Friday, January 15, 2016
My Legion Lost Years - A Semi-Lifelong Love
Fourteen months ago I posted my first article on this blog discussing my lifelong love of the Legion.
There was a lot to cover as I am getting up in years and have been reading comics now for nearly 4 decades. And I consider the Legion to be my first comic. In fact, whether it is true or not, I consider Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #211 to be my first comic.
I won't rehash my origins. Suffice it to say that the Legion, as a property and as a concept, seemed to grow as I grew. So the Bates/Grell stuff was perfect for a wide eyed kid looking at a teenage super-team forming a club and saving the world.
And when I was in my early teens, the Legion was something more complex. These were the glory years of Levitz and Giffen. This was a team book firing on all cylinders. The cast was large but everyone had a role to play. There were short storylines and long form plots that percolated for years.
I was also entering the first 'serious collector' period of my life, bagging books, buying titles monthly rather than by randomly picking a cover off the rack, and I began memorizing all the Legion history I could.
When I was a surlier older teen, entering college, I was veering away from 'simple' comics and heading towards Vertigo, First Comics, and other more 'mature' books. And the Legion grew with me there too.
The 5 Year Later book came out and was just what I was looking for in comics at that time. This was a dense, literary experience. It leaned on history. It was a dystopia. But there was this undercurrent of optimism, that the Legion was something bigger.
I won't regurgitate all the gushing I did during my reviews. But this was a special book for me. It was a perfect storm; it was the ultimate mature superhero book, dealing with heavy topics, was creatively daring, and made me a better comic reader as I had to digest the issues thoughtfully and critically.
It was a lightning bolt of a series filled with powerful moments.
In a time when Punisher was mowing people down and heroes had feet of clay, Jan saying they can't kill Roxxas just resonated, a comic moment that has stuck with me for over 25 years.
But as Robert Frost so famously said, 'nothing gold can stay'.
The book seemed to lose it's creative focus. The nuances of the storytelling, the complexities of the plot, the need to infer things all seemed to go away.
And then Zero Hour happened and Rokk was the Time Trapper.
For the first time, I felt that the comic had taken a step back from me. While the characters and books had grown with me before, the last year of the 5YL and the subsequent reboot seemed simpler and redundant. The 5YL book was a walk through the Louvre. Rokk as the Time Trapper? That was paint by numbers.
If I had a lifelong love of the Legion, this moment was my break-up. It wasn't you Legion. It was me.
And so, for the first time since I became a 'serious collector', I dropped the Legion. It was August 1994.
I lost all touch with the characters. I have read snippets of things on line. Jeckie was a snake. Laurel became a militant nun. But even in this day and age when information is a click away, I have never sought out the history of this time.
In fact, it was only when putting this post together that I saw that this title went on for 5 more years after Zero Hour. Incredible!
FIVE YEARS LATER, it was cancelled.
And then there was a Legion Lost series with what looks like a powerhouse team of Abnett, Lanning, and Coipel.
But I didn't buy it. And I have no idea what happened in this series either. Did it continue from that past title? Was it new?
I was away from the Legion for ten years.
Can I call it a lifelong love if I walked away for a decade?
But there was something about the beginning of the Five Year Later run that continued to haunt me. It was so good for me. Would I ever go back to the property? Was I doomed to be disappointed?
Well a funny thing happened. I changed as a reader!
When I first read 5YL I was 19, in college, big for my britches and ready to be challenged.
When I left 5YL I was 24, halfway through medical school, broke and exhausted. There wasn't room for a book like the Legion had become.
When I was 35, I was starting to look at comics differently. As much as I loved dense reads like Vertigo and indies, I was also looking for escapism. I was morphing back into that wide-eyed kid that read the Bates/Grell stuff. I was an adult, a dad, a working man. What I needed comics to do for me was take me somewhere else for a few minutes, to inspire me and entertain me, and let me imagine for a moment that I was flying in the skies shooting hand beams.
As Shag might say, I was looking for some joy.
Around that time a 'new' Legion was coming out. It was going to be written by Mark Waid, a creator whose work I loved, who I trusted to put out a quality comic. It was drawn by Barry Kitson, an artist who wowed be on Superman and (please don't laugh) Azrael. It might not be the deep dive of the 5YL book but it had to be better than 'Rokk is the Time Trapper.' Plus, I wouldn't mind some 'simple' super-heroics. I wanted to escape.
And frankly, I missed the characters. It had been a lifelong love before the bitter breakup. I was ready for a new start with the Legion and, from some sort of cosmic rebirth, the Legion were ready for a new start too.
Can you go home again?
The answer is yes.
So say goodbye to Anj's 5YL Fridays.
And say hello to Anj's 3Boot Fridays.