Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Legion of Three Worlds!

I will not argue that August 2008 is the greatest month in the history of American literature. And yet…

It is largely this month that has drawn me back — very briefly — to comic book reading after about a year’s hiatus, intended to be permanent. And how could I resist?

As a younger person — always more of a sci-fi fan than a superhero fan at heart — I was happiest when comics delved into relatively highbrow concepts like time travel, parallel universes, reality-altering, and the nature of the cosmos. The first superhero comic book story I remember reading, in 1976, was drawn by George Perez and featured multiple universes (I was mainly into comics about Godzilla, Star Wars, dinosaurs, and Micronauts around that time, though — and Rom: Spaceknight, of course).

The first DC Comics comic I regularly collected was Legion of Super-Heroes, a sci-fi-ish series set a thousand years in the future, occasionally featuring the time-warping villainy of the Time Trapper. The series that started my shift toward complete DC fanhood, away from Marvel Comics, was the Perez-drawn parallel-universes saga Crisis on Infinite Earths. I retained my love for Jack Kirby throughout, though, having savored all nine issues of his late-Marvel series Devil Dinosaur but also his New Gods stories for DC, featuring the evil god Darkseid. My comics reading would start tapering off somewhat around the mid-90s, when DC depicted the hypothetical final adventure of its present-day heroes in the miniseries Kingdom Come.

But I would go on to write a few comic book stories for DC myself, one featuring the old character Krona, depicted in Crisis on Infinite Earths as the person responsible for the fractured multiverse of parallel universes coming into existence in the first place. Throughout it all, I’d remain fascinated by the continuity implications of revising reality and having multiple versions of characters.


So what’s happening, all at the same time, this month, thirty-two years after I developed this sick addiction?

This month alone, partly by accident and partly by design:

Darkseid has conquered the Earth.

•He has done so in a series called Final Crisis by my favorite comics writer, Grant Morrison, which is a sequel to the aforementioned Crisis on Infinite Earths.

George Perez is drawing the first issue of an affiliated five-issue miniseries featuring not one but three different versions (from parallel universes) of the aforementioned Legion of Super-Heroes up against Time Trapper (and a deranged doppelganger of Superboy left over from Crisis on Infinite Earths), called Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds, written by a writer whose age and geek sensibilities are near-identical to my own, Geoff Johns (I hereby predict that today’s issue #1 of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds will dwarf its own parent series in sales and indeed be the best-selling single issue of a comic book all year).

•Another affiliated series, the two-issue Final Crisis: Superman Beyond (again by Morrison), features godlike beings called the Monitors, derived from Crisis on Infinite Earths, dragging Superman across the multiverse in 3D, with actual 3D glasses included(!).

•Meanwhile, the aforementioned Johns is depicting the alarming present-day creation of Magog, the apocalyptic villain who caused the twilight of the superheroes in Kingdom Come, which may not be so hypothetical or far off anymore (and his creator, Gog, has brought the Justice Society into conflict with its Earth-2 counterparts, themselves seen for the first time in two decades).

•And another geek-turned-writer, Kurt Busiek, is doing a weekly series called Trinity in which Krona threatens to emerge from the cosmic egg in which he was imprisoned by a combined force of DC and Marvel superheroes, shattering reality in the process (I wish he’d use the Krona-worshipping characters I created, the so-called Hand of Krona).

•Plus, while all that’s going on, on the more negative but still intriguing side, a being called the Demiurge has revealed, in a blow to much established continuity, that Hawkman was never from ancient Egypt at all (that whole thread of reality was a cosmic fraud somehow tied to the Crisis on Infinite Earths) but instead hails from the planet Thanagar after all (I don’t know why they can’t just massage the conflicting stories a bit and say aliens built the pyramids and that it’s all connected, but I don’t write the damn things [often]).


Look, I want off the stuff as much as any addict, but all this happening in the same month is the sci-fi-leaning, continuity-obsessed, reality-warp-examining comic fanboy’s equivalent of delivering all the crack in the world to one crack addict’s doorstep in a single morning — and unlike the members of the Legion, I’m only human. It’ll all be over by year’s end, though.

