When I read “Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes” Vol. 1 last year, my immediate response was that all this time the team really should have been called “the Legion of Super-Dicks.” Seriously, this was a team that seemed to have nothing better to do than travel backwards in time 1000 years so they could fake out Superboy, Supergirl, or Jimmy Olsen. “Ha ha, just kidding, we didn’t really expose your secret identity… THIS time.”
And yet, the characters stuck around, with one crazy story after another. (There’s a particularly wonderful two-part story in the first volume where the Legion tries to kill their reject admirers, the Legion of Substitute Heroes. It’s not until the very end of the story that you learn that the Legion was secretly replaced by aliens. Keep in mind, the fact that the heroes were trying to kill the subs was NOT supposed to be an immediate tip-off!) But towards the end of the first volume, and now into this second mammoth, 528-page collection, something began to happen. The Legion became, well, not composed entirely of jerks.
That’s not to say it’s an instant transformation, of course. Edmond Hamilton appears to have received the memo a bit later than everyone else, opening up the book with a story that shows that not only can the Legion be a bunch of jerks, but so can their pets. (Yes, there was a Legion of Super-Pets. No, I do not know if there was an illegal substance in the water cooler at DC Comics, but I have my suspicions.) And maybe it’s just me, but I’m surprised at how often lure of “a legion member goes bad but is really hypnotized” seems to show up in this title, although it was nice to see the hypnotized girls take out the boys, even if it turned out to be due to a moon-worshipping man-hating space-amazon race. (A sentence I will probably never type again for the rest of my life.)
But none the less, the further you go in, the more interesting the comic becomes. It helps that it transforms less from a series of one-off stories and more into something that its own, internal consistency. That’s on display the most in the final chapters, the first ones written by then-teenager Jim Shooter. Suddenly we’re getting actual storylines, ideas building off of one another. It’s easy to see why editors purchased Shooter’s unsolicited submissions, because they’re some of the most entertaining stories in the book. Knowing that there’s a lot more Shooter “Legion of Super-Heroes” to come in the next volume is a real joy.
Of course, let’s not forget that we’ve got the legendary Curt Swan drawing some of the stories. His contributions aren’t as much here as they were in Volume 1, but the work from John Forte, Curt Swan, and George Papp all does a good enough job, drawing in the typical clean, uncluttered style that was so popular at the time. Aside from Brainiac 5’s green skin color vanishing without a trace, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that the “Showcase Presents” black and white format doesn’t seem to have bothered this book at all.
“Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes” is silly and strange, but there are little glimmers of greatness here and there. Even before Shooter’s arrival, stories like “Computo the Conqueror!” and “The Super-Starlag of Space” were showing the potential this title had. And with each old Legion story that I’ve read (before “Showcase Presents” the oldest stories I’d read were from the 1984 “Baxter paper” relaunch of the book), I’m understanding more and more why this strange, originally-slated-for-one-appearance team has stuck around for so long. Here’s hoping that Volume 3 shows up sooner than a year from now. I’m dying to see what happens next.