Like many old school Legion fans, I was very excited to hear that Paul Levitz was coming back to the title after being away for so long. But I have to say that there was a tinge of trepidation mixed in as well. Any time a beloved creator comes back to a title that they starred on, I always fear that the outcome will be a pale shadow of the initial run. Throw out whatever platitude you want ... maybe 'you can't go home again'? But as excited I was to see Levitz writing these characters again, I wondered what sort of Legion we would see from him in 2010.
I have to say I had mixed emotions about Legion of Super-heroes #1, a comic I meant to review here but never got up to doing. That issue just felt heavy to me, heavy on drama, heavy on dialogue, heavy on angst. It seemed like so much time was spent on Earth-Man that I didn't get enough of the Legion. My reaction to that issue was 'meh'.
I had the exact opposite response to Adventure Comics #12 where Levitz goes way back in time to one of the first interactions between Superboy and the Legion. Yes it was nostalgic and hearkened back to a simpler time ... but at least it was the Legion. Much like the new Legion comic picked up from Johns' Legion story in Action Comics, this book picks up after Johns' Legion issue of Superman Secret Origin. Frankly, for a cranky old fan like me, it was great to see the Legionnaires in their classic early outfits acting like heroes and generally being happy. I know that a comic like this could never last long term in the current comic market, but for one month, it was like a breath of fresh air.
The cover by Scott Clark shows a nice group shot with the Legionnaires striking heroic poses that nicely highlight their personality. Cos with the classic hands on hips. Garth with his arms cockily crossed. Invisible Boy small and in the background. That said, Phantom Girl looks way too skinny, especially her legs. But I love that outfit with the big P.
As I said, the story takes place shortly after the Superman Secret Origin #2. Superboy decides to 'play hooky' from his Smallville duties and take a trip into the 3oth century again.
For Clark, it is finally a chance to cut loose with his powers and be himself. Between the rules Ma and Pa have set up as well as his own self-discipline, Clark is feels hampered in Smallville. Here, in the wondrous 30th century, he can wear the costume and push himself.
In fact, he has made a list of all the things he wants to accomplish on this little jaunt.
The use of a list as an anchor in the story is a nice motif as it echoes back to the earlier Connor Superboy stories in this run of Adventure. It somehow makes the link between the Connor Superboy and the Clark Cuperboy that much closer, that they both use a list as a way to organize their thoughts.
The first item on the list? See the city. He knows the town of Smallville down to it's last crack in the sidewalk. He wants to see the city.
After a brief tour from Saturn Girl, the two run across a group of Legionnaires trying to rescue a Science Police cruiser which has crashed into a city building. The Legion is able to rescue everyone but the news gets worse. The cruiser was carrying an anti-serum for an epidemic on Mars. It needs to get to the planet as soon as possible. The quickest mode of transportation is Superboy.
The second item on his list is to test his powers. He has never flown in space before. Now is the time to test it; lives are on the line. He streaks up and out of the atmosphere, zooming to Mars in time to drop the vaccine off with the physicians.
And then a nice throwback to the Silver Age. The third item on the list is to play a ballgame without holding back. What better way to do that then by taking the whole Legion on by himself in baseball. It just reminds me of those covers from the 1950s where Superman and Batman are playing baseball, or some little kid is striking Superman out with a loop-the-loop curve. Silly? Yes. But for someone like Clark to finally swing the bat ... well it felt right.
Of course, even Superboy can't hit a fly ball that Colossal Boy can't catch. Superboy is even tagged out by the invisible Invisible Kid.
One thread running through the book is the fact that the girl Legionnaires all seem somewhat smitten with Clark. Here, in the pre-Ultra Boy days, Phantom Girl bets Superboy a kiss that he can't beat them. With such a reward on the line, who would bet against Clark?
The game is momentarily put on hold as Superboy needs to rush to the Legion headquarters to help contain an explosion in Brainy's lab. Again, it nicely reminds me of all the great older Legion stories where Brainy is always pushing the limits of his intelligence and his lab.
The next two items on his list are also so gooey sweet I had to smile. The first is 'have fun at a party'. With each of these items, there is a sepia colored panel showing Superboy as Clark in Smallville showing how he needs to hide who he is. In this one, they show a shy Clark alone at a school dance. Here he is dancing and chatting with the girls.
The next item is 'kissing a girl without his glasses'. Remember, in Superman Secret Origin, the adrenaline rush from a kiss ignited his heat vision. Only his Kryponian-lensed glasses were able to stop the beams. Here, after Tinya plants a kiss on the lips, he can't hold it in and blasts the wall. At least, Phantom Girl is able to dematerialize and save herself.
Despite this ... umm ... emission from Clark, the female Legionnaires are still interested in Clark. Here 2 of the 3 Triplicate Girls smooch his cheeks and make the great hero blush.
And on the way home, Saturn Girl says she wanted to kiss him and Superboy he'd like to but maybe they should wait.
Wow ... Superboy is a wanted man in the future. For me, it was fun to see these young women flirting with Clark since they have been tied so tightly to husbands and boyfriends in continuity for so long.
Of course, the Legionnaires know that Superboy can't remember all the things that he saw and did in the future. His memories are blurred so he only has a vague sense of all that he learned. Despite feeling like a dream, Clark knows it was a good time.
Still, the last thing on the list is to be himself and he can do that both in the future and at home. For some reason, this reminded me of the end of the Wizard of Oz movie where Dorothy says something like 'I know that if I go looking for my heart's desire, I should look in my back yard.' Heck, who wouldn't want a slice of Ma's apple pie?
So I loved this issue ... but I tend to like these stories looking back. This one worked on so many levels. You can't help but contrast the easy going Legionnaires holding parties in this book to the angry and persecuted group in their current book. And, with the use of the list motif, the reader has a nice issue to compare the two Superboys and the similar issues they dealt with in their adolescence.
Like I said before, I know you can't have an ongoing series of ice cream parties and baseball games. But you need to know where these characters came from to understand where they are now.
Kevin Sharpe's interior pencils is perfect for this issue. His style is solid and economical without too much flash, the right feel for an issue like this.