Friday, November 4, 2016

Epilogue: The Waid/Kitson Threeboot

My review for Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #36 is in the book and it seemed like the right time to look back at this title and get a sense of everyone's thoughts, mine included. I know there is another year of issues in this title but, to be honest, the Shooter book jumps the rails a bit. I wanted to look back at this era as its own experience.

But first let me remind you that  I had left the Legion for ten years.
The Threeboot brought me back.

It was a daring book, trying to somehow bridge the gap between older Legion fans (like me, even older now) and new readers not immersed in the intricate and cherished history of the team.

How could that be possible?
How could you have new characters without history, Legionnaires in name only and keep the old guard happy?
How could you market a Legion book to new readers and tell them to dive right in to a new history?
And how could you do both at once?

Leave it to uber-writer Mark Waid and brilliant artist Barry Kitson to tilt at that windmill.

For someone like me, who loved the concept of the Legion but had walked away, this was the perfect format to find my faith again. And, for the most part, it worked. We had Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl. We had Ultra Boy and Brainiac 5 and Light Lass. There was a version of Projectra and Timber Wolf and Shrinking Violet. And they all seemed close enough to the classic form that I could roll with it.

But there was some new wrinkles too. There was an overbearing regime trying to stifle youthful progress. There was Atom Girl, worshiper of Brainy. There was Micro Lad, a giant who could shrink. There was the destruction of Orando. And a Brin Londo that was still a lone wolf.

It all seemed to jibe in a pleasing way, made more pleasing by Kitson immaculate art work.

After the inferno of the opening issue, setting the stage of the Legion as a youth movement, the fire slowly dwindled. The first arc, fighting Praetor Lemnos and his behind the scenes maneuvers to dismantle the UP just took too long. And while it was an interesting look at how similar ends can have very different means, even I was begging for it to end.

Perhaps Waid knew he had let things simmer too long and that the book needed a jump start. Or maybe the idea of '52' and the chance for a title to refresh itself made DC ask for a change. But regardless, halfway through their run, Waid and Kitson brought Supergirl into the fold.

And once again, magic seemed to happen. This was a classic Supergirl, different from the bad grrrrrl in her own title. There was a sense of Silver Age magic swirled into the angst of the aughts. There was a big plot involving the Dominators, the Wanderers, and even Rokyn. It was just what Legion fans should drool for.

But this too seemed to take on a life of its own. A year later we were still wrapping up this story. And I am not complaining! In rereading this, it is an epic tale which weaves through big and small little plots on its way to resolution. Alas, a simmering pot doesn't boil and just like that Waid and Kitson were off the book.

With Waid and Kitson gone, Tony Bedard stepped in and did an interesting arc focusing on three small away teams searching for Cosmic Boy. Bedard took old Legion concepts (heroes of Lallor, Wildfire, Validus) and updated them for the new universe. He had a nice subplot of Brainy as master manipulator.

But the art was pretty awful by Dennis Calero and the book felt small, looking at 6 Legionnaires when there were 30 available for stories.

The flame finally died and Jim Shooter was brought in as a Hail Mary, a last gasp effort to bring in the oldest of guards. I don't think his book was much better (as you will see in upcoming Fridays).

For me, this sort of ended the Threeboot experiment. The bloom was off the rose and a new team was coming in to carve its version of the team into this existing universe.

Let me put my thoughts about the Waid/Kitson Threeboot into one pithy sentence:

I don't think I realized just how good I had it until it was gone.

In doing these reviews, in reading these issues in chunks, it all rolls out nicely. I just wonder if the month-to-month appetite wasn't met with the longer arcs. And without any group of fans, old or new, feeling loyal to this new band of Legionnaires, I wonder if it simply withered on the vine unnoticed.

And so I turn the question to you ...

What are your big thoughts on the Waid/Kitson/Bedard/Calero run on the Legion?


  1. I have many, many large thoughts on the threeboot, most of which I've gone into at great length over the years on my own site, but which I can sum up here later once I have time to type. For now let me just say that I loved Calero's art, especially the way he draws men's mouths.

  2. The first story arc was not very memorable "Eat it Gramps" and the Adult attitude towards teens was pretty weak . I thought Carey Bates was writing the book again.

