Monday, May 1, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1 (June 2007)
title: Yesterday’s Hero
writer: J. Torres
art: Chyna Clugston
colorist: Guy Major
letterer: Rob Clark Jr.
editor: Jeanine Schaefer
cover art: Steve Uy
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Timber Wolf (cover only), Triplicate Girl, and Superman

This is the comic-book series based on the animated series. This story takes place shortly after the first episode of the animated series. The Legion brought a young Clark Kent to the 31st Century to help defeat the Fatal Five. Initially full of self-doubt, he eventually donned the Superman costume for the first time and led the Legion to victory. Since he could return to the moment he left Smallville at any time, he decided to stay in the future to learn to be a hero.

Each Legionnaire is making a record of those events, including their first impressions of Clark.  There is a Rashomon-style to the storytelling in that there are variations among their accounts, and the computer seems to be showing them the discrepancies.  Each Legionnaire is particularly bothered when they see Lightning Lad's less than flattering portrayals of his teammates.
The first hint of this comes after Phantom Girl recalls her disappointment when she first met a young pre-Superman Clark Kent.  She is irritated when she sees a record of her mocking Brainiac 5, and she assumes that Lightning Lad is responsible. 

Lightning Lad has the same brash attitude that he has in the animated series, and spends much of his recording making fun of Clark.  He recalls showing Clark the computer files of various Legionnaires testing their powers, which allows for a quick introduction to some of the other Legionnaires.  Lightning Lad asks Clark what he brings to the team, and Clark gives the unusually cocky response of “uh, hello?  Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?”  Which confuses Lightning Lad since he has no idea what a locomotive is.
Brainiac 5 suggests a battery of tests for Clark, which leads to the lifting exercise that we saw in the first episode.  Clark cannot hold the weight up and has to jump out of the way to avoid being crushed.  Lightning Lad sarcastically asks “Superman” if he is okay, and out of embarrassment and frustration, Clark loses his temper.
Next up is Brainaic 5, who insists that he did not make a mistake and that they ended up in Smallville for a reason.  He is sure he plugged the right coordinates into the time bubble…or at least he is 99.9909% certain.  He recalls going to the Smallville fair with Saturn Girl and Bouncing Boy, and finding Clark holding up the Ferris Wheel that was about to fall.  Brainiac 5 tries to convince Clark they are from the future but Saturn Girl says he does not believe them.  There are some funny moments here of Saturn Girl informing them of Clark’s thoughts after he has already shared them.

After Clark flees, Brainiac 5 takes them fifteen minutes into the future to Clark’s kitchen.  Clark arrives home, and Brainiac 5 remembers that Clark quickly changed his mind and agreed to join them.  Brainiac 5 notes that he knew Clark’s change of heart was the only logical conclusion, but of course, Saturn Girl’s reminds us that was not what happened in the episode.

As in the cartoon, Saturn Girl is shown to be the most mature and thoughtful Legionnaire.  She recalls Clark being torn, confused and unsure, which she finds understandable for a mild-mannered farmboy brought a thousand years into the future to fight a team of super-villains.

Saturn Girl remembers Superman in costume stepping up to challenge the Fatal Five and we see the battle unfold from the perspectives of various Legionnaires.  Bouncing Boy and Phantom Girl remember Superman heroically battling the villains while Lightning Lad tends to focus on Superman's struggles. 
The battle unfolds for the most part as it did in the episode with the young Superman inspiring them to victory.  In the end, the Legionnaires discuss why Superman ended up in their era.  Each Legionnaire's opinion fits their personality. 
In a rare moment of thoughtfulness, even Lightning Lad concedes that Clark will probably fit in just fine.  Saturn Girl and Brainiac realize that the Legion is where Clark is destined to learn to be a hero, and the story ends with a full splash page of the Legion flying with Superman in the lead.
I admit to a bit of disappointment with this first issue.  There are some good moments, but things get a bit too confusing at times.

Having each member give their own recollections is potentially a great way to introduce a reader to the team and showcase their personalities. But I think here it relies too much on the reader being very familiar with the first episode.  I realize this series was intended for viewers, but certainly it ended up in the hands of a few young readers who were not. Nothing is wrong with an issue tying into an episode, and we will see next issue that it can work well.  But I still think the issue should be able to stand on its own

They do succeed in introducing some of the Legionnaires, particularly Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, and Brainiac 5.  A reader would get a good sense of who those characters are after reading this issue. But there is very little coherent story. The jumps between recordings are often abrupt and the scenes taken directly from the episode are too brief and out of context. The final few pages do pull things together somewhat, particularly in making clear Clark's journey.  But overall, the issue could have done a better job of telling its own story and of recapping the first episode.

On the plus side, the art is solid.  It is very consistent with the cartoon although a bit more stylized at times.  Ultimately I think anyone who is a fan of the cartoon designs would be happy with the art.  The dialogue also provided some amusing moments.  I do think the next few issues get much better so I still look forward to digging into this series.


  1. I was a big fan of this series and have many thoughts about it.

    First, apparently this issue was originally supposed to be a later issue and editorial insisted it be made #1. I tried rereading the series with this one pushed back a few issues, and it really does work a lot better if it's not the first issue.

    The other big thing is this: I've always suspected that Brainy rigged it so that the Legion recruited Superman from the start of his career on purpose. Because he wanted to be Superman's friend... and so, he wanted to make sure that Superman first met Brainiac 5 before he ever encountered Brainiac.

    There was never really a resolution of that, though, so it's just speculation.

  2. That is an interesting idea. I do not think it has occurred to me before that Brainiac 5 may have rigged it on purpose, but it would make sense given how much he looks up to Superman. And that is very much something the original comic book version would do.
    While this issue is not a favorite, I do really enjoy much of the series and look forward to covering future issues. In fact, the next few issues I particularly enjoy.