I always hate sharing reviews, like the one I share today with our sister publication Stevereads. It always feels like I'm doing something unoriginal, retreading on someone else's work. But in this case, I have two things going against me: one, last week had shown a dearth of possible review choices, essentially leaving me with this one; and two, this issue is too damn good not to review!
Now, there are two kinds of comic fans in this world. There's the kind who've never heard of -- or only heard of in fleeting glimpses -- the Legion of Super-heroes. Every once in a while, when they appear in the continuity, these comic fans couldn't care less. For them, the Legion is nothing too special.
Then, there are the Legionnaires. Probably the most devoted fans ever, these fans look upon every instance of the Legion in DC history as scripture, who know every Legionnaire's terribly-conceived nickname and history, from Bouncing Boy to White Witch, Braniac-5 to Timber Wolf. And this issue we're reviewing tonight, Action Comics #858, is for them. Written by Geoff Johns (fast becoming our favorite DC scribe) and with art by Gary Frank (Squadron Supreme), this issue begins a new Superman-Legion storyline that could be fantastic when all is said and done.
It all begins on an alien planet in the distant year 3008, where civil war has run rampant. Two parents strap their child into a rocket and, inspired by the tales of Krypton's last son, launch it into space and towards Earth, so that it may live a full life and become a new hero to the people of earth. After some travel, the rocket crash lands in the heart of Smallville (There's even a sign: "Welcome to Smallville - Birthplace of Superman!") where it lands in a crop field. What is it with aliens and crop fields, anyway? Ahem. Moving on...
A couple, driving by in their "hover-truck", witness the crash and look to see what it is. When they see an alien baby has emerged from the pod, they do what any person on Earth in the year 3008 would do.
"We kill it."
And so it begins, and we are returned to today, where Christopher Reeve -- I mean Clark Kent -- is suffering the usual doldrums of being a shy, sensitive young man in Metropolis. He can't make any friends, his best friend is an obnoxious photo-geek named Jim Olsen, and as far as Lois Lane is concerned, she might not exist. So after getting a chewing out by Perry White over his self-confidence issues (Perry's no smooth talker, let's say that much) Chris -- I mean Clark -- gets what he thinks will be a brief reprieve when Braniac starts tearing up a nearby park and Christopher -- I mean Clark! -- leaps out a window and changes into Christopher Reeve -- dammit, I mean Superman! Turns out this isn't just some random Braniac attack, though. It's actually a message from Braniac's descendant, Braniac-5. Turns out something terrible is happening in the future (as alluded to in the recent JLA and JSA story lines) and now Braniac-5 feels he has no choice but to bring Chris -- I mean Superman -- to the future to solve what's happening.
This is a good first issue, but I still feel a little lost as far as some of the more Legion aspects go. I'm no member of the Legion fan club, that's for sure, but I'm slowly but surely leaving the other end of the spectrum after some Steve-approved Legion reading. Even I know the story, first told back in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), where Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Boy (later Lightning Lad) first recruited young Superboy to the future to become an honorary member of the Legion. But there's still a lot about the Legion I don't know, and it's not something that can really be picked up overnight.
Also, the art is a little... I don't really know what to think of the artwork by Frank. The layouts are gorgeous, and the backgrounds are beautiful. It's the character art that I have a problem with. Besides the fact that by now we know who played Frank's favorite version of Superman (hint: it ain't Dean Cain), all the characters not portrayed by a dead celebrity (and that doesn't count a young Christopher Reeve -- I mean Clark Kent!) are a little creepy-looking (okay, that covers the young Kent) The eyes are a little too wide, as if they all belonged to the same suicide cult, looking for new recruits. It's like butter-face. Every thing's good "but the face".
This issue and probably this whole series should be the best thing to happen to Legion fans and non-Legion fans alike. For the fan-boys, the very appearance of the Legion should be reason enough to pick up this book. For non-Legion fans, the opportunity to learn for yourself about the Legion should be the perfect pretense for picking up this book and the subsequent issues. As I said before, Geoff Johns is fast becoming one of my favorite writers, and as long as he keeps writing for Action Comics, I'll take a gander.
Just no more Christopher Reeve... please!!