels. Let's all say that it happened. Feel better now? I do. I like it.
Page 28: Leland McCauley was not only Brande's rival, but in the post-"Zero Hour" reboot he was actually revealed to be Ra's al Ghul, still alive in the 30th century! Wheeee. He's not Ra's al Ghul in this version, though. He's just a bitter rich dude.
Page 29: "Long Live the Legion" is the rallying cry of the team. Brande almost gets it out, mentally before he gets all Durlan on everyone. By the way: TOLD YOU he was a Durlan! Totally called it. It gives McCauley a chance for more xenophobia and provides a touching moment. Geoff Johns can write comics!
Page 30: McCauley was apparently in cahoots with the Time Trapper. Folks, that's never a good idea. It's about as dumb as putting every single powerful criminal together on one giant space station.
Page 31: My guess is that Chameleon Boy, Dream Girl, and Element Lad are up to something. Probably something involving the Legion Espionage Squad. Because Johns is definitely not going to leave the Espionage Squad out of the action. Look for them to pop up with some vital information/secret weapon/awesomeness around issue #4.
Page 32: Thats the silhouette of the Legion clubhouse on the right side of the skyline. The old upside down spaceship. Of course, Secret Origins revealed that the original clubhouse was Fortress Lad, who had transformed into a clubhouse and then everyone, including him, totally forgot about it because of the after-effects of an angry Mnemonic Kid. (I am not making this, or anything else, up.)
Page 33: Superman arrives in 3009. A year after Supermanboy-Prime, thus leaving time for S-Prime to...
Page 34: Free all the prisoners from Takron-Galtos! I knew that prison planet was a bad idea. It's like rescuing evil fish from a space barrel. Although the 3008/3009 thing doesn't exactly make sense, since Cosmic Boy said the Smallville stuff and the freeing of the prisoners just happened in the past few hours. Hmmm... a time inconsistency. Who's the villain behind this whole thing again? [EDITED: Apparently, he stopped just before 3009. So, yeah, 3008 it is.]
"L.O.S.V"? L.S.V. sounds better, doesn't it? Maybe it's just to make it clear to all the new readers. But that's what I'm here for. L.O.S.V. is the Legion of Super Villains, silly.
Page 35: The post-"Zero Hour" Reboot Legion. A.k.a. the "Archie Legion" because everyone looked straight outta Riverdale. (I don't agree with that label, by the way.) This image on the top shows that Johns is not cherry-picking teams from a certain time, he's cherry-picking entire rosters that never existed. Some of these characters, like Kid Quantum died well before others, like Gates, joined. Do you want me to name all of these characters too?
"I've met them both. We all did a long time ago." I'm not sure what the second part means. Who's the "all." If it's just him and the other 20th/21st century heroes, then, yes, they met around the time of Final Night and recently in The Brave and the Bold. If he's putting Mon-El into the mix, I don't know what he's talking about.
Page 36: I literally have used my whole laptop battery on these annotations, as feeble as they are. I have six minutes to wrap it up.
This Legion is the Waid/Kitson Threeboot era, with the Shooter/Manapul costumes (mostly). Once again, it's not a roster that ever existed in the series, since Dream Boy (second from top left) and Dream Girl (third from top right) were never on the team at the same time. Yet it doesn't have any members from the "future" of the team. I guess that would make it too complicated. [From left to right, back to front: Mon-El, Dream Boy, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Dream Girl, Supergirl, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Triplicate Girl, Princess Projectra, Triplical Girl, Ultra Boy, Triplicate Girl, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Light Lass, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Star Boy, Karate Kid, Invisible Kid, Atom Girl, Chameleon.]
Do you think this series will end with the redemption of Supermanboy-Prime? Will he sacrifice himself to save the Legion and bring harmony to the United Planets?
Long Live the Legion(s)!
(P.S. I'm not the one reviewing this issue for CBR, but if I did, I would have given it four and a half stars.)
[Michael Grabois has annotations at The Legion Omnicom as well.]