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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 12/27/04
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Hey, just because some of you have the week off doesn't mean that the comics industry is slacking. Here's a rundown of some of the things that will be delivered to shops on Wednesday.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1
writer: Mark Waid
artist: Barry Kitson

At its heart, The Legion has always had a somewhat ridiculous premise. In a future society, the only superheroes on Earth just happen to be teenagers, and somehow, the world government condones that. We're not talking about something like Super Boys and Girls Clubs of America, where mutant teens might gather to play billiards and make leather wallets at craft time. These guys were taking on menaces with names like The Fatal Five and the Sun-Eater.

But they came from a simpler time, originally appearing in issues of Superboy and somehow getting away with some pretty grim storylines during the Silver Age. Their fan base was rabid, yet never quite large enough to keep the team from getting their books cancelled again and again. They've been rebooted, cloned and rebooted again, jumpstarted five years into their own future, and then at the hands of the Time Trapper scattered to different ages. Eventually they sacrificed themselves in order to set the timeline straight - and we all know how well THAT worked out.

Their most recent series seemed to be on track before becoming what it always does - dependable, solid comics that for some reason just don't excite the masses despite the tremendous amount of imaginative storytelling going on. Even as word came down that another reboot was in the works, DC turned Gail Simone loose for a few exciting but ultimately pointless issues. How could we invest in the peril she created if we knew it would all be over soon anyway?

So here we are again. A proven fan-favorite creative team relaunches the Legion, this time without bothering to try and explain what has gone before. Mark Waid and Barry Kitson caught fire with Empire, a quasi-futuristic tale of dystopia, so putting them here has promise.

Right off the bat, Waid strips the premise back to its basics, trying to find a reason for a group of teenagers to be allowed to fight evil with government sanction. That reason may still take a few issues to coalesce, but at least the seeds are here. Sometime after the present-day DC Universe, the superheroes disappeared, likely because they weren't needed anymore.

"With the help of interstellar alliances," the opening narrative claims, "the Earth entered a millennium of utopian peace." Of course, that also means a pretty rigid society, peaceful perhaps, but constrictive. All across the galaxy, life is good as long as you conform.

That can't sit well with the youth.

Waid borrows from history for this launch. The youth unrest element may seem more like the original Teen Titans than the Legion of Superheroes, but that's because it's right out of the late 1960's and early 1970's. At times, it almost feels like reading an issue of Prez, if that book had been any good. The writer dips further back, as the Legion takes its template not just from "their" superheroic history, but from comics in general. Any teen can be a Legionnaire, and even get a super keen membership ring. The twist is that these rings will enable them to fly - and also drop off the citizens' grid that keeps tabs on where every person is at all times.

The core team, those with actual powers, also make sure they follow the 20th Century pattern of naming themselves with an adjective and gender identification. No more of this just picking a cool word to be your super name; there are rules. Though I still hope for Wildfire to make it in this incarnation.

Kitson's art is dynamic and creative as he puts a new spin on the 31st Century old readers think they know. But then, this is old territory for him, as he drew L.E.G.I.O.N. back in the early '90's. The artist is in his element.

Don't worry about the previous incarnations. Those days are future past. If you're new to the Legion, Waid and Kitson definitely make this a book you want to read. And if you're a longtime fan, don't worry - the kids are all right.


Adam Strange #4: Rumors have it that events in this mini-series will have far-reaching repercussions into the big crossovers Countdown and Crisis 2. So why not jump aboard now? It's been so long since we've seen The Omega Men, I'm going to have to take it on faith that their appearance here is accurate, but either way, the last page of this book is a doozy.

The Invincible Iron Man #2: Iron Man never actually appears in this comic book, and he's not missed. Instead, Warren Ellis focuses on the Tony Stark of that old theme song - the "cool exec with a heart of steel." Except that heart is withering under the realization that he hasn't done nearly as much good as he thought he had. This isn't the run-of-the-mill stolen technology story that has been done over and over with this character; instead, Ellis really is sending Stark off on some serious soul-searching. With all that's wrong in the world, is being a superhero really the best use of time and resources?

Marvel Age Spider-Man Team-up #4: See? If you're going to modernize old stories for younger readers to enjoy now, you've got to get a solid writer, a decent artist and let it be a nice stand-alone. Unlike the old Marvel Team-up, this book doesn't seem to have any subplots running through it, so if a kid likes Spider-Man and Thor, they can immediately hook on to what's going on and hopefully reread this thing to death. It's also $1.75 U.S. - which means this really is a good deal for younger readers. Okay, Marvel's slowly winning me over on this one.

Michael Moorcock's Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer #2: On one level, this book really is for the hardcore Moorcock fans. But the writer and artist Walter Simonson have also concocted a solid enough story within the story that casual readers can still enjoy it. It's Moorcock turning his own Eternal Champion concept on its ear - again. And we fans love him for it.

What If Week: Marvel releases a slew of "What Ifs" as a post-Holiday treat, and it's unfair to single one or two out for praise - or rotten tomatoes. What makes these visits to the Watcher's old domain noteworthy is that all of them feature high quality creative teams - in many cases, writers and/or artists closely associated with the characters being used. Thus Chris Claremont tackles an X-Men story, Peter David dallies with the Hulk and Brian Michael Bendis deals with both Jessica Jones and Daredevil. Ed Brubaker puts the best spin on the concept with his "What If Aunt May Had Died Instead of Uncle Ben?" - instead of being told by The Watcher, it's two guys in a comic book shop hashing out the details over some longboxes. After all, isn't that what it's all about?

Sight Unseen:

Western Tales of Terror #2: Mainly because I miss DC's Weird Western book. The first issue of this anthology was a bit spotty, but it's a great experiment and a chance for new creators to hone their talent, something I'm always in favor of happening. If you can't find it at your local comics shop, ask the guy at the counter to order it for you.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw

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