    The rest of the run after Supergirl came into it was fantastic and turned into some of the Legions best stuff !

    1. Addendum......

      The Search for Cosmic Boy just plain stunk !

  3. The threeboot left me cold. The "youth movement" concept felt awkward and forced, and I didn't like the tweaks to existing characters much. Too many reboots and it becomes too hard to reconnect with the characters IMO.

    1. I agree Tim .

      Instead of changing the race of characters like Star Boy Waid should have just created a new black character.

  4. I bought it out of a lifelong habit, but after a couple of years I made myself stop. For me it was too different, the generational gap didn't resonate, and although I usually enjoy Kitson's art, his future aliens left me unimpressed.

  5. As an aside, I stumbled upon your fantastic blog a couple of months ago, and I have stopped in almost daily for "cram sessions of reminiscence", and filling in blanks I have in my reading over the last 30 (or so) years. What an amazing and enjoyable service your blog provides!

    1. Thanks, Ken, for the support. Obviously this is a labor of love, but we wouldn't do it if we didn't know there were plenty of other Legion fans out there enjoying the same stuff.

  6. The Threeboot was the first time I didn't rush to the LCS to pick up the newest LSH on new comic day. "Eat it Grandpa" never resonated with me. Unnecessary is the word that comes to mind for this reboot.

    Your reviews have been far better than the actual issues.

  7. Thanks for all the comments.

    Interesting how it just never seemed to grab anyone.

    1. "It" never really grabbed me either. The only thing that I REALLY enjoyed and gave it another chance was SUPERGIRL. I totally enjoyed her at first. There was a real mystery of who she was and where she came from. She was really delightful and obviously NOT the Supergirl from the current continuity in the Supergirl comic. But as time went on there was less emphasis on her and it was becoming clear that this was never going to be addressed, until finally in 36 as you said she just disappears without any explanation of why she ever came in the first place. Really disappointing!!

  8. Okay, I have time to type now. My comments:
    1. It grabbed me. I thought the premise was ingenious and the characterization unsurpassed.
    2. It had problems: slow pace, largely undeveloped villains, undercut by DC's introduction of the retroboot Legion in JLA/JSA.
    3. At least it always had a vision for how the Legion should be portrayed, for what stories should be told about it, for what this future was like... which is more than Geoff Johns ever had. The threeboot at its worst was more intriguing than anything in Levitz's third go-round with the team.
    4. Best-ever versions of Invisible Kid, Light Lass, Cosmic Boy, Supergirl, Triplicate Girl. And whatever happened to Dream Boy? I liked him.

    The threeboot started as an innovative step forward. It was a quality comic book that was building its audience. But DC chose the past instead of the future, and the result is what we have now: no Legion comics at all. It serves them right, but it doesn't serve us right.

  9. I agree with others who said that the first arc didn't grab me at all, and I bought it more out of previous fondness for the Legion than any particular love for THIS version. That being said, once Supergirl was on the scene, I really enjoyed it. I have no idea why Mark Waid left or why Supergirl had to leave, but after that it was just....meh. Dark, messy art and convoluted story. I was glad for Jim Shooter to come back on. I had high hopes for that run....

  10. Looking back at it, this was one of my least favourite incarnations of the Legion. As many mentioned beforehand, the themes just did not resonate and there is still some lingering bitterness as I became a regular reader with the Postboot Legion.

  11. Thanks again for continued discussion.
    I just wonder if the book would have been better off if there was some high octane 4 issue opening arc instead of the simmering Lemnos one.

  12. I thought I replied to this but apparently not. I read it for the first time this year and really liked it, though it didn't always deliver on its potential. Contra the opinion here, I really liked the first arc (though I could read it all at once). The youth movement was a great idea, though it was sometimes vague what the Legion was actually *doing* in their rebellion. Dream Girl is one of my favorite Legionnaires, and this version of her was excellent; I also like this take on Brainy, Phantom Lass, and Triplicate Girl.

    The Dominator arc, on the other hand, moved a little too slowly, and I felt there were too many characters: Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl really only seemed to be there because of their status as part of the original three, for example. I wish they had pared down the team a little bit more so that the remaining characters would receive more focus. I felt that they set up stuff with many of the characters they didn't get to pay off.