And I hope it ends well, though the fact that ads for the penultimate issue of Final Crisis feature a villain called Mandrakk the Monitor, who sounds just a tad too much like some sick parody of reality-warping Mandrake the Magician, has me a little worried that (gonzo-inclined) Morrison is going to do something silly and postmodern involving a top hat that we’ll all regret. We shall see.

In the interim, you normals (if any of you are still reading this) can get a tiny, self-contained taste of some of the above by watching the eighth-or-so episode of the new season of Smallville (now entering its eighth year). That episode, which will be written by Johns, will feature the time-traveling Legion of Super-Heroes, portrayed by living, non-animated actors for the first time. And who knows? Maybe the geeky Johns will even put the Time Trapper in the episode.

(For people who are far too cool for comics: Trapper’s sort of like the Master on Doctor Who — you know, when the Master was all cloaked and decaying and mummy-like but still had time-travel powers.)

The truly amazing time-warping feat on Smallville, though, is going eight years without Clark Kent yet growing up, moving to Metropolis, and becoming Superman. Ratings can bend reality like nothing else.


Jacob T. Levy said...

No, the truly amazing feat is simply that Dawson’s Kryptonite Creek has remained on the air for eight years *at all*– longer than the combined runs of the 60s Batman, the 70s Wonder Woman or Hulk, or the 90s Lois & Clark or Flash– indeed matching the *combined* runs of Lois & Clark and Hulk, and exceeding the combined runs of any two others. Longer than Buffy. Longer than Deep Space 9. Longer than Babylon 5. Longer than Batman: The Animated Series and its other incarnations including Batman Beyond, combined. Feh.

Todd Seavey said...

Don’t you mean “Dawson’s Clark”? Ha-ho!

The first few pages of _Legion of Three Worlds_, I can now attest, are a perfect blend of Silver Age nostalgia and twenty-first-century pseudo-cinematic intensity. Good stuff.

P.S. For those wondering, I should have noted that the comic series featuring Gog and Magog is the ongoing _Justice Society of America_ monthly, which will expand into three weekly _Justice Society/Kingdom Come_ one-shots for the month of November as that story near its conclusion.

cb said...

Huh. There was some species on that kinda junky Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda (also a show with a shockingly long run-time) called the Magog that were kind of apocolyptic in behavior (breeding to the trillions in much the way _Aliens_ do). I doubt there’s any real relation.

Todd Seavey said...

Bible reference. Precedes even Roddenberry.

Todd Seavey said...

Incidentally, though many fans are probably hoping that of the three Legions, the one from Earth-1 — more or less the “original” team — becomes once more the batch of dominant protagonists (as opposed to the 90s or the ones currently written by Jim Shooter, who _may_ be from Earth-2), I find myself thinking that delightful as it might be to see Johns — or even Paul Levitz — depict the renewed adventures of a grown-up Earth-1 Legion on a regular basis, the _Legion of Three Worlds_ miniseries feels (one issue in out of five) like a fitting _ending_ for those characters (and for Trapper as well, not to mention Superboy-Prime, who I’m guessing _is_ a younger Time Trapper, resentful time-altering weenies that they both are).

Let it end with Superman saying the Earth-2 team is now the up and coming, still-young one to watch, I say. But we shall see. The final issue of the miniseries — and the fiftieth issue of Shooter’s team — are both due around New Year’s, just as the Legion’s fiftieth year ends.

Who knows what’s next, maybe even a single hybridized team/timeline, a best-of, which wouldn’t be so bad.

chippy said...

Er…not to start a flame war but doesn’t all this DC Universe tie-ining seem a bit like DC screaming at Marvel, “screw Civil War we can do epic universe wide stories too!” Not that I won’t read it either way…

Todd Seavey said...

No, DC’s been doing Crisis crossover events of one sort or another for forty years now.