Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, it’s Legion of Super-Heroes annual #1.
The Nostalgia November archive can be found here.
Legion of Super-Heroes annual #1 by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, and Karl Kesel is a pretty good single issue. It’s not terribly inventive in its mystery — but it is one where you should be able to figure it out before most of the characters, which I think is somewhat appropriate for superhero comics ostensibly aimed at kids. The mystery: who shot Laurel Kent? It comes about when five Legionnaires are sitting around on monitor duty and Brainiac 5 refuses to let the time go to waste, so one of the newest members, Magnetic Kid chooses a case to work on. Laurel Kent, a rejected Legion member since her only power is invulnerability, doesn’t seem to care who shot her, but the Legion is on the case. In tracking down what sort of weapon could fire a Kryptonite bullet, they learn of a raid on the Science Police Museum where two Thanagarian guards were killed while another was spared. And there’s also a private detective who had been hired by Timber Wolf to find Lightning Lass killed that Shrinking Violet investigates on a hunch… eventually, Brainiac 5 ties it all together by preventing the murder of a tour bus driver named Oli Queen and, then, rescuing, the Allen twins… it’s pretty clear what the pattern is: descendents of Justice League members (apparently the PI descends from Batman… and the Thanagarians from Hawkman). The culprit is an unnamed former villain that lives in frozen stasis, coming out only once a month to age a couple of days, which coincides with the assassination attempts.
The mystery is pretty basic, but told in an engaging fashion throughout. The story is divided into various chapters and Giffen’s unique art makes it visually interesting. He tends to favour close-ups throughout, not giving many establishing shots and it keeps you on your toes. In the Shrinking Violent chapter, the entire thing is illustrated from her perspective, which, again, gives it an added edge. I can see others not digging the art as much as I do, but I think it works in an annual like this. Why not try different things in a one-off book like this? Then again, maybe this is how Giffen drew every other comic he did at the time. It’s a particularly interesting style since it’s much more intimate and narrow than you think a large, sprawling team book like this would call for. That isn’t to say that there aren’t pages and panels where things aren’t clear, just that Giffen favours hinting at actions and what’s going on than showing it all. Beyond that, several chapters have guest inkers, giving them all different visual looks within the parameters of Giffen’s standard visuals. The Ernie Colon chapter, for instances, uses a specific type of shading not seen anywhere else — little visible solid lines that don’t touch. It would be annoying elsewhere, but in an annual divided into chapters, it works.
A few things that stood out beyond this:
* Batman had at least one kid? So did Superman? I kind of like that this future hints at the idea that both of those men moved beyond their missions and had a personal life.
* I love love love the city of Greater Quebec that’s mentioned in one chapter — and that there’s a tourist warning that it is one of five remaining places on Earth where Interlac isn’t the official language. Because it would be that way… even in the 31st century.
* We never get an explanation for why Laurel Kent doesn’t want her attempted killer caught. It’s a subtle way of hinting at how much the incident damaged her and I like that there isn’t an explanation of that fact.
* The robot sent to kill people has the logos of the six Justice Leaguers on its chest with a mark over the logo of the successful murders… obvious in that fun way.
* Brainiac 5 is unapologetic in his methods. He doesn’t stop the attempt to blow up the tour bus, he simply gives them his forcefield belt so they can catch the attempted killer. The other Legionnaires have a problem with this, but it seems logical. I love their “you’d risk lives” outrage… don’t they know their belts work? Personally, I love it when super-genius characters are shown as smarter than everyone else AND are 100% right. Too often writers favour showing they’re not as smart as they’re supposed to be, making stupid mistakes, and I prefer to see that trend bucked.
* We never learn which Justice League villain is responsible for the attacks (though I imagine the robot is a good enough clue for those with a more thorough knowledge of the team and its history). Does it matter? Not really, so who cares.
Later today, a reread review of Marvel 2099’s first crossover, “The Fall of the Hammer” and, then, tomorrow, Nostalgia November wraps up with a silver-foil cover, the final part of a crossover, and me most likely bleeding from my eyes as a result. Should be fun.